Mother. What is a mother? Who is a mother? If you say the word enough times, it doesn’t even sound like a word anymore. It has a definition. As a noun, it is defined as a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth. As a verb it is defined as bring up (a child) with care and affection or give birth to. First of all, the mere definition in-of-itself is offensive. The “given birth”, “give birth to” should be dropped from the definition anyway. I know of lots of ways women are mothers without giving birth to them. The act of pushing a child from ones womb is not the definition of mothering. Not to me anyway. So, right off the bat, I’m annoyed. But, I was annoyed before that anyway. And here is why.
Mothers get a bad rap everywhere. Every day. Apparently it starts by definition but it doesn’t end there. Mothering is a thankless job, we all know that, but typically we mothers are not looking to be thanked. I don’t know a single mother worth her stretch marks, or her bags under her eyes from sleepless nights that stands in front of the mirror each morning and says I wish someone would thank me. I can’t speak for all mothers from all walks of life all over the globe, but I am going to take the liberty to say I am pretty confident that the majority aren’t looking for a thank you. Generally speaking, I think most mothers want the same thing I do. Inner peace. Validation that we are doing it right. Our children to be happy, healthy, and successful. An occasional vacation that reminds us we are women, and friends, and lovers, as well as laundress, housekeeper, taxi driver, security guard and educator. We want to connect to our children and feel they are connected to us. Now, the reality of life is that things are never wonderful all the time. Ups and downs are the natural course of this roller coaster called living. Without the downs we cannot appreciate the ups. So a little conflict in one’s life builds character and we should be defined not by our falls but how we act when we stand back up. We want to know that our children can handle the downs. That they can survive them when we are not around to do their fighting for them. We want to know that when the time comes for us to lay our heads down for an eternal sleep, our children will be able to stand alone, and carry on, without missing a beat. I personally do not believe this is too much to ask.
Before we lay down for previously mentioned eternal sleep, a lot happens. It is the reaction of the “a lot happens” that has me annoyed today. I want to start by saying I am in no way a man hater. I do not think that men are a lesser sex, or that they should be eradicated from the earth. I have a man as a partner that I love dearly, and I mean no offense to men as a gender. BUT……… (There is always a but!) Mothers get blamed for everything. A man can father a child, never lay eyes on that child, not participate in the raising of said child for even a moment, leaving all child rearing to a single mother who manages to provide all the necessary essentials to the child for 18 years. She can bring child to soccer practice, flute lessons, tutoring, drivers ed, and stand proud as she watches child graduate from high school with respectable marks. Child goes to college, joins a fraternity/sorority, drink child’s way through first year, drop out to work at a gas station and the first thing out of the nosey neighbors mouth is “I’m not surprised, child’s mother is nuts.” When a mother abandons a child at birth, leaving the child rearing to father, and the same scenario happens, the end result is “I’m not surprised, the father did the best he could, but his mother abandoned him. The poor kid.” The misogyny does not stop there, I tell you. It is laced and linked through every aspect of a women’s life. Not to mention, if a women chooses not to have children, she is looked at through a judging eye of something being wrong with her, or she must be gay. News flash, gay women have babies. And straight women chose not to. I know it’s shocking, but it’s called PERSONAL CHOICE!
The same is true when you’re the parent of an addict. I am going to hone in on that specifically because it is what pertains to me. In my situation, the kids have a relationship with their dad and him with them, to whatever extent they want too. The magic of divorce is that I don’t have to referee that or get involved. They all contact each other and see each other when it is mutual agreeable. But there are TWO parents. Me and Daddy-O. Both parents. Equally. Same amount of DNA running through each child’s veins. All three children have a strong resemblance to both of us. There has been shared visitation at both homes. We both have taken care of them when they were sick. We both have driven them to sports practices. We have both watched them succeed or fail, and encouraged them to try again when the latter happened. So why, in this seemingly equal universe is her drug addiction my fault? Who said it was my fault, you ask? The world. The world does. It doesn’t take a genius to look around and see where the fingers are pointed. It always goes back to the mother. There is only equality in a world that is right, and going well. There is only shared parenting in a world that all children are healthy, and smart, and successful. As soon as a child steps off the curb from the Stepford Street into the world of despair and embarrassment, do I become a single mother. It is then that I am the only parent. Not from my family, or Daddy-O or his wife. Not from my immediate circle. From the World At Large.
I dare any women to bring their strung out child into detox/rehab/court and not have one of the questions to you be “what is your relationship with child?” or along those lines. When a woman is protective of her child it is called being a helicopter parent, when a man does its endearing. When a woman cried over her child’s addiction/relapse/struggles, it’s seen as a weakness, when a man does it, it’s touching, a sign he cares. When a woman starts dating after a break up, she is a slut/whore/easy. When a man does, he needs companionship and company. When a woman is holding a child, eyes immediately drift to her abdomen to see if she has “her figure back” but when a man holds a baby, it’s sexy. I believe that I was raised in a family that expected the same from girls as from boys. I was told to shovel snow, pull weeds, and help in the garage /on the boat. I was never told I can’t do something because I am a girl, or I wouldn’t be strong enough because I am a girl. My parents didn’t say that I couldn’t walk home alone in the dark because I was a female; they said I couldn’t walk alone at night in the dark because I was their child. Completely different message received. The one-sided man world sort of took me by surprise as an adult, and I never saw it more than when I began this rat race of recovery with my daughter.
I have two strikes against me. I am not just “the mother,” I am the dreaded “Young Mother.” In every single program she has been in I have gotten the look. I call it the “Hairy Eyeball.” The nurse/dr/psychiatrist gives you the once over and then looks at her (being my child) with pity, like they get it. Clearly I’m not fit. I’m the mother! And I’m young! No wonder she turned out the way she did. In all the programs she was in, I am convinced that our family story prevented anyone from looking at her addiction from a mental perspective to find the REAL reason for her addiction. In one program, her physician, who should have been concentrating on helping my daughter, who was slumped over licking her toes, asked me several times, in several different ways if I was A) Medicated, B) an Addict, and C) raising her myself. The implication being that I pawned off parenting to my parents or someone else. Finally I asked him straight up if he would be asking me these questions if I had a penis. Or if I looked like I did. He told me that addiction starts at home, and he wanted to understand what about MY home life (not the patient’s home life) lead to her using drugs. It’s so disappointing that in 2015 we still have such close-minded individuals in positions and jobs that rely on them being progressive and open-minded. My daughter is a drug addict because she is. Because of poor decisions she made. Because she has a mental illness. Not because I didn’t love her. Not because I misled her. Not because I didn’t try. And not because she is a bad person, or was raised by bad people. Good people become addicts. And good people die from drug addiction. Wasting time judging the mother is suffering the addict.
So to answer my own questions, a mother is someone that loves a child, with all their heart and soul. A mother is someone that gives of herself, without asking for anyone to give anything back. A mother is someone that sacrifices the dirty looks, the judging glares, or the snide remarks from the healthcare professionals so their child can get the care they need instead of dying of an overdose in her bedroom. A mother is anyone-all of us-that look at their child and think; I would give my life for yours.