Today, I spent the whole day dealing with the logistics of thoughtfully and lovingly raising a human child. There are a lot of ways to approach this project, and every day is different. But, today we had:
- A Dash and Mommy trip to his new school to drop off paperwork. When I arrived, I had to do yet more paperwork. I am actually not done with all the paperwork, and will have to make at least one more trip. I expect more paperwork surprises await me.
- Immediately afterward, we had a trip to the pediatrician, where Dash got three vaccines and a full check-up ahead of kindergarten. It was a longer appointment than usual, as the pandemic threw our office visits a bit off schedule, and vaccination requires extra cuddles, because ouch.
- We came back home, ate a late lunch, and then jumped into our suits for swim class. Dash and I have been doing lessons at the pool together since he was in diapers; he can now competently swim across the pool, taking breaths as he needs to. This is both a delightful accomplishment and an important safety skill.
- After the pool, we had dinner and bedtime. (James cooked, and I did the first portion of bedtime reading before James read a book, told him a story, and tucked him in.)
And so I find myself, at just past 10pm, settling down for the first time today into my own thoughts, assessing my own to-do lists, and wondering if I have enough time left to devote to projects that are due before getting to bed for an early start tomorrow.
Days like today are frequent for parents, and especially mothers. Some days, it's easy enough to skate by with doing the minimum, and plenty of others are relay races of meeting long- and short-term needs for a tiny person.
We had fun today, but we also addressed the legal requirement to educate a child, provide said child with essential medical care, and install some survival skills so the kid is more likely to live through the routine hazards of life--with necessary meals and potty breaks built into the schedule. Of course, since Dash is nearly school age, I have been doing this for years. I have already clocked hundreds of days like this, and there will be many thousands by the time I'm through.
I share all of this because this is what actually hangs in the balance with the question of reproductive choice. And, honestly, unless you have a child already, it's difficult to really make an informed choice about the matter--it's all instinct and conjecture, with many assumptions proved wrong, learning on your feet and having your heart rearranged by the paradigm shift and its constant shifting evermore.
About 60% of women in the United States who have an abortion are mothers already. They know, intimately, what the demands of a new human are. While mothers frequently rise to compound challenges at the limit of or even beyond their bandwidths, they are the only ones capable of assessing whether it is possible to do right for the lives in their care, much less any potential others that might arise.
Or, more simply, whether they want to--because we are not obligated, by dint of being female, to constantly live at the limit of what we can endure because of the obligations others thrust upon us. We can and should choose to live with the commitments that bring us joy, encourage us to grow, and fulfill our own senses of purpose.
To bring it all home: I am very certain I am a good mother. I have set aside a good deal of myself to cultivate my child in a quality manner, and I see the dividends of that investment nearly every day. (I am also certain I make mistakes, because there is no perfection to be found in this endeavor.) I am far less sure that I would do so well with multiple children, and I'm not at all convinced that I would enjoy that scenario.
I have had many opportunities to gaze awestruck at myself spread so gruesomely thin as to be nearly transparent, and I can't help but wonder, at nearly 11pm now, if this isn't the patriarchal point: That the misogynistic design of how America handles motherhood specifically praises dissolving oneself into an ever-growing pool of children valued above the women who bear them, increasingly without choice. That we should stay so tired and distracted by the snowballing needs of others that we lack the energy or resources to restructure the whole goddamned scheme so it serves us.
I'll tell you a secret, though--I'm finding firm footing. I enjoyed today partly because I spent it in a sense of ease that while I was caring for my child I was also improving the linkages of community and support that help both of us thrive.
And I've had a lot of days lately where I made myself available to my own pursuits. My kid likes my company more when I'm a bit of a rarity, and I'm probably better company anyway because I'm taking better care of me. He sees what boundaries and self-actualization can look like, and it helps him to be a whole person, too. I show up with more energy and creativity for parenting, and he wants to be part of that team. And tomorrow, it's his dad's turn, and there's enough of us to go around to do what needs doing.
Basically, I'm getting to the point where I can really feel that I have one hand holding Dash's, and the other can free to push back against bullshit. Or maybe hold a fiery sword.