Being a Mother
We are sitting at lunch when my daughter
casually mentions that she and her
husband are thinking of “starting a family.”
“We’re taking a survey,” she says, half-joking.
“Do you think I should have a baby?”
“It will change your life,” I say, carefully
keeping my tone neutral.
“I know,” she says, “no more sleeping in on
weekends, no more spontaneous vacations….”
But that is not what I meant at all. I look
at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her.
I want her to know what she will never learn in
childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the
physical wounds of child bearing will heal,
but that becoming a mother will leave her with an
emotional wound so raw that she will forever
I consider warning her that she will never
again read a newspaper without asking
“What if that had been MY child?” That
every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her.
That when she sees pictures of starving
children, she will wonder if anything could
be worse than watching your child die.
I look at her carefully manicured nails and
stylish suit and think that no matter how
sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will
reduce her to the primitive level of a bear
protecting her cub.
That an urgent call of “Mom!” will cause her
to drop a souffle or her best crystal without
a moment’s hesitation.
I feel I should warn her that no matter how
many years she has invested in her career,
she will be professionally derailed by motherhood.
She might arrange for childcare, but one day
she will be going into an important business
meeting and she will think of her baby’s sweet
smell. She will have to use every ounce of her
discipline to keep from running home,
just to make sure her baby is all right.
I want my daughter to know that everyday
decisions will no longer be routine.
That a five year old boy’s desire to go to
the men’s room rather than the women’s at
McDonald’s will become a major dilemma.
That right there, in the midst of clattering trays
and screaming children, issues of independence and
gender identity will be weighed against the
prospect that a child molester may be lurking in
However decisive she may be at the office,
she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.
Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to
assure her that eventually she will shed the
pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the
same about herself. That her life, now so important,
will be of less value to her once she has a child.
That she would give it up in a moment to save her
offspring, but will also begin to hope for more
years– not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch
her child accomplish their.
I want her to know that a cesarean scar or
shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor.
My daughter’s relationship with her husband will
change, but not in the way she thinks. I wish she could
understand how much more you can love a man who is
careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to
play with his child. I think she should know
that she will fall in love with him again for
reasons she would now find very unromantic.
I wish my daughter could sense the bond she
will feel with women throughout history who
have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving.
I hope she will understand why I can think
rationally about most issues, but become
temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of
nuclear war to my children’s future.
I want to describe to my daughter the
exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike.
I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby
who is touching the soft fur of a dog or a cat for
the first time.
I want her to taste the joy that is so real, it
My daughter’s quizzical look makes me realize
that tears have formed in my eyes.
“You’ll never regret it,” I finally say.
Then I reach across the table, squeeze my
daughter’s hand and offer a silent prayer for her,
and for me, and for all of the mere mortal women
who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.
This blessed gift from God . . . that of being a Mother.