Each day this week, the Scroll will be featuring a post from a writer at JN Magazine—short for “Jewnited Nations”—a website “here to change the monochromatic monolithic perception of Judaism.” Each post has been commissioned and edited by MaNishtana, the pseudonym of Shais Rishon, a Tablet contributor and editor-at-large at JN Magazine.
There is a little girl who lives in my home. I play with her every day, teach her right from wrong, make sure she gets as much of a balanced diet as I can manage, and give her kisses. I change her diapers, comfort her when she wakes up from a nap, and feed her from my own body.
She is my daughter. I am her mother.
But when people ask me, “How does it feel to be a mother?” my only answer is, “I’m not.”
I’m not “a mother.”
I belong to her. I’m her mother, and that’s it. I haven’t joined the club of minivanners, or PTA meeting attendees (although if we don’t choose homeschool, which right now is looking pretty attractive, I will be a PTA meeting attendee), or women whose conversations revolve around diapers and breast versus bottle (although I do have those conversations). Somehow, I just haven’t made the transition to “a mom.”
I’m just her mom.
I have a personal opinion about cloth vs. disposable, organic vs. not, stroller vs. sling, and bottle vs. breast. For us, if you care, cloth was ideal but not practical, I care about the dirty dozen, we use both stroller and front-and-back structured carriers and our arms, and I’m still nursing my 17-month-old. My global opinion? Do your best to get educated about the pros and cons of either, and do what works for you and your child. For you, that may be cloth diapers and Cheetos being fished out of a bottle with a pacifier in the other hand while you wear your baby in a backpack. But I say this because I’m not a mom.
I’m her mom, and I’ll do what works for me and her.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m alone in that feeling. It seems like so many friends of mine who have children, or are planning for them, can’t wait to be “a mom.” It’s a label they felt anxious to adopt, and once they had it, began to wear it like a badge of pride.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t be prouder to be her mom.
There’s nothing in the world that makes me happier than the moments that she comes toddling around a corner looking for me, and her whole face lights up when she catches my eyes. Motherhood as it relates to this child is an amazing gift.
But, I still don’t feel like “a mom.”
Doesn’t “a mom” have to care what kind of “a mom” she is? Is she natural, earthy crunchy? Is she a working mom or stay-at-home mom? Does she trade her sporty sedan out for a minivan or get a bicycle with an extra seat? Did she read Dr. Spock? I may make all of those decisions, and read the books, but I feel no need to fall into any paradigm.
I guess because I’m not “a mom.”
I’ve had this conversation with women in their twenties and thirties, and some women in their fifties and sixties. All have children; some through biology and some through adoption. Most of them are “moms.” The question always comes.
“How do you like being a mom?”
Again, I answer: “I wouldn’t know, I’m not a mom. I’m just her mom. And that, I love.”
A few looked at me like they couldn’t understand what I was saying; the difference between “her mom” and “a mom” didn’t register at all. But others’ faces relaxed with what looked like an unexpected sense of relief.
Someone else got it. She isn’t “a mom” either; whether her brood includes one kid or three, she belongs to her children only.
We are happy to help out other mothers at birthday parties or keep an eye while another runs to the bathroom at the park, we have personal opinions on diapering and infant nourishment and organic food. But as for our name, our parenting, and ourselves?
We belong to our children. Our “mom” title is only theirs, and that’s okay. I don’t ever have to be “a mom.” Who knows, maybe one day it’ll wash over me like a tidal wave, and I’ll be comfortable as “a mom,” or maybe it’ll never happen.
Maybe, I’ll just always be her mom.
Shoshana Ne’ora Rishon, the daughter of a German Jewish mother and Black Catholic father, is a biracial advocate, interracial & inter-religious family adviser, and general race conversationalist. She blogs, speaks publicly, and runs classes for interracial families on socio-racial identity development. She (reluctantly) lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their daughter.
Shoshana Ne’ora Rishon, the daughter of a German Jewish mother and Black Catholic father, is a biracial advocate, interracial & inter-religious family adviser, and general race conversationalist. She blogs, speaks publicly, and runs classes for interracial families on socio-racial identity development. She (reluctantly) lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.