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76 weeks | I didn’t become a mother to make lots of money, my apologies capitalism | no. 0070
Honestly, I have to get over this being on the defensive thing. But you know, in the spirit of transparency, I must admit that I’m still working through all of this. There are moments when I am blindsided by family, by friends, by strangers even, who ask me to explain how it is I plan to make money as a mother who is “at home” with her child, and not formally employed by any “legitimate” entity.
Nevermind the whole assumption being made that I don’t contribute to my household in meaningful, tangible, financial ways already–we’ll get back to that later.
But in that instance when I am accosted–yes it really does feel like somebody just runs up on my mothering practice without any warning and throws a whole lot of stuff at me at once and then mysteriously has no time to sit and unpack their own idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies– I never have the right words to say. It’s always after the jarring conversation that I start piecing together something I could have said to possibly not have felt so diminished at the time it was all happening. And part of this too is that speaking up for myself has been a lifelong challenge. I’m getting better at it, thanks to mothering. For your child, you will find new courage. But still, it takes time.
My recovery process usually begins the same way. I start making a mental list of all the money I have SAVED my family by feeding the munchkin breastmilk exclusively for the first year of his life, by being at home with him as his primary caregiver, by providing him with a strong immune system and optimal, preventative healthcare. I haven’t even factored in the LABOR costs for nursing–yes labor, because my body, time, and physical strength is worth more than any can of similac you will ever find– and I’m already in the tens of thousands.
These are not abstract leaps here. I’m calculating real dollars and cents that have never had to be spent on childcare, formula, baby food, infant medical emergencies, transportation to and from said childcare. I tend to think this means something. Even the most financially illiterate person would give me credit for all this. I’m seriously wondering if I need to just create an invoice to carry in the baby bag with my contributions spelled out. But then why would I buy into the illusion that you could quantify my work in monetary values? It’s the ultimate reduction; there’s no amount I could even be paid to compensate my mothering.
Still I struggle with this. Each time I tell myself I’ll be ready when the next time comes. But I never am. I am always stumbling through some half-explanation of what else I’m working on to bring in money. And then I am left feeling so disappointed with myself because I’ve just regurgitated the bullshit. I have once again perpetuated the misinformation that because I’m not earning wages out there in the real world then I am essentially doing nothing.
I hate being invisible. Hate is a strong word, and I rarely use it, because I worry it lacks depth and adequate imagery. How’s this: I am enraged when my process is rendered invisible by the very people who genuinely think they are being supportive. How can you really support me if you don’t even see me? If you look at a few glimpses of my journey and assess that I bring absolutely zero value to my family equation, how am I supposed to feel receptive to anything you have to say? What do you hope is the outcome when you are imparting this wisdom about how best I can amend my mothering to fit your understanding of what stability should be? I honestly am tongue-tied whenever you drop all that knowledge about what do-it-from-home job I need to apply for, what separation methodology I need to employ so I can more easily leave my child–and pay someone else to watch him– to finally “go to work,” what more I should be doing to take the pressure off of my breadwinning partner.
I am always wondering in the aftermath. When they’ve walked away, gone back to their cake and punch, hung up the phone to go to that meeting, ended the chat to resume streaming the webinar. There’s no stock taken of the emotional blow I feel. The bruising always lasts longer than the impact. Nevermind that I was probably already exhausted from doing my series of nothings all day. Maybe I was nursing for the one millionth time of my life, maybe I was planning out the dinner that I really don’t feel like making, maybe I was snatching up a munchkin from an electrical socket, maybe I was soothing a fussy baby with a fever who’s teething and having diarrhea, maybe I was prying clenched teeth off a bruised nipple, maybe I was trying to catch 10 minutes of quiet time before my child woke up. Maybe I was feeling rather good about my progress as a mother and an artist and now after your heartfelt advice I’m feeling like crap and doubting the point of working so hard to be true to myself. Maybe, just maybe, you should ASK me how I experience my value in my family before you run down a list of ways I can make myself more useful.
Do I sound pissed? I am. But not at any one person. This is a cumulative pain and I’m working to figure this conversation out. It’s not an isolated thing. There’s all these related discussions I’m not opening up. This singular post isn’t by any means comprehensive. It will take me time to arrange it all in words. Maybe a series of essays…perhaps that’s what is brewing. But beyond the venting and the hurt I sometimes feel, I want my mothering work and my writing to present alternate language around the very nature of “work” itself. I want humanity to be encouraged to dismantle these charged terminologies that are insufficient when it comes to honoring all our stories. I am dreaming up dialogue spaces where mothers from all perspectives can sit in circle and talk about the reality of our working selves, and really hear each other and acknowledge the diversity of our labors. I believe if we make the space to see ourselves and communicate authentically with each other, then slowly, then surely, there will come a day when no mother’s story is in danger of being so unseen.
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.