Tuesday, July 26, 2011

472. Motherhood Is Water

Water is refreshing. Water is the life force that connects us all. It can be angry (the ocean during a storm), calm (a lake), or happy (a gurgling fountain). Everyone loves water; but it can also drown you.

When I became a mother, it was initially refreshing. And by “refreshing,” I mean I had to refresh my memory about everything I thought I had learned in my nine months of studying up on what to do with a baby. Because I actually knew nothing.

Squash newborn floppy head into a onesie? Not a clue. How to get baby spit-up stains out of favorite clothes? Just throw them in the trash, they’re ruined. What to do when infant screams all night for no apparent reason? Hold him, feed him, and invest in a really great set of Bose noise-reduction headphones.

I look around at all the beleaguered mommies at the pediatrician’s office. They are there to get shots and yearly check-ups for that sweet new life that society calls “child,” but they should beg for a nice little Vicodin or Percocet prescription for themselves while they happen to be in a medical facility.

Force. We do everything by force, of course. Force him to brush his teeth, force her to go to the bathroom, force them to do their homework, force him to apologize for inadvertently using a little too much, uh, force (that word again!) and leaving a nasty bruise when he kicked his brother's leg. The force is with us.

Motherhood is all about connections. Connections to distant family, connections by phone and email, connections with new neighbors and friends, connections to teachers, connections to the right toy store employee who always calls with a friendly reminder the day before a big sale.

I can be angry. Angry about not being listened to, angry about being ignored.

I can be calm, usually as the school bus pulls away and both my kids are on it. I feel beautiful turquoise waves of calm wash over me. This feeling last until 3:30.

I am happy (most of the time). Happy my sons are happy, happy they are healthy and smart and lucky.

Yet I drown. Daily. I am drowning in laundry, drowning in the experience of motherhood, drowning in the excessive paperwork required to be an accepted card-carrying “parent” (Social Security cards/ bank accounts/ immunization records/ macaroni artwork/ Target coupons/ library books/ Kindergarten class photos/ birthday party invitations/ magazine articles telling me how to do it all and have it all, yet the magazine never actually sends the assistant over to demonstrate), drowning in trying to fulfill everyone’s (society’s? my husband’s? my own?) unrealistic expectations.

But mostly I drown in love.

("My Ordinary Vision")


  1. Secret Secret, when my boy was little his thing fell off. There was this dried up nasty looking thing on his belly area and I went to change his diaper and it kinda fell off. It was about 3 in the afternoon so I stuck it back on and put the dirty diaper back on and called my mother. I told her you better get here quick because things are falling off this child and it is ugly.

    Although I no longer speak to my mother (she ran off and married a guy in an RV and refused to tell anyone) back in the day she saved my son from the crusty falling off disease.

  2. Nola, I remember the baby belly stump! and how I would pray that it would fall off on the one afternoon that The Husband was responsible for the baby ...

    Anonymous, thank you for the positive comment. :) Love getting comments!


  3. Last night, as I was trying to clear a spot on our sofa full of books, Lego parts, stray clothes and who knows what, I told my husband we will miss that mess someday. He just replied NO WAY!
    I enjoy drowning in love, being also mother of brothers (10,6,6).
    As much as you wish you could get money for your excellent writing, I wish I could get money for all that blog reading I squeeze in my day.
    Here in Germany school only lasts until 13:00, so the breaks are not that long.

    Have a nice day,


  4. Hello, Veronique,

    Thank you so much for your kind words! This was a fun essay to write. I definitely wanted to use the "drowning" analogy. It is a strange and foreign world, Mommyville. Sometimes I snap at the stress/ mess/ my lack of finesse, but mostly I am happy. Sleep helps. So does wine (usually).

    And I am impressed that Germany finishes school at 1 PM ... is it because they start at 5 AM?

    Thanks for reading!!!! :)


  5. Hello, MOV,

    Let me use your space and explain a bit:

    No, elementary school starts at 7:50 AM. The idea behind this system is that the kids at that tender age (from 6 to 10) would not be able to cope with a long 'sitting at a desk' day.
    Which means that (mostly) mothers are supposed to stay home in the afternoon and take care of homework and any other extra activity.
    It was probably ok waaayyyy way long ago when woman where used to and could afford staying home. But nowadays it is a big problem. It's common here for a woman to be stuck in a part-time job because of lack of a good daycare system.
    In comparison with the States we have a very advantageous social security system, but it's impossible to be a mother with a full time job, unless you are rich or family is around to take care of the kids.
    Fortunately they are starting to think about 8 AM to 4PM schools, and starting them, but it is a slow process.
    I am myself happy to stay home, and can afford it for the time being, but I have several friends struggling.
    I won't disturb you longer, I can't wait for your next installment.

    Avec toute mon amitié,

    (ah ah I am a native french speaking belgian, so I allow myself to spice your comment section with a little bit of french flavour)

  6. Merci beaucoup! Je parle un petit peu de francais. I spent a summer in France in college (not the bank teller summer, obviously) and I also had the change to go to Brugge. What a lovely place. Very fond memories of chocolate and lace and windmills.

    We here in Crazy Town are very lucky to have full-day kindergarten (8:45--3:15) and the kids get plenty of "outside" time so they are not stuck at a desk all day. And language class only takes about 5 minutes because we only need English, we are too lazy to speak Dutch, French, German, and English simultanously.

    Sigh. You got us beat there, mon amie.

    Ciao, bella! (ooh, the Italian comes out to play)


When you write a comment, it makes me feel like I won the lottery or at the very least like I ate an ice-cream sundae. (This has nothing to do with the fact that I did just eat an ice-cream sundae.)