I cultivated a quiet disdain for motherhood. After we were married and the possibility was distressingly immediate I would be consumed with panic. No, I did not want this.
It began while I was young. I did not especially like children, and as I grew older and was expected to beam a motherly glow when holding newborns, I balked and felt awkward and unsure. I would always say that I wanted to be a wife and mother, but what interested me were intellectual things. Men were having better conversations, and they didn’t hug you all the time like women did, and they managed to avoid the bulk of the things I also wanted to avoid – dishes, laundry, emotions. Sometimes men would still gossip which I appreciated because I was very nosy. Men would occasionally smoke, drink dark beer, had the preeminent “final say,” got to have jobs and hobbies.
I said I wanted motherhood because all girls want motherhood, but I wanted it clean. I wanted the children to really adore me and also not need me. I wanted motherhood but I didn’t want to be a mother. Mothers were always worrying, always concerned with boring things like meal plans and chore charts and holiday crafts. I was no good at holiday crafts.
My mother was not like this, but I thought other mothers must have been. There was a subtle narrative that mothers were weak, a bit simple, indispensable yet forgettable. My mother was strong, no-nonsense, honest. She did not love snuggling, but she did love reading and would read aloud to us. She did not get on the floor and play with us but she cultivated a freedom of play. She did not cry often, though when she did it was a little scary, and even if she had cried behind closed doors her face would disclose it. My dad would tell us, as if it was a secret, that she’d written poetry, that she wanted to learn photography. Underneath all her mom there was a mystery.
I am thinking a lot about my mom these days, about other mothers, and trying to shed the still lingering impression about who it is I’m becoming – hollow and spent. I was surprised at how soon after I knew I was pregnant there was less trepidation. At times I have felt as if I’m betraying a former self by my openness, my curiosity and awe.