The mystery that is Motherhood

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My mama and me.

For some women, it comes so naturally. Like my mother. All her life, she wanted little ones. She married young, is a natural nurturer, adores her own mother. And nearly ten months after her wedding day, a shrill cry broke the air and I came along.

These days, you’ll find her playing on the floor with trash trucks, reading aloud in the rocking chair, or digging in the garden with grandchildren on her heels. For her, the role of “mother” and its lifelong progression are a no-brainer. As natural as the sea caressing the shore thousands of times a day–past, present and future.

Much as I adore and respect my own mother and others like her, I’ve often struggled when trying to define Motherhood and find my place in it. When I was a little girl, lovingly bathing, dressing, and rocking my dollies to sleep, it seemed so simple and obvious. But as I’ve aged, the concept has become more clouded. At times, the idea of Motherhood has eluded, baffled, and even infuriated me.

Motherhood as an occupation

In a world gripped by feminism, progressivism, and a continual outcry for gender equality (which are not altogether bad things), certainly the role of Mother has been minimized. It’s not a real job, right? Women are pouring into the workplace, desperate for mental stimulation that exceeds the monotony of household duties. Day care is a natural part of our culture. Right? Cue: the Mommy Wars!

But that is not what I’m talking about. In fact, I am a working mother. I relish my children as well as my livelihood. I have found a good balance and have faith that other women can do the same.

Personally, I’m grateful for technology that has made it possible for me to choose a combination of work and home, rather than one or the other.

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Who says building sand castles isn’t hard work?!

Is Motherhood a choice?

Sex is everywhere–plastered on billboards, smeared on screens as small as your hand and as big as a building, talked about, written about, laughed about … and occasionally treasured privately in a bedroom between man and wife. In developed countries like the U.S., at least among those with financial means, sex is largely recreational and optionally procreational. So is Motherhood a choice?

Some would say “yes,” but I submit that this is an illusion. I don’t know where you live, but I exist in a world where every minute scores of babies are conceived or born to mothers who don’t want them, or aborted. And at the same time, other couples mourn over an empty womb and would move heaven and earth for just a glimmer of hope.

I should know. I spent the first half of my first marriage in the dark realm of infertility and miscarriage. I had my miracle, though. Two boys, actually. Not every baby-hungry couple is so blessed.

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Is Motherhood simply biological?

It’s an interesting world we live in, where sexuality is still celebrated, practiced, and exploited; yet we’re able to control, monitor, and extinguish the beginnings of human life in the cold confines of a laboratory. Even more strange, many members of the rising generation hardly see a connection between the two.

Now there’s birth control and abortion, and contraceptives of every size, shape, color, and flavor. You can even get them from vending machines. Oddly enough, the human race continues. More people are born every day, and every one of them has a mother. So is Motherhood simply a biological condition? Yes. And no.

What about the heartbroken women who never conceive? The ones who ache with empty arms and hollow hearts, who would give anything to wear the title of Mother? If  there is no biological possibility, then is there no hope for them to become “real” mothers?

Technically, there are other ways, I know. Surrogate motherhood is a possibility, although interestingly some circles have begun labeling this as a form of human trafficking. (Really? Hmmm…)

And then there’s adoption. One of my nieces came into her family this way. And although her tiny body isn’t comprised of her adoptive parents’ genetic material, after all the sleepless nights, diaper changes, stroller rides, and lullabies those two have logged, I’d argue that they are every bit her parents.

But what about the remarkable woman who carried and birthed my little niece? Is she still a mother? I’m happy to say that the new parents think so! They treat the birth mother with every bit of love, honor, and respect she deserves. She did, after all, help make their dream come true. It is a beautiful thing to see.

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Me: “C’mon, let’s both kiss him.” Trace: “Uh … sure lady. Go ahead. I’m not kissin’ that dude.”

Can I become a Mother overnight?

Life often takes unexpected turns. Especially my life. If you read my blog, you know this, so I won’t rehash it all. But in regards to Motherhood, let’s just say I didn’t see divorce and its domino effects coming.

Suddenly, I am the evil stepmother.

Ok, so I’m not evil. But I am a stepmother. And don’t those two words just fit together? Maybe it’s Disney’s fault. Or just ask the kids in Nanny McPhee, who point out that step-mothers are nearly always nasty, and point to their Fairytales book as evidence.

Between the two of us, Christian and I have four children from three different marriages. Just a typical American family, right? He raised two with his first wife, and I had two with my first husband.

Christian loves my boys like his own–the feeling is mutual–and is helping me raise them. But the other two kids are a little different. I have never met Christian’s daughter. And my stepson is in college.

So when I married their father, did I become a mother of four overnight? You might not like my answer, and maybe it’s not true for all step-parents. But the truth is … No, I will never be their mother. I don’t need to be. They have a mother. She carried them. She raised and nurtured them. And I am okay with that.

That doesn’t mean I don’t love my stepson. He is the BOMB! And I love having him in our family. Plus, my little boys think having a big brother is the coolest thing on the planet. It’s just that we don’t have a mother-son relationship. We are just … family. We’re figuring it out as we go.

Why do we care?

I am continually fascinated by the human need to categorize ourselves and those around us. We have color codes to classify our personalities. We plot our body stats on charts and graphs to determine what is ‘normal.’ We classify ourselves into different races, cultures, and religions.

We are constantly trying to define ourselves. But why?

Maybe it has to do with purpose. Perhaps we are trying to understand who we are so that we can figure out what to do with ourselves. I figure that’s why I’ve struggled so long and so hard with the puzzle that is Motherhood.

Here are my conclusions:

Motherhood is an occupation and a biological state of being. It requires all the time, energy, and guts we can muster.

Some women are surprised by motherhood and some ache for it; some mothers want to be and some don’t. But once a child has touched our lives, it cannot be untouched.

Motherhood doesn’t happen overnight. It is something that grows inside us, from our heart. We carry a child or raise him or nurture her. But we don’t have to check off every box on the list to qualify. On the other hand … I am a mother and a step-mother, but never a replacement for the one who gave my step-children life.

At the end of the day, every Mother is different. My puzzle-pieces  might not fit your puzzle. And that’s ok.

But I’m finding what works for me. And for today, that is enough.

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