Nowadays, a modern person has to be careful about implying that there is anything “unique” about motherhood. After all, you don’t want to imply that someone who is not a mother, or else not a mother in the traditional sense, has somehow been deprived of a unique experience.
The physiological aspects of traditional motherhood – gestating a person, giving birth to them, and then likely going on to nourish them with your body for some time – are pretty damn unique experiences. And there is a reason why people who have had these experiences tend to bond over them the way soldiers do.
But mommyhood, whether biological or otherwise, also affects different people differently. It has a tendency to change people – but in different ways. Some people become mothers – and, as a result, grow intellectually and spiritually and what have you. But motherhood can also expose your fundamental weaknesses and character flaws, and leave you face-to-face with your own shortcomings. Because it is physically and emotionally taxing, because it limits your lifestyle in some very basic ways, it can slough away at your illusions and whatever comfortable mythology you have built up around yourself in your years on earth. When you’re taking care of someone very small and vulnerable, and yet very demanding, you learn a lot about yourself, and not all of that knowledge will be comforting.
You’ll find that you have a lot of work to do on yourself – and not a whole lot of time and energy to do it.
Of course, every once in a while, you also go to the pool:
At the pool, you hand the baby to the husband (who, being a stereotypical husband, loves playtime), and reflect (haw haw) by the water for a bit.
How has motherhood changed me? Well, it has changed my body. It has rewired my brain – and honed my reflexes. It has rewritten something fundamental inside of me, some great big block of code that comprises that entity known as the soul. It has made me more attuned to suffering and injustice – behind every murder victim or every person illegally convicted in a corrupt court, I see someone’s small child, some little smiling face. It has made me more aware of the terror of nature, and the terror of fate, and yet less helpless somehow, because I have a dependent, I cannot crap out. It has made me more aggressive – something I would normally welcome, except that keeping my aggression in check is important when I go home in the evenings, and close the front door, and am alone with my family. The power I now possess must be used wisely, or else it can destroy my relationships.
I take more responsibility and yet live more dangerously. Or that’s how I feel, anyway.
A childless (not to be confused with childfree – that’s not how she identifies herself) friend recently admitted that she was “scared” of me or “scared to end up like [me]” – she wasn’t sure which. I think those feelings are normal. At 25, when I first started longing for a child, I would have been scared of my future self too. She’s got bigger boobs that don’t fit into any of her old clothes, a leaner wallet and a meaner attitude. She can sing “Old McDonald Had a Farm” with a straight face.