Thursday, November 10, 2005

Motherhood: An Army of One

In talking with a friend today he said something that knocked me out:

"It's funny how being a parent changes you, isn't it?"

It's such a cliche, a Lifetime Television For Women hackneyed concept: "woman's life has little discernible meaning, gets child, gets meaning." Lame. Simplistic. Embarrassing that people still believe it.

And yet, true.

The truth of it never occurred to me before, simply because I have always deplored any aphorism that can be put on a Celestial Seasonings teabag and be called "wisdom." Sayings like "life is truth" or whatever just annoy the hell out of me because in their attempt to provide meaning, they become meaningless. Sort of like, "funny how being a parent changes you..."

To be sure, simply having a child does not imbue your life with meaning. But loving a child sure does. Like the previous post about jury duty. Before The Bambina, I wouldn't have been psyched to sit through it, but not for the same reasons. This time, it was because I knew that all I'd be thinking about as I listened to this trial is, "Dear God, don't let this ever happen to my daughter; I beg of you." I would see my daughter in the victim, I would empathize with her in a way I would not with the accused, simply because she is somebody's daughter and I'd pray that someone would help her if they could.

No matter what the issue, I find myself saying, "If she were my daughter, I'd pray to god that someone would tell her x or help her with y, or refuse her z" or whatever. It sounds so very altruistic, but I'm almost not sure if that is an appropriate way to live, since no one can ever help everyone simply because they are "somebody's daughter" and sometimes the bridges you burn to help that stranger who is somebody's daughter might not be worth it if you end up with no bridges of your own.

And so I am left to hope that there is some balance that can be achieved, wherein I can feel the pain of another human, even one I don't know, simply because her mother is out there somewhere hoping that another mother will do the right thing for her daughter, and wherein I can not take on every issue, every person, and every concern simply because I would want it taken on for my child if I were not there myself.

I'm thinking that is my new challenge for the coming months: to find that balance between working to perfect the world for my child, doing what I think is the right thing for another person's child (no matter what their age), and recognizing sometimes that some things and some people just have to take care of themselves.

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