A Word on Mothering (from the Anti-Mother)
Sometimes I consider myself the anti-mom. I hate Pixar. I'm Pinterest illiterate. And I can only make it through my son's soccer games if I have a grande iced caramel macchiato to keep me company on the sidelines. Although teaching and motherhood have me literally dripping children from dawn to dusk (think Miss Hannigan from Annie, with a little less gin), there are a thousand small ways I feel completely unqualified/unsuited for role of mother.
As a kid I remember being truly puzzled by my own mother's take on mothering. Woah, Nelly, could she vacuum with the best of them. Sucking up dust bunnies and dog hair gave her obvious satisfaction. But cooking? Not so much. For lunch she'd pop a Chef Boyardee microwavable ravioli in our backpacks and call it a day (fingers crossed for microwave access). Likewise, she wasn't particularly interested in braiding our hair (photo below for reference), talking Barbies, or coddling of any kind. She did, however, love us like hell and always made us feel loved (except, of course, in cases where we were behaving like righteous brats. On those days we had to earn our love).
Sometimes I'd scoff in half-genuine offense, wondering why she didn't feel the rotation of the earth pulling her in the direction of homemade chocolate chip cookies and after-school snacks. Did she not love us like that? (That being the adoring, worshipping selflessness I assumed other mothers felt.) Was baking for us, pulling nits out of our butt-length thick, brown hair, and listening to us bitch at each other from the backseat of the car NOT her idea of fun in this lifetime?
Now I am 36-years-old with two children of my own and absolutely certain about the fact that it's not my idea of fun either. I love tickling my children's feet, listening to the older one read to his sister, and answering their big questions about the world, but lice and bickering and Pinterest and Pixar are not in my wheelhouse, and that's OK. What I know now that I didn't know then was that my mom had no time for baking because she was out making a life for herself: going back to school to become a librarian, learning Spanish, buying a home for a refugee family from Bosnia, starting a school of her own. She didn't exist to service my needs, which taught me, in no uncertain terms, the most valuable lesson of my life: I am my own responsibility.
For the past two months I've been a mostly absent mom - traveling like crazy, living my life via Insta stories, and working pretty much nonstop. All the things I use to associated with motherhood (but which are really just CHORES): the cleaning, the chauffeuring, the laundry, and, of course, the vacuuming, have shifted entirely to TC's domain. It won't be this way forever. As life evolves, the responsibilities of maintaining a household will continue to swing the pendulum. In the meantime, I'm learning that motherhood (and fatherhood) are not one-size-fits-all outfits.
You can love your children and hate their hobbies.
You can love being a mother and hate running a household.
You can be a great mom and never throw a themed birthday party for all your life.
Our children are not synonymous with their maintenance. Our relationships with them don't require we cast ourselves in the role of their personal butlers. For as long as I love Jack and Rosie, I will never want to watch Despicable Me and it's unlikely they'll ever receive a scrapbook in their honor.
They will, however, get a thousand life lessons passed on to them. Some spoken, some observed. They'll learn how to work hard and activate a passion. They'll witness how to sit in struggle and how to walk oneself out of it. They'll learn that life is hard and sometimes guilt-inducingly easy and that mothers are also women who deserve always to be seen as women first. And thanks to their father, they might even learn the joy of cooking.
So, Happy Mother's Day. To every single human. And especially to Kate Sullivan. You've taught me that themed birthday parties and brushed hair are great, but they're no match for mom squats and the essential art of loving ourselves first.