I have been away from this for a while. My absence bothers me, whether it bothers you or not, but it is entirely related to being a mother. A working mother. A working mother with some significant interests and commitments in addition to mothering and working.
Let me pay a little tribute to a few mothers who pop to mind. If I don’t refer to you, and you are a mother, well I should have written about you specifically. Because you deserve it. There are literally dozens and dozens of mothers who come to mind–for your interesting ideas, your hard, hard work, your deep love, your sense of humor, your willingness to try things out and to challenge yourself in the name of being a good parent. All the brave and hard things you have done and faced as a woman and as a mother.
I won’t refer to even a quarter of the women whose work as mothers easily come to mind as deserving of mention. But I will say a few things about a few mothers in my life.
I have actually not yet told my own mother about this blog. I don’t know why exactly, but I haven’t yet told her. But she deserves some special mention. She is funny and she is loyal and good and generous and just up for so much and she is alive and well and doing a great job now as a grandmother as well as mother. I love you, Mom.
If you haven’t used the link to MamaCandtheboys— you should. She, Mama C, is a mother to know and to read. I cannot remember when I started reading her blog, but she has been an amazing person for me to know. She is doing a number of things writing-wise and organizing-wise, that I want to be doing–and her work and victories move me forward. There are many things about her life and her work that inspire me. Some of them can be found on April 13 and her poem on April 18, We Your Boys. Just to mention two that don’t require me to reach very far back in the memory bank.
Poet Patricia Smith is a mother who has recently changed me in some of the ways I continue to want to be changed. Go. Read her work. Buy her books. Read Teahouse of the Almighty. Read the poem, Scribe, and the poem, Building Nicole’s Mama. And then tell someone else about her work. Buy them her books and give them as a gift to someone you love.
I cannot even imagine what it would be like to try to be a mother without my sister at my side, behind me–but actually ahead of me and leading the way. It was a gift to get a sister, five years younger and then a gift that she became a mother eight years before I did. Her mothering and her two sons are huge gifts in our lives but also for me it is a gift to have the chance to follow her lead on so many, many things. She has thought about and understood so much; she is unflinching her assessment of things, she is hilariously funny, has eyes open wide to the world and its sorrows, its sweetness too, and she can and does play a mean game of basketball. Happy Mother’s Day, J. You rock and you should know it.
D came into our lives as a caregiver for my daughter when she was eight months old and my partner and I both had to go back to working regular schedules. I was fundamentally opposed to in-home care because I did not believe I could find someone trustworthy enough to leave alone with our very young daughter. I knew that caring for a very young child is hard work, that you lose interest at times or just lose it at times. We interviewed D as a favor to a friend with no intention of hiring her. But there was something about her, her gentleness, her fierceness, her seriousness. She seemed so grounded in the reality of and the meaning of caring for a very young girl. We told her we’d get back to her. And then as she left the apartment after our interview, we looked at each other– my friend K was also there, visiting from out-of-town and had sat in on our meeting. I said to K and to my partner– should we run down the stairs after her? She’s the one, isn’t she? There was no disagreement.
She came to work for us a week or two later and worked for us until last fall. D is an immigrant from Mexico, who has welcomed my Chicana daughter into a big, extended Mexican family. My daughter has a home with them and they love her. We’ve been through a lot all together. She is now the mother of two daughters– one typically developing daughter and one daughter with a very significant disability which has made D into a fierce and experienced special needs mama. She is a best friend, like a daughter to us at times, a sister– someone who has made me a better mother through her help, her friendship and sharing her family with us.
And then there is my own partner, co-conspirator, sister, friend, love and sweetheart–M. I cannot even begin to imagine this household, this work of thinking and doing and loving and driving and planning without her. And I don’t want to. Her basketball skills and her ability to pack an enormous picnic lunch in 7 minutes and her love and tenderness for our girl, but all the young girls and all the young boys in our lives, barely scratch the surface of what is wonderful about parenting with her. I do want to say that my partner was very resistant to the idea of parenting for a very long time in our relationship, before we adopted our daughter. And though I have said it many times over at home, I will say it more publicly here. M– you love being a mom and you are an amazing mom and our daughter and so many other young people love you. So this is one of those times when it is very sweet and good to be able to say “I was right, I told you so.”
Mothering is not a singular experience. If we are white or brown or black, if we have health insurance or not, if our children are healthy and typically developing or face disability or health struggles, if we are lesbian or heterosexual, Jewish or gentile– working class or middle class–all of these things make one mother’s experience very different from another’s. But we are all part of a sisterhood of women, reaching for a world that is human and humane, fighting to fix this messy world and I am grateful to all of you. Happy Mother’s day.