Monday, May 10, 2010

What Is Motherhood?

What makes a mom?

I don't know everything. I don't know what your answer is. I don't know what the world's answer is. In fact, I can only answer this question by drawing on my own very limited experience.

My mom made me breakfast every morning. She made me lunches to take to school. With a nickel and a dime taped to the bottom of the brown paper bag so I could buy milk. She took me to library reading time. She let me wear my too-big, high heeled dress up shoes out on errands. She made me prom dresses, completely to order, often combining different patterns and pushing her seamstress comfort level. She permed my hair. She let me skip school. She helped me with homework. She let me borrow the car so I had a way to get home from play practice and go to work afterwards - leaving her without transportation for a whole day. She cleaned up after me. She scolded me, then held me. She sang songs to me. She patiently taught me to cook. She told me Bible stories on long, dark car rides. She always told me to eat my crusts (she still does - and I still don't).

Looking back at my post yesterday, two tell-tale incidents really sum up the essence of motherhood for me. First, the comment that I have no pictures of just me and my mother (in fact, I struggled to find one with my mother in any picture at all). And second, the story about the preschool graduation dress.

My mom doesn't mind having her picture taken. That is not the issue. Sure, she has to make sure her "good side" is the one that is showing, but she's not camera shy. She's a photogenic beauty. I think this is it: she knew that if she wasn't behind the camera documenting our lives in film, no one else would be.

And making the modifications to the dress, demanded by a five year old, after slaving so long over it.

This is my answer.

Motherhood is sacrifice.

It's giving all you have to your child - even if they are unaware. Even if they are ungrateful.

It's getting up first and going to bed last. It's the constant teaching, the constant nurturing. It's the little things I still don't know she did, that have shaped me unknowingly.

It's not a matching pair of eyes. It's not some mysterious genetic link. It's not what happened before the umbilical cord was cut - but what happened after.

Motherhood is sacrifice.

And it is sacrifice's refining fires that has made me a mother. I've had a few. The heartbreak of infertility. The gruelling adoption process. The money. The uncertainty and emotional price. And that was just the beginning. That was my "pregnancy." My "labor."

The sleepless nights. The worry. The diapers. The money. The humility. The learning. The coaching. The nurturing. The trials.

I remember having this rather shallow thought once. It would really bug me (feel free to hate me, this is totally shallow) when parents would talk about their children like they were the smartest, most brilliant, most beautiful people on the planet. Because that wasn't true! Some children aren't even that cute! Or that smart. I swore I'd be more realistic when I was a mother.

And then, I became one.

Oh, I don't think I'm unrealistic. I know that my child won't be the paragon of humanity. It's highly unlikely that she'll cure cancer and win the Miss Universe competition and grind her own wheat to make her own bread all in one day. But here's another fact: she's the most wonderful person in my life. And what she is to me, she won't be to anyone else. And if I don't love her unconditionally, if I don't think she's the most beautiful creature to grace planet Earth, if I don't think she's the most creative, clever baby ever, then who will??? It's a mother's prerogative. My mother was and still is my greatest cheerleader. And I roll my eyes at her compliments and unrealistic, endless faith. But without that, where would I be? I don't want to know.

And I've given myself over to that. It's a mother's prerogative. No, it's a mother's job. Sacrificing the world's reality for her own.

Sacrifice. There it is again. It's what makes a mother (honestly, it's what makes a parent).

You can't be a parent without it. There are plenty of women who pushed babies out of their vaginas only to leave them in dumpsters. They aren't mothers. Just stupid, misguided women. Motherhood requires sacrifice.

And that's what made me a mother. Every day, there's another sacrifice. A little more of my time, a little more of my sanity. A little more of myself goes into my daughter. And every day, my motherhood develops. And it never stops. I know because my mom hasn't ever stopped sacrificing for me.

On a side note, Birth Mother's Day was Saturday. While I am Jocelyn's mom, the one who sacrifices for her on a daily basis, her birth mother made a sacrifice that made that all possible. Her motherhood is different - but it's not less. And I have so much love for her and the sacrifice she made. Without that, I wouldn't have the opportunity to sacrifice my money, my comfortable night's rest, and everything else to be a mother. I love you, H. You'll never quite know.

To all of you who sacrifice, who love, you are mothers. To those of you who had empty arms this Mother's Day, you are a mother in the making. The sacrifice is already there. And that's what matters.

So here's to mothers.


mom2jjk said...


Mom on the Go said...

I don't get to talk to you nearly enough, so I love reading your blog and hearing what you have to say. I think you are totally right on! Motherhood is sacrifice and while I don't have a good relationship with my mom she has sacrificed for me and after reading this I think of her differently. Thanks!

Liz Smith said...

amen! mothers are truly amazing. and really, when i think of real sacrifice, i think about my mom. she gave so much for us. i love moms!!!! :D

Hays Family said...

Thank you for all the accolades. You make me think I might have done some things right. I have loved being your mother and hopefully I taught you a thing or two, but you are the one teaching me now. You have fit into the role of motherhood so wonderfully. Your daughter is blessed to have you as you are to have her. We learn so much from our children, don't we.


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