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Tiny Revolutions №68: Taking Care
survival of the most nurtured 🤰
Like many women without children, I have a complicated relationship with motherhood. At 44, I’m still not sure if it’s that I don’t have kids yet or if this is just the way it’s going to be forever.
For the longest time I had zero interest in it. I am the oldest girl of nine children, and that means my own childhood involved a certain amount of childcare. The work of a parent seems invisible to most kids growing up today, but I helped my mom with the five younger kids, which means I was well aware of the absolutely insane amount of work that being a mother involves. From where I was sitting, her life was a series of meals to prepare and laundry to do and squabbles to mediate. A lot of loud banging noises. And so, so much poop! Plus, in our house there were no off days, ever — money was scant and we rarely ate a meal out or had a babysitter.
So I knew exactly what I’d be getting myself into if I had kids of my own. And when I got out of the house at 18, I ran as far and fast as I could away from it. For my young adulthood I chose urban adventures instead of domestic pursuits. Motherhood is sacred work and I knew I wasn’t ready.
Once I calmed down a bit, I never experienced that intense desire to have a baby that I’ve heard other women describe. I just figured I would once the right man came along…but then he never did.
A lot of other people I know – both women and men – forced the issue and had a child with whomever they happened to be with when the hands on the clock were rapidly approaching midnight. There were a couple of guys I tried to force the issue with too. It didn’t work.
I go back and forth now with whether I should become a single mom. Maybe I adopt, maybe I’m able to conceive with a sperm donor, maybe a man comes along, maybe he doesn’t. People do it all the time.
But then I think of what I am now, which is a bolster to the mothers (and some fathers) in my life who are in the trenches. The fun aunt, the supportive daughter and sister, the glam single friend who lives in the city and whose place you can escape to when your mom life is driving you insane. It’s a pretty good gig.
I’m comfortable in that role but I’m also conscious of what I’m missing. They say motherhood transforms you and I have not been transformed. I can live with that now but who knows, that may not always be the case.
In the meantime I have time to do eccentric spinster shit, like live in a Zen community, take clown classes, and write weekly missives to you. Like I said, not a bad gig. I like to think that however it all shakes out, I’ll be OK. And I hope that wherever you are on the spectrum of mothering or not mothering, you are too.
All that said, mothers are straight up miracle workers and every single one of us is here because of all the mothering we got. Even if it was shitty or deficient, and even if we got it from someone (or a lot of someones) other than our birth mother. Without it, we’d be nowhere. So to all the mothers and motherers, thank you. What would we do without you?
OK! On to some other things, mostly mother-related!
“Please remember that the dream you have of finding a long-term romantic partner and having a baby is not just one dream. It’s two. The man dream and the baby dream are so intricately woven that you can be forgiven for thinking they’re one. It’s lovely if it is rolled up into one. It’s more than lovely. It’s convenient. It’s conventional. It’s economically advantageous. It’s hella good when it’s good. But it isn’t what you have.”
One of my favorite Dear Sugar (Cheryl Strayed) columns is this one, where she gives advice to a single woman in her late 30’s who doesn’t know whether to have a baby on her own or not. If you find yourself at that particular crossroads, it’s a worthwhile read.
“The harsh environment didn’t drive the evolution of the behaviors—the behaviors enabled the colonization of harsh environments.”
I think about this essay all the damn time: Survival of the Friendliest: It’s time to give the violent metaphors of evolution a break.
“We flourish when nurtured with love and understanding. Yet for so many, the violence of our society and lack of attuned caretakers has severed trust and belonging. This talk explores how meditation and conscious relating with each other can restore the connections so vital to healing and spiritual freedom.”
Highly recommend the thought-provoking talk above from Buddhist teacher Tara Brach, who quotes psychologist Louis Cozolino, who said, “We are not the survival of the fittest. We are the survival of the nurtured.”
I have found this to be true for a lot of things.
A wholesome alternative to MILF.
Not specific to mothering, but absolutely specific to life.
A Tiny Assignment
Tell someone who’s mothered you that you love them and are grateful for them. Maybe that’s your mother. Maybe that’s your friend. Maybe that’s yourself.
This week I plan to make a plan for an in-person meetup here in LA! I’ll give details next week. See ya then.