The Absence of Motherhood
I probably ought to be careful talking about motherhood. I’m not one, you know. Mothers are highly esteemed and much is expected of them. I’ve no doubt it’s a difficult road. I would stand up and defend my own mother against some of the stuff I’ve said when whining about how uncomfortable the role of non-mother stepmother can be. In the midst of critiquing this cultural plight, I encounter Little One once again trying to map out the family tree.
Recalling a gift my dad gave us, she asks, “He’s my grandpa, step-grandpa, right?”
My Handsome Man mumbles a response to the effect that at the grandparent level we don’t usually add that term.
She follows up with this little stunner: “I don’t see what’s the difference between moms and stepmoms.” What? I’ve been feeling like an outcast, an imposter, an incompetent stand-in and it turns out that’s just parenthood?
Motherhood is one of those edifices that we idolize, like marriage, because as a society we desperately need it. Inhabitants of marriage, and I suspect motherhood, find that it is at times so excruciatingly painful, so much more difficult than we ever dreamed, that we have to glorify these paths to encourage those on the outside to keep choosing them, and to keep those on the inside from running away.
My problem likely has as much to do with my exclusion from a club that I always assumed I’d become a part of as it does with my inclusion in a club that I never planned to join. Try sitting through a Mother’s Day church service when you are a childless woman of age, or overage. It’s nearly impossible for me to stomach all the exaltation of woman as mother without wanting to rip out my uterus and throw it on the floor. How much I feel I am really not considered a woman, not even much of a wife, because I don’t have children. What is the matter with me? Have I no love for God or Country?! In my pity-party world, the one where other people always have it better than me, it is easier to handle the “you must give birth to be a woman” expectation if there is a principled reason why you elected to not have children. Or, to truly be absolved of responsibility and acquitted of the charges of being a soulless wretch, a medical reason why it’s just not possible. But I blanch at even allowing that thought to be uttered because I can’t imagine the pain, the desperate pleadings at night that must accompany such a situation.
The idea that I’ve never given birth because it just didn’t work out that way – oh, I never got around to it. How lame is that? I always assumed it would, but it didn’t happen? Is that the best I’ve got? Is life really that random? Or, I fell in love with a man who told me on the second date that he’d been fixed and wouldn’t be having any more children. Didn’t I even have a care for my unborn babes? What was I thinking? That I could change his mind? Overcome his resolve? That the children would somehow really become mine? No. Really, no! That God would work a miracle and squeeze just one more little sperm through? Well, kind of.