one of the biggest complaints about motherhood is the lack of training. I was one of the lucky ones who came to motherhood with some experience. I owned a Yorkshire Terrier for three years. at ten months, my children could stay and heel. at a year, they could catch a Frisbee in their teeth in mid-air. at fifteen months, after weeks of rubbing their noses in it and putting them outside, they were paper trained.
some women were not so fortunate or realistic. they viewed motherhood from a safe distance.
at a baby shower I was attending one evening, the mother-to-be gasped, "did you see the story in the paper about the woman who forgot one of her children in a laundromat restroom? and she dares call herself a mother! how disgusting! what kind of a mother would...."
"what kind of a mother would..." it was a familiar phrase. ten years and three children earlier, I had used it myself with just the right blend of shock and disapproval. now, I personally know seven mothers who have tried the same thing.
"mother" has always been a generic term synonymous with love, devotion, and sacrifice. there's always been something mystical and reverent about them. they're the walter cronkites of the human race...infallible, virtuous, without flaws and conceived without original sin with no room for ambivalence.
immediately following birth, every new mother drags from her bed and awkwardly pulls herself up on the pedestal provided for her. some adjust easily to the saintly image. they come to love the adulation and bask in the flocks that come to pay homage at their feet on mother's day. some can't stand the heights and jump off, never to be seen again. but most mothers just try to figure out what they're supposed to do...and how they can do it in public.
motherhood is not a one-size-fits-all, a mold that is all-encompassing and means the same thing to all people. some mothers give standing ovations to bowel movements. other mothers reserve their excitement for bigger affairs. some mothers have so much guilt, they cannot eat a breath mint without sharing it. other mothers feel nothing when they tell a kid his entire pillowcase of Halloween candy got ants in it...and eats it herself.
what is certain is that there is probably not one of you who has not at some time of your life demanded an answer to the question "what kind of a mother would..." it's an old phrase, conceived in innocence, carried with pomposity and born of condemnation. it is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns into compassion and understanding.
may we not judge other mothers until we have walked a mile in their shoes of clay.
and most importantly, may we not judge ourselves.
Our kids do that enough for the both of us.
fish food: you deserve something delicious. make yourself this salad.
essay taken from "motherhood: the second oldest profession" by Erma Bombeck
picture: picasso mother and child
oil on canvas 100x81cm
oil on canvas 100x81cm
baltimore museum of art