To become a mother is to die to oneself in some essential way. After I had children I was no longer an individual separate from other individuals. I leaked into everyone else.
When I try to talk about mothering, about how it is a part of me but not all of me, I can’t do it right. Because it’s not me as a mother and me as a person, separate. Being a mother is me, even when my children aren’t with me. I still find myself acting like a mother around other people: grabbing extra napkins, clearing away empty cups, occasionally even wiping a face on instinct, awkwardly. I am no longer separate from other individuals. I can’t help but leak into them.
I remember going to a movie soon after Nat was born and walking out at the first hint of violence. It was unbearable to think of the damage done. I had never been squeamish in my life before, but now a great deal more was at stake. I had delivered a baby into the world. From now on my only job was to protect and nurture him into adulthood, no matter what it cost me.
It’s hard to know what’s most important, when my children are with me. What do they need most from me? There are dishes to wash and I need to exercise for myself and we have schoolwork to do but also they want to play and we need fresh air and groceries. Shit. Groceries are necessary, why do I keep forgetting to buy them?
Protect and nourish them into adulthood. That is my job. That is my only job. I will do it whatever way I can, it is not the method that matters.
That makes it sound like a selfless task, but it wasn’t. I got as much as I gave, and much more. The ordinary pleasures of raising children are not often talked about, because they are unspectacular and leave no lasting trace, but they sustained me for years as our boys grew and flourished, and they continue to sustain me now.
I often complain about my kids: how Holden talks not in sentences but in paragraphs, how there is never any quiet, how I am always, always cleaning up after them. But I don’t as often articulate the ordinary pleasures, like this morning, when Brandon said, “good morning, mom” and did my plantar fasciitis stretches with me, my green strap around his foot. Or how Holden says I’m the only girl he loves and I know he means it because he doesn’t love any girls, that’s for damn sure. Or how they wanted to put together a puzzle last night and once it was spread all over the table, I realized that’s what I wanted to do too. How we take turns with the foot bath when I read to them each night before bed. These ordinary pleasures of raising children have seeped into me as I’ve leaked into my children. Yes, there is still Holly Who Wants Things for Herself and is Trying Like Hell to Get Them, but all the while, Mother Holly is here too. And she is making damn sure she nurtures and protects her boys into adulthood.
(Italicized quotes from “Dying: A Memoir” by Cory Taylor)