We all have the hasty mornings with the awkward fold in our hair, slightly at the back and off-centre of our head, that sometimes we manage to straighten; and others we remember only after passing the entire parent teacher school community in our sunglasses when it’s Jan. 2nd and it’s clearly overcast.
We all have that pile (if you’re organized) or bunch (if you are less so) of random but essential things we lug as we scramble into the car with the pinky hooking the most awkward item of them all: the one that feels as heavy as we are in body weight, that we manage to unhinge just before our finger gives in.
We all have the invisible mental Filofax (yes, mine is a mental Filofax) of categorical lists of all the shit we said we will get to once the kids are back at school. The other list we said we’ll achieve over the holiday when they’re off school that isn’t so much as touched, so crisp and unchartered it’s practically begging to be scrunched-up and dunk it into the bin of oblivion. The list that’s just for work. And the saddest list of all: the list that’s just for you (that one looks like a fresh page on a printing tray).
We all have the walk we need to get ourselves and others where we’re meant to be on time (or if you’re like me, always just a couple mins too late now); the duck’s waddle, the veteran’s drag, the penguin’s fast feet, the river dance skip. Whatever the style, it’s the thing we do with our lower body that we didn’t do “before”. You know, “before”! Before they called the blackout blindfold of the mother mental-load “brain fog”.
Before! Before they called the woman-mother/wife/work/cook/paddle/yoga/entrepreuner-defective combo: “Superwoman”. Before they rebranded being kicked in the *$#@ as you scurry to do every role you subscribed to full-time only to be labelled a part-timer. Women have always done what we do, only now we repackage this extortion as choice and power. Same shit different day, decade; what year is it? Oh yes, a new one!
We all have the additional things we wear as badges, bandages and scarlet letters as we bellyflop ourselves back to school drop-offs and work weeks, never mind a new year. Even those of us with the 4am voluntary wake-ups for some journalling and breath work. Even those of us with the blowout packages and weekly nail salon visits. Even those of us in yoga pants and those of us with the stilettos. We all have our version of those mornings when we feel like like we were bitchslapped by a donkey and told to stand tall, walk fast and get on with things. Let’s face it, motherhood is a little bit like that most of the time, and a lot like that a tiny bit of the time. Because, if we are real about it, motherhood is basically the facilitator of the capitalist extortion of the once lunar Sumerian, now solar Gregorian rodent-wheel of a calendar.
By “we”: I mean me. I could also mean you. I mean mamas, mommies, mothers. I see you all and I know some of you see me. *
Motherhood is a radical act as much as it is a regular one.
Some rebellions are barely fitted between hair-braiding and breakfast, or story-time and lights-out; and others are carried out through the day in the alternate ways of parenting, working and living. Regardless of how we mother, how we whisper or chant radical suggestions in a way that make our children think the whole thing was their idea. Regardless of how many things we didn’t manage to pack in their backpack (or in my case – not buying a replacement one) or how beautifully assembled their snack box is (not ours); a mother’s work is a privilege and a burden and what it is most of all is it’s never done. It isn’t beckoned or bent by the moon or the sun (though mercury retrograde sure can cause a havoc!) and it sure doesn’t spare you because the second day of the new year is also the first day back to school and work and the system prescribed by manlyman Adam Smith.
Even if the institutional structures are not holding you down; if you are any kind of mother living any kind of way, the proverbial: showered before bed and woke up with a hair-parting I didn’t have time to notice because I have so many things I need to do and some things I want to, and ideas, plans and lists on my mind and people and things to carry on my body, applies to you some days. For me it is most days. Not least of all today.
So it is a new year, but not a new me.
I am the same old infantile elderly woman who has a couple of new badges, several new bandages and many new scarlet letters to carry over from 2022 yesteryear to 2023 here and now. Onward and upward I will go, with intervals of laying down on the ground. You know, to console a child, to self-regulate my own defunct nervous system and straighten my sore back as I mouth a silent “motherf%$#!*”. Or to do my favorite one of the sheer joy of looking up to take in the view.
But now there is no time, it’s the beginning again and I must go, go go. So I nearly stab my face with my big sunglasses, I carry the whole content of my house out with me, take the bait, get scratched on the chin by little fingers (literally) and wish my children an interesting first-day back to school with a frog in my throat and knot in my stomach. Whether they’re from sheer separation relief or raging separation anxiety I do not know!
And, what’s the difference, anyway! Right?
*This term is inclusive of an exclusive cluster of non-imposter daddies, a very particular breed. They know who they are.
Photo capture courtesy of doting if exhausted father of my children, Ali Jaafar.