Examining Motherhood

Part of the reason I have almost stopped writing Goll Gappay is that the things I have to say don't seem to matter much anymore. I was told by wise individuals that the blog will plateau one day, but like a happy child, I was in too big of a hurry to grow up, and naively I thought, "This will never happen to me or to my blog."

I am back here again today because despite a lot of changes in my professional life (all good), I have been gravitating more and more in my thoughts towards the part of my identity I treasure most and am often at odds with -- that of a mother. Motherhood is hard. It is isolating. It doesn't get easier as the children grow up. If you are a high-anxiety parent (like me) with an over-active imagination (like me), you can keep yourself up for hours at night thinking about potential hazards that lie in wait for your baby. For an experience so ubiquitous, motherhood is atypically hard to understand. Mothers may agree on the broad strokes of parenting -- they want the best for their children, et cetera, et cetera, but the more granular you get, the more distinct you find each experience to be. I will say again: Motherhood is isolating, both literally and figuratively. For me, it is also the most rewarding experience of my life. Most times, the reward and isolation go hand-in-hand, at least in my household. For instance, we go into potty-training lockdown for a week; we emerge triumphant, both mama and baby are happy. 

It's hard work. No matter who you are, where you are, what your resources might be, whether you're working outside the home or not, this is hard work. Yet, in our isolation, we often question and criticize other mothers who are canoeing on this journey alongside us, parallel but apart. I am not raising my daughter as my mother raised me. And my mother didn't raise me the way her mother raised her. Mothers have always had the heartache, burden, and joy of motherhood. I am certain it was hard work a thousand years ago, or twenty years ago, or even five years ago. But that does not mean that somehow I have vicariously gleaned knowledge through the experience of generations of mothers before me. For me, this is still hard work. I figure out how to do this every single day. I worry when my baby cries. I am the parent who gives in easily, who is easy to break, not because I lack will, but because this is just the kind of parent I am. I can try to change my fears or overcome them. I can try to be more firm. A friend has pointed out that I can just say "no." I don't have to distract my daughter with something shiny when I am taking another shiny object away (play-doh in exchange for turning the TV off, chocolate instead of my purse, etc.). True, I could do that -- just say no. I don't necessarily want to. And that is my prerogative as a mother. The truth is, my daughter is just 3 years old. I am 10 times as old as her. I know what loss feels like. I know I will never get chocolate in return for something I love that's taken away from me or something I've had to give up. Real life is hard. It's brutal. It's...well, it's real. And everyone gets a taste of it in good time. My 3-year-old will one day realize that she cannot simply be distracted from her loss. She must bear it, go through it, embrace it -- I dread that day, but I know it will come. She must learn all the hard lessons one day. But that day doesn't have to be today. Today, she can shed fewer tears.

These little choices I make, choices my daughter and I make together, because I do give her a choice on most occasions if I can, make the experience of motherhood easier, less isolating. Because the truth is, she is my only companion on this journey. It is our journey. Mine and hers. I am trying my best to teach her how to be good. She is doing something greater -- she is teaching me how to be a good mother. 

Photos by Rebecca McCue