I've had work done

Did you notice?  Or is it so subtle that you just think my hair looks particularly great?

When I started this blog, I was in a haze of anticipatory grief.  My Oldest had applied to college and would soon be flying the coop.  Middle was already in high school, for God’s sake.  Youngest was rapidly approaching the uber-milestone of his thirteen birthday.  There was no way around it.  My gig as a full-time, non-working-for-pay, consumed-with-the-minutia-like-Emily-Dickinson-minus-the-agoraphobia mother was coming to an end.  Fast. 

That’s why I named my blog, The End of Motherhood.

I figured I would use the blog to track my experiences in the waning days of motherhood.  I wanted to meditate on what the loss felt like, on what happened when the singular focus I brought to the task was no longer needed and on how my self-definition would change now that mother wasn’t necessarily in first position anymore.  It would also give me the opportunity to look back over the past eighteen years, to give form to the vagaries of memory, to clarify my ideas about mothering and to pass on a little of what I feel I have learned.

All that seems to be working.

But the more I write, the clearer it becomes that one thing is not working.

The title.  The title is not working.

Much to my chagrin, I know now that the title is not true.

There is no end of motherhood.  Motherhood is not going to end for me until I end.

What was I thinking?

Well, have you ever been in a relationship that you knew was going south and so you dumped the person before they could dump you?

That’s what I was doing with the title.

When I look back, I think I was so worried about the loss of my role as a mother, so fearful of what the future would be like without this all-consuming, life-affirming, meaning-making task, that I just couldn’t bear it.  I decided to call out “Game Over” rather than endure the loss, the uncertainty and the wondering “what now?”

But in talking this over with a really great group of women I know, I realized that I don’t need to toss the title completely. I am going to keep it in honor of the piece of motherhood that is ending. 

And, to honor the part that is next, the Everest of not-knowing that looms ahead, I am going to add a question mark.


13 thoughts on “I've had work done

  1. What I love about the changing title is that it reflects the changing nature of the perspective on where you (or where we) are at any given moment. The certainty of last year’s loss into the certainty of not knowing what comes next.

  2. Just two days ago I called my mommy crying and begged her to come and get me and to solve all my problems. She couldn’t, of course, but she came and dried my tears and pulled me on to her soft lap that is home and I stopped crying and got back to the work of solving the problem. My mom is eighty years old and I am a wopping 41. Change your title!

  3. Yep. Motherhood never ends. In fact, during college I had one or two doozies during which my parents’ presence and support were even more important than anything they ever did while I was still “in the nest.” Of course, the relationship does need to change, because if one party is resistant to change (most often, if not always, the parents), then they may end up alienating their adult child. This is a lesson I’ve lived and I hope to use to engender a better, closer relationship with my girls as they grow up and out.
    But sometimes you wish they’d still fit in your lap for a good long snuggle! *sigh*

  4. nada, yes, one of the things I really enjoy about blogging is that it feels like such a fluid process and can be reflective of, as you say, the changing nature of perspective.
    slouching mom, I haven’t thought of it that way before, but it is indeed a craft.
    nutmeg, welcome and I’m glad your mom is still taking good care of you.
    Imperatrix, Mine so do not fit in my lap anymore, but I still grab a snuggle when I can.

  5. Maybe try thinking of the title in terms of the alternate meaning of “end” – i.e. goal or purpose (as in “the ends justify the means”). Instead of having reached the conclusion/finish/ending of motherhood, you are only now fully realizing its goal and purpose: launching your children towards independence AND retaining that cord of unbreakable connection, that thing that makes their independence possible because they know they have a place to land. (I landed there once, returned home when I was 27 and my life was in ruins, and started rebuilding – I can still appreciate what a soft landing it was.)

  6. bubandpie, thanks. I LOVE your idea of seeing the word “end” differently. It’s a very timely suggestion too because now that I know that motherhood doesn’t end as in finish, I don’t have much to say about that. Luckily, though I have plenty to say about its goals and purposes.

  7. I guesss I kind of appreciate the thought. But, I have to say that, to me, it rings totally hollow. And, honestly, it is one of the most painful things you can say to someone mourning the loss of motherhood.
    For me, a mother is a person who has living children. A women whose children are dead is, well, a woman whose children are dead. She was a mother. But not any more.
    I know you mean well, but this falls in the category of things that you just shouldn’t say (kind of like “You’re still young, you can have another,” or “It’s all part of G-d’s plan.”)
    You wrote a very touching post about death. But this makes it sound as though you don’t understand what death can mean. Perhaps love outlasts death. Motherhood, at least for me, does not.
    If I don’t view myself as a mother anymore, I think it’s, well, wrong (and extremely painful), for someone else — especially someone whose children are alive — to tell me I am. Please, do me a huge favor, and don’t use that line on any other women who have lost their children. Unless you’re absolutely sure that they still think of themselves that way.
    Anyway, I don’t mean to interrupt the conversation. When I saw the title of your blog, I — understandably — thought it was about something else entirely.

  8. niobe, I’m sorry that idea felt painful and insensitive to you. I am sorry for your loss and for contributing to your pain in any way. I don’t know the details of your situation, though to be sure I noticed the name of your site, deadbabyjokes. But to me, it is not a platitude, not something to say to deny the experience of loss in another (though it sounds like it felt that way to you). To me, there are the work and acts of motherhood – the actual caretaking of the present other. This of course does not continue once the child is dead. But then there is the being of motherhood – the way doing the work and acts changes the mother’s sense of who she is. I don’t think that being is dependent on the existence of a present other. It is part of the mother herself. So you are right, to me, motherhood is indeed like love and it does not die.

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