I read something the other day that really bothered me. It said, in effect, that motherhood was a small slice of womanhood. It’s not that I didn’t understand the sentiment or respect this person’s opinion. Motherhood does not happen for all women. It is not wanted by all women. And even for those who experience it, and love it, motherhood has boundaries of years and influence. But motherhood being a slice of womanhood? That simply does not ring true to me. It seems so backward. So dropped on its head. We are women to be mothers. Mothers in a myriad of ways. But mothers.
I have many things I love to do in life. I love to write. I love to read. I love to create things (unless they are meals). I love to dance. I love the outdoors. I love naps. Many of these things – in the moment – I enjoy more than “motherhood.” And I don’t just mean that I love them more than the mundane details of motherhood: laundry, homework, meals. That’s obvious and apparent. The thing is, that sometimes I even love them more than the glorified aspects of motherhood. More than convincing my children to love each other and seeing them treat each other respectfully. More than cuddling before bed and hearing about the day’s adventures. The truth of the matter is, I am not a natural for even this portion of motherhood. I like solitude. I like quiet. I like spareness; clean and simple lines. Motherhood is anything but solitary, clean or simple. It is being held at any hour of the day by any number of people who insist they have the right to do so. It is chaos operating within the bubble of a woman, rather than outside it.
But even though I often enjoy other activities and uses of my time more than I love the life of a mother, I cannot agree that motherhood is only a slice of womanhood. All that other, all that extra, all those things that I really want to prize – those are the slices, and they are interchangeable for each person based on who they’re meant to become. Seeing these slices as the forest instead of the trees ignores an entire world beyond such a narrow operating lens. It ignores the essence of what woman is. I am glad women have education. I am glad women have causes. I am glad women solve problems. I am glad women achieve and enjoy and live and hold freedoms. I know the strengthening of woman has enormous impact on the world around her.
But I assure you, as my life has progressed, as I’ve sorted things both in and out of what I find necessary for each day, there is one thing that remains. It is the hard thing, the thing I don’t always like doing, the thing that oftentimes seems completely beyond me. It is motherhood. And the truth of the matter is that I would drop all those starry ideals and experiences to hold and comfort a newborn in my arms. A newborn that needed to be loved, and taught, and prized. A newborn that needed a mother to realize that for that moment her life revolved around his.
And, in fact, I have.
It’s very trim and tidy to say this truth is mine alone. That every woman finds her own center, be it business, talent, political cause, or child. It is very trim and tidy to say I don’t believe in an absolute truth, in an absolute necessity of motherhood for women. It makes a nicely wrapped package that people would happily accept. And while I do believe that each and every woman has this decision to make, and that her choice should be respected when she does so – the truth I see is that motherhood for every woman is not a slice. That motherhood pulses at the core and, given permission, can radiate outward like the sun, giving energy and meaning to all the rest. It is the truth I feel, it is the truth, which for me, must be spoken.