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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The question of motherhood

<ir="ltr">“You would be such a great mom!” is probably the compliment (if it is one?) that I get the most in life. My friends sarcastically say “Thanks, mom” when I remind them to get enough rest before an exam, or remind them to take care of themselves in any way. I am the voice of reason, caution, and overall pragmatism among all of my friends who might act more their age than I do.

Yet I have wavered between being pleased by and internally cringing at this observation of motherhood that people ascribe to my persona. On the one hand, my Mom is an amazing person, and for people to tell me that I would be a good mom too means that my Mom raised me well. I have learned so much from her: how to listen, how to be open, how to take care of myself and others, and how to have a perspective on life that helps me see the bigger picture in moments when I am stressed out and sleep-deprived. As I have seen through my roles as daughter, sister, babysitter, and daycare employee, motherhood is rewarding. But that reward comes through a lot of hard work.

There was never a time when I wasn’t told that I was mature or that I would make a good mother. And while I do think that these traits are good and admirable, I have to wonder why I also, as I have grown up, have come to shy away from this label. In part, I know it is because I have seen my mother currently wrangling and guiding my three younger brothers through their teenage years, and it is not an easy task. But more than my personal experience, the culture and question of motherhood is changing around me, and I can’t help but notice it.

Last summer, I read Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, which is not a new book but one that stuck with me. No spoilers, but the biggest takeaway from that book for me was that even mothers with the best of intentions and all the love in the world can still negatively impact their children. The mother in the book, Patty Berglund, loves her son so much, but he ends up resenting her, finding her overbearing and oppressive. Granted, Patty had her own issues from earlier in her life that never really got resolved or never really had time to heal, but nonetheless, she loved her son and he ended up deeply resenting her. Her son ends up in an unhealthy, manipulative relationship, struggles in college and gets involved in a morally questionable business venture. In the end, after many years of distance and cold emotions, her son does come back to her a bit, cautiously, to renew their relationship. However, the culture I consume also shows me great examples of motherhood. Lorelai Gilmore in Gilmore Girls is the example I have looked to for what being a mom and a best friend to your daughter can be, and it seems, like all motherhood, to be both challenging and rewarding. Both of these examples have mothers who have their own issues to deal with as people and on top of that they are bringing up children.

Motherhood asks a lot of a person, and that is sometimes why I’d like to just put a moratorium on the “you’d be a great mom” compliments and simply live as any other young adult college student does, not so worried, not so obstinately mature all the time. In addition to simply asking a lot of a person, I’m not sure what career path I want to go down yet, and to be repeatedly told I’m a motherly person seems irrelevant when I want to discover what my career in life will be. Introducing the idea of a career and motherhood brings up so many more intricacies, balances, and negotiations that need to be made, and I’d really just like to establish the big question of “What am I going to do with my life and education now?” question before being in charge of another human being.

I worry about motherhood, about what kind of mother I would be. After reading Patty’s story in Freedom, I wonder if I will ever be able to parent in a way that won’t negatively impact my child. Some days I can barely take care of myself, my body and my emotions, and the thought of being in charge of a whole other person is frightening. Becoming a mother, if I choose to do so, is something very far down the road for me, when people bring up the “You’d be such a great mom” observation frequently, it’s something I think about. So, to my friends and peers who think I’d be a great mom: Thank you. I take it as a compliment to my mother and the women in my life that you’d observe that about me. But don’t be surprised if there’s a small grimace on my face as I accept your compliment- the natural, maybe “motherly” worrier that I am is already worried about successfully mothering a hypothetical child in the future while also having a successful and dynamic career. Let’s maybe take it one step at a time instead of projecting each others’ desires for 20 years into the future.

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