Edited. Yes, already.
It’s been a challenging few days. The Husband has been working non-stop, which leaves WonderBaby and I in a sort of single-parent family condition, wherein I get very, very tired and sometimes cranky. (How real single-parent families do it, I do not know, I really, really don’t. I would be dead from exhaustion by now were it not for the presence, however erratic, of my husband as a parenting partner.) Also, we couldn’t celebrate our anniversary, because he was working, which was sad. And, I got sick this weekend and had to spend much of Sunday afternoon laying on the floor on a sniffly haze while a hyper-mobile WonderBaby stomped on my head (which, because numb, did not suffer much damage.)
I am no longer a full-time stay-at-home-mom. Nor, however, am I full-time working mom. I am something in between. I have gone back to teaching at the university part-time, because they made me a nice offer and because they said please. And because I like teaching, and because I want to keep my foot in that particular academic door.
So, on Mondays and Wednesdays I leave the house and leave WonderBaby and head out to one of the suburban campuses of the University of Toronto and I teach political philosophy.
I like doing this. I’ve long been ambivalent about seriously pursuing a career in the academy, but not for lack of love for teaching. I love teaching. I love turning students on to these dusty old books, these fusty old ideas, bringing these to life in the same way that my teachers brought them to life for me. I love seeing students get excited about the puzzles of philosophy. I love it when Plato and Machiavelli and Rousseau and Nietzsche seduce them and transport them and inspire them to talk, to argue, about philosophy and politics and life.
I love this. But it’s not motherhood. At the university, I am ‘professor,’ or even, sometimes, ‘Ms.’ (and, once, Mrs… which completely blew my mind.) But I am never recognized as a mother, as somebody’s mom. Never.
Which, although understandable, feels strange, because I have come to so fully identify with my identity as mother that to be anywhere and to not be wearing my ‘mother’ hat feels awkward. Awkward, in part, because I had never, ever thought of this identity as a ‘hat,’ as an identity that could be removed and set aside. Nearly every breath that I have taken, nearly every word spoken, since November 14, 2005, has been as a mother. Even when I went back to teaching, briefly, one evening each week for 6 weeks in the spring, I still felt every inch a mother. I walked and talked as mother; I wore my motherhood as a badge. I announced to my class at the very first lecture, I just had a baby. I had spit-up stains on my clothes. I wore LilyPadz inside my nursing bra. My body felt WonderBaby’s absence, every minute of that absence.
I love you
A bushel and a peck
You bet your pretty neck
My head was full of motherhood. I did not, could not, leave my motherhood behind.
Now, I can, and I do. I can and do leave it behind.
And it feels strange, so strange. It feels strange because I both love it, and hate it. I love the feeling of freedom, of being unencumbered by stroller and diaper bag and the random paraphernalia that attends babycare. I love the silence of my office. I love that my head is filled with the words and ideas of dead poets and philosophers, that I can concentrate, think, that the flow of ideas between head and page or head and mouth is not interrupted by Raffi or the Johnny Cash Children’s Album. It is freedom from motherhood. It is exhilarating.
But it hurts my heart. In the moments that I pause, and think of WonderBaby – and there are many such moments – my heart contracts and I very nearly gasp for my next breath. I miss her, I am missing her, I am missing seconds, minutes, hours with her. It takes all of my power to keep from running for the bus and heading for home, in those moments.
How can I choose to be apart from her, I ask myself. How can I choose this? But I do choose it. I must choose it.
I must choose to be both mother and myself, these other selves. But it feels, sometimes, like my identity has become fragmented, torn. Will it always feel this way? Or will I, gradually, knit these selves together? Come to terms with all of those missed moments of motherhood?
Or will I, one day, just run for the bus?
If you’re going to make a break for it, Mommy, take a cab.
Call to Action posts are still being added to the Changing the World, One Blog at a Time list. I’ve gotten a bit slow on adding the links, but they are still coming, so keep checking back and keep sending them in.
Because you all keep asking: yes, the Johnny Cash Children’s Album is real. How have you been living without it?