Tuesday, May 10

On Defining Motherhood (spoiler: you really sort of can't)

"Whenever career counselors try to parlay child-rearing experience into marketable job skills, what they typically come up with are administrative functions, like appointment making and record keeping... They completely overlook the far more specialized skill set moms acquire over the course of those years... By the time our kids head off to college, we are show business veterans, having produced, directed, and starred in such classics as "Christmas," "Halloween," "Birthday Party," and other holiday extravaganzas for eighteen consecutive years, at breathless tempo. Motherhood isn't a desk job. It's vaudeville."

Those words are borrowed today from my friend Kyran Pittman's new memoir, Planting Dandelions: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life.

So often, motherhood is relegated to cutesy, tongue-in-cheek job titles (I've been guilty of doing this, too): Chauffeur, Booty-wiper, Executive Chef, Giver-of-Kisses, Chief Operating Officer. (Ok, I've never called myself a COO. In this house, coo means something totally different.)
Alternately, some women swoon over motherhood as if it were on par with the Second Coming of the Messiah. They idealize motherhood, they romanticize it, they swell it up to Hindenburg proportions, and we all know what happened there.
Or worse, motherhood is just that thing that happens to you after a guy's pee-pee has come in contact with your coo-coo.
This is very close to the tattoo I got after The Boy was born.
It's a Celtic symbol of motherhood.

There is no way to pin down What Motherhood Means. If there were, we'd all be doing it right by now, and it would be a heck of a lot easier to do. It's been said (over and over and over) that life doesn't come with operating instructions. Except, it does. There are, literally, bajillions of blogs, books, videos, seminars, and mothers-in-law that are eager to tell you exactly how to do motherhood, and equally as eager to tell you how you're doing it wrong.

For me and for so many incredible, and incredibly lost, mothers I know, we learn as we go. We read our own mother's worn copy of Dr. Sears' baby book to home-diagnose colic. We read Annie Lamott's Operating Instructions, so that we know we aren't the first or only mothers who have come thisclose to falling over the edge- or jumping off of it. We consult pastors, girlfriends, pediatricians, bartenders, and even our husbands, to find exactly what mix of child-rearing philosophies we want to claim as our own.

And then... we make like Nike and just do it.

When it comes down to it, each of us blaze our own paths through the wilds of motherhood. We mark the trail so we know what to look for when the second kid comes along. We may never fully pave the path through the woods- because there is always beauty in the wildness. There might be some back-tracking, there may be some scary bears that leap out of their caves, and sometimes we just have to stop blazing and set up camp for a few months. Or years.
Eventually we come out on the other side, or come to a lovely, sun-lit clearing, and we admire the view.

*You owe it to yourself, this week after Mother's Day to buy Kyran's book. Planting Dandelions is a searingly honest look at motherhood through a magnifying glass, trained on one woman's patch of earth. It's beautiful, and beautifully written. I highlighted just about every other sentence to remember, to come back to when I feel like I'm completely turned around. Go on. It sure beats that Starbucks giftcard you got on Sunday, and it'll last longer, too.


  1. Love this. I just added it to my reading list. And you are right, while there is no way to pin down what Motherhood means, we sure have tried.

  2. Love this. I just added it to my reading list. And you are right, while there is no way to pin down what Motherhood means, we sure have tried.


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