Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What she said

Just reading some of my favorite blogs and came across this one, which beautifully describes how I am feeling as my babies grow up and my role as their mother changes.


The Balance of Self

How much of a mother's work goes by unnoticed, unheralded? Ninety percent, or more? The reward, of course, is the happy, healthy child, whether or not he can say "Thanks, Mom." When a woman sacrifices so much of herself, unknowingly, even, is it so wrong for her to want that? 

This tangle of self and mother and the inevitable blending of the two is a topic never far from my mind. Unlike many of my peers, it seems, I have not yet assumed the mantle completely. I see online profiles and short biographies of women who identify themselves as "wife, mother, friend, _______" and in the blank you can insert some snarky moniker. Those are the ones with which I identify. If God faced me now and said "Who are you?" as in that classic story, I would not know what to say.

I am the only mother I know who yearned for time away from her children on Mother's Day, despite the cautionary disasters happening all around me in which parents have lost their children forever. The restorative quiet will not come again soon. I suspect I will regret it years from now, when the boys yearn for time away from me. But preventive closeness will not carry me then, I fear. The absence of a person is not soothed by memories alone. I have never been able to say "I miss him, but I remember him, and so I am fine." No, I would opt to have the missing person with me, if given the choice.

The babies that my boys were once are already gone, and I miss them. I cannot trade the current models in for those younger ones, for that would mean the children they are would be missing. Their growth is a continuous replacement of the children they were yesterday, and the day before. One day, with all good fortune, they will be adults, and so slower the growth that changes who they were and takes them farther from me.

I look at their faces when they are still: asleep, or chewing, or entranced by books or television. I search out traces of their baby features. I find them but I know they will soon be gone, and with them, my identity as a mother of babies. The thought brings me relief and dread at the same time. Yes, I hold them tighter, take hundreds of pictures, save their earnest scrawls and artwork, fortifying the treasure chest for when they are older, and gone.

Who will I be, then? If I hold on to that non-mother part of me through these stormy years of childhood and adolescence, if I pet her and soothe her and tell her "You will be able to come out again, someday," will she flourish again when the time is right? She is restive, only momentarily calmed by restorative quiet, finding her outlet here. We ebb and flow, these parts of me, but neither side ever gets 100% daylight. Constantly shifting, looking for balance. I willhave been a mother of babies, and therefore forever changed. Mother and self, we are, in fact, one.

1 comment:

Maryellen said...

I think that we will always miss the people they were - - their innocence, the way they express their love, their embrace of life. As they get older, we settle for things like "pushpins in letters" to know that how we love them (the depth of love that no one other than a mother can offer) did, does, and always will matter.