Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Christmas Gift to You, Mudders.---A Reminder to Move.

I'll start with one of my favorite quotes on motherhood penned by Robert James Waller in his stunning book Bridges of Madison County.  "When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops. You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave they take your life of details with them. And then you're expected move again only you don't remember what moves you because no-one has asked in so long. Not even yourself."

Bear with me...I'll get to the quote...

My friend leads a full life.  She is one of those moms that I envy.  The role of mother seems to fit her like a glove.  (With the help of her husband) she seems to always make the correct choices for her family and it shows.  Her kids are consistently on the honor roll. They are polite and kind--you know--right out of Leave It To Beaver or Little House on the Prairie, the kind of kids every mom dreams that her own children will turn out to be. This friend, let's call her Superwoman, has a large posse of women that she calls her own.  She has received laudation after laudation in her career.  Her cooking rivals Rachel Ray.  She is the quintessential sports mother cheering for her daughter and son at their year round sporting events.  Superwoman even chairs charity events while taking classes to get her counseling license.  All of this she does at the perfect temperature never burning out or freezing up.

That is why I was so surprised when during a phone call last week she happened to mention that with all that she does, (as fulfilling as it may be) she just needed something for herself.    As I listened intently (something I try hard to do because along with EVERYTHING else she is good at, she is also an extraordinary ear when you need to sound off.) she began to muse about activities and skills she wanted to acquire just because...well...just because she WANTED to.  I did and said all the things that a friend of 36 years would and should do and say, agreeing with her that cooking classes would  be a perfect avenue for her to follow, (eating her meals is one of life's pleasures.)  But what I didn't do, what I couldn't say to her (after all the phone conversation wasn't about me) is that at the other end of the phone I was choking back tears.

It was an interesting phenomenon and one I had to analyze.  At first I couldn't quite put my finger on the reason for my tears.  But as I stood outside myself and observed with the clarity of a scientist I realized that there were many reasons for the drops on my cheeks and the quiver in my chin, the biggest one being that despite having it so together, this mom, this mom who happened to be one of my best friends experienced the same longing for independence or MOMENTS of independence as I did.  This yearning to be me without the mom label has plagued me with guilt and therefore the urge has been pushed aside more often then indulged.  Yet here was my definition of a truly salt of the earth mother wanting the same thing, and well...that made my yearning for fulfillment outside of being a mom legitimate.

We try hard, don't we Mudders?  We toil away to be the hub of a wheel holding tightly to the many spokes of motherhood.  We remain in one place while school work, and meals, doctor's appointments, the rolling eyes of a teen, the tantrum of a toddler, our careers, and our husbands spin around us using our stationary status as support.  Sometimes the spinning makes us dizzy.  Sometimes the wheel squeaks and needs grease.  Sometimes the pull of so many spokes weighs us down and our strength wanes. But we smile even though we're sad so our children aren't scared.  We learn to listen intently even though the pressures of our role may be screaming in our ears.  We get used to blank stares when we request help and stomach the fact that ultimately who we are is invisible to our children who look at us (especially when they are older) as mere cash machines, taxi drivers and good old fashioned nags.  Through it all, we stay steady, unmoveable so our children and loved ones can move.

Which of course brings me to the quote with which I began this post.  Although I read the book several times, it was when Meryl Streep playing the role of Francesca,  uttered the quote so passionately to her lover, Robert, in the movie of the same name, did I weep with  fervent agreement.  If we are not careful Mudders, if we remain the steady hub of a steel wheel, we will forget what moves us...what moved us BEFORE we were mothers.  If our role as "mama" encompasses entirely our very being then who will we be when our children leave and our role is diminished?  What does it teach our children if we don't think of ourselves every once in awhile?   As Francesca says so adeptly in Bridges, when we are able to move again, to shed the hub status, we won't remember what moved us if we lose ourselves in this complicated albeit wonderful parenting process.  After all how long has it been since you've thought about what moves you Mudders?  How long has it been since any one asked?

Well Mudders, I'm asking.  What moves you?  What are your life dreams besides the well being of your children?  This holiday season give yourself a truly priceless gift will you?  Not only do I want you to think about the answers to these questions, I want you to find a way in the next year to begin to fulfill some of those dreams and wishes.  Let us not get so bogged down in our life of detail that we are unable to move.