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46 weeks | Sometimes we are lonely | no. 0040
I have been facing the lonely parts of this radical mothering work. I am starting to see that this is a prerequisite for any calling. And by facing, I mean I have been naming the feelings of isolation that are rising more poignantly to the top of my consciousness. Assigning this rocky emotional landscape a true space on the map of my be(come)ing is the very least I can do. Here is all of me.
Deep down there is a knowing that the extreme, systemic overhaul I am gradually inviting humanity to consider comes at a great personal tax. I will not always feel understood by the people closest to me. I will often—and at times daily—wonder if I am crazy for asking everyone to talk about these things that many don’t want to talk about. I will always be some degree of perplexed when confronted with the raw denial of this movement to liberate the mothering. Still, I will do this work.
It is clear to me that to even just knock out one brick of ignorance from the centuries-old walls—the walls dictating that so many mothers shrink ourselves into the cramped and fixed spaces of patriarchal, capitalist configurations—I must use the force of a lifetime. It just takes one. This is what powers the intensity of everything I do. I want to dismantle this thing that confines us. I don’t want to perfect more ways to operate within it.
As such, I am trying to find my footing in the water. So much of what I do and what I write are me practicing how to articulate my process as a mother, and me experimenting with how to be an advocate for all mothers to have the freedom to author their own mothering. This is very tricky sometimes. I am forced to notice, if not reckon with, my own prickly judgment spaces. It turns out that I don’t resonate with a lot of things other mothers do. But still, I feel a responsibility to respect them and their right to choose their lifestyles.
Of late I have been grappling with what seems like a type of moral dilemma. I feel my calling is to be critical of all the things perpetuating any obstructions to existing as a whole, happy, and vibrant mother in this world. And at the same time, I see all these mothers needing support, encouragement, and love as they do their best to function within the limited openings of a brutal system that is bent against them thriving. Some days I think about just cutting and running. Finding my little spot of globe to live in peace and harmony with my family and not looking back. Maybe liberation ain’t for everybody?
But then a riot forms in my blood and something shatters within me. You can’t escape the uncomfortable parts of yourself. I sense a definite tug in my soul to continue this exhausting work of finding a way to make this world a better place for every mother, for every person. I imagine this thing I feel could possibly be the subtlest remnant of the pull on Harriet Tubman’s heart each time she chose to go back into the danger of slavery in order to save more lives. That undeniable awareness that fulfilling your vision as a mother for your own children comes at the high cost of service to humanity.
I belong to a community of mothers. It’s not enough for me to be free all by myself. And so that I feel lonely sometimes on this path to freedom, while piecing together this loose and malleable understanding of myself, is just one of the many ironies protruding into my dreams when I finally do allow myself to go to sleep. It makes for a fitful rest at times, but I’ve grown accustomed to the constant wakefulness inherent to the work of imagining.
Still I am culling these visions for something tangible. You can’t take away the people’s bread and butter and ask them to chew on hopes. There have been all these advancements to increase options and access to maternity leave (in some places), for instance. I have been taught to see this as progress, to celebrate this as a victory in women’s empowerment. But I am having a difficult time seeing who has actually won here. Too many things have gone unsaid, too many mothers stranded in the invisible spaces for which we have abandoned the language to hear them.
I am asking anyway, though, why we, as a human family, have validated this problematic concept of “leave” in the first place. The healthiest, safest, and happiest place for a new baby is to be with their mother, yet this is rarely compatible with the mother’s ability to sustain her employment. Why, I am seriously pondering, have we not instead fought more valiantly to protect a mother’s right to give her child the best care? Why have we not already innovated all the job environments so that mothers have the choice to be present with their children when they need to be?
Is this farfetched? Am I asking for too much, people? Is it beyond the capacity of our powers as intelligent living beings to build a world where being a mother is not commodified into a series of inconveniences for which the wealthiest can simply buy their way out of, and the poorest, well they can spin wheels in the mud working 80 hours a week to save nothing, while still just barely making the rent and covering the daycare? Life could be so much more.
But this is still just one brick I am banging on. In fact, I think if more people lifted their voices in genuine inquiry of these so-called rules that so masterfully restrict the space for us to be unbound in our mothering, that wall would fall more immediately. What happens when it all comes down? Just acknowledging that there is a problem is the first step toward untangling ourselves from that problem.
In my mind, these thoughts shout their way from my brain, and into my fingers, and onto the page. I type quickly to keep up with everything. I censor the words I still am too afraid to just put in print, but even those are growing fewer and far between. Birthing the munchkin into this world has sparked an irrepressible urge to be louder, to take up more space in all I do.
I want these words to also echo through all my generations to come. I want the munchkin’s children’s children’s children to hear me, just as I can hear my mother’s father’s mother’s mother, my great-great grandmother Laura, in the spirit of my work. She was an evangelical preacher, spreading her truth by way of the gospel in their small, segregated, North Carolina town in the early 1900s. They didn’t think a woman should be preaching so she created the space for her process and built her own church, of course. Literally had her grandsons, my grandfather being one of them, place each brick one by one so that she could minister to her people. When I was pregnant with the munchkin, my grandfather took us to see his grandmother’s church that is still in use today.
I imagine that Laura, in all her progressive glory, was very lonely at times. How many women preachers— how many black women preachers were on the path with her? To my knowledge, she was the only one there at that time. I think of her more frequently these days when I am contemplating retreating into the illusory safety of silence. There is nothing secure about fear. I remind myself that I come from this audible, visible, courage too. I come from this hearty lineage of mothers, and fathers, who took all the bits and pieces of their nothings and created lasting, significant somethings.
It’s my turn to say what needs to be said now. That’s what all this writing is. Me figuring out what my message will be when finally I make it up to the pulpit.
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.