For every dream unrealized every goal unachieved, all the legacies lost, I grieve. For every celebration thwarted, every promise broken & family torn, every body left strewn and rotting, I mourn. For every heartbroken mother, father, sister, brother;…
Motherhood was a surprising topic on the stage at the 59th Grammys last night. While many members of the Beyhive are ready to sting because they feel Queen B was robbed during last night’s awards by Adele, most were assuaged by Adele’s heartfelt acceptance speeches for “Song of the Year” and “Album of the Year” that were really tributes to the musical icon and her cinematic album, “Lemonade.” As an aside, I, unlike many, actually appreciated Adele’s reference to her “Black friends” because it was testament of her awareness that the album was unapologetically for and by Black Girls, and that any impact on her and her White counterparts may have been indirect rather than intentional. Adele, who was also deserving of the awards, (25 was an excellent album) was brazen enough to SPEAK to how difficult it is to create while fighting to not be eclipsed by her most recent and “greatest gift,” her child. She not only recognized Beyoncé as a fellow artist, but as another mother who pushed through the cocoon of parenthood and emerged taking flight. I appreciated Adele’s refreshing honesty and authenticity when speaking of the hardships of motherhood. It was a sentiment that mothers are typically shamed from sharing and a moment of mother to mother encouragement that we rarely see on a public stage.
“Do you enjoy being a mother?”
Some form of the question keeps repeating itself lately. It came up in an article that was shared, that I honestly haven’t even had time to finish reading. It’s been prompted in conversations with girlfriends who are also ambitious mothers. And, most recently, it came up in a game of questions I was playing with my in-laws and five-year-old daughter. The question verbatim in that instance was, “What’s your greatest accomplishment?” I want my children, (their holistic development and eventual success as an asset to our community-at-large), to be my greatest accomplishment. I just don’t want them to be my only accomplishment. I want them to have the best of me, just not all of me. Lately, I haven’t been able to stop that from happening. I didn’t want to bury my dreams when I gave birth to my children.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I decided when I wanted to have children. I was married for two years and got pregnant with my first-born a month after my 30th birthday exactly as I desired. I had accomplished most of my individual goals, having published my first anthology, started my own production company, and toured with my original one-woman show. I had enjoyed my single and fabulous life solo with no regret. I was happy and fulfilled. Having children would only add to that…..I thought.
Now, it’s five years, two children, two international moves, one imminent move, and a dissolved and recently resurrected company later, and I don’t even know myself anymore. I look in the mirror and I see this shadow of what I used to be. Where there was fire in my eyes, there lies the stained ashen residue of dreams deferred. My smile doesn’t rise as high when I stand alone; it’s only brightened by the presence and joy of my children. I’m not even known by name anymore. I’m my children’s mother or my husband’s wife in most circles. I didn’t graduate from the top business school in the country, (nod to FAMU’s SBI), to be someone else’s property. I didn’t prepare myself to leap fully and faithfully into entrepreneurship only to step away to wipe noses and bottoms that aren’t mine all day without compensation. I asked my mother once what made her happy and she responded almost mechanically that she was happy when we (her three children) were. She genuinely meant it. And, there are many mothers that do. I don’t. My happiness doesn’t completely revolve around anyone else, not even my children. I miss myself.
I miss traveling spontaneously with my husband, buying random needless things only for myself on a whim, giving generously to friends and family without thought of return, writing whenever the Spirit moved me, sleeping in, sleeping in, sleeping in, being careless and carefree at times, being more self-aware, being a better friend and activist, and staying up all night for reasons other than teething, fevers, diaper leaks, or restless little bodies that have no responsibilities the next morning. I miss conversations that have nothing to do with children. I miss making love to my husband multiple times a day every day in every space of our choosing. I miss working on my visions without guilt or a time limit. I miss being on time. I miss unscheduled “me time.” I miss the right to be selfish sometimes. I miss silence. Lord, do I miss silence.
I love my children all the time. I just don’t love motherhood all the time. I’m OK with that now. It’s OK not to enjoy every second of motherhood. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids. It means you love yourself. I can say that without the slightest tinge of shame or fear of judgement. Though I know the latter will loom heavy like murky billowing clouds during rainy season.
(Bring it on perfect mothers!) Motherhood is a beast! It can be all-encompassing and devour every part of who you are or were without stopping for breath. I can just swallow you whole without you even realizing it. You can be so enamored with dimples and giggles and tiny toes and outbursts of contagious laughter that you don’t realize in your efforts to get everyone cleansed and dressed that you forgot to shower yourself. Or feed yourself. Or dress yourself in matching shoes. You can get so caught up in trying to keep up with the “Claires” that you start to believe the lies you present to others that you’re doing well as long as you can maintain your hair and nail appointments and keep your make-up flawless in between after-school pick-ups and extra-curricular drop-offs on the opposite side of town; though you’re really concealing your panic and anxiety attacks or insomnia and newfound drinking habits. Motherhood can transform you in ways you never imagined. Sometimes the transformation is edifying and empowering. In other cases, it’s withering and diminishing.
I don’t regret having my children at all….ever. I’m grateful for the innumerable blessings I have in my life because of them. But, I am tired…literally in this moment and in general with this current state. I spend fourteen hours a day caring about people who aren’t even fully equipped to return the favor. I’m writing this knowing I have to rise in less than four hours to do all the things for my children today that I just did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. Oh, the monotony! But, I also write this knowing all of these feelings are temporary, but the incredible joy my children bring is not. I know this is a difficult phase. One of them is not at my favorite parenting age. We all have a least favorite parenting age. My physical support system has two players, and that’s nowhere near sufficient. My husband’s current career commitments restrict him from being more physically helpful. Our current state is shifting in the coming months, and it’s been difficult to outsource some of the needs I have. This too shall pass…. Right? Right???
This question of my view of motherhood keeps rising. So, when I saw Adele give her raw testimony, similarly to Beyoncé’ in the past, about the challenges of being an extraordinary woman, artist, creator, writer, and entrepreneur while balancing the relatively new role of motherhood, I felt we were kindred spirits. And, I chuckled because I remembered my brilliant daughter was angered at my answer to the question in the game earlier today. When I mouthed the words that I didn’t want my dreams to die because of my role as a mother, she quickly quipped,
“Black Girl Speaks is not dead mom! It lives in your heart. It won’t ever die!”
Having children doesn’t kill dreams, (Beyoncé and Adele are living proof) but they do enhance them and shift their timelines. I’m OK with that now, but I reserve the write to SPEAK about it multiple times a day every day in every space of my choosing.