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Tuesday, 24 April 2007

You say 'Mom', I say 'Mum'

My beautiful, talented and intelligent sister-in-law, who is also expecting her first baby, forwarded me this last night. It's sooooo sentimental - even to the point of cheesiness in places - but at the heart of it, it is also so true. As she said in her email, 'If you're feeling at all hormonal don't read this in a public place.' Of course, believing myself to be of stronger metal than most I completely ignored this advice and read it on my BB in the midst of a crowded commuter train home. What a mistake.

To Be a Mom:
We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of starting a family. "We're taking a survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?"
"It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.
"I know," she says, "no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations."
But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.
I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?” that every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her, that when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die. I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub, that an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a soufflĂ©; or her best crystal without a moment's hesitation.
I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for child-care, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby's sweet smell, and she will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.
I want my daughter to know that every day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma, that right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that rest-room. However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.
Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give it up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years, not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.
I want her to know that a Caesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honour. My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.
I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving. I hope she will understand why I can think rationally about most issues, but become temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of nuclear war to my children's future. I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.
My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes. "You'll never regret it," I finally say. Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.

10 comments:

spymum said...

Only a hardened cynic could fail to see the utter truth at the heart of that email.

I am utterly shaken after reading this as I believed myself to be a bit insane over the boys/mens loo issue. I used to march my nine year old into the Ladies, defying anyone to challenge me (even as he was dragging his feet and complaining!) Now that he is 11, I watch him go with a heart full of fear, and have been known to push open the door to check he's ok.

Motherhood. It's visceral. The best thing I ever did.

Jan said...

LOvely piece.
You should have read it aloud to The Entire Train.
One is mummy/mum/mother For Life.
This might make you cry so I apologise in advance: When my beautiful( she was) mother was dying, she opened her eyes and grasped my hands and whispered to me:" DO put your gloves on, it's SO cold outside...
I was 45 and it was late January and yes, it was snowing outside; she died several minutes later.
ACTUALLY I find it a soothing and marvellous memory.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry everyone but this seems to me me to be straight out of Pseuds corner. My mother worked for living and had three of us kids. This all sounds incredibly over indulgent. Just feed the kids, love 'em and hug 'em and stop wittering on. Honestly!

Working Mum said...

Only a hardened cynic, yes... One such person seems to have stumbled across this humble blog! Anonymous, whoever you are, please go and be a hardened cynic elsewhere!

Jan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jan said...

Often the loveliest things sound naff or cheesy or pseud..it's like cliches which are corny but usually ( and the older we get) totally accurate.
Naff is human. It can also be pretty beautiful..

VanessaR said...

I think that was lovely if a little schmalzy. But sometimes in the chaos of family life we can forget those little special moments.

And like Spymum I too am paranoid about M going into the gents loos alone (he's 7) and I generally end up hopping up and down nervously outside the door getting strange looks.

Anonymous said...

Mum also forgot to warn her daughter that motherhood may turn you into a rambling, mawkish bore who comes across like an overwritten Clinton's card!

Working mumtobe said...

Hey anonymous! I’m pretty sure you’re on your own here - I do hope that IF you are a parent, you are just having a bad day ;-

Working Mum said...

I think that's a vote against anonymous postings and bitter and twisted rantings! Thanks everyone!