When I celebrated my first Mother’s Day in 2009, my son was just a little over four months old. That was 14 years ago and I can vaguely remember the days of not being a mom – the days when I was a little more rested and had a few more dollars in my bank account.
Looking at the young man I’ve raised, I’d like to think I’ve done an okay enough job, but I know I can’t take all the credit for how he is turning out. I had some really great examples in and input from my own mother, Norma, and all my others mothers – Queenie, Justina, Julie, Margaret, Elsie and Drishad, among others. You see, my village of hens and mama bears have never taken their parental responsibilities lightly. They love unconditionally, they protect fiercely, they provide selflessly, they laugh loudly and discipline with pain in their eyes – it’s a package deal.
But as effective as I may have found their parenting styles, every day I, a Gen X, am reminded that this Gen Z I have birthed is not about the copy and paste parenting style, and I have had to adapt what I know to create a style that suits his personality. For example, there is no in saying “because I said so” like my mother used to say. When he wants to find out why he can’t or has to do something, he demands an explanation, which is fair because as adults we too often demand proper explanations.
My first couple of weeks as a new mother was spent at my mother’s home, so my new role did not appear that difficult. When I eventually went home to my apartment and had to take on the full responsibilities of being a working mother, and as a journalist nonetheless, I found myself really out of my depth even with the full support of my partner.
Long, late hours at work, a constant fight with post-partum depression, and interrupted sleep at night for feedings and changing was not a good combo. And somewhere in between, as a student, I had to find time to attend classes and study, complete and submit assignments. I was a hot mess, and were it not for my will to give my son the best life I could, the support of my village and therapy, I am almost certain I would not have been around to tell this story.
And that’s the thing about motherhood; that instinct to fight for what’s best for that little person we chose to bring into this world is unlike any other. My son never shouted from his father’s testes, “Hey Carol! I want to become a baby and I want you to be my mother!”
His father and I decided we wanted to have a child and took the necessary steps to do so. So it is our responsibility to take care of him. From time to time the shouting, “Hey Carol! Can you please bring me a clean towel?” comes from the bathroom when he is in his “big man” mood. I have a method for dealing with that, though.
Motherhood is a lifelong learning process. Like everything else in life, it has its ups and its downs. I’ve cried for and with my son; I’ve laughed with and at him; I’ve been proud of and afraid for him; I’ve been angry at and disappointed in some of his actions and choices; I’ve loved him completely and disciplined him with a heavy heart; I’ve given unlimited access to my gentle side and the not-so-gentle me emerges when necessary. I’ve seen him triumph and fail; I’ve listened to his voice squeak then suddenly boom; I’ve seen him crawl, walk, and run; I’ve seen him in the best and worst of health. I was there and will continue to be there through it all for as long as he and I are alive.
I love our relationship, especially the easy way in which we communicate – which is weird for a teenage boy and his perimenopausal mother separated by a whole generation. We can talk about any and everything, uncomfortable or not. In fact, sometimes he is the one who asks, “So are we going to address the elephant in the room?”
I know he doesn’t tell me everything, but I think I get more than a lot of mothers I know. People often tell me I’ve made myself, with a little extra spice. I can see it.
“Did you ever think you would make something this sexy,” he once asked me while looking at his “fine” self in the mirror.
I quickly reminded him that he “was born from the belly of sexy.”