When my son was born, I felt strange — not in love, not overjoyed. I was tired, doped up and empty where he once was growing. I waited to be overwhelmed with maternal feelings that were Disney magic, but that never happened. I’m still waiting. That doesn’t mean I don’t love him or that I don’t feel crazy protective of him. What it means is that the magical motherhood lie fed to me as a woman has yet to manifest.
I still struggle to find in me the tenderness I’m apparently supposed to develop as a mother. So far, my journey has been more about function than kisses and cuddles, though we get a healthy dose of both. My son is not a particularly cuddly kid. He’d rather be playing or reading a book. He is definitely like me in that respect, and the physical distance is just fine with us both. He’s got his own agenda, and I don’t feel I should step in the way of that with any need to attach myself to him.
Here’s my theory about “motherhood”: There is no maternal romance. There is only relief that labor and nine months of nausea, swollen ankles and backaches have come to an end. I think, perhaps, this feeling is confused with maternal “love.” It’s probably more akin to Stockholm syndrome. We are captive to these little creatures, and when the umbilical cord is severed, we attach to them for fear of the ethereal tether being removed as well. After all, we’ve been through so much with them forming from blobs of cells into human beings, the thought of them not being with us is frightening. Our identities become so intertwined with these little lives that I believe we are scared we don’t know who we are anymore without defining that through our children.
I’m sure there are hordes of mothers who disagree with me. They are the ones who instantly fell in love and haven’t looked back. There are also hordes of us who were shocked into motherhood, and, for at least the first year, questioned whether or not we made the right decision. I’m speaking for those women.
Raising children is not for the meek or the dishonest. I think it is a terrible disservice to young girls and women to be fed the paradigm of what our bodies are for and how we should feel about whatever comes out of our bodies. It silences the voices of mothers who don’t feel the rush of twinkling hearts when they give birth.
These voices are important, brave and honest. It takes courage to stand against ingrained myth. Admitting that childbirth was not an instant love affair renders the woman a villain and less popular than a vocal atheist at a prayer meeting.
The reason I’m writing this is because when my son was born, I was two months away from being forced into my first Mother’s Day, the day when mothers are supposed to be pampered and worshipped for following their hetero-normative path in life and then following through with the work that comes after.
I choose to ignore Mother’s Day, and while I do celebrate my own mother and even get her gifts, I wanted no part of the holiday — especially in my first two months of motherhood. I felt even stronger about it this year. I don’t want celebrations because I do my job. Motherhood is a job. The pay comes when my son grows up to be a man who thrives, who respects himself, society and the choices of his intended — whatever gender they may be. For now, I don’t want cards, chocolates, handprints or any other token that gives no indication of whether or not I’m performing my job well. I’ll wait for that.
Like admitting I didn’t instantly fall in love with being a mother, not celebrating Mother’s Day is an affront to what I am “supposed” to desire as a woman who had a child. I had a friend who got quite surly when I told her I wasn’t celebrating. She articulated her reason, but in no way did that change my feelings about the holiday.
I’ve never liked being told what I should want or what I should do, and it hasn’t changed with childbirth. I will do motherhood my way, and that includes not commodifying the obligation to my son.