Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Mask of Motherhood

I never wanted to BE a parent. Seriously. I know that sounds awful, especially for those who want/wanted children and have not been able to. And I understand that heartache, too. When the decision was made, it took two years to conceive Rebecca; when we later decided to expand on that joy, I suffered three miscarriages over four years. That heartache is awful. But the truth of the matter is, I did not want to have children. My ex and I had heartfelt conversations about it; I felt there was too much to overcome, he felt it was our duty as responsible and reasonably intelligent adults to procreate.

I remember being in my late 20s, maybe early 30s, asking my mom, "So how do you know what to do as a parent, does it just come to you?" Bless her heart, she didn't burst out laughing at my naivete'. In fact, she looked at me with a kind of blankness and said, "No, you just do the best you can with what you know." (To her credit, this was much better advice than 'the talk': "Don't do anything stupid!")

Well, I am doing the best with what I know. And I'm realizing I don't know much. And it's so interesting when you confide your concerns to others, and they give you this knowing, over-simplified advice based on THEIR experience, and you think, "Damn, am I the only one that feels like her head is full of oatmeal when it comes to this crap?!"

So, my DD and I are treading ever closer to that place where we are moving apart. She feels like all I do is nag and criticize (not true, but there IS a lot to nag about...) and I feel like she has filled her ears with cotton and is starting to do the nod and "yes mommy" without really comprehending my appeals to her better nature.

And she is a great kid, and I am a lucky mom: she tells me she loves me and/or that I am the best mom ever several times a day, and I do believe she means it. And she makes eye contact with adults, and speaks to them respectfully, and shows an interest in things most teens could really give a flip about. And her teachers have very good things to say about her. And she handles her father's inadequacies with more maturity than he displays.

And yet, as I'm sitting in the living room, watching her walk through to the kitchen, I found myself thinking, "What the hell am I doing, being a parent? What ever made me think I was 'prepared' for this, or that I could bring a child to adulthood successfully? Who the F*#! is this woman-child that I'm struggling to 'help' on her journey? I still don't know who I am!!"

And in case you're wondering, I took no license with that previous paragraph, I really did think that, and it hit me upside my head kind of like one of those noise sticks they have at ball games...it didn't hurt, but it sure did get my attention.

Doing the best that I can, and feeling inadequate almost every step of the way. I doubt I'm alone in these feelings. But I think many of us wear the 'mask of motherhood' -- I refer to a collection of essays written by many mothers, with their unmasked, honest feelings and thoughts about being a mother, by that title. I need to read that again, if for no other reason than to feel a connectedness to my sisters who took off the mask long enough to confront their doubts and fears and share them with us. Check it out some time. And do the best that you can with what you know!



  1. Finally, someone *else* who gave birth out of a sense of duty. argggh! I've said for years that I'm just not cut out for this job. I'm not good at it, no matter what my lovely friends say. I've made horrible, awful mistakes and most of the time just don't have the energy for parenting. Really now. I'm caught up in my own damn arrested development. How the hell can I bring this baby up like I'm s'posed to?!?

    Solidarity, sister.

  2. Well said, Lori. We seems to all be in the same boat; not that I didn't "want" to have children, but I surely didn't know what to do with them afterwards. (I think they would heartily agree.)

    I've been a mother for 27 years and am still learning, still making mistakes in and out of motherhood, and so it goes.

    Arrested development, Emily? Me, too. I should go to jail for it.


  3. Hmmm, it would seem to me that just by the fact that you're able to ask the questions that you are an instrospective participant in DD's journey. A healthy feeling of indadequecy keeps us all in check. Follow your instincts, because they are strong and true.

  4. Hmm, my instruction pack was missing from the placenta also. Seems to be a common problem.

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