The tragedy of being a mother

rhubarb-pie-ck-630152-xlMother’s Day.


A day that stems from commercialism—all those smarmy cards, the overpriced bouquets, the sold-out brunches. Although the sentiment is nice—celebrate our mothers. Celebrate motherhood. Celebrate the often thankless task that comes from being a human with the miraculous ability to procreate.

Here’s my take on motherhood. It’s an honor—a privilege—to care for another human being. My two children are the diamonds that flank my emerald. I would die—and kill—to insure their safety. My task as a mother changes as they age. Their birth entails their feeding and swaddling and changing and burping. By toddler-hood, we give them their first nudges from the nest: bikes with training wheels, kindergarten, play dates. We let them fall, then pick them up and reassure them although life is scary, they will survive.

To those newbie mothers of infants and toddlers, don’t believe anyone who says that children ‘get easier’ once they hit their teens. Yes, there are no dirty diapers and no strollers—teens can feed and clean themselves. But the heart gets involved in unfathomable ways, and your children will break that vessel again and again.

As my heart has broken.

Yet we are lucky, us mothers, because our hearts are as neuroplastic as our brains. Our heartbreaks mend, and sometimes those rents heal to make our hearts–and our relationships with our heartbreakers–ever stronger.

This day, my motherhood rests on a cusp. Both children live with me, both children will move with me to Baltimore. Both children are on the edge of jumping from their nests into college, serious relationships with others, jobs. I am less needed (though, I hope, not less loved).

From the day a child is born, the job of any mother—of any parent—is to move that child to independence. It is a tragedy to be a mother, because just as your child understands you and you understand your child, she is gone, being herself, perhaps being a mother.

So I watch my children from a slightly greater distance than a year ago. A distance that provides objectivity to observe my children as humans, and a distance that also protects my grieving heart.

Today is any other day. I will schlep my youngest child to various places, pick up another from the tire shop. I will grocery shop. I will walk my dog in the rain.

But I will mark this mother thing in one way–I will bake a rhubarb pie. Rhubarb is one thing I love, and that my mother loved (I’ve written about rhubarb and my mom here), and in making that pie I will commemorate myself and my mother for the love and heartache of our jobs.