Part of me, a new more selfish part, just wants to say “because I feel like it”.
I suppose that I am doing this show because I am, now that my kids are grown, reflecting on this massive life orientation of the last 22 years of my life. It has been THE orientation around which everything else has placed itself. Everything else in my life has been in the service of this huge responsibility or has been something that I needed to fit and around this huge responsibility. Until now, I could not even dream of doing something else big that would compromise the quality of my work as a mother. So now I can.
I do see this life choice that I made at the age of 24 as a job and a responsibility. The ways that I deeply and undeniably love my kids in my cells was the surprising part. The part of the job that I could not anticipate. And it did not happen all at once. I did not immediately adore my baby. And the pregnancy and labor was primarily about me, and the changes that were happening to me, and the pain and discomfort that I was experiencing. I remember the huge wave of guilt and anxiety that came over me when I forgot that I had a baby because I did not feel like a mother for the first weeks when I would leave my baby after a big successful feeding and go to the grocery store for 45 minutes. I was horrified that I could forget that he existed even for a few minutes. I felt like there was something seriously wrong with me. I felt the danger implicit in this forgetting. My baby needed me to never ever forget about him. I remember having flash fantasies (not good ones) of dropping my baby over the bannister, or what if I suddenly lost it and threw him, or hurt him somehow. They were horrible images and also made me feel so very guilty–what was wrong with me?! The judgement I had for myself was intense. Was this judgement biological? The wave of anxiety telling me how dangerous it was for me to forget or have negative thoughts or anger/violence towards my baby? Was it female socialization? To be a mother is natural for girls and mothers? Girls and women do not have a hard time with self-sacrifice? Or should not? I remember being fascinated and horrified by the film The Hours, and the character played by Julianne Moore who abandoned her little boy because she realized to stay with him in the role of suburban mother in the 50’s would kill her (suicide) and so she left. What a terrible thing to do I thought. How horrible. And yet, we know men do this commonly for all kinds of reasons and we might think it is bad, and we might judge them, but we also accept fathers abandoning their children as commonplace. We tend to deeply judge an abandoning woman. Why?