I can imagine the movie poster for the film about my life: a hideous, giant monster, with fangs and claws dripping blood, terrorizing the young children in her path with punishments, recriminations and selfishness. “Attack of the Anti-Mother!” the poster would proclaim. Kids would cover their eyes and other parents would simultaneously be outraged at my horrific parenting and grateful that their transgressions could never be as catastrophic as mine.
Growing into Motherhood
While this description is (I hope) quite an exaggeration compared to the reality of my mothering, the truth is that I never really planned on being a parent. I wasn’t one of those kids who enjoyed playing “house”, or loved holding babies or couldn’t wait to teach my offspring how to throw a ball or ride a bike. And my gag reflex is instantly triggered at any and all bodily fluids. I was somewhat bewildered at my lack of “mother lust” — growing up I was more interested in books and writing than hanging out with kids my age, and as I grew older, I fantasized more about the kind of career I would have than how many kids would fill my house. I didn’t especially enjoy being a child. Always a serious person, I was also acutely invested in justice from the youngest age, not a very productive stance for someone under 4 feet and lacking in all power whatsoever. When I did think about parenting, antiseptic images of family vacations and my kid’s acceptance to Harvard dominated my vision. I avoided considering (YEARS. I meant it. YEARS.) sleep deprivation, before-school frantic rushing, learning disabilities, divorce. And of course, my life as a mom has included more harrowing, anxious, self-doubting experiences than the rest of my life combined. But, to my absolute surprise, it has been a part of my life that I have enjoyed, savored, and grown from more than any other. Getting to really know this other little person from day one, to love so completely and unconditionally another being that my own happiness and even safety ceased to be my focus, to revel in the miracles abundant in every stage of development, has gifted me with a blessedness and grace I could have gotten no other way. Now, I am FAR from a perfect mother, and my catastrophic nature kept me from rolling the baby dice more than once, but, most of the time, I feel pretty good about the job I’m doing. No doubt, my work as a therapist has afforded me a view of some of the most sorrowful and painful moments a human can experience. My kid’s development, and my efforts in that direction, have been thankfully free from some of those more egregious scars. And I’ve always been a consciously grateful for any good mojo that comes my way. But now, as I anticipate my son’s final year at home, I can’t imagine my life without mothering as it’s center. I am a softer, wiser, better person for having taken this path. Who knew a step I never considered taking could be my life’s greatest joy?