The trap I speak of is losing my entire identity and allowing it to be replaced by being “Somebody’s Mother.” I guarded the ‘me’ so fiercely, so much so that when I checked into the hospital to have my sons, I was all fancied up, both times wearing stilettos and ‘hot pants.’ You see when some of us become mothers we undergo a total transformation, a sort of initiation, and for some reason we whip out the rule book of “Motherhood do’s and don’ts.” Please don’t get me wrong, not that being somebody’s mother is a terribly awful thing. I love being a mother. It’s a very wonderful thing, the most wonderful thing that has happened to me. I actually look forward to picking up my son from school at afternoons, and hearing the little kids chanting, “Daniel’s Mommy! Daniel’s Mommy!” What I refer to is falling into that category where you are no longer you, where you cease to exist, and where your life is totally consumed with the existence of your child or children.
When I just became a mother, my mother would call and I would be out browsing, at the movies or just hanging out, and she would ask, “Where are the boys?” I would reply, “Somewhere with Ivan.” She would go on, “You laden him down with the two of them. When I had my children they were always on me hip. Everywhere I go I have one.
This is really modern days.” There are times that she would call as some nosy person from St. Kitts would call her all the way in New York to report that they had seen me about strolling along, hands swaying, as if I hadn’t a care in the world, and they were wondering if I didn’t have children. I can also recall going to a lecture or an event and being asked by friends and acquaintances where the kids were and I would say, “Somewhere with Ivan.”There is somehow this idea that having kids means that there is a ball and chain around your ankle, and that your every waking moment ought to be spent in servitude to them.
A few days ago I heard a lady joke that her husband grew tired of her going out with her friends so he “gave her a child to mind since she had nothing better to do with her time.” It’s just our way of thinking. My thought was, “Well if that was the case he would have been in a very sad state because he would have been the one minding that child.” You don’t cease being you as person when you have children. You still have your likes and dislikes and you should still maintain your individuality.
There is this thought that one ought to have done all that she wants to do before having children, because when you have a child, as old people say, “You days done…and is the children time now…” You shouldn’t be seen out socializing with friends, as this behaviour is not a characteristic of a good mother. You no longer have dreams. What dreams? This is pure nonsense. It is time to get your head out of the clouds, and get back to the reality of what comes with motherhood.
Your dreams are replaced by the dreams and hopes for your children. You no longer enjoy that night out with friends. You stop going to church meetings, or taking part in sporting or leisure activities because motherhood means that everything that you’ve enjoyed becomes non-existent and is replaced by all things indicative of being a mother. I refer to that state where you actually become a slave to your child or children. Now you may say that this all comes with the Territory. Motherhood is after-all the ultimate self-sacrifice, isn’t it? And if one should say anything to the contrary it’s almost blasphemous or sacrilegious. She should have never been a mother in the first place.
From a very early age we have been taught that being a mother means self-sacrifice, putting your children’s needs before yours at all cost. This is just what mothers do. It is almost a sort of penance even. An experience I had the other day caused me to stop in my tracks, and I wondered if I was slowly turning into one of those mothers.
I entered a bookstore with the intent of purchasing a book by Harry Belafonte, but when I got home and rummaged through my things getting ready to enjoy that book after a long night of reading Happy Birthday Thomas almost sixteen times, to my sons, there was no book to be found. Instead, there were two Thomas the Tank Engine books and two Dr. Seuss books in the bag. I had gone into the store with the intent of purchasing that book but ended up getting books for my sons. A typical mother thing to do you may say but in actuality when you become a mother you become so consumed with your children that your needs at times are not only secondary but non-existent, and the scary thing is that you don’t even realize it. It just creeps up on you.
Your one pair of shoes may be “begging bread,” and your feet may be hurting because the tack you have put in has come loose but you bear it with a grin whilst your child has twenty pairs of name brand shoes lined off immaculately in a row, but that’s all right, because this is what mothers do. You don’t want your child to go “look man” or “thief” so you are willing to make that sacrifice. How about teaching that child the art of doing without? This is just a question. You may say that in today’s world that this is unrealistic. I say maybe that this is one of the major problems with today’s world, a world which feeds into materialism and consumerism, all the while the mother is breaking under the pressure, and digging herself deeper into slavery and debt to satisfy the wants, and I say wants, as I don’t consider most of these things as the needs of her children, but then again that’s another article.
As I write my mind wanders to a friend who has never been to the beauty shop to get her hair done because she can’t afford it but yet makes the sacrifice so that her sixteen year old daughter can go at least once a week to get her hair and nails done. My mind wanders to a mother who has never dined at the finer places but yet scrounges to find the money so that her child can have that experience. My mind wanders to that mother who has never bought herself a fancy purse, earrings or a pair of shoes over $100.00 because it would be considered wasteful but yet her son or daughter has several pairs of shoes each which costs in excess of $100.00. As I write my mind wanders to that mother who can’t swim, but would love to but hasn’t taken the time to get lessons, but yet sits on the sidelines whilst her child is getting swimming lessons.
My mind wanders to a mother I spoke with recently who wanted to complete her high school education but have decided instead to work three jobs so that her daughter can go to the college of her choice. Let me add that this mother had worked two jobs to provide her daughter with the best education, luxuries and amenities that life has to offer, and as a result her daughter had gotten accepted to several reputable colleges. Three of the colleges offered full scholarships, but yet her daughter wanted to go to the college of her choice. In my conversations with friends I never give advice but rather ask questions.
My questions for my friend were simply. “Does she really need to go to the college of her choice when the other schools are just as good, and are offering full scholarships? Don’t you think that you have fulfilled your motherly obligation? When is it going to be about you? Why have you become insignificant? Why is there a need to put your dreams on indefinite hold?” Her response was quite admirable, “I do all this because it is my obligation as a mother! My daughter deserves only the best.” My follow-up question was, “So what do you deserve? When does your state of servitude end? Are you telling me that because you are a mother you have ceased to exist?” Again, please do not get me wrong, as a mother you want only what is best for your child or children. You also want them to have a much better life than you did, and again sometimes I think that what we interpret as a much better life is all relative. My issue is that the same sacrifices that we so unselfishly mete out for our children and others, we feel guilty if we do this for ourselves.
Another flaw that we have as mothers is that we often give our children so readily without letting them know that these things were given with much love and sacrifice. Money does not grow on trees. Our children often grow up with a sense of entitlement. In time these children begin to see us as their slaves, working to fulfill their every need and want because, “they didn’t ask to come here, is we play fast send call them, so we have to work for them.” After speaking with my friend about the additional sacrifice she was willing to make in order to send her daughter to the college of her choice, I decided to take her daughter to lunch. I sat across from this very polished, impressionable young woman, and I asked her several questions.
I asked her about the past 18 years of her life. I asked her about her stellar education, the class trips to Spain and Paris. I asked her about her piano, ballet, golf, tennis and swimming lessons. I asked about her time at Charm School. Then I asked her about her about the past 18 years of her mother’s life, a mother who had had her at the age of 16, and I suppose to dispel all of the myths about teenage pregnancy and motherhood in my opinion her mother overcompensated.
She more than sacrificed. I asked the young lady to paint that picture of her mother’s life for me, and when she did she cried, because all she could remember was her mother working, working, and working. I then asked her about the next four years of her life, and then I asked her what she would wish for the next four years of her mother’s life, a mother who had given the ultimate sacrifice that of herself. Her response was, “I would want her to at least experience some of things that I have.” I asked, “Can she experience that working three jobs while you are off at the college of your choice?” I then said, “You are a smart girl. You have been afforded the best of everything. Your mother wants the chance to get her education; don’t you think that you can at least give that much to her?” Needless to say she decided to attend one of the colleges which offered her full scholarship, and is helping her mother get her GED.
If anything you gain from this piece, I am not asking that you be a selfish, irresponsible mother but that you realize that even though you are somebody’s mother, that you are also you, and that you matter. The same way, in which you would save to purchase something that your child wants, save towards something that you would love to have. And if that voice in your head goes but I want my child to have that very expensive nice pair of shoes, ask that voice if your child really need that additional pair of shoes, and if that doesn’t work, ask yourself how many hours of hard work did that child put in to deserve the shoes, this may help you decide who really needs the shoes. Finally, I don’t think that you have to stop dreaming or that you should put your life on hold because you have children. You are not dead. You are still living.
Many people wait until after their children are all grown and off to college or out of the house to take that dream vacation or cruise or to fulfill that lifelong dream or passion why can’t you work towards it sooner? You are still living! You are person! You matter! And as my friend Cora just told me after reading this piece, “You watch too much Oprah! This would not go with the average Caribbean woman!” To this I say, “Maybe the Caribbean woman needs to do some introspection, and ask herself who she is, who she wants to be, and what she thinks she deserves, and realize that although being a great mother is a part of being a phenomenal woman, it’s just that, only a part of it.”