You know what turns you into a sniveling, driveling idiot? Anything that your kid does. Like ANYTHING. This, I never expected.
People used to talk to me about their kids and I was like, great, who cares, and then BAM a baby shoots out of you and all of a sudden you are describing what their poo colour and texture looks like to anyone who will listen. I actually kinda like when I speak to older women who have adult kids in their 30s and 40s whose eyes literally glaze over when I talk to them about my daughter. They are like, sister, better you than me. At work I find myself wanting to talk about her always partly because raising a child takes up so much of your damn life and partly because I am always just so damn proud of her. Literally, proud of her for existing. She need not do anything else with her life, I'm good. Particularly when she does stuff like blame her farts on one of the cats or hold a cup of water without spilling it, I don't care what she does with the rest of her life. I am satisfied with the fruit of my loins and can die smugly.
This is the unexpected bit of parenting - and I assume why some maniacs have more than one child - they are like this miracle that you made with your own BODY that starts walking around and talking and being kind and sharing with other snot-nosed little wonders.
My Noodle (what I affectionately call her) is adventurous. From the time she could wiggle away from me, she did and that made me all kinds of proud. At play groups, I was like, look at those other babies, sitting on their mother's laps instead of pulling every book off that shelf over there, and I beamed. I mean, part of you wants a baby that sits and smiles and claps but the other part of you wants a baby that takes control of her little limbs and destroys the venue you find yourself in. You think to yourself, that baby's going somewhere! Well I do anyway. Other mothers were noticeably concerned and probably often wondered why I was sitting in baby circle with no baby, but I digress.
In some ways for me, this is reveling in a kind of un-motherhood. Postpartum gave me the opportunity to get really real about who I am as a mother and because I didn't see examples of how I wanted to be as a mother, I felt lost, like my brand of motherhood was inferior. I give the example a lot that one of the first times my Noodle was sick and I had to go back to work after three days of being home with her, someone said to me, actually said to me, "It's so hard to not be with them when they are sick." I stared at her, dumbfounded. All I could think was: Do you know how many times I've been puked on in the past three days? Do you know how exhausted I am? And I said to her, "Ha! I was just thinking how hard it is to be with them when they are sick!" She was horrified because, what I found out, there are things you dare not say as a mother for fear of being considered some kind of monster that doesn't love her children. At first, this was hard for me to come to terms with but someone wise told me that if I was going to speak hard truths about motherhood, I was going to have to expect some push back. So next time someone said something ridiculous about motherhood as blissful rainbows, I slowly gathered the courage to speak my truth and accept the consequences.
This doesn't make me some kind of hero, but it does make me a big proponent of speaking the truths - of which their are multiple, yes - of motherhood. I was so angry (while simultaneously feeling so connected) to every mother who came before me for not telling me what it was like to be a mother (and of course, no one had/could have my exact experience) but I felt duped, lied to, keep out of the loop. Why had no one told me how hard it was to be a mother (and yes, some people tried and succeeded in telling me bits and pieces of their experiences that I held onto like nuggets of gold as I descended into postpartum ever more deeply)? I was angry. And mothers aren't supposed to be angry.
As a woman that has never worn the mantle of womanhood without critical interrogation, what it meant to be a mother hit me like a ton of bricks. The unbearable weightiness of motherhood is surprising but navigating became Method One of survival for me. I had to think about what it was going to mean for me so that it didn't swallow me whole. Let's face it, the status quo of motherhood is laden with outdated expectations that need to be critically examined and, for the most part, abandoned. Any system or identity that says that you should put your needs last is a broken one that needs resistance. Motherhood, for me, had to be transformed in order for me to inhabit the role. Anyone who thinks "things have changed for women" should feel the crushing weight of the judgment women who are mothers experience and then go jump in a lake or something. Expectations of perfection, self-sacrifice, and propriety are alive and well for mothers and paralyze them in all aspects of their lives.
But back to pride. My point is, I'm not only ridiculously proud of my daughter for simply being herself, but I'm proud of me for finding a way to be myself AND be her mother.