Saturday, January 23, 2010

Am I a mother?
part 1 ?

32 weeks

This time around, being pregnant and anticipating becoming a mother has led me to a lot more existential thinking than the first time when I was 21. It could very well have to do with age, it being 9 years later and all, but I think it has more to do with the community that we've been a part of for most of those 9 years and the understanding I have that God does not just require of us to consider our spiritual existential beliefs, but our existential beliefs in all areas of our lives.

For me to be a good parent, I want to consider the potential reasons behind a decision we make that will affect our child and I want to look to the future and begin to understand now how our relationship with him and with one another will change, prior to the change just happening to us. I want to be an active participant in the changes.

This in no way means I want to control everything or anything crazy like that, I just think there is some wisdom in critically thinking about things. I mean, right? Common sense, no?

One of the things I've considered for a long time is the idea of losing myself when I become a mother, which led me to consider when is the moment I become a mother, as in when exactly does this happen? For some women I think this takes place the moment they find out they're pregnant. I am going to make an argument against this (which I began in a previous post 'deep thoughts, beware'), because it was obvious by my thoughts about 'losing myself' that I did not consider myself someone's mother yet, so I had to ask myself why and when.

1. Is the role of life source the role of a mother?

It is true, I am a life source for my son. I nourish him, I create a healthy environment for him to grow and thrive, I play a huge role in how his development occurs. But is this the role of a mother or not? Personally, I would rather look at this time a little differently.

For me to eat a healthy diet, and to make certain that I am consuming or supplementing the appropriate vitamins etc, may have something to do with growing another human - he needs more of or a different variety to grow - but it should not be the only reason I do this. I should do this for myself, to be a healthy human. But does doing this for his growth now fall under the category of being his mother? Or does it simply fall under the category of being an incubator?

For me this argument can be carried throughout decisions I seem to have made simply because I am pregnant, but they are because I am a life source, not because I am a mother.

Mostly I lean toward this argument because of something I've previously expressed. The bond of parent and child is essential, but the insane need for us all (me, Andy & boy) to be individuals is much greater (or I believe it should be, it is healthier for all parties). If I am not an individual or don't have a healthy self worth than how can I expect my son to? If I am not responsible for my actions or accountable for them because I can blame it on something (example: I'm a mother, I don't have time to take care of myself etc) then how does this teach my son that he is accountable and responsible for his actions?

This all brings me back to the idea that I am not someone's mother yet. There is no learning going on between my actions now and my son, I am not teaching him anything. But when he is born, that's exactly what will be happening. And in return he will help inform me of how to be his mother once he is here and interacting with me. I can think of nothing better than raising a son based on who he is rather than on my expectations of him.

Sure it's possible that one day he'll know (from me) about how his life began and what I did to help him grow, but if this is where I "begin" our relationship then it is purely a selfish act.

Obviously, this is not a closed discussion nor is it over, but I'd love to hear feedback, especially from all my young mother friends, and perhaps even more so from my friends who are not mothers as I think you may be able to lend an opinion from an outside perspective.


sufferingsummer said...

This is interesting and leaves me with things to think on. I don't have time to think on them all now but I will. I just wanted to say this line:

"I can think of nothing better than raising a son based on who he is rather than on my expectations of him."

I think sums up a lot of how i approach mothering and I applaud you for giving your son that freedom. Though I do think a few healthy expectations are not a bad thing either...but that is a long drawn out dialogue in itself.

The critical thinking, though I agree seems like it should be common sense, just isn't for a lot of people. I'm so thankful for that community you speak of and the way it has pushed the thinking. I think intentionally parenting like that is wise.

I too would be interested to hear what other people, especially non parents, think about the idea of when mothering begins...I'm curious to follow comments and future posts. These are such mundane and yet complex and weighty issues.

Stancie said...

Hi Meg,

As you probably know, I do not have children. I thought I'd give my two cents since I assume you'll likely get it from parents.

This is an interesting topic! I think there is a difference between being a mother and mothering, but that you can technically be someone's mother without mothering them. The first thing I thought about when reading your post was about adoption. Women who are pregnant with and responsible for the little life they carry - yet will not keep their baby are indeed mothers, though biological ones; but they will not be mothering the child after birth. And the woman who adopts a baby/child will become their mother when they begin mothering them and are responsible for caring for them after birth.

While I think both types are technically "mothers" with different roles and purposes - the one who raises, nurtures, teaches and loves a child is "the mother" of that child.

For someone who plays both roles (most women), I think the role and definition of "mother" takes on different meaning and responsibility once pregnancy ends and raising the child begins (mothering). So, while I think that a pregnant woman is "technically" a mother as soon as she conceives, I believe she "officially" becomes a (mothering) mother after she delivers and cares for and loves the child.

And that's my $.02 :)

meg said...

Stancie - I love your description and it goes along so well with the blog, Am I am mother? Part 2 that I put up, but I think your definition of mothering verses being a mother is so right on. I'm going to repost it in my Part 3 if that's alright, because it is very close to the distinction I am trying to describe.

Stancie said...

Sure, you can repost! I'm enjoying following your blog. The fact that you are even wrestling with and interesting about these topics and issues about parenting means you will be a thoughtful and informed mother. I admire this so much more than I do a "let's wing it and hope it works out" philosophy. Parenting is a huge responsibility, something I don't believe should be taken lightly. Intentional and conscious parenting is something the world needs more of and I applaud your questions and information-seeking approach to it. Many congrats on your pregnancy and your transition to motherhood :)

meg said...

Stancie - Thanks for reading and participating. Your insights have been very helpful.

I had as a status update on FB last night that I was researching crib mattresses, circumcision, placenta encapsulation and natural cold remedies, and people commented back that their kids survived without the internet and that I shouldn't worry because instinct will kick in.

This to me is silly. If I'm naive about something then I'm naive, but if I know there is information or varied opinions on a subject, then how can I just ignore it and go on pretending that I'm naive?

I'm a student at heart I suppose and when I'm educated on a subject, I just can't justify keeping it to myself. And I find that when a discussion is open I learn a lot more from other smart people, so it's a win win.

Stancie said...

Hi Meg,

I saw your FB update and almost commented about the "I didn't have the internet and my kids are fine" comment, but refrained. I keep my thoughts to myself most of the time when it comes to parenting topics since I don't have kids but that doesn't mean I don't have opinions :)

I am not a parent by choice but haven't completely ruled it out either. The decision to become a parent comes with enormous responsibility that I take very seriously. I totally agree with you and feel like I would be the same way. If the info is available and accessible, why not seek it out and be informed in order to make the best possible decisions for yourself and your child?!

I think my desire for more information is also the researcher in me. If I'm interested in a topic I want to learn about it from all angles so I can make informed and educated decisions.

I look forward to reading Part 2 and 3!


meg said...

S- exactly! The decision to not be parents until now was our choice also and we did not take making the decision lightly. It was a 2 1/2 year process until we ended up deciding to try to have a child.

Aaand. We're already rattling a lot of feathers with the statement, 'we're having one' (since people can't seem to get over asking when we're having our second!)

My thought is that we're ready for one, we've decided on one and I'm not going any further than that right now, luckily God only gave us one too :-)

Part 2 is up now and 3 will come shortly.

Stancie said...

Hey Meg,

Haha! "we're already rattling a lot of feathers...about having one" - made me laugh. We used to rattle feathers and people used to always ask us when we're having kids but most have given up by now. We still get deer-in-the-headlights looks when we reply with "we don't know if we're having kids, we might not". People just don't get it and/or can't fathom that reality and I can understand that, especially since we could technically have a child who would be graduating from high school this year! Ha - what a strange thought!

We feel as though we need to be 100% committed to such a decision before/if we decide to make it and we're not there yet, and we may never be. But we're not ruling it out either ("never say never").

Its nice to find a like-mind on this subject, they are few and far between :) And kudos to both of you for really taking time to weigh the decision and agree that it was the right one for you!


meg said...

How long have you and Adam been married?
And how long have you been together?

We're coming up on our 10th anniversary and for years decided it was maybe better for the people in our life to just hear us say, "we're not planning on having kids, but we're not ruling it out...but we're not planning it anytime soon..." haha

People eventually stopped asking and I think began to see it as normal, at least that it was normal for us.

I just couldn't get behind the idea that the reason I'm on earth is to be a mother...and that is what I think has led me to this whole mother discussion. I will not define myself solely on the fact that I am someone's mother. I just can't. It isn't fair to my husband and it isn't fair to me, and I don't think it's fair to my child either.

Like minded is right. I've found people just assume we're too selfish to become parents and that's the only reason we weren't for so long. We take this decision SO much more seriously than simple childish selfishness.

Great to talk with you about this, I'm glad someone sees where I'm coming from and isn't just offended :-)

Stancie said...

Adam & I have been together for 18 years!! Crazy, huh?! I would have had to get pregnant at 14 (how old I was when we got together) to have a 18 year old right now, but I digress...

We've been married for 13 years and we still love (and like) each other - a lot!

What you used to say to people is exactly what we say now! It is normal for us, but I think our decision is very confusing/mysterious to most. I agree, most people think people who don't have kids are very selfish people, and while that may be true for some I don't believe I am a selfish person at all, nor is Adam. One of our own parents started to say that another couple didn't want kids because they were really selfish and then stopped short of ending the sentence because they realized they were generalizing and would also be lumping us into the same category. They know we are not selfish people but its definitely a generality that most make.

I am right there right you. I also struggle with the idea of my sole purpose in life being that of a mother, and I know that hurts mothers that have chosen that path and who can think of nothing better or more rewarding. I usually don't talk about it because I don't want to hurt mothers feelings, but its how I feel (personally). It offends because they feel like I am referring to them and consider it a personal attack when it has everything to do with me and my personal feelings as a human and a woman.

It is said that motherhood is one of the most important jobs, and while I agree - I also can't envision it being my only purpose. I feel like I have more to offer, skills and interests that don't fit into a parental category, nor would I want that role to completely define me. Ad & I put tremendous importance on being a parent and what that role means, which is why it is not an easy decision nor one we feel like we can commit to at this point in time. And I believe if you don't have the desire to be fully invested in the responsibility or realize the enormity of the parental role then you shouldn't make the decision to do it (become parents).

Note: I realize that one cannot truly grasp the enormity of the role until actively experiencing the role, but I think many don't really give it much thought before pregnancy and/or birth.

If a woman wants nothing more than to be a mother, then she should do it - but I also think its healthy to have other interests and to figure out who you are as a person. I know and have seen many women lose themselves to motherhood (young and old) and I think this is where loss-of-self and/or depression can creep in.

I feel like struggling with these issues prove that we are not selfish people, in fact it speaks volumes to the contrary. I do believe it would be entirely selfish to go ahead and create a child just to conform to societal norms, without a complete desire to do it.

If/when we become parents we want to be fully invested, committed to the role, as informed as possible and be the best parents we can be. That is why I commend you and think all your thought-provoking questions and thirst for knowledge is absolutely wonderful!! I envision myself doing the same things and having the same thoughts if I was going through this process and anticipating a little one. :)


meg said...

18 years! Much congrats :-)

I super happy to know someone that 'gets' where we were for so long, and how much it took for us to get where we are...and thanks for the support on the whole education/research thing.

Stancie said...

Thank you + you're very welcome :)

meg said...

thank YOU, for real.