Was It Because I Labored Without Drugs, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:56am


Haven’t we all seen so many photos of snow and ice this winter? To say nothing of you, enmired in the real thing? Here in Northern California we’ve had spring weather, or at least spring-mimicking. But both my kids are in New Jersey. I look at this webcam.

Then I call my kids, one or the other, and I say, “Are you cold?” And while they may be cold, or irritated by having to drive in the snow and on ice, that’s by no means their primary concern. After all, they are mostly grown.

I could send them sweaters, or socks, or tins of fancy hot chocolate – fancy things always come in tins, don’t they – but probably the kids would rather have money. Because they are grown, remember, and know how to keep warm.

It’s possible I am a very doting mother.

If so, why? I am not particularly sweet, as a person. Was always known in the workplace for those character traits that require high levels of testosterone. Including upper body strength.

I was listening, recently, to some young women, talented, intelligent, creative, most with babies or toddlers, discussing the term, Mommy Blogger. They found it derogatory. I responded that when I hear the word Mommy, all I can think is that’s what my children called me when they were little. The word leeches all warrior spirit out of my body. I admire the ferocity of these young women, whom I see to be dedicated mothers, and I look back on how I came to be so in love with mommyhood, and so soft.

Sometimes I wonder if it all started when I persisted in my commitment to give birth without drugs. I know some people say labor doesn’t hurt that much, or not to be scared, or that there are ways to get through the process sanely, but in my experience, in all honesty, it hurt. Crazy hurt. Black out and don’t remember what happened hurt. Wake up the next morning feeling as though the entire world has changed, not just because you have an infant lying next to you, but because your consciousness has been wholly altered by pain.

I am not complaining. But maybe those 24 hours of labor effected my experience of being a mother more than I knew. 20 hours for my daughter, with contractions of progressive intensity, and 4 for my son, strong, fast, and quite brutal. I did in fact lose consciousness in the last hour before I started to push, with my daughter, and I did ask the doctor could I please just lie there, and do nothing, with my son.

When you go through something like that, you have to put yourself back together, after. And when you put yourself together cheek by jowl with an infant who cries when they are uncomfortable in any way, you put yourself back together in light of that infant’s needs. Quite literally constructing an identity which requires that child be OK, in the big meaning of the word, as much as is humanly possible.

Maybe at that point I disappeared. That’s perhaps too dramatic, but let it lie for now. We’re just considering.  Musing. All sorts of things are possible.

I wonder to what degree my relationship to motherhood is a good thing for my kids. I don’t think I’d be able to consider any other way, just for myself, as my approach to my children comforts me like a drug. It’s one of the most important ways I know who I am. However, if it’s better for the kids, I can allow a change that I might in fact want.

I remodeled our house when my son was not quite 2. I was working from home then, and only part-time. So I oversaw the project, from architecture to finishes. You know, how you find yourself in a rock showroom somewhere admiring granite? Or trying to figure out just how transparent the glass block will be once installed as a shower wall? The use case, as we would say in software development, was a family rearing two young children.

I drew design ideas from 5 years of raising babies and toddlers, walking the hall with my daughter, taking her from mirror to mirror so she could wave at herself under every set of bathroom lights. Waking in the night to go lift her from her crib to nurse. Sleeping with my son wrapped around my head like a cat.

Once built, the house took on its own life. While it was constructed from my instincts, developed from listening carefully to the kids and the family rhythm, it was not of me once it became real. It was outside me. The kids grew up, I suspect, with me in the background. I put together a way of life for them because in those days whatever joy the kids felt, whatever comfort, I felt too. But I am not sure how directly visible I was.

And now they are off in the snow somewhere and here the sky is blue.

Everyone separates from their adult children, to one degree or another. Especially here in America, where the geography and the culture both support moving away. What I’m wondering is how other people’s children see their mothers. How many of us disappear into the structure of support that we build?

And how much does it matter that, once our support is no longer the primary structure, we reappear?

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54 Comments

  • 02/05/11
    11:04 am

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    Terri said...

    I only know that the first five years of young adulthood for each one of my children was very, very painful for me emotionally. I watched them make mistakes and about to make mistakes…and tried mightily to bite my lip and just let it be. Now, in their late 20s and early 30s, they are coming back to me, but in a far better way than during those violent years they developmentally needed to separate from me.

    02/09/11
    7:18 am
    Heidi said...

    This is a beautiful post. My children are growing and I sometimes imagine them sitting on the tips of their toes getting ready for launch. And then they settle back down and fold their wings again. Waiting. I think that they don’t see me. And that is why, without fail, when the great song that I love to hear and sing comes on the radio in the car and I turn it up they immediately have questions. Thoughts to share. Things to say. And I turn down the radio and listen. Nod and answer. After all, the song can wait but the children won’t. Will they see me, later? When they’ve grown? I believe they will. I see my mother, we’ve cleared the clutter and tried to face one another and, I believe, it has worked. But, really. Who will I be when they are ready to see me?
    Thanks for such lovely thoughts.
    Heidi

  • 02/05/11
    11:19 am

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    Deb u naunt said...

    It matters! IMMENSELY! “You are still the bread and the knife.”

  • 02/05/11
    11:42 am

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    Paula said...

    I just returned home from an afternoon at my parent’s place. Half an hour before the scheduled time, my mum received a call “we will be 15 mins late” (she laughed, telling me, she expected us to come late, as everytime) and when we left, I found myself trying to support my father, declutter a drawer in their kitchen against my mum’s protest. The mess ended like that: she said we were aggressive (throwing away empty herb-jars), I said “no, we are just motivated to get things done” and Mr Paula sat down in the living room, I guess he was reading the TV-guide. Of course I felt bad when we left shortly after. I knew it is mainly my father who tries to declutter, not me …. anyhow, never interfere with Mommy’s kitchen, no matter how “at home” you might feel.

  • 02/05/11
    11:53 am

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    The gold digger said...

    Even after I had been out of my parents’ house for 15 years, had put myself through college and grad school, and had traveled alone from Chile back to the US over land, my dad would ask me, every time, “Have you checked the oil in your car?”

  • 02/05/11
    12:01 pm

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    Patricia said...

    I built my current home when my two oldest children were very young, and the third hadn’t yet arrived. So, the house is very much as you describe – a wonderful family home. I never thought about it that way, but to my kids, I’m probably a part of it much like the pool or the t.v. room. How funny! Two of the three are still at home, so I’m not sure how I’ll feel when they’re gone. I wonder if it’s like “holding down the fort” and care taking while they are away, and they expect you to pick up again as mommy when they return. That transition must last for several years after they leave. Then, finally, it’s time to sell the house and unburden just a bit from the weight of the structure.

  • 02/05/11
    12:11 pm

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    Tabitha said...

    Wow I cannot even imagine such a feat, you are woman and I hear your roar.

  • 02/05/11
    12:23 pm

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    Caroline said...

    Is that Princeton High School?! Looks like my alma mater . . .

  • 02/05/11
    12:36 pm

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    Lyn said...

    I can’t consider motherhood from any real experience, because I am not yet a mother. But I have been all of my life a child to a mother, so I will speak to that.

    Young children displace a mother’s personality by weight of their egos. Mothers do disappear into the background, showing only the structure of support they provide. In my own individual experience, my mother was frustrated by this as I grew older — she increasingly felt that her support of me was taken advantage of, unappreciated. Which it was. As a teen, I kind of had to have it hammered into my head that my mother was a person with feelings — does that sound cruel? It is, but children are born with only themselves in mind and part of a parent’s job is to teach them about the concept of the Other.

    I’ve been delighted by the ways my mother “reappeared” in my 20s. Now I actively ask her about her life, her opinions, her relationship with her own mother. Let’s for a moment say my mother was a Chuck Close painting: for most of my life, I was standing very close to it, staring at just one pixel. And now, I’ve backed up, and I’m seeing more and more of the whole picture.

    I wouldn’t say we are friends, because we never were and never will be. But we’re a lot closer now. My mother still dotes on me by phone, all the way from Virginia — you’re going to see whom? You’re walking where? Be careful! Even though I have been seeing people and walking places all of my adult life. But I think one of the biggest shifts in our relationship is that the role of support structure has expanded to me, as well, in that I try to prop up the weaker parts of her personality — her tendency to doubt herself, for instance. It’s not the same thing as mothering, by far, but it’s a real difference.

    I don’t know that I can ever really “know” my mother, like I do myself or my beloved. But I can “see” her now, and that’s probably the best we can do.

    And now I feel like going to give her a hug.

  • 02/05/11
    12:45 pm

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    Jody Brettkelly said...

    Hi there, thanks for stopping by. I never tire of seeing pics of snow. I grew up in New Zealand where it never snowed except way up in the mountains. I really love reading your perspective (and blog comments) about being a mother with grownup children. With four children now aged between seven and 13 we are out of the baby trenches but it’s tough sometimes with the emotional stuff; teasing, ins and outs with friends, not being invited to birthday parties, all small stuff but heart-breaking at the time…

  • 02/05/11
    1:18 pm

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    Sydney Shop Girl said...

    The photo of the snow is just what I needed. We’re sweltering through an Australian heat wave here in Sydney.

    I do agree with the need for the necessary but painful time when young adults need to separate from their parents and make those mistakes that set them with lessons for the rest of their lives.

    The groundwork and building of the parent and child bond happened in those early years and will never be broken. I think back on my own life and see that though I ‘drifted away’ for a period I have in fact ‘returned’ and yes, my parents still tell the 35 year old me to ‘take care and eat well’.

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

  • 02/05/11
    1:41 pm

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    agirl said...

    My mother will always be mommy to me, always be that safe base to which I return when needed, no matter how old I get. But I know that she is more than mommy in the round, and I would hate to think that remains her primary identity now, 30 years on. I would hope she’s been able to reclaim some of what I displaced, in those intense early years, even though I know we both remain primary figures of importance to each other, despite the distance, despite the decade since I left home, despite having my own new family now. This is my hope for her, and I suppose it’s my hope for me, should I ever be a mother myself.

  • 02/05/11
    1:41 pm

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    DocP said...

    I remember being on the way out the door to run to the hospital and deliver a baby and my mother called to remind me to wear boots because it was snowing.

  • 02/05/11
    1:49 pm

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    Marcela said...

    What an interesting post. I have 2 and a half year old twins, so I don’t know how it will feel when they leave the house, but I do know that I felt that the person I was before them had to disappear to give birth to the mum in me. I must admit that, for the first two years of their life, I struggled to reconcile the woman I had been prior to them with the mother I became after their birth. So yes, I faded in the background, a great part of who I had been became invisible even to myself. Reappearing took time. Recovering the woman, and the professional without losing the mother took time. I wonder now, after reading your post, which parts of me they will see while growing up…
    As for my own mum, I started seeing her in a whole different light after becoming a mother myself (perspective, I guess…). But even before that, I felt that the passing of age (my own as well as hers) uncovered different layers. I am happy about that. I believe a mother’s support (even if not primary) is always needed. Just knowing they are there, offering their support, is extremely important.

  • 02/05/11
    2:22 pm

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    Someone said...

    @ Caroline: Yes. ‘Tis my alma (alma alma?) mater too. Had no idea the old place had a cam now!

    Can’t speak to the mommy stuff quite, as I’m not, but my mother was certainly involved in the construction of our (Princeton) home, and uhh…well, it was designed with enough bedrooms for master suite plus one for each of the 4 kids. Then 2 more kids happened…whoops.

    I never intended to supersede my mother as a personality or ego or in any way, but I will note that I don’t think she has really ever given me a fair shake. She has always disapproved of my independent, non-conformist, non-traditionally-female ways which all showed up VERY early in me. It’s hard to grow up not being accepted for who you are (and when the outside world is just as disapproving, well). Sometimes relationships with moms are not as warm and fuzzy as they are at the Hallmark Card factory.

  • 02/05/11
    2:22 pm

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    Stephanie said...

    Well, my kiddos are still too young to separate.(Thank goodness, as I am not really at all emotionally prepared for it to happen.) As for the other side of the coin, my mom passed away so long ago, and was ill so long before that time, that separation was never an issue. She needed me, as did my father. And being a bona fide “Daddy’s Girl”, I speak to my father every day. Always have. So yes, your presence and reappearance absolutely matter. They will grow, and have children of their own, and then your role becomes even more important.

  • 02/05/11
    2:41 pm

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    Town and Country Mom said...

    When a friend of mine was in college, her grandfather, who was 72, lost his wife and came for an extended visit with her family. His mother, in her 90s, was still living in another state. My friend has very vivid recollections of her grandfather talking on the phone, and saying, “Yes, Mama, I’m wearing a sweater.”

  • 02/05/11
    2:51 pm

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    Kris said...

    I think the most startling revelation to me occured when the youngest of my three boys was a baby probably wondering why I was destined for all “these boys.” I was laying on the couch with baby sleeping on my stomach and a football game was on the TV. I watched these gigantic, hulking grown men stick their faces in the camera and say “hi mom” one after another after another..nary a “hi dad” in the bunch. I think a mom is a mom to boys forever.

  • 02/05/11
    3:03 pm

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    Sarah (Semi Expat) said...

    A wonderful post LPC and one that particularly resonates with me being separated geographically by so many miles from my daughter. And I have a website on my computer which shows via webcam the grounds of her University…. I worried about the snow and no, she was not warm enough. I feel (and felt) all consumed by motherhood and I still do. We speak/skype most days I could not cope without this. And the guilt that I am not closer in miles to her, in England is very hard to cope with at times. I think that as a mother you provide the structure and they will always (hopefully) be close. Well that is what I like to think. Again thanks – such a lovely post. X

  • 02/05/11
    3:39 pm

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    Staircase Witch said...

    I have mixed feelings about motherhood that come partly from knowing that I’ll never be a mother, myself, and partly, of course, from being a daughter.

    I think from the perspective of the latter that one of the best things a mother can do is have an interesting life of her own and not depend too much on her children for happiness. Especially daughters.

    It sounds as though your relationship with your daughter is good, but for many of us, our relationships with our mothers are…fraught. We want our mothers to be happy. But no matter what we do, we can’t make them happy. And some of us, after inevitably failing to make our mothers happy despite spending and nearly ruining–or at least severely limiting–our own lives in trying to keep them from feeling bad about themselves, are fighting bitterness and trying to hold on to compassion and empathy while longing for a normal relationship with them–whatever “normal” is–because despite the crazymaking, we still love them and know they won’t be around forever.

    Whatever it is you’ve been doing, keep doing that. It sounds like it’s working. Reading about you holding your daughter up to wave at herself in all the lighted bathroom mirrors made me smile.

  • 02/05/11
    3:50 pm

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    Loretta said...

    When the youngest was home on break this Christmas, I found myself buying her Uggs, rainboots, scarves, several pairs of gloves, and urging her to shop with me for a new parka.

    Providing physical comforts may be the last things we can offer when they move away. I like to think of her wearing her fur-lined hat and her new scarf wrapped around her neck like a hug from me she can’t shake off.

  • 02/05/11
    5:01 pm

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    Madeline said...

    You expressed it exactly as I have felt it, and couldn’t explain. Thank you. ( she said, with tears in her eyes)

  • 02/05/11
    5:20 pm

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    Elizabeth said...

    I have really enjoyed reading everyone’s responses to this post (and the post itself, of course!) As a mother of still young children (ages 2 – 10) I still have a hard time believing that someday they will be gone, as will the mountains of laundry.

    I am struck in the comments by the thoughts about daughters vs. sons, but then I look at my brother’s, sister’s, and my own relationship with my mother, I feel that we each have our own special/ different relationship with our mother. I can only hope she feel the same way.

  • 02/05/11
    5:32 pm

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    Deb u naunt said...

    I just wanted to add, I feel it is STILL my duty as one of Mother, to continue Mothering…for quite some time, maybe Always! My children are in their mid- thirties, and although I wish I could rewind and start over, I often remind them I’m not finished yet-it is my Duty as a mother to nag or meddle or give advise…and adore, hug and send “Sus’s” (and money),and provide a place to come home to.
    “…the crystal goblet and the wine.”

  • 02/05/11
    5:49 pm

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    hostessofthehumblebungalow said...

    I only remember the searing pain at the very moment of delivery.
    My daughter was 14 hours and my son 2…both were over 8 pounds (keepers)

    After they cut the umbilical we spend the rest of our lives trying to get back that connection…without (S)Mothering of course!

    My DIL is a mommy blogger…in fact she’s doing the 30 day wardrobe challenge….she’s a yummy mummy!

    My kids are living in the same city, one is 5 minutes away the other 10.
    I cannot imagine how you must feel being far apart.

  • 02/05/11
    6:27 pm

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    Lori said...

    I worry often that I am not a “good enough” mommy. I try, but it is so hard sometimes to really be myself and be there for them as well. It feels that “mommy” takes over everything that I do. Now that they are 4 and 7 and out of the baby stage, I am rediscovering myself.

    I don’t, however, want to look back one day and wish that I had done more for them. I try to do it really well every day and take it one day at a time. Some days are better than others…

    I have not lived in close proximity to my mom since I was 18, but we are very close. Oddly enough, I feel physical pain sometimes, because I miss her so.

  • 02/05/11
    9:00 pm

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    Slater Sorrenson said...

    It has come full circle for me. Now, my 94 yo Mom tells me to “be careful” whenever I leave the house. “Phew, so glad you reminded me,” I reply. I know I’ll say the same things to my kids when they come home from college this summer.

  • 02/05/11
    10:29 pm

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    Preppy 101 said...

    Wow. What a moving post, Lisa. I, like you, have children in the frozen tundra of the northeast. I have already ordered a fancy scraper and auto sno-broom for my daughter – as if she can’t take care of that herself. I find that I check the weather constantly just so I know what they are enduring. And lately, I find myself wondering what they think of my parenting skills – and what things will they definitely do differently – just as there were things I purposely did differently from my parents. I have that “perfection” complex, knowing full well that I can’t even get close to it. Oh well, I guess this is one of the after-effects of parenting – over-thinking ;-). Have a great day! Xoxo

  • 02/05/11
    11:29 pm

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    Karen said...

    Ooo, the resonance. My one and only (who still calls me Mommy) is in her first year of college far from Paris. When she was home for the holidays, I bought her long underwear, silk glove liners, headcoverings of various sorts, etc., etc. — added to the down coat and snow boots I had ordered in the States and shipped to her — so that she would survive the harsh Minnesota winter. She reports wearing the long underwear, but only when cross-country skiing. The rest she has judged overkill. Hmm, what could this mean (both the buying and the refusing to wear)?

  • 02/05/11
    11:32 pm

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    Emily said...

    Lisa,

    I started reading you blog when Penelope Trunk listed a link on her site. I’d like to point back to her in response to your post. I followed her closely when she was doing the research for her move and a lot of the data summed up that you should live to the people that mean the most to you. I will have the freedom to travel when I graduate, but my life plans include relocating closer to my family when all is said and done.

    I will soon be a college graduate from a private university, and, unlike most of my peers, I will be graduating without debt. It’s a small form of privilege in my life, and it’s just the beginning. That being said, thank you for continuing to post to this website.

    Best, Emily.

  • 02/06/11
    4:39 am

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    Cate Subrosa said...

    I can’t add anything to agirl’s comment, she has it spot on (for me).

  • 02/06/11
    6:10 am

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    Duchesse said...

    I am wondering why you were committed to giving birth without drugs? When I asked my doc about anesthetic or not, she said, “We are no longer in the Dark Ages, why give birth there?” There are many perspectives, so I am hoping to understand yours.

  • 02/06/11
    6:19 am

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    karen said...

    As a fully involved mother to three children who are now all in their very early 20’s; things have changed, things have stayed the same.

    Interesting that you feel that you disappeared into a background. I feel that my children may know me best as their mom but also see me as a person.

    We have experienced a horrible shattering of our family together when my husband became mentally ill and abandoned our family eight years ago.

    They have seen me pick up the pieces and try to fill in as mom and dad (something that truly is not possible.)

    So they have seen me work full time, work part time, begin a business, stay at home full time, be married, be divorced, be dating. All of which has helped them see me, not just as their mom, but as a person.

    I still tell them to be careful too often, still help them, still love them as a mom, which will always be the default position.

    Thanks for the interesting post!

  • 02/06/11
    6:24 am

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    belle de ville said...

    I have told my daughter in no uncertain terms to have a c section and skip the whole drug free natural childbirth experience.
    Since I did it twice, I learned that just because you can feel the pain, it doesn’t mean that you should have to.

  • 02/06/11
    6:56 am

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    Lori said...

    I think this might be my most favorite post of yours thus far…have enjoyed the time of reading the comments of those before mine here…since I have a foot in both of these worlds of being mommy to the little’s and Mom and friend to my 5 adult children I have a lot of feelings and thoughts about this…

    I had hard difficult pregnancys and my labor’s and deliverys of each of my children were long and hard…and yes it hurts like hell to give birth but it is one of most joyous experiences of my life as well…embracing mommyhood with both of my arms wrapped around it and losing my heart to each one of them as they entered my world. I do think I lost myself in motherhood all these years.

    Throwing my whole life and heart into motherhood it is hard to know where I ended and where each one of them began…and then thinking I was all done and enjoying watching them fly away as painful as that was…only to have a 14 month old little boy and a brand new little girl enter into my heart…as I gave birth to them over the months that they became mine I would have to say that it was just as painful as actually giving birth physically.

    Allowing children to grow up…preparing their wings for flight was my job…letting go a little bit at at time and as much as it hurt allowing them to make mistakes and fall down..being their soft place to fall came naturally to me..maybe because of the hell I walked through at their age and hadn’t had anyone to catch me made it that much more important to make sure that I had prepared them enough for life and allowed them to be their own person…accepting and embracing who they were was essential to our relationship…when their wings were strong enough for them to fly on their own was painful for me…the desire to pull them back in to me had to be pushed back inside myself so they could do what they had to do. The relationships I have with each one of them is priceless…I cannot imagine for one second my life without their individual flavor that they each bring to the table of my life…

    those that have flown far from Minnesota remain close to me in my heart…I am told by friends that I likely talk more to them then they do with their children that live close by…there are many that envy the relationships I have with my children…I say it’s because I know when to keep my mouth shut and when I need to just listen..I don’t interfere…and I remain their biggest fan, regardless if I agree with their choices or not. I say we have come full circle.

    I pray that as my little’s gain strength in their wings and start to fly that I will do the same with them…I pray constantly that the influence of their birth mother will not influence their abilities to fly solo someday.

  • 02/06/11
    7:00 am

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    Hannah said...

    My mum never disappeared. Even now, married and hours and hours away I call her daily and send texts and emails. Perhaps it’s a problem that she and her house are still the safest for me but when I am sick (right now) or tired or feeling vulnerable the only place I want to be is home with Mummie.

  • 02/06/11
    8:23 am

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    Flo said...

    The little arcs of which you [so beautifully] speak will shape themselves into a circle the day you begin calling your parents to inquire after their warmth, their comfort.

  • 02/06/11
    9:11 am

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    LP said...

    You described becoming and being a mother so well!

    There are many times I wonder if I am invisible, but then there are instances, a flash of a moment, where one of my kids will say something or do something or just give me a look, that tells me their love, that I Am their mother, that we are still as connected as when they were babes, and all is well. In that moment, even though they’ve been away for years, it’s as if I’ve been with them all along the way. Such a fulfilling, beautiful and encouraging moment.

    My own mother has complained that when sis and I come over, we go to sleep. She didn’t know how to take that. I told her it’s because we feel safe there. After being in the big bad world, all tensed up, we come home and feel so safe that we relax and fall into rest. Since she understands now, when we open our eyes we find her watching us with a sweet little smile on her face. It’s beautiful.

  • 02/06/11
    9:37 am

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    Ann said...

    WOW. I think this is why I so enjoy your blog. You often swim from the shallow to the deep end in a heartbeat.

    Mother is the most complex relationship we ever have, I think…regardless of the nature of it, it is the most complex. How could it not be? We share her body and it gives us life. How things go after that, however, is a bit of a crap shoot.

    I was so very fortunate to have a wonderful mother, but I lost her suddenly when I was just 14, she was only 40. Still, our relationship continues in its complexity. I’m not sure if her presence is so large because I lost her early, but I don’t think so…she was a strong force, went to William and Mary after the war, definitely a Sturdy Gal.

    As a single mom with my own kids, now 28 and 37, I have always been concerned that I didn’t disappear enough…that I have been such a strong, possibly intimidating presence in their lives, just because of who I am and how I’ve hacked out a life despite, not just fading, but invisible family fortunes, and other serious challenges. I worry that I’ve taken too much emotional space just because of who I am.

    Now, especially with my daughter (37) I am amazed at how much of me lives in her. We are close and as she matures and evolves I am privileged to share her thoughts and introspective process. Over and again as she describes her reality I am flooded with recognition of myself.

    This may sound trite, but the bottom line is love. I think if you do well enough and they know that you’ve loved them, children will be OK, even if their path sometimes gets ugly.

    Finally, I feel compelled to say that our society/culture is not very supportive of us mothers, despite Mother’s Day and the apple pie thing. Mostly lip service. I won’t cite statistics here, but google just about anything and it’s easy to find numbers that demonstrate how hard we are on mothers in a multiplicity of ways, across race, socioeconomic class, region, etc.

    My career has been largely about using my education and privilege to create systems for supporting mothers on the margins of society to become empowered to create a life that works for their families. In the current economy this has become close to impossible.

    For any who have the means for charitable giving, investing in organizations that empower mothers gives the best bang for the buck, in my experience.

  • 02/06/11
    4:32 pm

    Reply

    materfamilias said...

    Much to think about here, both in your post and in the many comments. Deserves more time and thought than I can muster at the moment, but I’m happy to eavesdrop, if none of you mind . . .

  • 02/06/11
    10:40 pm

    Reply

    Anon said...

    Disappearing into the structure of support is essentially what motherhood is about. Build up some scaffolding and then take it all down again.

  • 02/07/11
    4:01 am

    Reply

    EntertainingMom said...

    I have children between the ages of 5 and 12. I sit back when I can and rein them in when I have to. My 12 year old is smart and wise. She is and will be a great decision-maker. That said, of course she makes mistakes, and unless they are life altering or harmful I let her. I am in my early 40s and my parents both call continuously to ask me whether I need anything… my father still asks if I need any money.

    I had two children with the aid of drugs and my third without. I had that primal scream that could reverberated through the hospital corridors. (Was told so in fact!) Yes, it hurt… like hell. The labor and the actual delivery. I was given pitocin as after 24 hours of laboring with my third not enough was happening. A virtual tsunami was happening in my uterus. Oh it was hell.

    And you know what. I survived. It showed me that I had strength and can take on any challenge.

    Now I will not have any more children (Yes, I can assure you this!) but if I did I would certainly opt, once again, not to have the drugs.

    I do not think that giving birth naturally by choice has toughened me up though. I am a softie, a most sensitive person and mother who wears her heart on her sleeve.

    When my children are my age I too will call asking if they need anything… a bottle of wine… or some money to buy some wine ;)

  • 02/07/11
    6:12 am

    Reply

    Rhonda said...

    Lisa,

    Once again, I am late responding so my apologies. But with a wonderful post such as this, I simply must comment.

    My own relationship with my mother has been wonderful. Not that it hasn’t had it’s tense moments- sometimes we bicker like two grumpy old men on a park bench! But as I said on our last family trip together (when we were bickering)- as I grabbed her and hugged her tight- I am so very grateful to have her HERE, and that there is no one I would rather fuss with.

    There is safety there, in our relationship, a trust that I have with no one else. I know her faults and she knows mine but there is a love that is deeper and transcends all others. When I was growing up, I would be sick, or have an injury, or have a heartbreak…and she would look at me with compassionate eyes and say “I wish that it could be me, instead of you.”

    I would tell her that she was crazy- to which she would respond. When you have children of your own you will understand. And now that I do have children of my own….I understand. While I know that they *must* get sick (in order to strengthen immune systems), must suffer some heartbreak (to learn and grow up)…there will always be a part of me that wishes I could take that on for them.

    I think somehow we in America, have a misguided view of mothers. That it has to be either soft and loving OR fierce and protective. Brings to mind the recent controversy over the WSJ “tiger mom” vs “soccer mom” article.

    But for me, I have found that my fiercest strength has been kindled by the birth of my children. Things that I would have accepted or tolerated toward just myself, when viewed in the light of a future for my children…suddenedly became the impetus for needed change. So perhaps, I have indeed lost “myself” in my children. But I don’t think that in view of my new strength, that is necessarily a bad thing.

  • 02/07/11
    9:13 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Terri – We are having less dramatic growing pains, but no less of a sea change.

    Deb – Is that a quotation? I’d be curious to know where it comes from.

    Paula – The little acts become quite fraught.

    Gold digger – Aw. I love that it was the car.

    Patricia – It just seems to be a transition – I mean, we can’t go into deep freeze while they are gone and just pick right up at the return. On the other hand, they have to get used to us evolving.

    Tabitha – Oh yes. Roaring was definitely involved.

  • 02/07/11
    9:45 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Caroline – The title says it’s njwx50’s Webcam, so your guess is better than mine:).

    Lyn – What a wonderful, intelligent comment. Both in the child’s need to learn the Other, and in the paradox that one may never actually KNOW the mother, especially if she retains the role of Mother. Those two opposing forces are certainly in play, which may be what makes the territory kind of tricky.

    Jody – You are still in the mother thicket. Enjoy. Although it is So Much Work, it’s heart-engaging work and the best kind.

    SSG – So sorry for your heat wave and glad the snow pictures found a happy home. You are at an interesting age, 35, and I am very glad to hear your perspective.

    agirl – I love your relationship with your mommy. It’s just beautiful.

    DocP – Ha! That is perfect.

  • 02/07/11
    9:52 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Marcela – It appears we’re most of us going to struggle with the reconciliation of selves at some point. Maybe it’s best to get the work done sooner rather than later.

    Someone – I am sorry you did not find approval. And hope that as you grow you find a community that gives you the right home. I don’t think I found my right place until I was 40, and met a bunch of software guys. They were so open-minded and so intelligent that I could finally discuss the various threads of identity without embarrassment. I owe them.

    Stephanie – Enjoy your little ones, as I am sure you do. I wonder if they heal, in part, the loss of your mother. Or whether that was too big for anything to address.

    Town and Country – Oh! I love that.

    Kris – And I can hope that a mom is a mom to girls too, forever:).

    Sarah – You too, with the webcam? :) You are welcome, and thank you.

  • 02/07/11
    10:01 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Staircase – I would absolutely hate to make my daughter crazy. And yet, I imagine, sometimes I do. I think it’s because of the conflict between being a mother and being an authentic person. Your mother sounds less prone to manage herself than I am. But it’s just not easy, no matter how hard we work at it all, no matter our good intentions.

    Loretta – Aw. Physical comforts do become such a mechanism to provide comfort.

    Madeline – Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.

    Elizabeth – Yes. The comments here are always the best part. I know the days with small children could seem endless. But when they are gone they are so wholly gone. Try and imprint those moments now, so you can take them out like beads, later, and run them through your fingers.

    Deb – Even in the mid-thirties. Thank you for the voice from my future.

    hostess – I admit, I hope they move to my part of the world. I WISH I could only remember the pain from the point of delivery:).

  • 02/07/11
    10:09 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Lori – I know the worrying is a sign that you probably ARE a great mother. But I also feel that these days when we all read so much and try so hard may be counterproductive. Trusting our instincts, which is so hard to do, as long as we can do it with confidence, may turn out to be just as good as trying a lot. I think refinding a professional self, if you can remain very available to snuggle and comfort, is a good thing.

    Slater – Aw. That is so cute. And your response so loving.

    Preppy 101 – Thank you very much. I have this wild idea that maybe we should all just decide we were great, wonderful, fabulous moms, that our parenting skills were top-notch, and act accordingly. Guilt free.

    Karen – They practice making their own decisions. I think it’s a good thing:).

    Emily – Thank you for sticking around, and early congratulations on your future graduation. Good for you and your parents for being able to manage it debt-free. And lucky parents that you plan to move close to home.

    Cate – Me too:).

  • 02/07/11
    10:47 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Duchesse – I live in Northern California, which is a hotbed of things natural. I read a lot, and the literature indicated that epidurals led to a higher rate of C-sections. That said, I vowed had I had a 3rd child, I’d go with drugs. And that said, probably I’d have felt obliged to repeat my practices, simply because both kids were such great growers and developers.

    Karen – Your story makes everything so clear. You didn’t have the luxury of disappearing, and it sounds as though for your relationships with the kids, that was all to the good. I understand that Mom should always be the default position, and these comments are helping me formulate my evolving approach. Thank you.

    Belle – Ha! At least we can speak from experience:).

    Lori – You, of anyone I’m familiar with, has submerged most deeply into motherhood. So I’m very interested to see the way that even though you still have littles at home, you have been trying to find some time and space for yourself. I wonder if the mother’s desire to differentiate is as much due to our age and bodies as it is to just who is at home.

    Hannah – Aw. She must love it.

    Flo – Thank you. I do enquire after my own parents now. And my children enquire after me, asking me how am I doing? The question is always at what level to answer to meet the forces of becoming the Other and remaining the Mother.

  • 02/07/11
    5:42 pm

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    Cybill said...

    My youngest child is 7 and I still haven’t managed to put myself together again (as you so beautifully put it) I don’t even know where to start.

    02/08/11
    3:14 pm
    Lisa said...

    Thank you very much.

  • 02/07/11
    6:18 pm

    Reply

    Your Southern Peach said...

    The old Irish saying comes to mind “A son is a son till he takes him a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life”

    I know that as a daughter, I will always have my mother right by my side, as long as I am so lucky. I speak to her daily and see her several times a week. At the age of 31, I finally realized that yes, “Mother IS always right!” (And I have confessed that to her.) I feel blessed she is such a big part of my son’s lives now.

    However, I am already preparing myself that one day, my sons (only 4 and 10 months) will leave me for another woman :) And I will have to smile and like it nonetheless!

    02/08/11
    3:14 pm
    Lisa said...

    Your sons may surprise you:). Just make sure they pick spouses in your neck of the woods…

  • 02/08/11
    3:13 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    LP – That is lovely, you two sleeping and your mother watching. My kids are wonderful about showing affection. And writing this post has made me think about how I believe they do respect my expertise in places where I have it. It’s not about the kids, it’s me. I just have to integrate as much of my self into my mothering as makes sense now that they are grown. Figuring out how is tough.

    Ann – I thank you very much. I suppose I hadn’t thought of it, but you are right. Motherhood by its very nature is going to be the most complex relationship. The early reality is so different from the mature reality. And for you, having lost your own mother, then raising children as a single mother, and also working to support mothers in society – I think maybe you should write a book. We could all use a good one.

    Mater – Eavesdrop away. No need to comment. I know you have a lot of thoughts. There’s lots of time.

    Anon – And building it was so all-encompassing, taking it down complex but less involving.

    EntertainingMom – Tsunami! Oh my gosh. My doctor had to ask me to quiet down. I did once he told me it wasn’t good for the baby:), but only then.

    Rhonda – Thank you. Your mom sounds wonderful. And the two of you so well matched, both strong. I sense you haven’t lost yourself, and the voice is heartening.

  • 02/08/11
    5:03 pm

    Reply

    Joan Hughes said...

    Thank you Lisa, for this post. So well written, expressing sentiments I completely relate to. Two kids, late teens and early twenties, born without drugs because I felt the pain was important to transition to motherhood. And then losing yourself (in a good way) to mothering them. I returned to work when they were very young, just part time and counted on my own mother for help, which she was always willing to do. Being about the same age as you, I understand the push and pull of these years with the almost grown children. A heartfelt post and comments….

    02/11/11
    9:54 am
    Lisa said...

    It must have been hugely reassuring that your mom could step in for you. Best of both worlds, really, in that you developed your own identity and still kept the kids close to you through your mom.

  • 02/09/11
    6:02 pm

    Reply

    Buckeroomama said...

    I so love reading these kinds of posts from you.

    My mom was never a stay-at-home mom and she, being the rather social person she is, had plenty of activities outside of motherhood. She was active in this and that and she would take me with her, so that I felt “involved,” too. I love that about her. Her definition of motherhood was never the typical tending to the basics (my grandparents did that). I think I’ve mentioned before that I want to be just like her when I grow up. :) Circumstances are different, though (I work from home) and I’m a little bit more involved with the ‘basics,’ but yes, I would love for my kids to feel the way about me the way I feel about my mom. :)

    02/11/11
    9:55 am
    Lisa said...

    Thank you. I know the Chinese system has always been for grandparents to care for small children, and the parents to work more gainfully. It makes a lot of sense, really. How wonderful that you want to be just like your mom. I can’t imagine anything that could feel better for her.

  • 02/13/11
    11:21 am

    Reply

    V said...

    I miss my mother who is hundreds of miles away. I am engaged to a man who has always lived close to his family, and sometimes, irrationally, it bothers me that I spend more time with his family than my own. Because it’s not a choice between them, really. And while I know this logically, emotionally it pinches that my mother who loves me just as much as his mother loves him gets to see me far less.

    In choosing to pursue the highest degree I thought I was acting as an extension of my mother- that maybe by doing the things she couldn’t, I would be her agent of change. After working on my doctorate far from home, I realized academia would change me instead, to something cold, with alien priorities. It was already starting to.

    So I’m abandoning the PhD, finishing my Master of Science, and looking into medical programs that will bring me closer to home. Geographically, emotionally- it makes sense to care more about people than publications. At 18 I thought we needed at least a Great Lake between us, and only seven years later I would love to see her every week.

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