(This post was stolen last week. That’s right: STOLEN. As in, lifted and appropriated and published on someone else’s blog as their own. I was mad, of course – really mad – but ‘mad’ isn’t productive. Creating slideshows, however, is productive! So I’m amending and reposting the original post here, but in slideshow form, because, SLIDESHOWS. Also, plagiarism sucks. Know that.)
A writer at Newsweek wrote last year about how her son – and the general state of being that is motherhood – is torturing her. Then a writer at Jezebel responded to the story with something very close to exasperation: “I was left, as I often am by pieces on parenting, at sea. Nowadays, there is such a dichotomy at work: the hazy romanticizing of baby culture wars with the it’s-a-nightmare/I-don’t-love-my-child/I-wanted-another-sex” backlash and while one is surely designed to remedy the other, those of us who haven’t had a baby are left, ironically, with no very clear idea of the reality.” A consequence of this, apparently, is that childless women – unconvinced by the hazy romanticism of some stories and horrified by the ‘it’s-a-nightmare’ confessions of others – become terrified by the Unknowable But Very Probably Sort Of Horrible condition of motherhood and are put off having children. Population control!
The reality is, none of us can paint an entirely clear picture of the reality of motherhood, because the reality of motherhood defies tidy characterization. Which is why, arguably, we see so much cultural discourse about motherhood that skews strongly in one direction or the other: we are constantly trying to get our bearings, and sometimes it’s just easier to do so by telling ourselves that motherhood is just so undeniably all-around awesome or that holy hell this gig is HARD and sticking to those stories. And yes, those stories that skew dark are frightening, but then, so much of motherhood is frightening, notwithstanding the moments – and there are many – of awesome, so.
My stories skew in the latter direction, obviously, although I like to think that my love for my children and my love of being their mother comes through despite – or even because – those stories skew dark. In any case, I wouldn’t know how to tell those stories differently, because, although I have moments of hazy romanticism about motherhood, for the most I find mothering to be an extraordinarily tough gig, one that leaves me, at times, feeling – yes – tortured. But that’s mothering – the work of motherhood – and it’s something of a different beast than is the condition of motherhood, or the experience of being mother to one’s own children. The former can be tortuous. The latter can be sublime.
My own experience, broken down:
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