Every year when Mother’s Day rolls around, I start to feel edgy.
Make no mistake, I’m a mother, and have been for 12 and a half years.
But there’s something about this Hallmark holiday that makes me feel inauthentic.
The thing is this: 12, nearly 13 years ago, I gave birth to the world’s coolest, kindest kid. He’s smart and talented and good, and is genuinely funny in way kids and adults appreciate.
But at this time of the year, images of mothers are everywhere I look, and none of them look like me.
Commercial motherhood, the kind that’s peddled on cards and by diamond dealers, would have you believe that motherhood is soft and fuzzy. The media wants us to think that procreating softens women, gentles us, and rounds our sharp corners. Dare I say, motherhood is supposed to tame us?
Yet, somehow the opposite happened to me.
I was married to my son’s father when he was born – a situation that now feels as distant as it seems improbable. And two years later, I found myself confronting my own sexual orientation.
I’ll save my whole coming out story for another time. There wasn’t another woman in the story, at least in any concrete sense. But suffice to say, there was therapy and tears, the support of loving friends, and more tears. My son’s dad moved out, and we went on with our lives.
I didn’t surprise anyone. I certainly didn’t surprise my parents who told me later they had always thought I might be gay and would figure it out myself someday.
My ex-husband claimed he wasn’t surprised, (but became vindictive and followed legal routes to exact his revenge, resulting in me paying him support).
I don’t think becoming a mother and coming out as a lesbian are tied together in any biological sense. However, I can say without hesitation that motherhood changed me in ways I didn’t expect.
I didn’t get soft and fuzzy. I didn’t start wearing pastels and grow a ponytail.
Instead I got a little fierce.
I wore lots of black and got tattooed. I buzzed my hair off.
I’d never been very athletic, but after I gave birth I felt like Super Woman. I had a confidence in my physical self I’d never felt before. I started kayaking and roller-blading, both miles at a time. I took some rock climbing lessons at an indoor rock gym and climbed at Joshua Tree and in Arizona. I started taking yoga. Somewhere in all this, I found the space to consider my sexuality for the first time in my life.
Motherhood taught me to trust myself.
This isn’t something that’s supposed to happen. Everything – from birth books to parenting magazines to media images of motherhood – is set up to make us question ourselves in every way.
And yet it didn’t work that way for me.
I’m not saying I didn’t read the literature – I did.
But I realized instinctively I didn’t need to buy into everything I read. In fact, the worst gift anyone ever gave me was a copy of Mothering magazine.
Mothering is the magazine of alternative parenting. It features articles like “Can jelly, make organic baby food, homemade lip balm, and chemical-free hair dye – all from the same batch of wild-harvested berries”.
I had a baby and was working full time. We were juggling a two-parent schedule that allowed us to both work without using childcare, and frankly, there wasn’t time to fold a cloth diaper, let alone properly wash one. I started throwing the magazine out the moment it arrived in the mail.
To this day, I still make a rude gesture at the cover of Mothering every time I see it on the rack at Whole Foods.
I got a little fierce and I’ve stayed fierce.
One of my good friends has a baby that is almost a year old. We talked the other day, and she said she had expected this first year to be different. She doesn’t feel the way she thought she would.
“How so?” I asked.
She said she felt edgy and a little impatient. “Not with the baby,” she said. “Just with everyone else. I don’t have time for their nonsense. And everyone expects me to be different.”
I told her about flipping off Mothering magazine and she laughed out loud.
“That makes me feel so much better,” she said. “I’m starting to hate that fucking magazine.”
Apparently I wasn’t the only one motherhood made fierce.