The Conundrum of Motherhood

It’s Mother’s Day in America, a holiday I often avoid. This sounds ridiculous if you know me -or, at least, know of my progeny. I’m currently carrying my sixth child. Most of the time, I raise five others. Even this far into the job, however, I dislike identifying as a mother. I don’t even see myself as one.

Still ridiculous, right?

This conundrum of thought, turmoil of inner peace, and mental confusion of purpose has haunted me since I first agreed to carry a child. I’ve had great support from my husband; that’s not the problem. I’ve had relatives agree with my familial decisions; that’s not the problem, either. I’ve had many women to look to as examples, who balance children and a career; which also doesn’t seem to be the problem.

The only conclusion I’ve been able to make is that I am discontent. Me, who can and does make children, is unhappy doing so. Ungrateful.

…which, I hope, has more to do with life plans contrary to domesticity and not with despising the progeny I’ve made. Although, we did discover, last night, that one of my children carved a hole in his bedroom wall in order to conceal a laptop computer. *sigh*

I just …thought I’d …DO something in life. Something important.

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My husband, and many others, say raising children is the most important thing. Logically, I understand that. After all, who will live on the world if not the offspring of those willing to make them? Just …raising children is not, personally, fulfilling to me.

In some ways it is -ways like teaching my sons to read. My heart swells whenever I see them sitting, intently, reading a novel on their own. Or, whenever I see that look in their eyes when they bake their own bread. When they score a goal on the soccer team. When they help each other and are happy.

On days like that, I love being their mother.

On other days, though; days where I’m stuck inside with only their brawlings and their dishes and their laundry and their holes-in-the-walls for company, my mental health takes a beating. I dip into a dark hole of regret, wondering where the light comes from.

So, if you feel similarly, I get you. In fact, maybe we should get holes next to each other and call out supportive aphorisms. Or, throw each other some chocolate.

In the meantime, I’ll stick with my working plan -that of keeping at this mothering thing and sneaking a few, me-time things in here and there. You know, like writing.

On that note, happy Mother’s Day. Right? πŸ™‚

Β©2021 Chel Owens

67 thoughts on “The Conundrum of Motherhood

  1. Join the club Chel…we have 6 children although it doesn’t’ stop there 13 grandchildren and no great-grandchildren yet that we know off… I get how you feel…I don’t like kids and the tantrums and mess…however when they’re good and achieve something I am so proud of them..I am proud of how they are bringing up their children and proud of what they have become…but I wouldn’t say I am a natural mother…You will be fine as long as you remember that you were you before you become a mum and don’t lose sight of your goals…x..And congratulations x

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      1. It could be ..kindred spirits if you ever need advice..don’t ask me…lol…it is exhausting but so worth and mine are still great friends with each other and always have each others backs..I would never let them go bed on an argument my mother taught me that…xx

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          1. Our weren’t all angels, Chel and my belief is that if you teach them the correct way then even if they go astray as some of ours did… my hubby at one point nailed down our youngest daughters bedroom window and she went out of the bathroom one which was one floor up…She now has beautifully brought up children who have so far not caused her any problems it is said that the troublesome ones skip a generation…sigh..and there me hoping that what goes around comes around..haha..and so far I haven’t been able to say that but she proof that a troublesome child/teenager can come right when they finally grow up….x…Always here if you want my e-mail as I certainly have the t/shirts…sigh x

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  2. That’s a fantastic and honest post. I wish I had known you when I was going through it. I am so glad I can maybe reassure you a little. Motherhood does not come naturally to all of us. I found it very hard to cope, I did my best with three boys. Well despite me they all survived, are successful and flown the nest. Our youngest has two boys and they are a delight. I can tell you being a grandparent is easier than being a parent. Cling to that. Here’s to chocolate 🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫

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    1. πŸ˜€ ❀ Maybe boys are trickier in how physical they are as opposed to … leaving you thoughtful notes or flowers like I do for my mom. ❀ Thank you, and thanks for the chocolate!

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  3. Sounds like you’re a well adjusted human with a streak of self awareness and a smidge of disarming honesty. Probably why I like you and your thinking… there has to be a reason, right?

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  4. I’m an empty-nester now, but when I was a younger mom, people would tell me, “The years will fly by. You’ll blink, and all of the sudden they’re grown up.” B.S. The hard days/weeks are long and slow. I think they key is to celebrate the the good soccer games and the early reading milestones, while at the same time knowing it’s totally normal NOT to like the difficult stuff!

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    1. ❀❀ Thank you so much, Priscilla! You’ve unlocked a secret right there! I agree that time drags on at times that are hard. And, yes, now that I’ve children a few years away from leaving the nest, I feel nostalgic for those younger years. I still wouldn’t go back to them!

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  5. I feel every word you wrote! And what makes it even harder is sometimes you feel guilty about feeling this way bc of what society/your circle says you should feel… *sigh… Hope you enjoy your day!

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    1. ❀ Thank you! I also feel guilty for complaining when many women can’t have children. I think I just need to do this mom thing my way and not according to some fantasy person who gushes over housework.

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  6. Oh Chel! I hear you! I never did understand that raising a child was the most important thing a mother could do, and I wanted to be a mother, I thought it was the only thing I should do – well first getting married and staying married to the same jerk my whole life. Things changed. I’m just now at 68 figuring out that I can write poetry and take decent photos and that I enjoy doing that. I hope neither of my kids read this, because I miss seeing them, but am so glad they are far away, because they always still needed things I am not up to giving. I love my grandchildren, but I don’t fawn over them much… I don’t see them often. I’m happy they know who I am and like me. I’d like to be in their life more, but… I don’t bake… I could…. ack.. I’m saying too much… I sound like a wicked woman. Maybe I am, but… at least they both reached out (and my step daughter did this year) to wish me a happy day.

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    1. πŸ˜€ And this is why you and I are friends, Ruth! I just spoke in church about Mother’s Day and was very real; partway through, I thought, ‘I hope I’m not scarring my children, sitting there and listening.’ One told me he thought it was really funny, though, so maybe I’m safe. πŸ˜€

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  7. Happy Mother’s Day, Chel. πŸ™‚ I only have the one Offspring so I’m in awe of you with five and a bit. Commercial holidays aside, good /people/ care for others, and I strongly suspect you are a good person. Be proud of that. As for the me-things, they will come, and they’ll grow out of all the things you have experienced in life, just as this blog grew out of your experiences as a Mum. -hugs-

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  8. Forgive me for barging in on what is considered, in historically cultural terms, as a women’s issue.
    I get it.
    Or maybe I don’t.
    But I get something.
    And don’t get me wrong. I have a deep and unbreakable emotional bond with my children. They are as much a part of me as I am a part of them.
    But I find the idea that the raising of children is to be held as the most important thing that there is ……. very depressing. Because that implies that the most important thing for those children to do is to raise children, and those children will raise more children ….. and so on and so on.
    What’s the point? Why didn’t humanity raise just one child and say, β€œthat’s it. Job done. What do we do next?”
    I understand the Darwinian perspective, that the predetermined purpose of existence is more existence, but, to me, that is as good as saying that there is no point to existence at all (which, I should point out – if I have not already made it clear elsewhere, is a view that I hold as sadly true), and there is no better illustration of that than the big picture of generation after generation, after generation, after generation linking hands off into eternity.

    On the other hand, there is no more beautiful sound than that of a 5 year old giggling.

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    1. πŸ˜€ Truly a conundrum. Yes, there is a never-ending propagation of humans. I suppose the stopping point is a few years between graduation of your last and dependent enfeeblement?

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      1. Well, I have reached that stage, to an extent. But it doesn’t really explain anything.
        I think we might both be just asking the age old (unanswerable) question of, β€˜is this all there is?’

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  9. You are Chel. That’s what’s important. Identify as who you are. See it any way you want. It’s your choice. Choose to be Chel….awesome person. That’s more than enough

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  10. I get it…I love my kids SO much, but my mental health has struggled lately. Some days I think I am literally on the brink. And I only have two! COVID hasn’t helped the matter as I find myself longing desperately for quiet time, and a chance to work (finish something… ANYTHING) without constant distractions. Motherhood is a blessing not for the faint of heart… praying for the Lord to help us stay the course! ❀️

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    1. ❀ Thank you. You know, two was often more difficult than five is now -maybe because (besides being older, which really helps) they have other brothers to play with when one brother is getting on their nerves!

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  11. Wow, six children! My mother raised five, my maternal grandmother raised seven and lost one by still birth. My paternal grandmother raised five.
    For myself I only have one child, a daughter.
    Chelsea, you sound like a person who is just burnt out. I know raising children is difficult. I once heard something about child rearing, “children do not come with a manual”.
    There can be lots from the same parents and yet each child is different with their personalities and such.
    I hope you don’t mind, but the Bible tells us that we are wonderfully made. Also, we are told, “that happy is the man that has a quiver full”. A quiver full as I studied is, seven.
    Happy belated Mother’s day Chelsea!

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  12. I don’t think you’re unique in your ambivalence, Chelsea. At times, I loved being a mom, but at times, it was a dull, unfulfilling balancing act. And I only had one! Six? With only one, I still waited until she was off to college before I even started writing. I have no amazing words of wisdom except to be as gentle as possible with yourself.
    And an amazing piece from Plath. Part of life is navigating our choices. Pick your plums and enjoy the ones you can reach today.

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  13. OK, just so you don’t even think about taking the same exit Sylvia Plath did…
    This too shall pass, and I’m sure you know you can stop the child multiplying madness at any time, if you (and only you) so choose!

    The above notion is relevant to the fact/situation that it is mostly in your purview to do what you want with your time, of which there is usually less w/each child until possibly, I guess, the older ones can look after the younger though I guess one could question if that is fair to them. Based on my own experience, I was glad when my two girls (who I have been told are harder to raise than boys but again I wouldn’t know since they’re my only) could drive themselves where they needed to go. Of course, I was a tad worried when one called me while the other was driving home from a late night indoor soccer game and simultaneously complaining about her sister throwing a shoe at her throughout!

    Now that I’m an empty nester who raised my kids with an alcoholic who tried to hide it by not spending much time with us, I made sure to confirm with them that I didn’t screw up their childhood by staying with him, and presumably by also not overreacting when I was overwhelmed. I’m sure it will be the same with you.

    You also sound like a much calmer and more focused working mother than could ever have thought of being. Congratulations and try not to be too hard on yourself (as I still am). Remember my motto during that period, in the words of Steve Winwood “Just roll with it, baby” to be interpreted and acted upon in whatever way works for you at the time!

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    1. ❀❀ Thank you so much. Yes, you speak very wise and applicable words. Part of what has made mothering so difficult is the personalities and challenges of at least two of my boys. I still don’t trust a certain pair alone together, and it’s been over a decade. πŸ˜€

      I’m holding out for another fig, and the assurance that it will be all the more sweet for the wait.

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  14. I had a midlife crisis a few years ago when out of the blue it dawned on me that I had become too old to have children. I guess, technically speaking, men never get too old, but we do eventually realize that we missed our window and I guess we could try for a younger woman but what would she want with a geezer like us? Only an old man with the wealth of POTUS 45 could pull that off and even so, is a couple like that really happy? Do they have anything in common? What do they talk about?

    It’s odd. I always considered myself an intelligent person, yet the simple math of you need to find someone while you’re young eluded me. I wasted time, telling myself if you just wait another year or two or three, if you could just get better looking, find a way to make more money, be more successful…eh. In the end, I waited too long.

    Anyway, I think we fool ourselves into thinking life without children = fabulous and fun world wide jet setting, non stop parties and fun and riches and success. That does happen for some. For the rest of us, it’s nights of old movies, microwave dinners and tormenting ourselves with thoughts of what could have been. Oh and when you don’t have kids, every elderly relative puts you down as their go to person to take them to doctor appointments, help them around the house, sit with them at the hospital for hours on end. All the old people in the BQB fam are my kids now I guess. Oh we couldn’t possibly bother X or Y or Z. They have kids but you? Come on over here and help me, loser.

    I guess my point is don’t worry about the non-kid having life. It’s not all its cracked up to be.

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    1. You always say you are too old, and it makes me wonder. You ought to e-mail me and we can talk. Supposedly, the math for marrying for a guy is half your age plus seven; is there any fecundity at that range? We live in an area that has mostly people who waited. Some waited too long and did IVF or adoption and some just had a bunch -bam*bam*bam before her eggs dried up.

      And, your observations and intelligence are right-on with the fame and sex appeal. That’s the rub: it’s easy for me to look at The Other Side and wish for the childless life I’d always planned BUT I’m sure it also involved fame and fortune. πŸ˜€ Thanks for the reminder.

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      1. Yeah that’s the thing. The childless life for the rich is like Samantha on Sex in the City or something. For the middle class, it’s more like Aunt Jackie on Roseanne.

        Yes, in theory men can date younger women but in reality, I barely got women when I was young so getting a younger one is unlikely and again what would you talk about anyway.

        I like to think all my Toilet Gator money will solve all my problems but I have been dragging my feet on Toilet Gator lately. The comedy world has changed and I’m afraid to release it. Maybe I’ll move on to safer material. Rebrand myself and write Hallmark style books about women from the big city who come home for the holidays and reconnect with an old high school boyfriend and dump their city boyfriend because screw that guy for working too much and having aspirations and goals.

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        1. You tease, but…. πŸ˜€

          Anyway, Mr. Math, what you really need to do is get a lucrative job and write Toilet Gator in your free time.

          Then, you know, eat right and visit gyms and pick up a lovely, lonely single lady in Utah. πŸ˜‰

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          1. Did I ever tell you I dated a Mormon girl once? She brought me down to the furnished basement in her parents’ house one time to watch TV. I look around and notice shelves upon shelves of boxed bulk food. I’m like wow, someone really likes Costco and she’s like “Oh no. That’s a Mormon thing. It’s a wife’s duty in our religion to store food in case the husband loses his job.”

            And without thinking I just blurted out “Couldn’t the wife just get a job then and stockpile some money?”

            Man the daggers I was shot. Needless to say that comment didn’t go over well.

            At any rate, religion became an issue. She wanted me to convert. I was like, “Eh…well it’s not like I really feel drawn to it so it would probably be wrong for me to convert, sorry.”

            And then she was like, well, I can’t get into top tier heaven if I’m not married to a Mormon, to wit I came prepared with research and said that’s fine, she can posthumously convert me after I’m dead if she wants.

            She said what if she dies first and I said unlikely given my diet but if she wanted to appoint a relative to posthumously convert me in case we are in a car crash together or something.

            So none of that went over well.

            Long story short, she dumped me for a Catholic and converted to Catholicism. I hope they enjoy third tier heaven! I hear the service is terrible.

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