Relationships

My Soul is on Fire, Walker Ladd, Ph.D.

My soul is on fire
in another room,
in another house,
across town,
in a neighborhood where I never go.

My soul is on fire over there;
put in a place where it is safe to burn…
away from the children.

My soul goes there every weekend.
So Friday through Sunday it stays there,
out of my body. Invisible.

What would it take dear Lord to bring it back?
To house it in this hollow chest?
How would it feel inside my ribs? Would I dance? Paint?
Grow breasts where the scars sit? Would I finally feel like me?

Because I am withering here, dear Lord; I am dithering here, dear Lord.
Only motherhood keeps me moored here, dear Lord.
Decay
Disease
Decline
Divorce
Depression

Parts of me rot and float away,
every Friday through Sunday.

I wasn’t done with the memories of
toddlers snuggling
and babies loving.
I wasn’t done with the
scent of my children growing.

On weekends, the smallest flash of a memory of those babies
dissolves my bones down to where
I live now.
Here now.

Here is me, dismembered from
that which ignites me into being,
sparks me into feeling.
Cut off from twenty years
Every Friday through Sunday.

My soul is on fire
in another room,
in another house,
across town,
in a neighborhood
where I never go.

Anti-moms

We all probably have one or two in our lives. The co-worker, family member, colleague or friend who is… an anti-mom.

She tends to be present at the water cooler, office party, or holiday dinner, waxing on and on about how perfectly wonderful it is to not have children precisely when we are in ear-shot. They think we don’t notice this passive aggressive bullshit they spew, but we do. We hear every word. We see every eye rolled. We feel the air move with the whoosh of air as they exit the room with click clack of heels we could no longer wear since pregnancy edema changed the architecture of our feet.

Yea, anti-moms….we feel ya. And I’m calling a feminist foul on these soul suckers. We don’t rain on your ‘choice’ parade, now check yourself and your implicit bias against mothers, and listen.

Perhaps, like the history of patriarchy dating back to the Ancient Greek physicians who planted the seed of Western Civilization preceding you (Yes, I mean you Hippocrates) you think that growing both a human and an entirely novel organ to feed that human, gestating that human and then getting said human and the organ out of our wombs is a dereliction of cognitive function. Ladies in this category can go toot suite to Google and enter “wandering womb”… and stay there a while. Soak it in. Let the legacy of leeches and hysteria sink in. And think of your own mother and the mothers of mothers before her who were involuntarily sent down this power over pipeline of mistrust and medical malfeasance. What atrocious invasions did they endure? How many did not choose to be mothers at all? They were forced.

How moms experience stigma for being mothers in the context of non-mothers includes being submitted to macro and micro aggressive behavior on a daily basis.

Macro-mommy aggressive behaviors tend toward the obvious bomb drops in social conversation. Some examples:

  • When you say you are glad you don’t have children right after I mention mine.
  • When you mention, without having been asked, how much you hate babies.
  • When you share, out loud and unprompted, how you chose to not have children so that you could pursue your career.
  • When you say you are glad childbirth never ruined your figure, or your vagina.

Micro-mommy aggressive behaviors, only slightly less obvious to the anti-mom performing them yet equally offensive might include:

  • Comments like,”Glad it’s you and not me”; “You only have 13 years more of that to look forward to”; or “I have the summer free!”
  • When you serially fail to ask about your friend’s or colleague’s children or grandchildren. They are integral parts of our lives and productivity. If you want us to be interested in your life, and the shitty project you just dumped in our inbox? Try to be interested in ours. Fake it; we do it all the time.
  • When you ignore conversations about children in the workplace. If you feel excluded, find a kind way to say it and stay engaged with us. We are usually too sleep deprived to remember to change our underwear, much less how we might hurt your feelings in the lunch room.
  • When you pretend you are better off, freer, smarter perhaps, further along in your career because you chose to not have children. That’s just mean.
  • When you default to a relationship you think you have with a child in your life who is not your own. Just don’t. It’s not anything remotely close to the same thing.
  • When you say you are going to bake all weekend with homemade preserves. Really?

Look, I’m not asking you to put the baby to your tit, take time off to pick the sick kid up from school and clean up the puke in the car after you barely make it to the pediatrician. I’m not asking you to endure a leaking bladder or kiss your days of looking good naked goodbye. I’m not asking you to take more time off to attend the 450th ILP meeting with a twenty-something who can’t pronounce your last name, much less help your kid. I don’t need you to go to the parent teacher conferences, school plays, or graduations with an ex-husband who is screwing someone you know, or to accept the egregious humiliation of applying for a job after you have been out of the job market for a decade. You don’t need to choose between orthodontics or a kid’s college fund. College fund or retirement. Health insurance for yourself or your kids.

I don’t ask you to know anything about motherhood. I do, however, ask that you at the minimum learn that when you acknowledge me, you are acknowledging a mother. Respect that.  There is a qualitative difference. We respect and yes at times envy your choices. But we don’t get a do-over on ours. We are hauled out of our selves by a being with the power of a freight train when we become moms. Intended or unintended pregnancies.

Know that the decisions we make are always based first and always in caring for children. It is a reflex. Know that we never feel relaxed. Ever. Know that we are always exhausted. Always. Know that we want to go to Happy Hour more than you could imagine but will be judged negatively if we leave kids at day care to go or drink too much when we are there.

Know that your behavior is noted, at times hurtful and never helpful. I promise we won’t ask you to babysit.