This is the fifth entry of “The Chip On My Shoulder Is A Boulder,” a series on the complex relationships between black women and their mothers. The series will run over the next two weeks. Previous entries include “The Adoptee,” “The Rebel,” “The Gypsy” and “She Did Her Best.”
Mothers aren’t supposed to admit they should have never been mothers. That what some see as a blessing others see as a burden. But it’s not acceptable to talk about it, let alone admit it like today’s letter writer, “The Reluctant Mother.”
She delivers a different point-of-view in this mothers and daughters series. The view of every mother who feels apprehension instead of joy. Who feels hollow where the child was supposed to fill. Who looks forward to the day she is released from her “motherly” prison and returns to a life all their own.
Many would accuse a mother like this of being selfish. But that accusation doesn’t make it any less true.
Not everyone is mother material.
THE RELUCTANT MOTHER
While I am anything but a die hard feminist, I recognize that mammary glands and ovaries do not make you a mother. There is something in a mother that manifests itself over time and stays there for the rest of her life. My mother has it. She is the best mother this side of creation; however, it doesn’t manifest in every woman. It never manifested in me.
While reading your post I realized that one day my child may feel the same way about me when she is older as Alice Walker’s daughter feels about her mother. I’m saddened by that, but the truth is the truth.
I am not a “good” mother.
I am not touchy feely, I am not affectionate and I am a bit of a hard nose. I thought it was bad when she was a toddler, but each stage of life replaced one strain on my nerves with an even larger one. My daughter is now 13 years old and I am daily amazed I haven’t killed one of us. Now that she is old enough to do things without me I encourage it. I pay what needs to be paid, I feed her, clothe her and I grudgingly attend those events that require my attendance, but if the truth is told — I find motherhood a burden more than a joy. This is why I only have one child.
Shortly after I married her father we found out I was pregnant, and while pregnancy did not agree with me, I was looking forward to her arrival. However, her father and I fought constantly, as immature people will do, so when she came along after my 22nd birthday I was in the process of filing for divorce. She lived with both parents in the home all of 30 days. Prior to my decision to end the marriage, it never occurred to me that one day I may be a single parent. I felt, at the time, I had sacrificed myself and my stability (financial and familial) because of his drinking and my body for her so there was very little left for me.
I didn’t mind the 2 am feedings or the constant diaper changes. However, I learned I was not cut out for motherhood when I realized that as she grew so would the demands on my space and peace of mind.
I had to work, take care of her, take care of myself and try to have a life in the midst of it all. That is a near impossible feat. Something is always sacrificed and I feel that every sacrifice made came at my expense. I have only recently been able to carve out some semblance of a life for myself. Her father has a severe alcohol problem that prevents me from trusting her into his care without supervision.
The constant pull to mold a young person into a capable adult is tiresome and most times results in frustration and anger. Some days I wish her father were the more responsible of the two of us so I could send her to him, but regardless of my personal dislike of motherhood I don’t shirk my responsibilities. So I go along day after day, counting down to graduation when I can put this era of my life behind me and move on to something that hasn’t felt like 18 years of labor and delivery.