“There was something so valuable about what happened when one became a mother. For me it was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me. Liberating because the demands that children make are not the demands of a normal ‘other.’ The children’s demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do. To be a good manager. To have a sense of humor. To deliver something that somebody could use. And they were not interested in all the things that other people were interested in, like what I was wearing or if I were sensual. Somehow all of the baggage that I had accumulated as a person about what was valuable just fell away. I could not only be me—whatever that was—but somebody actually needed me to be that. If you listen to [your children], somehow you are able to free yourself from baggage and vanity and all sorts of things, and deliver a better self, one that you like. The person that was in me that I liked best was the one my children seemed to want.”–Toni Morrison and Motherhood: A Politics of the Heart
Our society has strange views when it comes to mothers. On one hand we exalt mothers, heap praise upon them (Mother’s Day), yet don’t provide concrete support for them such as universal childcare. As a matter of fact, majority of mothers are treated poorly on a daily basis, especially Black mothers. I often see mothers struggling with kids/strollers/bags/toys etc., while people push past them in a hurry. Usually, it’s mothers who will help other mothers by offering a hand or comforting an upset child.
I’ll never forget flying back to Portland with my 1 1/2 year old. He started hollering on the plane. There were other mothers on board. One sent some of her children’s snacks to me via fellow passengers. Another played with him to keep him distracted. One tried to carry on a normal conversation with me, to calm me. It was my first time traveling with my toddler, so it was a bit overwhelming for me. Recently, I saw an article about a mother who went through a similar situation at an airport. When I read that, it resonated with me.
Funny enough, I never wanted children. Honestly, I didn’t think I was mother material. And still wonder at times. I was surprised when I found out I was pregnant, but decided to keep chugging along. Curiosity got the best of me. I’m an older mom. I had my son at 41. So, it was a huge life change for me. My journey into motherhood has been interesting. I tend to have mixed feelings about it. I love my son, of course. I enjoy watching him come into his own. He’s a quirky kid, which I like. However, I miss my freedom sometimes. I think my ambivalence towards motherhood, is due to how it started out. It was chaotic and traumatic.
Just yesterday I stood for a few minutes at the top of the stairs leading to a white doctor s office in a white neighborhood. I watched one Black woman after another trudge to the corner, where she then waited to catch the bus home. These were Black women still cleaning somebody else’s house or Black women still caring for somebody else’s sick or elderly, before they came back to the frequently thankless chores of their own loneliness, their own families. And I felt angry and I felt ashamed. And I felt, once again, the kindling heat of my hope that we, the daughters of these Black women, will honor their sacrifice by giving them thanks. We will undertake, with pride, every transcendent dream of freedom made possible by the humility of their love. June Jordan, On Call, 1985