Tag: motherhood

Wild Turkey Sunday: The Mother Balance Sheet

mama turkey

I have become the biggest pain in the ass on Max’s behalf.  I am starting to feel like I carry a big-ass hatchet across my back and pull it out the minute anyone suggests I tow the goddamned line and force my son to swallow shit pellets and LIKE IT and PUSH HIM HARDER IN EVERY DIRECTION.

I have a hard time with confrontation, so having a child who needs me to go to bat for him constantly is not something I am at all comfortable with.

I have heard so many mothers say that their kids brought out the best in them, that their kids made them better people.  I don’t know that this is true for me.  I don’t like who I have to be a lot of the time to be a good mom to Max.  I don’t think becoming a parent has made me stronger or better or more whole.  At least not by conventional standards.  I had to become medicated, I became a heavy drinker, a yeller (in the early years), I have become obese, I never relax for a second, I can never quite meet my kid’s needs… I have become more inadequate than at any other time in my life.  Reminds me of when I could never measure up to my dad’s idea of how children should be, how they should perform, how they should grow up.  It constantly reminds me how crushing it is to love a person but never be able to  be ENOUGH for them.

Every day I wake up and wonder what I need to do today to get my son to a successful adulthood.  I do it because I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do everything I can for him.  I do it because he’s my favorite person and because even though he has such trouble empathizing with other people he is so unbelievably sweet to ME.  Asking me if I need a hug when I’m tearing my hair out.  And because he forgets the times I’ve yelled and remembers all the times I didn’t make him feel bad for being different and for believing that he isn’t trying to make things hard for us.

My son has thanked me for loving him even though he’s so hard to feed.

My son has thanked me for letting him be who he is.

As if I could make him be anyone else.

This afternoon I took the back road home from the Fermentation Fair hoping I could get a little time with the wild turkeys.  I came across the female of the bunch.  I have never encountered her without her male guard flanking her.  She was in the middle of the street but stopped when I slowed down to chat.  She became obviously distressed and I immediately realized it was because her three chicks were separated from her by a fence and here I was menacing her – she crossed back towards them and I heard her whimper as she tried to find an opening in the fence to get to her babies to protect them from the Vespa dragon.  That whimper of hers was universal.  I’ve made that whimper too when my son got just a little bit out of my reach and a threat seemed to divide us.  Turkeys can fly but they’re reluctant to do it unless they have to and this mama finally had to fly the fence.

I have fought so hard for Max for so long I’m a little shocked that people are finally listening to me.  REALLY listening.  The school is going forward with learning disability testing.  I got a call this week from the speech and language counselor who wanted my permission to include speech and language in his testing because the evaluations that his teachers last year and I filled out indicated some issues but speech and language wasn’t previously included in his battery of tests.  I was confused because Max doesn’t seem to have any speaking issues – the way I went to a speech therapist in school to correct my lisp – but she explained that speech and language are far more complex than issues like lisping which is just one small thing.  Speech and language includes how we socialize, how we use language to communicate, our ability to use it successfully in social situations.  She mentioned difficulties with pragmatic language which I read about when researching NVLD and it made me so happy to have someone at the school paying attention to this.

Meanwhile, Max’s psychologist at Kaiser is going to start evaluating him this week (well, first meeting is with me to go over all his developmental history) in order to determine if he thinks Max qualifies to go to Kaiser’s specialists in San Francisco.

This is what I’ve been asking for, working towards, for 6 years: to get help for my kid.

It’s possible that he won’t qualify for any diagnosis from anyone.  I know this is possible even as I know that my kid is definitely different and that those things that make him different are always going to make it more challenging for him to succeed than his peers in ways they take for granted.  I have to accept possible outcomes.  But knowing when to give up?  Knowing when it will stop serving to be the pugnacious MOTHER-BITCH and turn inwards to discover how we can navigate these deep waters alone… ????

I’m scared.  I’m scared of not getting the help I know we need.  I’m scared that every year I don’t get help and support I’m going to fall deeper and deeper into this alien experience of being the biggest person I know.  That’s not ME.  I can’t seem to crawl out though.  Because all of me is spread out to keep my kid as well adjusted as I can and caring for my mom and trying to be a decent wife and also having to work and trying trying trying to move forward with my own dreams ——

There’s nothing left for self care, for concentrating on getting back to my real body, my real personality, my real life.  It isn’t even as though I have more challenges than most people I know.  I just seem to be weaker than them.  I have a terribly low threshold for chaos, trouble, challenge, brick walls, obligations, or self restraint when it comes to beer and cheese.  It isn’t that my troubles are more so much as it is that my strength is wanting.  I know other parents who are dealing with challenges ten times greater than I am and they find the strength to get through it all and be annoyingly positive.

Fuck that.

I suck at this.

I can beat myself up all day long.  I’m a professional at self flagellation.

I believe in balance.  That’s pretty much all I truly believe in.  I believe that light cannot exist without dark, which means that on every level we need the sun as much as we need the night to give our eyes rest.  It means that circadian rhythms aren’t joke.  It means that there isn’t good without bad.  There’s no such thing as a world without evil.  It means that we are striving for one thing and avoiding another – and the best circumstance is to end up on the median strip.

This is not mediocrity.  This is balance.  A very delicate thing.

It means that as scared as I am, and as fat as I am, and as inadequate as I am, there is another side to these feelings.

I have a wonderfully trusting and close relationship with my son even though he’s launching into those irascible teen years.  He trusts me IMPLICITLY.  Maybe it is going to end soon.  I know this risk.  But right now – no matter how inadequate I may be and no matter that I’m fat as a hog – Max trusts me.  He truly trusts that I am never going to let him down.  Even when I do.  He forgives and his feelings about me remain in tact.  I’m not perfect, I’m a mom.  But he knows at all times that I have his back.  That I love him no matter how mad he makes me, no matter how much he wears me out.  He knows it.  He always knows it.  He knows it and he knows what it costs me.  I can see how bad he feels when he can see me growing exponentially old negotiating life between him and the world.

I didn’t get that trust from him for nothing.  I have worked for that.  I have looked hard at him his whole life – trying not to wear blinders – loving the truth of him rather than my wish of who he might be or become.  I got Max’s trust because I earned it.  I placed trust in him and demanded that he place trust in me too.

So the flip side of my inadequacy as a parent is that my weakness has made me accepting of my child’s foibles, his weirdness, and it has made me love him for who he is instead of who I wish he was.  It has given me an extraordinary closeness to my child that I might not otherwise have.  I’m crap in so many ways but I stand up for Max.  I have become a complete bitch on his behalf.  I don’t feel pride about that – I just know that there was no other way because when I was polite and patient and flexible and compromising I got nowhere, I was invisible, I was unheard.

As I have been so many times in my life on my own behalf.

What makes me a good mom to Max is that I never give up on him.

What makes me a good mom to him is that there is literally no topic we don’t discuss and there is no topic about which I will lie to him.  And he knows this.  And it’s what makes him trust me when I tell him he’s going to be okay or when I tell him I have a solution to a problem.  He has never had reason to doubt me.  It’s what makes him agree to try new foods he thinks might kill him and what makes him go against every impulse in his bones and be respectful of adults he hates for one day – just because I have asked him to do it for me.

Truth is a powerful tool.  Not everyone can handle it.

God, I’m so scared all the time.

Time to shake it off as best I can.  Monday is here.

Reflection over.





The Fetishization of Motherhood

party girls

Motherhood isn’t a religion.

Mothers aren’t by nature the most selfless people on earth.  I have met many mothers as selfish as misers.  Mothers aren’t better than other people or more pure than non-mothers.  I can’t stand hearing people talk about motherhood as though it automatically elevates you to some higher status than non-mothers.  I can’t stand it when women (or others) rhapsodize about the beauty of motherhood, the selflessness and nobility of giving birth to babies and raising them.

I can’t stand it when people fetishize anything.

And people love to fetishize everything.  Motherhood, diets, sex, clothing, shoes, art, people (celebrities), careers, power, money, sunshine, beauty, objects, spirituality.  There is literally nothing humans won’t turn into an unhealthy obsession.

There is no bad moment to tell your mother you love and appreciate her.  There is literally no bad day to tell anyone in your life who has been kind and good to you that you value them.  No one needs a nationalized day to remind you.  Or at least you shouldn’t.  I always give my mom some appreciation on mother’s day because it’s expected and if I didn’t she might feel left out.  But I show my love an appreciation to her often and without any prompting because that’s what you do for those you love and appreciate.

I’m a mother too and as far as I’m concerned it’s okay with me if Max never does anything for me on mother’s day because it is meaningless to me.  What is meaningful and poignant for me is when Max tells me randomly how much he appreciates that I “let”* him just be who he is, my problem child, and that I don’t punish him for being different or challenging.  That – coming from my kid – is pretty great.

Being able to get pregnant and give birth to babies is nothing special.  All fertile humans can do it without even thinking which is evidenced by the high rate of unintended pregnancies that occur all over the world.  It takes no skills and no nobility of purpose and happens to every kind of person from the very best down to the most base and horribly unfit people.  I imagine this fact might add extra insult to injury for those people who desperately want children and can’t get pregnant.  As infertility becomes a  bigger and bigger problem among humans – the most you can say of being able to get pregnant is that you’re lucky to be able to do it on purpose, but being able to get pregnant sure doesn’t make you special and it has nothing to do with your worthiness as a potential parent.

I believe the fetishization of motherhood is backlash from feminism.  Women used to have babies not necessarily because they were dying to be mothers and that was their life’s ambition (though obviously there have always been women for whom this is their main desire) but because it was expected of them.  How many times have I heard older women talk about the days when all women were expected to get married and have babies even if they didn’t really want to?  Can’t even count ’em.  But as the feminist movement picked up steam and power – many women started to view having careers outside the home as the new noble thing.  You CAN work outside the home so you SHOULD.  Women who finally felt free to nurture professional ambitions looked down on those women who really wanted to stay home and have kids.  Or stay home and no have kids.  Suddenly there were all these women who believed that feminism was about women freeing themselves from the yolk of wifery and family and lost track of the point of feminism which was to promote women making choices for themselves.

Women pitted against women is stupid and just as destructive as chauvinism is to free choice and empowerment of self.

Now my generation of women has taken motherhood to a new level of competitive sport.  Different parenting methods and philosophies have become warring religions and women rise up and call other women “abusive” to their children when what they really mean is “You’re not doing it like ME” and somehow having kids now confers a golden halo of light around you that makes you more worthy of any non-childbearing women.  That’s fucked up.

Motherhood may be challenging but so is being the CEO of a fortune 500 company.

Choosing motherhood is NOT a selfless act.  Having  babies is, in my opinion, the single most selfish thing a woman can decide to do.  This wasn’t true in the middle ages when there were a hell of a lot less people on earth.  They died off in plagues more frequently and devastatingly and there were seemingly endless natural resources.  Chances were good that if you had kids – half of them would die by the age of 5.  So having kids, and having as many as you wanted or could have of them had very little impact on anyone but yourself and your family.  But this isn’t the middle ages and there are billions of people on earth and limited resources.  Every single baby you give birth to (mine included, obviously) is a selfish act in which you bring another being to life who will take more resources from the people already here.  It does not matter how much you recycle or reuse things or how small your carbon footprint is – your children will need water and air and they will shit into toilets that will fill either holes in the soil or sewage systems.

And that shit doesn’t make good fertilizer.

Your child will compete for jobs, housing, land, money, partners, oil, power, not only with other people’s children and older people who are losing opportunities to the young every day but they will also compete with your other children for all those things.  Every time you bring another kid into the world you are taking another chunk of limited resources for the sake of your own satisfaction.  For your own selfish desire to have more kids because it pleases you.

I am not here to say anyone shouldn’t have kids.  And obviously if you have kids I hope you do your damnedest to be a great parent to them because you’re the reason they’re here and none of them asked to be born.  But don’t, for fuck’s sake, suggest that anything about having children makes you some kind of hero or selfless.  So have your kids – as many as you see fit – but don’t imagine that you are doing the world any favors, because you’re not.

It is far less selfish to choose not to have children.

I personally went the selfish route and had my baby.  I don’t regret it for a second and I love him best of all people in the world.  But I sure as hell didn’t do any of you any favors by having him.  Even if he becomes a person who changes the world for the better.  Even if he really does do something heroic.  I’ll be able to say I nurtured the good in him – but if Max grows up to be someone fantastic that other people are thankful for – I won’t have ME to thank for it.  Max will have himself to thank for it.

That’s the other great myth that I can’t stand.  We place so much importance on parenting – as though bad parenting will result in bad people and that good parenting will result in good people.  Every child that parents bring into the world is an individual and while you can certainly break people with abuse – the fact that there are many people who come from abusive childhoods and go on to do great things and be great people is proof that no matter what kind of parent you are – ultimately the child you gave birth to is their own person who has responsibility for their own choices and there are a million factors that can contribute to who they ultimately grow up to be.  There are also dedicated loving parents whose children grow up to murder people, steal, or just become douchecopters.

So when Max grows up and becomes what he becomes I will not be congratulating myself nor hating myself. I will either be proud of the choices he’s made or I’ll be sad about poor choices he’s made.  He is not clay in my hands that I have the ultimate power to make into a good or bad or mediocre adult.  A lot of who he will become has to do with who he came into this world being.

My job as his mom is to do the best I can to set him up for success and as far as I’m concerned – being a “good mom” is about being there,  being present as much as I can and meeting my kid’s needs while still living a full life as a woman whose life ambitions far outreach the scope of motherhood.

If motherhood is your main ambition in life – go for it.  Be a mom.  If it’s what will fulfill you as a person – then I support you doing it because I support women choosing the life that will best fulfill them.  Whatever it is.  If you want to have kids but also pursue a professional career – do it.  Make the best of it that you can.  If you don’t want kids at all – thank you – you’ve done a kindness for the earth and for the people who are already fighting for its resources.  There’s room for us all to make different choices.  The choices I have made are not superior to the choices anyone else has made.  And your choices are not inherently superior to the ones I’ve made.

I want to see women support each other in the full range of choices available to us and I want to see women support each other in the full realization of our individual gifts.  The world needs women taking part in all aspects of civilization and it should be our guiding light to help each other find and use our gifts – whatever they are.

To do that we must stop fetishizing our life paths.  Stop making our choices into religions or cults.  Stop fighting each other over the “right” way to parent children or the “right” kind of job to pursue or the “right” kind of relationships to develop.  Stop fighting over what life choices are most noble or righteous or beautiful or magical or fun or fulfilling.  We’ll never agree and it’s okay.  That’s the beauty of it.  We don’t have to agree with each other all the time – we just need to respect each other.

I had a lot of other things to say about mother’s day and motherhood but Anne Lamott got there first in her article called “Why I Hate Mother’s Day“.  I don’t actually hate mother’s day but otherwise she basically spoke my mind.

Mostly I just want people to be real.  Honest and real.

And to keep things in perspective – especially if my views anger you or hurt you in any way – remember that I do not think human beings are all that awesome.  I believe we are the worst virus this planet has ever had inflicted on it.  I think ants are more valuable to the ecosystem than human beings.  I think the worst dog has a more pure heart than the best human.

So there you have it.  I think us humans need to stop thinking so highly of ourselves as a species and make ourselves worthy of the space we’re devouring on the planet.

*As if I could make him be anyone else.