Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Mother of Convenience

I am a mother because it is easy.  Truly.

The hardest job on earth, is the easiest it has ever been.

If I lived in any other time, or in any other place, I'm not sure what kind of a mother I would be, because I sure complain now.

I mean we all do right?

About how tired we are, how the kids are driving us crazy, about our bodies, our husbands, our homes.  We moan and groan about our disappearing waistlines, sex-lives and brain cells.  We laugh and cry with each other, joined in sisterhood over the woeful tales of never-ending laundry, peanut-butter smeared walls and droopy boobs.

Except that I have felt so chastened lately when I think of how easy I really have it.

I remember when I was pregnant with Kashton, and I knew I was going to have babies a year apart, and I wondered how I would survive.   I remember talking to my grandmother about her own experience, because she, a typical 1940s Canadian Farm wife, had also had babies a year apart.

Except she also had another toddler already to care for, so would have three under three.  And while there are lots of women who even today have found themselves in a similar situation, it's not even remotely similar in reality.

Because my grandma didn't go to the grocery store for bread and milk.  Every single meal, and most of its components came from scratch or hours of labour.  Milk was well... milked.  Bread was baked weekly, along with pies and cookies. Vegetables grown.  Fruit canned for jam and preserves.  There was no McDonalds drive-thru if she was too tired to cook.  No pizza delivery on Friday night.

Food aside, there were no such thing as disposable diapers or wipes, just cloth ones that my grandmother felt lucky enough to be able to put in an actual washing machine, never mind the fact that she had no dryer for three small children and two adults, and that the clothes, wet and laid out all over the house, took days to dry in the winter.

There were no all-night pharmacies for croupy babies.  No 24-hour health lines for fever symptoms and worried mothers.  No Google.  No coffee playhouses filled with baby-wearing mama's in designer clothes sipping $5 lattes.  No sympathetic Facebook Friends to lend an ear at 2 am when the baby has been up crying from teething pain.  No Gymboree classes or swim lessons.   No girls night out or romantic tropical getaways to reconnect with Dear Husband.

What she did have were endless and isolating Canadian prairie winters and hot dry summers in which to be alone most of the day with her children and an endless amount of work.

She barely remembers the infancy of any of her children.  The days were a blur.  She was bone-tired, never sleeping through the night with young babies, and facing the day's chores, which included tending to farm animals (even while in labour) before the sun had even come up.  She also never complained.

She speaks now with regret and a tinge of jealousy at the way mothers these days seem to enjoy their babies.  But for all her busyness in their youth, it doesn't seem to have impacted the love her children feel for her in any way.  My mom and her two sisters and brother revere their mom, and treasure her very openly.   They must have had some innate sense, that this daily grind was truly done on their behalf.  That their growing up fed and clothed and warm and clean was a true hallmark of self-sacrifice.

I have realized since, that what my Grandmother endured to raise her children, was not simply generational either.  Women all over the world are still rising up to challenges in mothering that I cannot imagine, and will simply, never know.

Women who will never get to choose where or how they give birth.  If it is with or without pain management.  Women who will never even have control over their own reproduction,  if they can have them at all, how many children they have or when they will have them.  Women who will never just turn on a tap to bathe their infant, as many times a day as they wish, or to fill a bottle or pot or washing machine. Women who will never have to decide between breast or bottle, vaccinations or not, pre-school or playgroups, organic or jarred, because those choices are not even available to them.

And so, I realize that while I like to equate motherhood with sainthood that I am very far indeed from that pedestal.  Of course I absolutely give credence to the real struggles mothers of even our time and clime come head to head with, but if I am honest, I am a mother because it's actually pretty easy.  The scales are far more heavily tipped towards reward than they are to effort, and when I shut-up long enough to remember that, I am deeply, deeply grateful.


Anonymous said...

Touché !

Anonymous said...

thanks for the wake-up sharmi!

WadenLeaStewart said...

Amen.... Amen.... I must admit that i think myself (included in maybe our generation) are a bunch of unthankful winers.. Thanks for the heart warming, truth... Much needed..

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