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Thursday, August 4, 2011

on mothering

I imagine when I was pregnant I had ideas about what type of mother I'd be, who I wanted to be, how I wanted to raise my child. I imagine I asked myself, what's it like to be a real mom to a real kid who is here 24/7?

Author Andrea J. Buchanan, who wrote the book Mother Shock - Tales From the First Year and Beyond, Loving Every (Other) Minute of It, wrote a lot in this book about what it's really like. She also has a great interview here where she talks more about her book and other books she's written. Check it out:

Nothing else like it
Buchanan writes in another essay on page 171 about how one cannot really understand what it's like to be a mom until she is one. She comments that you can babysit or be a nanny or have younger siblings, but that does not compare to being a mom on your own, where you don't return the child. I would never have agreed with this before I became a mother - having done more babysitting than any of my friends and having three younger siblings I cared for a lot of the time. However, now I realize it is different, it really is. Being 100 percent responsible for another being, 100 percent of the time? That is something all its own. She wrote, "Nothing, really, is like mothering except mothering."

A day in the life of a mother
Buchanan also described what it is like to be a mother, the fact that it is the same thing over and over every day. On page 173, she wrote, "The work I do as a mother is repetitive and mostly invisible... I make food and then it is eaten. I clean dishes and they they are crusted with leftovers. I do the laundry and the clothes are dirty again. I dust and the house is dusty. I clean up toys that are thrown down as soon as I pick them up; I change diapers and give baths, wipe noses, and wash hands. My days are endless rituals of things continually done and undone..."

This is so true! I had not thought of it that way before. It can be monotonous at times, but that's what it's like caring for someone else. It's normal and it's what you want to do to keep a good house and family running. It's nice though to stop and realize how much we mothers do, and that is why I think there is that national holiday in May every year - to recognize these little things we do and do not often get enough thanks for.

Born as a mom?

Buchanan wrote on page 202, "We are not born as full-fledged mothers when we birth our babies. Instead we become mothers as we live through mothering, we learn as we go, we practice our mothering as our children practice growing up, from helpless babies to tantruming toddlers to imaginative preschoolers to big kids and teens and on through adulthood. The practice of motherhood can be solitary at times, but it can also be done in concert with others; it can feel unproductive some days and exhilarating on others. Mothering is something you can understand only while you're doing it. And the minute you think you really get it, your moment of enlightenment is shattered - what worked to soothe your child yesterday no longer works today, the routine you thought you had mastered is rendered obsolete as your baby finally abandons a morning nap or begins to walk. Mothering is a koan, and the only definitive answer is that there is no answer, only the puzzling out of an answer. The practice is constant, and it is never-ending, as our children grow and change and move from stage to stage, presenting us with new issues to tackle, new riddles to ponder....There is no ending point, just a multitude of points along the way."

That one makes me think... mothering is everything. It's simple, little things we do every day like changing diapers and saying good morning to our son in his crib when he first wakes. And it's also teaching him sign language before he can talk and pointing to the mailboxes on our walk in the morning and teaching him to share at play dates. It's a lot of things, and each and every one of them matters, a lot.

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