I’ve been meaning to slip away and write a Mother’s Day post for a few days now, but my days have been filled with photography work and extended family and my adored friend Caitlin visiting from New Zealand. This, funnily enough, is so fitting: that although motherhood is a calling which so deeply defines us, there are – there must be – identities outside of motherhood which feed us, which represent us, which widen us. Motherhood is juggling one important piece of work that fills us up with another, while staying forever anchored to these little souls our heart beats for.
On Sunday, I was equal parts happy to be in the club, and sad for those I know and love who desperately want to join it. We view motherhood as a right – something we’re entitled to as women, a pill unbearable to swallow should it be denied. For this reason, the women I know suffer a silent grief. A very specific grief. A mourning of something they never had, something that was never theirs. Like my friend said, “It’s its own kind of specialised hell.”
I cry for them, I cry with them, these women I love, but the truth is I feel like a fraud, like how could I really know what that kind of pain is like? How could I – with my fertile ovaries and my healthy children and my big fat fortune slapping them in the face – be qualified to grieve with them? But I try anyway because doing so imperfectly is better than being scared to try at all.
Motherhood is not a God-given right. It’s a privilege. And oh though it’s hard to remember that on the bad days, it’s the only thing we should.
So we fold the identities we have outside of motherhood into a safe place, full of all our valuable things, and we take them out as we need. But each day we fall as deeply into motherhood as we can – we let it define us, even when it comes with the sacrifice it does, because the truth is, it’s not our right to have.
To my children, my babies, what can I possibly say? Thank you for being here. Thank you for giving me the gift of loving you. I will try with all my might to make the very most of this short time I have with you, not only because being a mother is a privilege, but because little else matters to me more than being yours.
‘I am your mother, the first mile of your road. Me and all my obvious and hidden limitations. This means that in addition to possibly wrecking you, I have the chance to give you what was given to me: a decent childhood, more good memories that bad, some values, a sense of tribe, a run at happiness. You can’t imagine how seriously I take that – even as I fail you. Mothering you is the first thing of consequence that I have ever done.’ Kelly Corrigan