My one year anniversary for this blog came and went sometime in September. Looking over Apron Strings with a critical eye, I noticed my sidebar explanation is a bit… overzealous. Written from the vantage point of only one kid. Whilst I aspire to having my daily life be divided among ”digging dirt, tending vegetables, dumpster diving, punk sewing projects, making all our own bread, household fix-its, and salvage construction” I seem to be mainly (and occasionally entirely) overtaken by just the “raising up little ruffians.”
As I mulled over the feeling of shortcoming, I had an epiphany.
We neo-feminist punk housewives have started to bring back some respect for the lost arts of homemaking, but it suddenly hit me that even still we are leaving the most basic female art in a dusty corner, covered by a pile of moldering towels. Making and raising babies has not experienced any of the fad-ish comeback. Canning? Oh yeah, it’s hot. Baking, ditto. Knitting, don’t even get me started. There’s a blessed wealth of new energy in the sustainable living, urban homesteading fields. Thanks largely to Shannon Hayes, we can tentatively start to call ourselves homemakers in public again.
But you’d better have something to show for it. You’d better have your house littered with DIY projects and several kinds of ferments. You’d better have a big shiny blog detailing your obsessive late night crafting and cooking exploits.
What? You’re too busy peeling small people off your legs and circumventing disasters of flour and paint to can up that 20 lb box of farmer’s market peaches? How gouche. Get a babysitter.
Because really, raising babies into mature, adjusted, respectful, independant, happy people? Where’s the glory in that? Nothing to prove yourself at the end of the day. No beasts slain or monuments erected. It’s women’s work.
Suddenly the absurdity of it hit me. Sure I am bucking the social norm by forgoing the career world and choosing to make a home and a family instead, thereby honoring the female in my own neo-feminist way. But in the end I am buying right back into the patriarchal paradigm by disregarding the humbling and dirty mama work for more glorious objectives.
I am assuming the above paragraphs rings as true in your cultural ear. But, seriously? How in the hell did we get to think that birthing and raising human beings is anything short of monumental. Suppose there were a laboratory scientist who under microscope inseminated human eggs, grew fetuses in an artificial womb, then provided just the right environment for physical and mental growth into a mature human specimen. I can only suspect this would be lauded as the highest post in the scientific realm. Heady stuff. Playing God, it sounds.
But no. It’s just playing Mom.
Because birthing and raising kids is commonplace does not mean it is anything less than absolutely extraordinary work. The highest post in the human realm (to risk making enemies). Worthy not just of respect, but outright worship. And I don’t mean I expect anyone else to bow down, but that I myself need to bow down before my own power. Yank it out from under those dank towels and worship my mothering self.
Which brings me to the kernal my life has been folding around for the last year. What is worthy of worship is worthy of Submission.
We are not taught to respect submission. Domination, that’s our bag. But I will dare to speak against the grain again and say that we whatever-we-are kind of feminists might want to reconsider. Submission in it’s pure form, shed of the baggage of polar duality, is beautiful, useful, and essentially female.
Now, don’t get yer panties in a bunch. By “female” I don’t mean only for women, or that only women naturally submit. I mean that it is the female in all of us that submits, and the male in all of us that dominates. I think we are all of us twisted up combinations of male and female qualities.
Before I get off track, let me explain further what I mean by submission. Such a dangerous word merits definition.
Because I do not mean submission to a god, or submission to your husband, or father, or priest, or pope or any of that. I mean submission to your chosen path, a gracious yielding to something beyond self. It’s what marriage means to me, and why I wanted to be married. Submission not to My Man, but to the union of Us we have chosen to make. Submitting makes it so much easier. You can let go the constant questioning, the wondering, the judging. You can stop re-examining your relationship every time you have an argument and put that energy instead into solving the conflict.
I started ruminating on submission regarding motherhood when I was visiting with a friend back home. We were talking about a woman we both knew, a mama who has given herself over entirely to being a mama. I couldn’t help but feel disdain. My friend swore this woman was happy, blissful even. I narrowed my eyes,
“But don’t you think that in some secret dark part of herself she’s all locked up and screaming?”
“No. No, I really don’t.”
I felt blind-sided.
“Maybe that’s what true submission means. Really, actually, honestly letting go of all your shit.”
I’m still not convinced that some bitter poison of stifled self will not leach in later years. Nevertheless, this shard of possibility which rubbed so wrong at first has been gathering like a pearl ever since. I feel there is something I’m missing. A keyhole empty.
I have always harshly judged the chic, city “accessory mom” who wants kids because they look good with her Saturday leisure outfit, and certainly would never let parenting get in the way of her career. Yet at some point recently I realized that I had shockingly similar expectations, just with a drastically different looking “career.” I also expected child-raising to fit into the corners of my otherwise me life. I would just keep at my illustrious Woodsy DIY Career whilst my babies played quietly with sticks and rocks in the corner, right?
When the truthing point arrived three years ago, in the form of an angelic and opinionated infant, the hardest part for me was lowering my expectations of production. I understood I had to give some things up, but it was only through gritted teeth. I was relenting. I was not gracious.
Enter the second. A seeming clone of the first. Not the “easy second child” I’ve heard tell about. Another beautifully spirited, curious, passionate and yes, opinionated baby. It’s amazing how early their little opinions exert themselves on your world. Size is not relative, let me tell you.
Two kids is a world away from one. It’s almost hard for me to really get a mama of one now. They seem so spry, so peppy, like fireworks compared to the dragged out way I feel. I’ve heard that this close spacing will pay off later, but so far all I can say is that having a newborn and a two year old at the same time was complete insanity.
Submission in the loosest sense of the word is inevitable. There is no escape hatch, no side halls, and the ground you walk over disappears as you pass. The only way is forward. But the spirit with which you go is everything. No hour passes slower than an hour of gritted teeth. To resist with your mind what you are in body doing wastes precious energy.
I am continually surprised by how pregnancy and, especially, birth prepare us for motherhood. Did you read the hippie birthing books? Submission, man. It’s all about submission. I can’t remember if they actually use that word, but that’s the concept behind pages and volumes of birthing books. Fight the pain and the baby will stick in there like a barb. Let go your fear, release yourself into the pain.
This is of course a fuck of a lot harder than it sounds. And I’m not sure I did such a keen job of it, which might be why my first labor lasted for three days. Obviously this is my special little lesson.
In labor you learn, above all else, that you are capable of completely impossible shit. In fact, it seems impossible and then the pain doubles. And then doubles again. And then, if you’re like me, when it gets to the pushing part the double double impossible is suddenly dwarfed by a mind boggling infinity of un-fucking-believable.
Which is good in a way. Because you come out the other end understanding that you are capable of feats as yet un-dreamed. If you can push a baby out of your vagina, mothering is all downhill from there.
We can do it. It’s the hardest job I know, and maybe it doesn’t offer immediate and tangible rewards like the more glamorous homey arts. Maybe you have nothing to show for the end of another hardest day of your life. Nothing to tally, nothing to photograph in macro, nothing to blag about, but we’re making mother fucking people. Beat that sister.