I was having a discussion with a friend and she mentioned that she didn’t feel maternal. I had two reactions: I was heartbroken and angry. Angry because there’s a female guilt that comes with not feeling maternal. What man ever says with a twinge of sadness, “I’m not paternal”? Heartbroken because I don’t think being maternal is that important.
Here’s a shocker… (insert sarcastic tone)
I’m not maternal. I figured it was a reason I shouldn’t have kids. I don’t get gooey. I doubt I’d ever hear a clock. I fumble all the time with being Maternal. If I was Maternal maybe the fumbling would be excusable because it’s part of parenthood, right? But if you don’t feel Maternal the fumbling feels more fumbly.
But what is Maternal?
To me and probably most, Maternal means being awesome 70% of the time. It means you wanted babies from the second you could pick up a plastic doll. Maternal means you got weepy when the lines turned pink on the stick. It means you cried when you saw the heartbeat. And you gushed when you saw your partner’s profile on the ultrasound (psst, all ultrasound profiles look alike. I’ve never seen one that actually looked like the parents. We all know it, but no one wants to break it to new parents). Being Maternal means you know how to handle blow-ups without breaking a sweat. You know how to raise a well-mannered child and how balance your emotions when your well-mannered child breaks character. If you’re Maternal, you never want to run away. Being Maternal means being a Mom is your number one favorite job. Being Maternal is a natural part of being a woman. You’re Maternal because you have ovaries. That’s being Maternal. And if you’re a Mom and don’t feel Maternal, you tend to feel like a big pile of loser Momma Poo.
Nope, I’m not Maternal. Am I really a big pile of loser poo?
Some days, yes. I’m a hot steamy pile of it. I never dreamed about being a Mom. When I was pregnant, it always felt fake to me that I would actually be called, “Mom.” “Mrs. Ray” still freaks me out and probably always will. I don’t read to my kids every day, but I take them to the library at least once a week. I don’t know how to handle simple kid drama and often get sucked into reacting dramatically. I’m doing the best I can and I still fuck up a number of simple things. I’m ok if my kids play video games so I can take a nap, cook dinner, do laundry, or blog something. My kids eat cereal and quesadillas more often than I’d like. My SIL thinks it’s hilarious that I’m an active member in the PTA and I 100% agree with her. If a teacher would say, “Becks’ sauciness is a problem,” I wouldn’t necessary jump to defend him and excuse it. I’d say, “No shit!” I don’t want to be around my kids all the time. I need to be completely away from them even if it means going to the grocery ALONE. When someone gets hurt, Mark always runs first and faster. And sometimes I don’t check on them before I go to bed. Mark does.
Please don’t think that because I’m not Maternal that it means I don’t love my children like a wild bear. I’ll gut your insides and serve them to you with a side of kale if you talk about my parenting. I love my children with them same intensity as a Maternal mom: fiercely and passionately. My kids are fine. My kids are downright amazing. Becks proper use of adverbs makes me incredibly happy. Coop’s desire for a chapter book to take to school makes me really proud. When Becks asks to snuggle, I drop it all to oblige. I love the conversations I have with Coop about the third grade dynamic. The fact that my boys adore each other makes their petty arguments tolerable. I’m constantly surprised by the boys’ fantastic-ness. How did this happen? Shouldn’t they be running around surviving on squirrel and spitting on adults?
I knew I wasn’t maternal when I had kids, but I listened to all those seasoned Moms, “It will come. Don’t worry. Baby goes in your arms and you’re good.” That wasn’t even 5% true for me, but it was too late. I took a gamble on the importance of the Maternal feeling. The greatest gamble I ever took was that I didn’t let the lack of a “feeling” stop me from being a Mom. I was brave and jumped. And after eight years of working hard, I think I’ve graduated to semi-maternal. By default, of course.
Here’s the thing, being naturally Maternal is overrated. Being Maternal doesn’t mean you’re automatically a Fantastic Mom. Hell, it doesn’t even guarantee you’ll be a decent Mom. It only means you had an expectation of what a Good Mom should be. Being Maternal probably means your Good Mom voice is constantly screaming out how you should behave: creating an impossibly high standard of Motherhood. Being non-Maternal meant I got to figure out how to parent my kids in a way that works for me. I’m doing the very best I can, but being Non-Maternal meant I gave myself slack from the start.
In the end, who knows if being Maternal is important. Maybe my boys will say, “You could totally tell Ma wasn’t maternal. And we suffered for it.” Maybe children of a naturally Maternal Ma will say, “My mom told everyone she was Maternal, but we had a shit childhood.” In the end, you don’t really know, you keep taking the gamble and you try your best.
No. I’m not Maternal, but I’m still an amazing Mom.
I do it my way.