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Mothering on International Women’s Day

Until I was a mother, I wasn’t really a woman.

I know my non-mom friends are going to hate that. I would hate that. I would feel punched, as if my circumstances or choices had led me to being less-than, as if motherhood was being put on a pedestal I knew was bullshit. I would hate the gender essentialism of it, the idea that to be A WOMAN is tied to my uterus, my ovaries, the blood in my cup, the breasts in my shirt. I would hate the false dichotomy—woman / everyone who hasn’t had a baby—and the anxious separation from my friends, my family, the people who matter most in my life who haven’t done this thing.

So yeah, I get it. I hate it. But also: (powerful) (personal) (irritating) truth.

I feel like I’m a million years old. I feel elemental, as if there is saltwater in my veins, or moss growing between my legs and under my arms. I feel invisible. I feel like a burl of wood. I feel like my body is ridiculous and divine. I feel more whole and more broken than I thought was humanly possible. I feel like I’m part of a vast, worldwide sorority of women who parent. I feel connected to something historical and rooted. I feel like, some days, doing my eyebrows saves my life. I feel like I could sleep for a week and still wake up like, “Man, I need a nap.” I feel farther away from my ideal life, and more in tune with my values.

I have long hair and big boobs. I have a tight ass and a droopy stomach. I present as female, and with a baby on my back, I am understood by the world to be a certain kind of female. I’ve reproduced, so I’m less sexy; I’m fatter now, so, you know: ibid. People also seem to take me more and less seriously. More: I am someone’s final word, the place where the buck stops. I make decisions. I have buying power! Less: let’s be real. Caretaking work has never been taken as seriously as, like, the financial sector, or war. Being someone’s mom is being a joke about MILFs, frumpiness, and high-waisted jeans, all rolled into one.

International Women’s Day feels like a fake holiday, like National Grilled Cheese Day (April 12, mark your calendars!), but it does give me a moment to reflect on womanhood. There are days when being a part of capitalist patriarchy is so oppressive, it’s tough to breathe. The moments when I yearn to be paid for doing the work I would pay someone else to do. The knowledge that I will probably never advance as far or get paid as well as my male friends. I know that, as a white woman, I have benefits that women of colour don’t have; I start further down the track, as the analogy goes. But we’re all in this broken system together. And as a mom, my rage against it, my desire to burn it to the ground and start fresh, means that I see the stakes every day in my own house: what kind of world can mothers make for their children?

On a personal note, being a mother requires serious presence. It’s the most sustained here-and-now work I’ve ever done. If I was doing it in a physics lab or a boardroom, I would be incandescent with effort. Right now my child is running laps around the living room, clutching a drill bit, counting “1-2-3-2-3-2-3-1-GO” and pretending to be Lightning McQueen. The sheer randomness of daily life requires concentration that my hectic sleep schedule doesn’t really allow for. There is a lot of white-knuckling and hoping for the best. And it makes me better—kinder, softer, more concentrated, more compassionate. It flexes that muscle over and over again, in a way that therapy, breakups, self-help books or ayurveda never did. I have to walk the walk, every damn day, in order to be the type of mom I want to be; in the process, I’ve struggled out of my girl-suit and into something like a woman.

Honestly, this recognition of myself as woman is kind of a weird trip. My gender has never really been that important to me—it aligned with what I was assigned to at birth, I had most of the attendant parts, so, like, woman, right? But since late-stage pregnancy, there has been a shift. I feel like a goddess, but from a tradition where every last damn part of life has a deity. I am the goddess of Brussels sprouts, of uncombed hair, of sore feet. I’m the goddess of milk-stained sheets, of double chins, of extra belly skin. I am the goddess of children who wake up at 4:21 in the morning just to chat. I am the goddess of a small head resting on my shoulder as we read, and of screaming fits in the expensive grocery store. I am the goddess of spreadsheets about daycares, of stroller repairs, of wiping cream cheese off the iPad. I’m the goddess of my house, my hearth, his heart.

About the Author

Kaitlyn Kochany
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More about Kaitlyn Kochany

Kaitlyn Kochany is a Toronto-area freelance writer and editor. She had her son, NS, in January 2016, and has been trying to sleep and write since then.

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