I've been reading a bit about Helen Kirwan-Taylor, the Mom who wrote the article in the Daily Mail, saying that her two beautiful children, "bore her to death." While I support every woman's right to her own feelings and opinions about whether or not to have children, and I always enjoy a good bit of provocative journalism, I can't help but want to join the fray in bouncing up and down on the back of this woman's extraordinary selfishness. Yes, I get that it's a bit of a joke, and that some people think it's brave to stick out like a rusty nail and say something unpopular, but this article, if it's real, goes deeper than this for me and I feel it would be wrong of me not to adress this in some way.
I disagree intensely with what this woman has to say about child rearing being so very boring that one would be better off farming it out to nannies and housekeepers like so many loads of laundry. I'm not missing the point that we as women should take advantage of all the help we can get, and that we need to have identities and lives that go beyond mothering, but I do think that she is missing the point that our reaching deep within ourselves to be the best mothers we can possibly be is important and vital work. Yes, parenting is a lot of work, and some of the day to day chores can become tedious. Yes, it is an enormous challenge, and there are many aspects of parenting that can become dull in their repetitive nature, and this is probably especially so if you don't have the gift of gratitude and optimism that will allow you to look beyond yourself, and your own immediate needs to care for a child that you have chosen to bring into this world, a child who desperately needs you and mostly you, to give them their initial sense of self by being the first person to love them unconditionally. If you don't have the simple but profound capacity to love so deeply that you can give another human being the very thing that they need most, which is for you to be one of hopefully two very privileged people who will always be remembered for having made that one tiny person feel loved beyond measure, then you shouldn't be having children in the first place.
Where is this woman's sense of joy, curiosity and gratitude for being able to take part in this amazing journey of getting to guide another human being towards adulthood? I took such pleasure in watching my son discover the world for the first time, every time that he discovered something, every time he found joy in the smallest of things, was like a gift to me because it reminded me of how precious life is, and how we speed by things as we get older. As I taught him how to do so many of life's basic things, he taught me how to live in the moment again, and to stop rushing by life.
Yes there were innumerable diapers to change, spills to clean, wounds to heal, questions to answer, arguments to settle, battles to be fought, toys, books, clothes and things to be picked up and put away, so much to be taught and learned, but it has been worth every second of every day simply because I get to be with him, and am witness to this passing miracle, and to this powerful Mother love, that to this day baffles me with it's profound depth. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for him, any bullet I wouldn't stop with my own body to shelter his, any sacrifice I wouldn't make, because he is more important to me than anything. I didn't know this before he was born, didn't know I could love like this, didn't know how much my own parents had loved me, until he came along. His being born was the greatest gift of my life because in a sense his birth gave birth to a part of me that I had only sensed but did not know existed; I am a better person because of him. How can that be boring? Why would I want to run away from that?
At sixteen there are still so many things that he needs to learn, and so many questions, debates, and challenges that I am wearily accustomed to having to deal with, but I take pleasure in doing this, in the tremendous sense of accomplishment, and in my humble opinion that all of the more mundane aspects of parenting, that some people might find tedious, are so vastly overshadowed by the reward; the gift of being able to watch the miracle of life first hand, of being able to be a part of the creation and formation of a wonderful human being, who will one day fly away and become a part of this better world that we are all hopefully working together to create.
I do not disagree with getting all the help that a person can. I was fortunate in that I was able to have the help of a nanny, but she was only there to help, never to take my place. Whenever I left to do an errand, or take some precious needed time for myself, I felt the pang of leaving my son. I felt it keenly. I didn't want to miss one single moment of his life, didn't want to miss a new expression on his face, a sound, a word, a step. I wanted to be there, which is why it is so hard for me to understand why this woman doesn't. I can't imagine saying, let alone writing in a public forum, that I would rather be getting my hair colored, or shopping, than spending time with my children. Sure self care is important, and shopping is a lot of fun, but so is bath time, and story telling, and even helping someone learn how to add, because if that in itself isn't reward enough, then there are always those moments when you feel the clutch of two little arms around your neck, and the quickening of your heart when your child says, "I love you Mommy, to the moon and back."
All I can say is that I feel terribly sorry for this woman and for her two beautiful boys who will no doubt remember all the furor that her having written this article will have caused. Good for her for having stirred up some debate, and for voicing her own truth, but not so good for her, for exposing her children to this. I feel so sad thinking that she doesn't get it, that for some biochemical reason she hasn't bonded with her boys, when there are people all over the world who would give anything to be in her place. Oh what I wouldn't give to have the chance to do it all over again, to be able to hold my baby again, to smell his hair, and feel his soft cheeks, to hold him against me and rock in that chair in his room when he was tiny and couldn't sleep through the night, to be the room mother at his preschool and paint clouds on the ceiling, to listen to the bell at school and feel that thrill when he'd run towards me, backpack swinging at the end of school, eager to tell me about his day, to have those days back when he'd hold my hand as we walked and talked about nothing, about everything, before he was embarrassed to admit that he loved me, and that he needed me.
I know that mothering is only one part of the very complex and important life of a woman. I won't even say that it is the most important part. I certainly won't say that it is for everyone, and I would never judge anyone for opting out of this experience. But I will say that once you have made the choice to have not one but two children, that it's time to get with the plan and do everything you can to be the best parent you can be. That someone would be proud of the fact that she can't be bothered to take her children to museums or get down on the floor and play with them, that she believes that they should fit into her life and not the other way around, leaves me aghast. All I can say is that I'm left scratching my head in bewilderment at this one woman's extreme narcissism, not only because she has failed to find deep meaning and value in the experience of interacting with and educating her two gorgeous little boys, but because she is denying her own two children the thing they need most in this world, and that is her unconditional positive regard for them.
Helen Kirwan-Taylor chose to have these children, so boring or not, I believe that she owes this to them; she owes them her love, attention, and time. I believe that every child deserves at least this much and that most of everything that is wrong with our world could be healed with the kind of love that gives a parent the strength to withstand boredom and choose the love of a child over the love of oneself.
Finally, I want to share this with you. Our own dear friend and nanny, Esther, has this to say about parenting; "En ves de pensar que les voy a dejar a mis hijos, uno tiene que pensar que hijos voy a dejar al mundo." which roughly translates to; "Instead of thinking what can I give to my children, one needs to think, what kind of children am I going to give to the world."
This is Mom when she was around my age. She sure was a babe wasn't she?
Speaking of mothering, yesterday was my Mom's ninetieth birthday. I've been to dinner with her twice to celebrate, and showered her with gifts. We drive each other nuts at times, but I love my Mother so very much and am so grateful, (and know how very lucky I am), to be able to have her in my life at this late age.
And here she is Saturday night when she happily went to get her free dinner at her country club.