Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All set with that.

The other day at church, a young woman with three children between the ages of four and seven (I'm guessing), was trying to keep them from running amok through the fellowship hall which has all kinds of neat things that basements offer--like those support poles that we all swung around and tried to climb when we were that age.  (Well, I know I did, anyway.)  I just smiled that "I understand" smile I offer harried parents, to which she responded, "Free to good home!"

"No thanks, I'm all set with that," I laughed.  And boy is it true.

As much fun as it is to hold a baby, look at my children's toddler pictures and read through their old schoolwork, I am glad they aren't kiddies any more.  I have nil desire to give birth again, to wake up to cries for food, diaper changes and/or attention, to chase creatures that by right should not have the ability to run so fast at such a young age or to terrify myself trying to take a pre-schooler to a mall around Christmas.  Accuse me of being heartless, if you will, but I speak the truth.  I am happy to be where I am, which happens to be a place that allows me to be super-sentimental whenever I wish without being interrupted by the crash and burn of normal household items.

This doesn't mean I don't have to get up in the middle of the night, deal with puke, fret over those who require my care or assume the Christmas tree is safe.  I do have two cats, two dogs and two fish, after all (though the two fish probably can't do anything worse than die).  When my students, who seem to require a lot of mothering that I am more than willing to provide, ask if I have kids, I say, "I've got you and my pets.  Isn't that enough?" I am not sure how they feel about being equated with the animals, but to me, it's all the same since my animals are my kids, too.  No one has ever burst into tears over my response, so I guess they understand, think I am kidding or am once again proving I've lost my mind.

All this demonstrates that mothering isn't just hormonal, which our society already acknowledges.  The drive and ability to mother come from other sources than the ovaries--they come from living in a mother-rich, nurturing environment.

My mother is the archetypal "mother of the world."  She has spent years working with children, her own, those in the public school system and those in her religious education classes.  She has worked with every level and age of child, but she has also mothered hundreds of adults.  This is the woman who, in her second job as a Sam's Club greeter, hugs strangers no matter how much she loathes the way Sam's operates and treats its employees.  My mother gives food to the hungry and necessities to anyone who needs them, even when she can't afford to do so--which is always.  She is the consummate care-giver, and she talks about the people she meets.

When you are raised with someone like this, you might end up despising working with people or loathing people in general.  But when you're me, you end up being drawn to work that requires caring for others.  When my kids were young, I couldn't work much outside the home in that capacity.  My kids had to come first, and that has its own kind of rewards, especially when I see how (usually) loving they themselves are now.  And it's not that you ever stop caring for your kids.  It's just that their needs change as they age.  I fully expect I will be parenting for the rest of my life.  I might even be grand-parenting at some point, but I'm not in a hurry for that in the least. 

I have more time to give now, though, and I am thriving on it, loving others in a way that allows me to serve.  My mother taught me the importance of serving and how dedicating a life to it makes living meaningful.  She never had to come out and say that making the world a better place is important.  I saw it in her actions.  And while she is very Christian (Catholic, specifically) and believes in an afterlife that rewards or punishes, I know she would serve no matter what religion she was or was not because she grew up watching her father struggle to take care of five kids on his own when he was extremely poor.  "He always provided for us," she says proudly.

My mother tells us the story of her father moving the family "by gig," which meant using a cart to carry all their belongings to the next tenement.  He didn't have a car even though car ownership was common by then.  She tells us how she picked up where her absent mother left off, caring for her four brothers, two of which have died now.

My mother doesn't live in the kind of poverty she did as a child, though she still lives far below the poverty line.  She works two jobs just to make it, and as she nears the ability to retire, she worries about having to live on a fixed income. And she needs to slow down and better care for herself.  I wish I could help her more.

I'm kind of rambling this morning, not paying too much attention to organization, but I will leave off with some semblance of having had a thesis.  I believe we come back to the Earth we have created.  I believe we literally reap what we sow.  I believe we can love the world enough to heal it.

Mothering is in my blood, and while I'm all set with having little ones, I'm not all set with mothering. That's a good thing, because as it stands, there are not enough mothers to keep the world functioning.  That's how needy we all are.
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