This guest post is a part of the ongoing series, “What Motherhood Means to Me”, where I seek to highlight various perspectives on motherhood.
On My Definition of Motherhood
By: Nadirah Angail
Initially, when I think of motherhood, I think of having children. Simple enough, but no, that’s not what it means to me. There are tons of people that have children and are NOT mothers. Dig deeper, Nad.
Okay, so then I think about the fact that the word “motherhood” has the root word “mother,” which means we’re talking specifically about women here. That means there must be some difference between motherhood and fatherhood, but what is it? What is it that a mother does and a father doesn’t, and vice versa? No, I’m not talking about giving birth and breastfeeding (though I do think that has something to do with it). I mean beyond that, what makes a mother? Okay, Nad, you’re thinking and raising questions, but still no answers. You gotta do better than this. To the dictionary.
I clicked the trusty dictionary app and entered the words “mother” and “father.” The main definitions were pretty similar: “A woman/man in relation to a child she birthed/his natural child.” The second definitions were pretty close too, except for some small, but important, distinctions.
“Mother- a person who provides the care and affection normally associated with a female parent.”
“Father- a man who gives care or protection to someone or something.”
Both definitions mention giving or providing care, but one mentions affection while the other mentions protection. So, is that where my husband and I differ? He handles the practical aspects of parenting while I handle the relational ones? Well, yes and no. He is very protective and I am very affectionate, but I’m also protective and he is also affectionate. Thanks a lot, dictionary. You still didn’t give me an answer. Okay fine, looks like I’m on my own with this one.
What I know for sure, without a doubt, is that I am the primary woman in my daughter’s life. Later, she’ll be influenced by female friends, teachers and even celebs (hate to think about that part) but for now, it’s pretty much me (and her grandmother). So, as the main female in this little female’s life, I have an obligation to guide her toward certain things and away from others.
Toward self-love and away from self-loathing.
Toward critical thinking and away from blind following.
Toward embracing and acceptance and away from judgment and disregard.
Toward accepting her beauty and away from trying to fit into someone else’s.
Toward valuing inner and away from fixating on outer.
Of course her father will help with these things as well, but not in the way that I will. I will model for her how to be a woman. He will model for her how to treat one. He cannot step into my shoes and do my part, and I cannot step into his. When we have a son (God willing), he will show him how to be a man and I will show him how to treat one. So, that’s what it means to me to be a mother. It’s not so much about the cooking, cleaning, feeding and playing. It’s more about the guiding and providing an example of a confident, well-adjusted woman. Unfortunately, she will be assaulted by a barrage of messages about women and womanhood that only involve sex and superficiality. It is my job to steer her away from that. With me pulling from the front and her dad pushing from the back, hopefully we have a pretty good chance of keeping her on the right track.
Nadirah Angail is a Kansas City-based author and blogger. She has published two books and written many articles and blogs that speak to her interpretation of the female experience. Find more information about her at www.nadirahangail.com
Raise your hand if you were very sure what kind of parent you were going to be before you had kids?
Raise your hand if you were very sure what kind of parent you were going to be at each stage of your kid’s life beforehand?
I’m raising both hands on both accounts.
One thing I’m learning in this parenting gig is that I’m always learning. I have a core set of values that form the base of my parenting but I’m always fine-tuning them as I go along.
This week’s Soapbox Sunday features some writings that I found insightful about parenting.
BlackGirlinMaine talks about what she’s learned having raised an almost 19 year old and now raising a 5 year old.
Gina, The Feminist Breeder has a message for newer moms who judge other moms who have difficult toddlers — “Just wait!”
Lauren, at Hobo Mama, talks about why she’s not as fabulous a parent as her blog might make her seem and why that’s ok.
Dionna, at CodeName:Mama shares tips for encouraging children to apologize with sincerity instead of forcing them to say sorry.
Darcel at The Mahogany Way talks about the importance of play in her children’s lives.
What kind of parenting insights have you discovered?
There is this weird sense of competition that exists among parents when it comes to infant/toddler milestones. We feel triumphant when our kids reach milestones early — as if this is proof-positive that our kids will be the ones to solve world hunger, bring peace on Earth and invent time machines. On the other hand, if our kids are “late” with their milestones, we fall into anxiety about what this says about our child and the quality of our parenting.
That’s how it’s been for me in regard to Baby E learning to walk. I had been almost certain that he’d be an early walker. After all, according to my parents I was walking by the time I reached 7 months old. So when Baby E showed an interest in standing at 4 months old, I just knew we were a few months away from early toddlerhood.
But his 6 month birthday came and went. So did his 7 month birthday. In fact, he didn’t even crawl until he was 8 months old.
It didn’t help when my father unhelpfully chimed in with, “He should be running by now.” Luckily, I can be a patient, laid back mother for the most part so I accepted that Baby E would walk when he was ready. It also didn’t hurt to know that walking at the age of 7 months is pretty unusual for a baby.
And so the months kept passing us by.
By 10 months, he was successfully climbing stairs. At the time, a 9 month old boy at our La Leche League meeting had just started walking but Baby E was content to crawl around after him.
11 months…12 months…We went to visit our relatives in the Midwest for Baby E’s first birthday.
And I heard…
“Is he close to walking yet?”
“You need to let him practice walking.”
“I’ll teach him to walk!”
On his birthday, Baby E got up from the floor without using an object for support, and everyone swore he was going to walk in the next few days.
Then we returned home. A month passed and now the other babies around his age at LLL were walking and running and Baby E didn’t care. He was content to crawl. He was content to cruise furniture and walls and to use the other walking babies as support beams. He was also content to tease me by taking a few unsupported steps here and there. I sighed, and resigned myself to the fact that I probably wasn’t raising a boy genius. And every time I learned there was another younger baby now walking, my patience faded a little more.
Then there was this past weekend.
C and I were in the middle of watching Spike Lee’s HBO four-part series, When the Levees Broke. I had been crying at the devastation of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans — crying at the indignities suffered, the lives lost, the children lost and orphaned… And I kept thinking about the mothers and what it must be like to not know if your previously healthy child would survive… And what it must be like to feel so helpless… And to know that I would do whatever I needed to do to protect my child — boy genius or not, superhuman-in-the-making or not.
Meanwhile, Baby E had been crawling around on the floor. Then out of the blue, he stood up and walked five steps on his own.
Five steps! Five wobbly, toddler steps!
Naturally, we failed to get it on camera.
Naturally, we tried to get him to do it again for the camera.
Naturally, he ignored us.
But he kept trying all weekend.
So now I sort of have a walker — a cautious walker who will readily go back to crawling once he loses his balance — and a weird sense of relief, joy, anticipation and sadness that my baby won’t be a baby much longer.