I had the opportunity to write a feature article about motherhood for a local newsletter in the Bay Area several years back. Fast forward to a few months ago, and I am cleaning my computer drive when I stumble upon the almost forgotten piece of writing.
I found it so applicable still, that I wanted to share the words with you, especially since we celebrated Mother’s Day just a day ago. Back then I had three children all under six. Now, one of them is a teenager, we have added a fourth child to our family, and got ourselves a dog.
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it and rediscovering it so many years later.
I love stories. Epic stories, happy stories, crawl-into-a-ball-and-cry stories. To me they are the stuff of life, shaped by experiences similar to our own and modified into worlds as simple as an imaginary house on a hill, or as complex as a dystopian world ruled by chocolate-eating robots. My favorite types of stories, however, are much, much simpler. They are closer to my heart. They are probably closer to yours. And they go something like this: Once upon a time there was a young and carefree woman who did whatever she wanted whenever she pleased. Then, she had children. Once upon a time she felt totally sane. Now, she feels like a psycho maniac, slash, zombie with a driver’s license. Once upon a time other people’s bowel movements would have disgusted her. Now, she’s a midnight-poop-cleaning ninja. Once upon a time she had all the time in the world. Yeah, remember those days? Now, she’s lucky if she gets to shower before the kids wake up. Once upon a time she didn’t lose sleep over anyone. Now, she’s plagued with worry over the midgets running around her house. Once upon a time she wasn’t a mother. Now, that’s the concept that defines her. Once upon a time she didn’t know what it was like to truly love. Now, the words don’t exist to describe what she feels for the little stinkers smearing food all over her dress. Once upon a time… As I said before, I love stories. I love reading them. I love writing them. But perhaps most importantly, I love loving them. Stories have the ability to turn anyone into annoyingly giddy prepubescent bubbles of giggles. As well as heart wrenching puddles of tears and mascara-smeared train-wrecks. What can I say? Stories have power. In all honesty, stories can’t help themselves. It is in their nature to make us want to lose ourselves in their world. We go there to forget about life. To fantasize about other places, other people, other problems. To separate our minds from the burdens we face, the overwhelming reality sinking in all around us, drowning us, pulling at us from all sides. From a young age we drill our kids to read, and read, and read. Because reading is good. Reading equals knowledge, or something. Don’t get me wrong, I too believe reading is important, crucial even, and plain awesome. But I also believe the most powerful stories we will ever encounter are our own. The ones we write with our own actions, our own emotions, our own tears, our own hugs. Day in and day out, week-by-week, year after year, one chapter at a time, those are the stories that matter most. Once upon a time there was a young woman, sure. She was childless and carefree, blissfully immature, and with and entire repertoire of ignorant prejudices inside her hand purse. Now, the woman who stares at us from the mirror is someone else. Who is she? What is her story? All stories have a plot, a sequence of events that shape the characters’ lives. Our lives are no different. But more often than not we seem to be drifting, brain-fogging our way through actions, from sunrise to sundown, hour after hour, without taking the time to love ourselves. To love our stories and the characters in them. To love whom we have become. We are mothers. Plain and simple. No power in the world can ever change that. When writing a story I always have to keep in mind the elements of plot. An exposition must be followed by a conflict; then, the rising action will lead to a climax, and later the falling action to a resolution. As mothers we go through these five elements (exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution) almost on a daily basis. Scratch that, sometimes it’s on an hourly basis, depending on the stinkers, of course, because the little midgets with sticky fingers and messy hair are the catalysts for everything in our world. Our stories, and all that this encompasses, main plot, sub-plots, and unexpected twists, can at times be happy, or sad, or gross (you know what I’m talking about. Nobody likes to clean up vomit in the middle of the night), or sometimes they can be depressing. Yeah, we can say it. At least I am going to. Motherhood can be sucky sometimes. Don’t cringe away. You know it’s true. More often than not we feel lonely, frustrated, beleaguered, distraught, and completely misunderstood. But the thing is, no matter how awful an emotion, or an action, or an event makes us feel, those experiences are part of our stories. They make us grow and change as much as the characters we read about. And what’s even better, they lead us to our own resolutions, our own happy endings. I believe in happy endings, and though most stories in real life don’t always parallel those we read about, the simple opportunity to be not just a mother, but the mother of my children, is happy ending enough. Our kids will continue to grow as our stories move along, and before we realize, their own stories will have begun to take shape. Our once upon a time will have become their now, and our now will have become our once upon a time. New tears will be shed. New frustrations will be experienced. Our lives, our stories, will have come to the most unavoidable resolution of all. But even then, when flipping through the pages of past chapters, of memories of bugger smears and poopy diapers, of grocery isle tantrums and don’t hit your sister or you’ll be grounded reprimands, we will see that all of our once upon a time moments will have made the greatest, most heroic story of all time. Our own. I love stories. Epic stories, happy stories, crawl-into-a-ball-and-cry stories. But my favorite story is the one I’m living now. I am a mom, though some people have called me a masochist. And even though some days that is true, I wouldn’t change it for anything. Mother Ever After is the name of my book. It is also the name of yours. Until we can no longer write, but watch from afar as those whom we have left behind write their own stories in our stead.
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