For the past 8 months or so I’ve been struggling with a thought that keeps coming up and I’m not sure what to do with it. I’ve noticed a profound lack of desire to write anymore, a profound lack of spark about anything to write as passionately about as I have done in the past. And if we are honest? A profound lack of spark about pretty much anything outside my family.
A friend who had a baby close to my own recently wrote that she suddenly realized she was content and had no yearning to travel. She wrote, “The eternal wanderer is happy where she is.” I recognized something in this post. I have never been a wanderer- far from it, actually. But I have noticed this lack of desire to search for “more” recently. It comes and goes, some days I am desperate for new furniture or eye shadow or something to break the monotony of my days, but on the whole, I am creepily still. Unwanting. I’ve called it “lost” and it feels like that sometimes too. But sometimes its also just “still”.
I wonder– does becoming a mother lead us closer to contentment, does it lead us closer to what is important, does it allow us to step outside of ourselves and see beyond our own “selfish” desires? Or is it a huge, giant fucking problem that I just wrote “selfish” as the word to describe the desires of a woman outside of her family?
I already know that’s a huge fucking problem. I already am on guard because I know the way our culture is set up, I know the biases that exist that nudge women, little by little, to silence. To silence their own desires for the sake of others. Hence the conflict in my mind of my current state of being. Does motherhood drain us of our passion, our zest, our hunger for any life or version of us outside of being mothers? Has becoming a mama been so narrowly defined in our culture that nothing else is permitted? Does it ensure there is little room in my day, my mind, my radar to focus on a passion other than the needs of my little family?
Some months after my son was born, I read a piece by Rufi Thorpe where she wrote about the conflict between being an artist (in her case a writer) and a mother. I came across the following lines:
“Sometimes,” I said to my mother the other day, “I feel they will devour me. I feel they will use me up like a tube of toothpaste and never even notice.” She nodded, watching me cry in her living room, my baby crawling on her floor.
“They will,” she said.
I read those lines and tears sprang to my eyes as I was instantly hit with a horrible pang of complete and total recognition.
In this same vein, a woman I “met” and enjoy following through Instagram posted an interesting take on “mom life” – the messy hair, inability to shower, not wearing clean clothes, etc. She questioned why we as mothers are so unwilling to put ourselves first and take care of ourselves or take a break when we need it. Which, I agree with – see above argument. However, I found myself pushing back on this idea to an extent and I am not sure how much is defensiveness on my own part. My problem with this is it seems to come from a place of privilege, to be able to say “Mommy needs alone time, Daddy/Grandma/Babysitter is coming over and I’m getting outta here.” This implies that mommy has a husband or grandma, that they are available and willing, or that mana has enough spare money to hire a babysitter. And I have all of the above. Yet I still feel frustrated.
I always struggle with this logic because as a work at home mama, I want to RIP MY HAIR OUT when someone suggests to just “cuddle your babies because they are only little once.” Well, no shit. But its going to be hard to cuddle these babies when I lose my job and house because I spent my time cuddling them instead of working so we can buy food for dinner. It feels incredibly condescending and LITERALLY NO WORK FROM HOME MOTHER HAS EVER, EVER, EVER SAID IT TO ME. Why? Probably because they get it. THERE ARE ONLY 24 HOURS IN A DAY. For everyone. A certain number of these hours are designated for work. Another big chunk of these hours are ones I spend alone with a 3-year-old and an 8-month-old. If you are a mama who is able to accomplish anything remotely “relaxing” or “me-time-esq” while you are alone with kids this age, then we have very, very different definitions of relaxing or what fun “me-time” consists of. I guess the rest of the hours are up for grabs, and this is where the defensiveness on my part sets in. This is where we have to pick and choose our priorities. Do I want to eat dinner or work out? Do I want to read or do yoga? Do I want to sleep or put on makeup? Do I want to spend my precious alone time with my husband or by myself? There simply is not enough time to do all the things. SOMETHING is going to have to get sacrificed, which often results in more stress. If I block out an hour to take a shower, do my makeup and hair, that means that’s one hour less of sleep I get. Is the extra tiredness cancelled out by looking pretty? You see what I’m saying?
Sometimes when I think about this, I get so massively worked up and pissed off. I start feeling a deep bitterness towards the way our society is set up, I start feeling a feminist rage boiling in my veins. Is it any fucking wonder the rate of depression and anxiety in new moms? How much we pile on their shoulders then command them to be thankful, content, happy, serene?
Surprise! You’re pregnant. Now here’s a list of things you cannot do or ingest under any circumstances unless you want to risk harm to your baby. You don’t want to risk harm to your baby, do you? Ok, you are growing a human, sometimes horrifically sick, sometimes in great pain or exhaustion – but keep working. You need to save up that time for your tiny unpaid maternity leave (if you are so lucky to get one.) Here’s the baby. You either had major surgery or physically pushed a fully formed human out of your body. No time to rest, even though everyone will insist that you “get some rest!” – You are now solely responsible for feeding this baby. I guess you can pump, but not too much – you don’t want to cause nipple confusion. Because that would lead to NOT breastfeeding, and that’s just basically like feeding your baby poison. This is what is reiterated to you by doctors, lactation consultants, peers, and Facebook articles. Ok, so you just got home from the hospital – now it time to think about getting your body back. Nobody likes a flabby, lazy mommy. Also, keep feeding that baby by yourself. Your husband has to go back to work, he doesn’t get paid leave. Just you and that baby. Welp, its time for you to go back now! Did you find a daycare to pay an outrageous sum to raise your child for you? Or are you staying home, giving up your career you worked so hard for in order to change 37 diapers a day and be puked on, and scraping pennies together to make it work? I hope you aren’t neglecting your husband sexually. He needs attention too, you know. You wouldn’t want your marriage to fall apart on account of your lack of taking care of his needs too, right?
I start to think, is motherhood the tool society uses silences women? We lose so much of ourselves to pure exhaustion and the simple math of not being able to do it all that we simply self-combust and something snaps in our brain and suddenly the passion has disappeared and we are now “content”?
I feel it both ways and I’m not sure they are mutually exclusive. The fulfillment I experience from watching my children grow up is, I imagine, almost impossible to match. However, I would be in complete denial if I didn’t admit I am losing myself a bit. I fought a hard fight against this with my daughter, I struggled and ached and thrashed around trying not to lose myself. With the birth of my son, I felt myself almost slipping quietly away, without any urge or fight left in me.
So which is it, and does it even matter? Should we fight back for our passion or be still and appreciate the stillness? I think there is value in both. I wonder if the stillness is a survival mechanism or deep wisdom. I wonder if the stillness is a season, and the passion will come back again. I don’t know the answer, but maybe there is value in the question.