On Thursday, May 9th, I read this piece for the Listen to Your Mother reading series. I remain honored to have been invited to participate in this event and to stand with the incredible writers and directors of this show. As you read this piece remember it was written to be read aloud. It is filled with the sarcastic and irreverent tone I can sometimes have (so read some of it with a smirk ) but mostly it is about the deep love and gratitude that overwhelmed me on my journey through motherhood. ~~Kelly
Confession: I never wanted to be a mom. Being a mom was never in my plans. I never had the three kids in the house, two cars in the garage, one husband in the bed fantasy.
Sure, I played house as a kid, but even as a seven year old I thought Baby Alive was, frankly, a bit demanding. Feed me. Change me. Replace my batteries. Who needs that?
No. I came of age at a time when women were grabbing their freedom and equality by the balls, so to speak.
I was raised to be an opinionated, strong-willed, feminist and my life was to be full of the liberation the girls of my generation were promised—career, sex (but not necessarily husbands), our own money, and the freedom to have and do whatever we choose.
But in a crushing moment of weakness I was sidetracked from my Gloria Steinem inspired journey and barely into my twenties I forgot about the emancipated girl I was supposed to be and I married a boy…from the suburbs.
Don’t get me wrong–he’s a good man who knew some of what he was getting in a girl like me. So while he grew up having his mother wash and fold his clothes until he moved away from home, he handled my mantra of “Iron your own damn shirts, Honey!” quite well I think.
I was to be different kind of feminist now.
A few years after we were married we had our first son.
Five years after that son number two arrived.
Ten years after that we welcomed baby boy number three.
For those of you doing the math, this means in a single day this Super Mom can pay a college tuition bill, deal with middle school angst, and answer the call of “Mom, I went potty,”—wait for it–,”and I pooped,” without breaking a sweat.
My feminist sisters would be so proud.
I could tell you that each time the doctors placed my new baby boy on my chest my heart melted and I felt every edge of my soul soften…and that would be the truth. Whoever I was as a woman was altered the moment I held their tiny fingers and looked into those sweet eyes as they nursed at my breast.
But I have a secret: I’m not a great mom.
Don’t misunderstand, I love my kids–I feed them, I get them were they need to be, I buy them shoes, I take them to Disney World, I bring them to political rallies (What? That’s not in What to Expect: The Social Policy Years?), I make them wash their armpits, I even make them do their homework–still I’m not the mom we’re all supposed to be.
I don’t bake cookies. I serve pizza for dinner more often than I’m guessing the food pyramid suggests. I don’t craft or knit or scrapbook. I don’t get my kids’ portraits taken every year. I’ve only taken two of them to a Chuck E Cheese once and once is enough for anyone.
I can’t even play right. Truly, I can’t pretend to play a game of pretend, and I get in trouble for this regularly when I suddenly realize, in my distracted and half engaged Uh huh and Yes, Sweetie state of mind, I have apparently agreed to things that have the potential to cause serious injury, reduce the resale value of my home, or bring about the untimely death of a cherished cat.
This whole twenty-four hour a day mom thing is really exhausting. There should be a warning or a class or something. (<sigh> maybe I shouldn’t have given Baby Alive to the dog)
Despite my failings, and the possibility I will never get the Mom of the Year award, my mom guilt is non-existent.
After twenty years of being a parent I need only look to my sons to understand: I may have deviated from my original path and fallen into motherhood unexpectedly, I didn’t lose myself to the job. The strength of my convictions is in their eyes. They are kind. They are respectful. They are inquisitive. And they can recognize inequality at ten paces. They will be men who stand up—they will stand up for themselves, and more importantly, they will stand up for others.
They make this feminist mother proud.