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? 🙂

©2021 Chel Owens

Happy Mother’s Day

The sun isn’t very bright yet when she wakes to the sound of loud whispering, to the sight of a homemade paper card a few millimeters from her face. The smell is that of unsorted laundry, bedsheets a tad late for their cleaning, with an infusion of overdue diaper. She doesn’t seem able to lift her legs, or one arm. Even her lower extremities are pinned; the sleepy man to her side wakes enough to stretch and embrace what he can affectionately reach.

Using her free hand, she grasps at the card and pulls it to the range at which she can make out its contents. It’s too early, her brain complains, to decipher Cyrillic. She blinks and refocuses. Ah, she realizes, those were flowers -and probably people. Maybe letters.

Taking a guess, she attempts speech. “How nice, Sweetheart!” The artist frowns at the unusually croaky sounds. She clears her throat some, and tries again. “I see you drew me and you and flowers…” She relaxes as his scowl turns to smiles. Satisfied, he turns and falls off the bed, relieving one pinned leg.

The next boy thrusts his offering at equal facial distance to the first, then turns and frowns disinterestedly at the wall. This one is definitely English; it’s even partially typed. She sees he is clearly the most talkative child on paper, too, with so many one-word responses to this standard form his class was given. Age: 33, Hair: brown, Favorite food: food. She smiles, then looks more strained at the next two answers he’d supplied: She likes to … do dishes, She’s really good at … doing dishes. She tries to look grateful as he’s pretending not to watch but really is.

“Thanks, Honey,” she smiles and is not surprised as he shrugs and dodges her attempts to hug him. He, too, leaves the bed and another leg free.

She looks to her last child, on her other arm, and to her other half. Both smile up at her with similar expressions. Genetics will do that. “I love you, Mommy,” the wet diaper owner says sweetly. He cringes adorably as she awkwardly kisses his plump cheek.

Dad sighs and sits up. “Let’s go make Mommy breakfast,” he tells his youngest. He scoops her remaining impediment into the air playfully. He looks down at the bedheaded beauty who birthed them all.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” he says, kisses her around their squirming child, and leaves.

Finally alone, she looks over her offspring’s offerings, and cries.