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26 April, 2010

Ghost in the Dwelling

My lion asked me yesterday how I was doing, and after a lot of circling around the subject and trying to figure out how to say things, I finally hit the revelation:

"I'm angry with my mother."

(No shit. I live in a universe of angry with my mother. But, he quite reasonably asked:)

"Why? She hasn't been all that much in contact, has she? I mean, what's she done?"

I tried to explain. Explain that every time I talk to her, if I mention that something is hard with taking care of Little Foot, that I'm feeling in some way hemmed in or tired or stressed or any of the normal things that motherhood brings, her voice takes on this knowing cast, and she says something like, "Yep, that's what it's like. That's what it'll be for the next twenty years! You gave up your life."

This parenting gig, it's hard work. It is one of the most wonderful, rewarding, bloody difficult things I have ever done in my life, because it's a thing that I have wanted to do, that my heart has yearned for.

And every time she says something like this, it gets just a little bit harder. Or maybe a lot harder.

Because I am still a person, no matter how much she wants to turn me into the negative phrasing of the Angel of the Household, the madonna of self-sacrificing motherhood. I still have things that I want to do with my life - that I am doing with my life - even if I have to wedge them around the crevices. And I have to wedge them around the crevices because there's still that legacy of Victoriana, the two spheres, the "real world" and the domestic area that I, as a nursing mother, preside over with my apron and wooden spoon, only I haven't got an apron anyway and Little Foot wants to play with the spoon.

I resent the way the culture surrounding me sets me up to be an unperson now. I resent it, and I wish to change it, and I do things like thinking about joining a church to expand the base of my support structure, to maybe find a community with like-aged children so that Little Foot can grow up with friends, to do all the things that might shore up the slumping walls of my Fortress of Unsolitude that I inhabit as the not all that super mom. I am, since Little Foot arrived, more driven to be political, to find community to be active in, to do all of these things that people do, as well as my own work (terribly neglected in the perpetual onslaught of the nine-month-old), and that politicality comes with a keener awareness of the way that I am marginalised.

Oh, I am doing So Many Things Right, with the breastfeeding and all, and isn't it nice that I'm dedicating myself to being a good mother, and now I can be completely glossed over as a person because I will be off doing BABYBABYBABY, right, that's not something that real people have to bother their pretty little heads about, they can go do real people things. Like work, and have relationships, and achieve things that matter in the world, and 'things that matter' don't include 'raising a loving and loved child to be a healthy human being'.

And that's what my mother tells me, over and over again. That I've given up any chance I had to be real for a good long time. This velveteen rabbit will not breathe and bleed and hop on its own, no matter how much it's loved. Because all my real gets drained away, magically, into childrearing.

What you see here is a clever fake.

So that's why I'm angry at my mother right now.

11 comments:

Rosemary Cottage said...

I feel like that sometimes too (although I'm estranged from my mother so it comes from the culture around me). And then I realise, it's hard to find community and do activism in a culture that really, really, really doesn't respect children (and by extension, their mothers) as fully people. How do you - for example - take your child with you to any activist event if you are expected to be the one who is running after them every other minute not just because you are their mother, but also because the people there do not understand that for children, "running around" is an age-appropriate thing?

And so I retreat into this thing that your mother has maybe done; I am angry, I am even bitter, that I have "given up my life" and become an "unperson" and it is not that I don't willingly sacrifice much for my child - I am angry at the rest of the world for wanting me to hide away until he is able to adhere to adult norms and conventions, so when someone says to me (usually a mother with a partner and support) "it's really hard" I do (sorry) say, sometimes, without thinking "well, that's what it's like to have a child" (and then sometimes add, "at least you have a partner to support you").

I try not to. Because I know she is just going through what I am and that we are all angry at the world, but sometimes it's easier to take it out on other mothers who expect the "more" that you've already given up.

Which probably makes very little sense reading over it again.

suzimoses said...

I find it very bizarre that when I read this posting over at LJ I also saw an add for mother's day. Specifically getting crystal things for my mother in appreciation for her teaching me how to be a mother.

A bit of irony there.

Anonymous said...

At the same time - she's passing on to you what was passed on to her, whether by her mother or by society in general.

If raging against it can keep the same cultural brokenness from being passed on to Little Foot, then your determination to be your own person as well as a mother (because the answer, in my view, would be not to reject the parenthood but to have it included as part of you?) not only benefits you, but eventually her.

You probably grew up seeing your mother fulfill this "my life is not my own" thing. What would happen if Little Foot could grow up seeing her own mother show that she can be her own self and still love and take care of her child?

(These are rhetorical questions - you've probably thought of most of this already - but I wanted to get them out there anyway.)

-gelfling

Anonymous said...

I think what I was trying to say in the previous comment was "not subsuming yourself in your child doesn't make you a bad mother". Or something like that...

cheshire said...

my though when reading this post was over-welled by "you couldn't be a non person if you tried" their is way to much life in you.

Probably not helpful, but their it is

Graydon said...

Why in any of the nine worlds are you still talking to your mother?

Totally toxic; *wants* to be totally toxic. Cannot be changed or improved.

There's absolutely nothing about you that deserves to have to deal with that.

mamacrow said...

SHE may have 'given up her life' but that was HER choice. or, worse, unchoice - like, she didn't even thing about it.

whatevers.

if she can't be a shining example for you, she'll have to serve as a terrible warning!

It is hard sometimes. It's hard to be a mother. It's hard to not be a mother. It's hard to be a mother and work. It's hard to be a mother and not work. It's hard - etc etc, you get the idea! Dosn't mean it will always be hard, and dosn't mean you can't vent/express/grapple/explore the tough bits either.

(((HUGS)))

(9mths?! Little Foot is NINE MONTHS?! Yegads.)

mamacrow said...

ooo, one last thing - 'a mum - that's what you DO, not what you ARE' ok, it's a quote from an old sitcom (2.4 children if you're interested) but it's stuck with me :D

Vieva said...

I agree - you gotta stop talking to your mother. She crazy.

What's more, it sounds like she's GLEEFUL in telling you that you've lost your life. Which is both false and just plain MEAN. And while yes, mothers do get a certain amount of evil glee over their children going through the same weird parenting things that they went through, there's "ha ha, you were the same at that age!" and there's "ha ha, now you're not a person, sucks to be you!"

It doesn't suck to be you. You ARE a person. You're just a person that's being run pretty close to the edge, and that happens, and parenthood is like that. So's a ton of other things. But nowhere in there is there a "giving up my life" choice made.

You are still you. You are a DIFFERENT you, because you are now a mother - YES that's a permanent change. But that doesn't make it a redefinition of who and what you are - it's just an additional role in your life.

You are a person. You still have an identity, value, purpose, both as a mother AND as the person you were before you popped out a kid.

And I agree, also, that being aware of that now, and refusing to live as nothing BUT a lifeless mom, is BETTER for your child than simply giving up the world for her. She will see that she gets to take care of herself, too, and live accordingly.

Sounds to me like you're doing a damn good job.

Stone Fox said...

in my own experience, i have found that for a certain period of time after the baby came, i was happy, and overwhelmed, with just being a mother. i couldn't do anything else because i was learning how to be a mother. once i had that part figured out, it's like the fog lifted and i started to see that there is the woman who is the Mother, *and* the woman who is Still Everything She Was Before She Was a Mother. you don't give up your life when you have kids. yeah sure, you put yourself on hold for a bit, until you remember that there's more to you than the baby you carry on your hip.

it's really annoying when people say things like, "Oh, a baby! you have your hands full!" or, "When are you having the next one? You can't just have one!!" or, "Oh just you wait, you JUST STARTED and you've got ANOTHER 18 YEARS." in that stupid effing superior tone. who knows why they do it. it's like this little power game that women play on each other: a grown up version of i-know-something-you-don't-know.

anyways, just wanted to say that i think it's perfectly normal to want more than just being Angel of the House (barf!) and maybe you've just gotten comfortable enough with being a mother that you're ready for more. more adult conversation, more adult involvement. from the mothers i have talked to, quite a few of us feel this way. some of them act all snotty when i say that being with my children 24/7 isn't enough for me; i get the, 'i'm a better mother than you because i LIVE for my children' attitude but i just brush it off. sounds like sour grapes to me. maybe that's where your mother is coming from? a generation of women trying to out-mother each other by LIVING for their kids. it's not healthy, if you ask me, all this helicopter-mom garbage.

i guess it comes down to asking yourself if you want your children to grow up dying under all your overbearing attention or flourishing under a mother they can see as a complete person. (yeah, that statement is pretty biased to my own position.)

rhydwyn said...

re reading this I am struck with my frustation at the moment with grad school and the idea that I can put the rest of my life on hold, because yes while I have fit things around the huge commitment I have made, that is not the same as being able to walk away from all responablities, to myself, to my community, to the my health and the communities health.

No sure if I have a point here beond, this is the same pattern, the same shit that means I am meant to be able to just drop everything and write 16 hours a day, that their are no meals to cook, no one to be cared for, no family to keep together you are asked to care with all your time, and all your energy, so their no time for writing, or anything else.