I’ve been asking myself this question quite a bit lately: what does it mean to be a mother? What does it mean to be a single mother, and by choice?
And I really haven’t come up with a decent satisfactory answer yet.
I mean I could state the obvious of motherhood – feeding, bathing, educating the young ones I’ve brought into the world – yet this doesn’t make me feel like a mother -more of a caretaker. I suppose I could consider the times sitting on the floor with my two-year-old son teaching him how to do puzzles and then watching him do it all by himself as motherhood. Or the time I spend with my eight-month-old son trying to get him to roll-over. (He is my stubborn one…just like his mama. Oh the irony. Oh the payback. Oh how my mother is doing a happy dance.)
I am pretty sure this feeling of ‘operational parenting’ is what happens when a family goes from one child to two, or anytime the number of children increases. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to have another child. I surely have no regrets, but had no clue that I would feel so much like a caretaker and not a mother. Is it because I have to keep the household running as well? Is it because I totally forgot what its like to have an infant in the house? Is it because I am still fighting for the ‘me’ time that I had a glimpse of prior to the baby arriving and my son’s independence growing?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Let’s also add to that that I am doing this by myself. I have no husband, or ex-husband (well I do, but thankfully we never had any kids), or boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend (and have a couple of these thankfully no kids here either). I have family that helps out tremendously but they don’t live with me so I can’t just run to the store to grab milk and come back in 15 minutes. That task alone is 45 minutes by the time I get everyone bundled up, loaded into the car, get to the store, get the milk, get back in the car, and unload when we get home. (Is it bad that I’ve thought of texting my 21-year-old niece to do a beer run for me?)
Recently I met up with another SMC, who also happens to be a family from the same donor. Lots of thoughts and emotions about this new friend, but the one thing I really took away from our visit was how much she embraces being an SMC. I took notes when she talked about her daughter and being a mother. It truly was the most important things in her life. Everything else came second. You could see the joy on their faces.
As I drove home from our meeting I reflected on our short time together and the notes of saying, ‘no thank you’, when I hear ‘nope’ for an answer, serving the same food to the kids as I eat -no more making kid-focused meals. And most of all, have fun with them. One of my biggest struggles is when I am on ‘borrowed’ time (you know when the kid is LONG overdue for a nap) and I find that I am getting angry with them. Or it’s okay that my living room floor is buried under every single toy we own and I’ll probably see it for 15 minutes this weekend when I pick up during naptime. The dishes and laundry can wait until they go to bed.
But I need to sit on the floor – at their level – and just be in their world each and every day, having fun and smiling together. Maybe that is what motherhood means, really.