When I was a little girl, probably about 9 or 10, I remember one Christmas when we were downstate visiting my cousins. My mom and aunt took us to a special event where Santa was going to be arriving in a helicopter. It was very exciting, and very noisy! Once he landed, we all got in line to sit on Santa’s lap for the requisite 30 seconds with Santa. I remember the wait was very long… or maybe it just seemed long to a 10-year-old.
When it was finally my turn, I was of course just as overjoyed as my 6-year-old brother and cousins. I think this may have been the last year I still truly believed in Santa.
I was all ready with the gift in mind I wanted to ask for. (Which I don’t remember now because that’s not the important part of this story.) But Santa didn’t ask me what I wanted for Christmas. He asked me a question I wasn’t expecting. He asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I hadn’t really thought about this before. Knowing that I had very little time to answer Santa Claus’ most important question, I dug into my heart. What did I really, really want to be? What did I see myself being someday? It didn’t take me long to figure it out. “A mommy,” I looked up at him through my giant, tortoise-shell glasses, smiling.
Suddenly Santa seemed uncomfortable. I don’t think he expected that answer. He shifted me on his lap. He didn’t comment and changed the subject. It made me feel like maybe I’d answered wrong. I felt embarrassed. Was I not supposed to want to be a mommy?
Maybe I was supposed to want to be something else more than I wanted to be a mommy. Was something wrong with me that I didn’t have anything in mind at a higher priority than mommy? This question plagued me for quite some time the rest of the day, and petered out into my future.
The moment was significant enough for me to remember it very clearly, and for it to affect me in the course of my life.
Mothering is a Birthright
Interestingly, twenty years later, at 30 years old, my greatest life accomplishment and career so far has been, you guessed it, Mommy. At 10 years old I already knew what I wanted from life.
And yet despite this very real, true, bone-deep knowing I was able to dig out of my heart in a matter of seconds as a child, it was shadowed with doubt. Why?
Society. Expectations. Millennialism. All of these and more wrongfully made me question my longing to join my rightful place among the world’s ranks of mothers. In fact, motherhood is not only a prerogative, it is a birthright.
Despite my doubt, I knew, and was happy to share with boyfriends and anyone who might ask, that I wanted to have children young. As a teen, I saw the new phenomenon of so many older mothers around me, bleary-eyed and gray-haired as they stumbled after two-year-olds up the slide at the playground. No older siblings were around to help. I did not want to be like those mothers. I wanted to give my youthful energy to my children while I still had it in spades. That seemed to me a thousand times more natural.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I actually planned out my first pregnancy at 21! It was quite unexpected. But after the initial shock, I was honestly overjoyed. I spent all my free time during that pregnancy, when I wasn’t sick (which was most of it), reading and researching all things baby. I cross-stitched bibs and knitted tiny sweaters and booties for my baby. I posted pictures of my belly on Facebook. I sewed her diapers and lovingly made up her crib (which we almost never used).
Never Always a Good Time to Have a Baby
It may not have been the most ideal time in my life according to Them, The People, It, or The Way Life Is Supposed To Be, but it was truly the most ideal time. In fact, biologically I would have liked to have children even younger. A huge pet peeve of mine is that women ignore and deny their bodies the way we do, for so many years, to build careers and “get settled.” What does that even mean? Men don’t have to deny themselves biologically. Why do we?
I know that women have their reasons. Being an independent woman is important to them. It’s important to me too, but because I chose biology over career, I have never been an independent woman. That hurts me. Actually it is the bane of my existence. But I am able to calm down when I think of the joy my children have brought me over the years. That is a palliative I’d gladly cuddle with every day of the week.
I’m not here to judge other women for their life choices, just as I expect not to be judged for mine, but I won’t keep quiet about how I feel either. I wrote about this subject extensively in A Baby Is, so I don’t need to beat it to death here all over again. What I do need, is to dig deep down into my heart, and share my knowing.
It’s been over 2 years since I wrote Where is Mommy Barbie? for Elephant Journal and 2 months since I wrote A Baby Is, and now that I’m 7 months pregnant with my third child, I feel even more strongly about sharing this message with the world.
“When I was ten years old, Santa asked me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I said, “I want to be a Mommy.” He looked at me like I had two heads.
How, as a society, did we get so far away from honoring and respecting full-time motherhood? Maybe, honestly, this is what’s wrong with everything that’s wrong with the world.” – Where is Mommy Barbie?
In case I didn’t make myself clear enough when I said it then, I’m going to try again.
My children have filled a void in my life that I may not have known was there if they hadn’t come into it. Birthing them into this world has empowered me to become a woman I feel proud to be. Caring for them and watching them grow into delightful, talented, sweet little girls has enriched my life beyond measure, and made me grow, and grow, and grow.
They Love Us to the Moon and Back
My children have been the seeds, roots, and shoots of my mental, emotional, and spiritual growth in many dimensions. They have been my reason for living when I was too depressed to get out of bed. They have been my light in the darkness when I couldn’t see any way out. They have kissed and cuddled me and given me pictures drawn with every color in the crayon box to put all over my walls.
Physically and metaphysically, they have surrounded me with love.
When we think of having children, I think we only think about how much we are going to love them. Our hearts burst with it! Well surprise, surprise, they love us to the moon and back too. Maybe even further. Children’s capacity for love is beyond measure. In fact it is boundless. It is prodigious in its scope and depth and meaning.
They love us with every little ounce and fiber of their beings, because they don’t know how to hold anything back. They love us no matter how we treat them, no matter what we say, no matter what we do. They love us unconditionally.
At the end of Fifty Shades Freed, Christian finally admits that he deeply loved his mother, even though she died when he was four. Even though she was a drug addict. Even though she neglected him almost completely and stood aside while he was abused. He wasn’t able to begin healing from the trauma of his childhood until he accepted this fact.
Completely encased in this bubble of the love from our children, I think we become invincible. We become powerful. As Kenji says in Mindful Birthing, “It doesn’t matter whether you feel like the parent. The children think you’re the parent, so you have to act like one (p. 194).” And so you are. We become the superheroes they see in their eyes.
“I take my motherhood seriously. I see it as a call to action—a call to be the best possible people that we can be. A call to create the best possible home and environment, for the sake of our children.
A call to be a nurturer, nourisher, caretaker, teacher, lover.” -Where is Mommy Barbie?
This morning was absolutely wretched. My 8-year-old had a half hour long temper tantrum because her sister claimed the light-up Christmas lights necklace before she did, and she wanted to wear it today for a Christmas Spirit contest at school. Oh well child. Life isn’t fair sometimes. And Mommy only bought one necklace. We have wretched mornings like this all the time. And afternoons. And evenings. And nights.
Sometimes Papi and I are up half the night with a child writhing in agony from growing pains in her knees. It is one thing to deal with temper tantrums (my SOP is to ignore them), but nothing compares to seeing your child in pain. I don’t want to sit here and rave about the joys of motherhood, without being very clear that it is not all sugar plums and candy canes dancing in their heads.
But all those wretched days are more than worth it. They are the very stuff of life, and if we reject them, we reject life. I don’t know where I’d be today if I had chosen to delay my path to mothering, but I think I would regret it. I don’t think I would be as happy as I am now. And I don’t think that even half the wonderful things that have come to me in this life would have come to me if my children had not been part of it.
On my 30th birthday, October 4, 2018, when I blew out the candles, I wished for gratitude, and joy. I believe that gratitude is the path to joy and there is no better way to love life than to appreciate it for what it is, right now.
I felt like I was missing this from my life, big time. Everything I was and everything I had never seemed to be enough. I was always complaining. Always wanting more. Always needing things to be better. I recognized that this attitude might simply be the source of all my discontent.
Well, the universe has been merciful, and has granted my request. But it didn’t have to do anything. I didn’t know; I already had everything I needed all along.
When I look in the mirror, I see a very pregnant, very happy mommy. Even if I’ve screwed up the rest of my life, I at least have the most important thing figured out. I was very, very unhappy before I got pregnant last Spring, because I was trying so hard not to be Mommy. To be some corporate version of myself I thought I was supposed to want to be. But it didn’t make me happy. Being Mommy makes me happier than I could have ever dreamed of.
In the word-form of Daniel Manus Pinkwater’s The Big Orange Splot: Mommy is me and I am it. Mommy is who I like to be. And it looks like all my dreams.