Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dear Anonymous

Anonymous said...

I don't have kids, and never wanted them. Can you explain this post to me? It's beyond my understanding. I'd really appreciate it.

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your comment on my previous post about "Mom stuff." I will try as best I can to explain what I mean when I say the "mom stuff" fills me to overflowing.

I have always wanted to be a mom; my own mom struggled with infertility and finally adopted my brother and me, and she loved us fiercely. I suppose my desire and hope for motherhood had its origin there.

When I met ex-Mr. Magdalene, our relationship began with an acknowledgement that we would have children-- that they would be one tangible expression of our love and commitment.

Being a mother has been one of the hardest and most rewarding things in my life. I have not been a perfect mother by any stretch of the imagination. My son, Larry, has heard me refer to him as my "experimental model"-- my lame attempt to acknowledge that, when I was first a mother, I stumbled quite a bit. I was overwhelmed. I was scared. I loved him, I was terrified of my love for him (Tolstoy talks about the advent of a baby bringing "new worlds of possibility for pain;" that is profoundly true). After my daughter Petra was born, I felt the difference in myself, growing in confidence, patience, gentleness. I believe, both to my relief and my sorrow, that I was a better mother for her than I was for him.

I have learned things about myself as a mother. I have learned that I am not an earth mother with endless patience and goodwill and ability to cook every meal from scratch or to vacuum in pearls. I have learned that I do need other relationships and work in my life to be fulfilled. But I have also learned that I have a fiercely protective nature where my children are concerned, and that I will stop at nothing to keep them safe if I think they are at risk. I have learned that I have pretty damned good instincts where babysitters, teachers and dentists are concerned. I have learned that I have nearly endless energy for certain things, while not much for others: sewing fun, creative Halloween costumes? Yes. Papièr Maché? You bet? Homemade chocolate chip cookies or brownies? In a heartbeat. Homework? Sure. Video games? Not so much. I've already mentioned the cooking thing...

I'm probably not answering your question so far. I wanted children for reasons I probably will never be able to fully articulate: the desire to pass along a part of myself to another generation, the desire to "see myself" in those children (naricssistic? sure), the desire to create something out of my love for my husband, the desire to have someone in my life who would depend on me and love me the way little children instinctively love the ones who care for them (selfish? probably). But the rewarding parts of being a mom have been the unexpected parts-- the surprise of who my children are as they grow, and become truly themselves and not simply an extension of me; the thrill of getting to witness all the rites of passage of their lives; even the vicarious pleasure of watching my son as he navigates the first year of college, a time I loved in my own life.

And this: the joy, the indescribable happiness, the privilege of knowing someone and being known by them, the gift of navigating life's circumstances with them, the pleasure of loving them, and knowing that my love marks them, powerfully, the way my parents' love marks me, the way God's love marks me, marks all of us.

I have dear friends, Anonymous, who, like you, have never wanted children and who have made that choice. I respect and admire those who have that knowledge of themselves; I do not believe people who have children are "better" than other people. But I know that, for me, being a mother has been one of the deepest joys of my existence. I am so glad I made this choice, and I am so glad I was able to live it.

Photo courtesy of csm 0426 and Flickr.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to answer me, and not just with "if you have to ask, you'll never understand" which is what I often get when I ask others. I too had parents with fertility difficulties, although they found a different solution than your parents did. My mother was and is the most intensely "mommying" person I know, but somehow the gene didn't get passed on in my case as it did in yours.

I wish you and your children well, and hope you all continue to find joy in one another.