Thursday, September 18, 2008

Motherhood is incurable

What do you do when you feel like you are never going to recover from the fatal illness of motherhood? It is indeed an incurable complaint – shaken off by only the most callous (or is it the best-adjusted?). Observe the International Departures Hall at the airport and see the victims strewn about. Brave faces, concerned faces that crumple when they think no one is looking into wet wrinkled tissues; bustle around their offspring, attending to suitcase locks, handing over unwanted mags and chocs – poor substitutes for the home cooking and daily fussing they will now have to direct elsewhere.

The moment does come, as it always does, when the very last hug must be given. One tries not to cling or weep, or exhibit any other really needy behaviour, but it is oh so very hard! All you want to say is, “Please don’t go!”, but you know that this would only stifle “their development”, and – heaven forfend – who wants to ever be accused of that! (It is about the worst motherhood crime one can commit. Boyfriend shuffles uncomfortably at this display, anxious to be off.)
“Bye, Mom. Aw now, don’t cry… I’ll be back, you know. And you can come and visit me soon.”

And yes, they may, and yes, you may. But then again, you may not and they may not. And you will have to just get over that too. They say it is good for character formation, but do they mean by that good character or just plain eccentricity? The latter is certainly more likely. (I wonder what we will be like? How did the explorers’ parents fare, or our great grandparents when they were left behind in the colonial motherlands, without smses, emails and discount flights, many never to see their children again. Just wondering… Sob.)

So, it’s brave faces, lots of social activities, hard work – any kind will do – real work at a real job or manufactured tasks like cleaning out cupboards, weeding, organising photographs, cleaning drains – anything that will distract one from the fact that you now feel utterly redundant in the one area that you so cherished as your “area of expertise” – your own flesh and blood babies, that you have spent a lifetime getting to know, love and care for.

I remember when my parents emigrated with my two younger siblings. We all had fond hopes of seeing each other again soon. Before we knew it, ten years had passed and it was over twenty years before all four siblings were together again in one room. My brothers had become men, absorbed fully into their new culture and we who were left behind were strange out-of-sync people from the backwaters of a childhood they dimly remembered sharing. Now, almost thirty years later, I reflect that we hardly know each other. When we do see each other and each others’ children, it feels like we are almost strangers and with each visit, the gap appears to have widened, to almost to where it requires just too much effort to breach.

Thus, a family bond slowly unravels … and this, this is what one fears most when standing in the Departures Hall, that the gap will grow too large and the lack of the little shared moments, week by week, Sunday lunch by Sunday lunch, will erode and undermine the thing at the core of your existence, the thing you hold so dear.

“A common tale but true” – as the Lemon Tree song goes – “a sadder [wo]man but wiser now, I sing this song to you… “ etc. (Well, the wiser is questionable, but hey, one has to get something out of this cheerful experience!)

And so the older generation of SA skype and save, skype and save, skype and save… but to what end?

1 comment:

Alison said...

Franni ... brilliant! I look forward to reading more in the future.