When my daughter Natalie was born, our friend Tina gave me a golden locket, with a place to insert a photo. She also gave me a smaller one for my daughter to have when she gets older. I was very touched by this gift, since my mother passed away many years ago, and I would expect a loving gesture like this from my own mother, if she were alive.
Nowadays, not many women wear lockets, as it’s considered old fashioned. Today, as my daughter points out, a cell phone with a picture of somebody you care for, or is special to you, would be considered a locket. I would hold a more narrow definition, for the reason that a locket is closed and has a sense of secrecy and intimacy.
I always knew that I wanted to be a mother. I felt I was a mother at heart. As sometimes happens in life, we don’t get what we want, or, we need to wait, or fulfill our wish in another way. I was fortunate to have my daughter later in life, when I was a mature adult. In all honesty I didn’t know the great fortune waiting for me, since waiting was hard. Still, as women often admit, nothing could prepare me for what was in store.
“Be present,” was an important daily mantra for me, but I often felt as if I was scratching the surface of all the things I was doing. If I had a moment of solitude, I felt guilty, or felt that if I didn’t work so hard that I was exhausted at the end of the day, the moment I had stolen for myself was not deserved. Most of my friends and the women I’ve worked with over the years have expressed the same feeling, the same frustration.
Sometimes our emotions cause us to react to life with decisions that we later regret. Possibly we become depressed, remorseful and withdraw instead of taking charge of our life and being responsible for our happiness. But the happier and more fulfilled we mothers are, the healthier and happier our family can be and the more likely it is that we will make better choices to help create a healthier life in those around us.
The contemporary world and its demands shape women differently. Many of us divide time between raising our family, managing our home, and working while still trying to cultivate our own passions and creativity. We want to fulfill our ambitions. No matter where we come from, what culture, religion, or education, what language we speak, there is universality to women’s experience. Our role in life doesn’t stop with being a mother; we are also wives, daughters, siblings, friends, business partners, and so much more.
I wrote poems after my daughter was born. They were not written right away – I certainly didn’t have the time – but when life settled down with a more calm and stable rhythm I pulled together scraps of napkins from Peet’s Coffee that I had scribbled on, loose pages and numerous journals I had carried with me wherever I went. I wrote whenever life allowed me to, in waiting rooms, parks and playgrounds, restaurants, while waiting for my daughter at gymnastics, or simply just before falling asleep after an exhausting day. Because I kept writing, I was able to reflect on what had happened during the day. Writing was my remedy for staying sane, conscious, trying to be objective and focused on what was most important in my life. It helped me to see what was out of balance and how to correct it. Many of my poems touch on the subject of family, motherhood, marriage, and coping with loss.
Some of the women I know don’t have children, but they are mothers at heart. What makes them mothers at heart is the way they care. They either care for an elder parent or relative; they care for other people’s children, or for pets of every description. Or many women care for bigger causes like justice, poverty or those that society has abandoned.
May this poem bring love, strength, wisdom, healing and recognition to you all. Happy Mother’s Day.
ER (from Locket by Aniela Gregorek)
“I know you inside out,”
my daughter tells me,
“since I was inside your belly.”
Then she laughs, “No one knows you
better than I do.”
To me she is sea glass, the finest,
I can see right through. Just a moment ago
she was talking to me
about global warming
and drought –
about oil drilling, spills
into the oceans, and fish
disappearing from our rivers and lakes.
It all sounds so frightful
to a young girl. Just outside her
window the whole tree shivers
under the weight of black birds,
balancing on branches like tightropes,
their wings dazzling with each move.
They crow in protest against
something we don’t see or understand.
When she was in my belly
I was her everything, a private universe,
able to shield her. Now, she lies
with her knee split open, raw and
an unfamiliar man stitches her
skin together with eleven elegant stitches,
then another row. I must trust
he will help her be whole again.
In front of my eyes she became
small again, vulnerable. My whole being
objects against all she is going through
and knows, but then she laughs
her nervous kind of laughter,
and asks the doctor questions.
She wants to know.
All I can see is blue coats, silver needles,
and red–stained white sheets. I feel useless.
So I build something between us
with words, telling the same old stories
she remembers since she was small.
Stories about the old world
where teachers teach, bakers make bread,
doctors heal, people tend to things
they care about. I want her to be someone
who creates harmony with her presence,
one who bleeds the color of red tulips
onto her canvas, and bakes green apples
into a pie. Someone who lives
in the world without misusing words
or people, with hands that know
how to mend.
A still brush, silver scissors and colored pencils
are all waiting patiently on her desk. Man made
things created to be of use. I look at her
shiny hair falling softly over
her already broad shoulders and around
her maturing face. Her eyes are wide open.
Life unfurls in front of her as it comes.
How do you find yourself between fulfilling your own ambitions and your responsibilities to your family? Do you have to feel resentful on one hand or guilty on the other? Is there another way?
Leave your response below in the comments.