Updated: May 8, 2021
25 December 2020 – Christmas Day
I am writing this on the toilet. It’s Christmas morning, the gifts are all open, breakfast is over, there are people bouncing across the house, and nothing is quiet or private. So here I sit, in the master bathroom, on the (closed) toilet, with the door locked. A room inside a room inside a room. Three layers of protection from the noise. There is a giant plastic spider nailed to the wall in front of me: a child’s joke left over from Halloween…
Literally, as I’m writing this, Grant knocks on my bedroom door – the door of the room outside of the room outside of the room: “Mom?”
“I AM ON THE JOHN!” I reprimand, hoping to scare him away. It’s misleading but not entirely untrue. Seriously, people. Can I just not be needed for one minute?
The conflict between motherhood and the self, it is not black and white. You can have both Edna (the independent) and Adèle (the mother-woman), just not simultaneously. One blots out the other at any given moment. It’s the noise. The activity. One cannot hear the inner voice. Especially with a boy in the house.
Thus it is crucial to find time that is uninterrupted. For example, I may be pregnant with a profound thought, and in the middle of getting that thought onto paper when Grant barges in – and even just the act of barging – even without words – it is enough to lose that thought…like a bursting bubble. You cannot unburst a bubble any more than you can unextinguish a life or a flame. It is just – gone.
After the interruption, whatever its nature, I look back to the screen at the half-written sentence and cannot recall how it was going to end. Further, I have forgotten how the next sentence was going to begin…the overarching big-picture thought is just – gone. He has no idea that he interrupted or what was lost – and, indeed, in that moment, neither do I. It is not his fault. I do not blame him.
Moreover, I do not begrudge them this time of motherhood; it was as much a manifestation of my reality as time spent in self-actualization. My children matter as much to me, if not often more than, my self. They did not take from me anything that I was not willing to give. In fact, they gave me much more in the act of birth, childhood, growth, and interpersonal relationships than I ever gave them. It was a more-than-fair trade.
That said, as they move off toward needing less of me, I sense a great opportunity to begin reflecting upon the act and process of motherhood – how it defines me, how it shapes an element of my existential philosophy and my legacy. Moreover, I want to reflect upon how it shapes my own breed of feminism. How it was a necessary phase of existence to fully understand how I feel about my womanhood/womanness. [ <-- All of this that has been struck through (underlined) was added after the interruption described below. I cannot know if this was where my thought was headed – it is just a guess.]
So as I sat here – mid-sentence on that last thought – Grant spammed my computer to request a new app for the Apple Watch he got for Christmas. This sent me down a long thread of password requirements via the App Store, forcing me to enter, re-enter, and ultimately reset my password in order to approve the app.
I don’t remember how that sentence was going to end anymore.
Probably best to stop writing, today.
I do not think that these ideas are unique to me; no, I’m sure that many women have these same fleeting thoughts. Some may even examine them quite closely, as I do. Whether anyone else has written them, I cannot say. I have not seen it yet.
So in that case, what is different about me is that I am willing to write it – and I will no longer be afraid to write it. This is my truth. Even if it may hurt some others in my life to read it…
I’ve kept it in so long that the pressure has built and built, until about a month ago, when it all began to seep out my edges.
Now I am just capturing that seepage in a pail, peering inside, and surprising myself to find life therein. And maybe something interesting and a touch startling.
An analogy: biological pregnancy and the pregnancy of an idea/theme/writing
Neither should be interrupted or either would be aborted.
Fudge, that’s good. That’s true. Writing is, indeed, giving birth – just not to a human being.
There is something inside of this that I did not mention – that I think truly needs air.
At this point in my life, after 15 years of Adèle Ratignole-ing, I believe it is a part of my purpose as a mother to show Keira (and Grant by association – he will marry a woman someday) how important it is not to lose your self in the process of mothering. This is my Edna window.
We are women; we are driven (thanks Darwin) just as men, to procreate. And yet, we can retain some sense of ourselves in doing so.
Maybe this means having A Room of One’s Own throughout the process, setting aside moments, hours, even days for self-reflection. Maybe this means continuing your career and enlisting a loving nanny, grandparent, or daycare for your children. Maybe it means never having children, for some women (and all of the associated feels that accompany that reality). Maybe – just maybe – for some, it means giving every part of the self for one’s children, setting aside 10-15 years (or longer!) for motherhood, just to return to life when your children are self-sufficient. This option cannot be ignored, or we would do a disservice to so many women. The Edna Pontelliers, Adèle Ratignoles, and all other mother types in this world each deserve their due credit!
But Keira and Grant need to see this, to know this. They now need to see me living my truth by making words – and know how I found my way here. The way I watched my mother (likewise an Edna) live her truth and raw strength in the balancing act of a single working mom. The way I’ve seen my mother-in-law (a real-life Adèle) unconditionally give her sons and their families never-ending energy and joy – even when it is inconvenient for her. Even the way I’ve witnessed my stepmom’s flawless cooking and masterful gardening – and her self-expression therein.
I have seen this in my respective mothers; it is crucial that I show it to my children.
It’s time to let out my Edna Pontellier, without her tragedy.