Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Big Plans: My Listen to Your Mother Essay

It was almost 2 weeks ago, on May 2nd, that I read this essay before a packed auditorium of strangers and friends.  I wrote this to be read out loud, and sometime this summer you'll be able to watch me read it on YouTube.  Until then, I thought I'd share the actual essay with you.  I wasn't featured in the national media coverage like my gorgeous amazing friend Marianne at We Band of Mothers, but I was able to be a part of this national series of readings on motherhood that happened in 24 cities, giving Mother's Day a microphone.  I feel soo lucky to have been a part of this whole thing.  

Here is a picture of the lovely cast before the show*: 

I even got to look quite nice thanks to my friend Jenny who styled me.  Here I am reading at the podium*: 

Here is my essay titled: 

Big Plans

I never wanted to be a mother.  I never wanted to have children.  I had grand plans of being everyone’s favorite aunt and filling up my passport with stamps.  Life has a funny way of changing plans. 

You see, my mother held a really high standard for motherhood.  All she ever wanted to BE was a mother and she was mostly a REALLY good one.  She was selfless in a way that I could NOT comprehend, sacrificing everything for me and my brother.  She was Betty Crocker and Mister Rogers, and would have had 12 kids had she actually liked my father. 

I now realize that all those years I spent never wanting to be a mother were my adolescent way of trying not to become her.  I rejected everything she ever wanted to be.  I made plans, and motherhood wasn’t part of them. 

I had just begun my second year of graduate school, and felt like I was finally fulfilling that great potential mom always told me I had.  I was to officially begin the PhD program in January, and was to spend that fall semester wrapping up the credits for my two Master’s programs and writing grants to go abroad and conduct pilot research for my dissertation.  I had BIG plans. 

I was also 2 weeks late and in some serious denial.  I was just stressed.  I had been exercising more than usual lately.  Yeah sure, there was that night when Andy forgot how to count and we had too many mojitos, but surely, surely I couldn’t be…no.

Andy drove me to the drug store.  We bought 3 tests.  I’m pretty sure he thought I was being ridiculous and worrying too much. 
I wasn’t. 
He tried to make me laugh.  He said, “Well, I guess our junk works.” 

I cried.  I cried humongous slobbery selfish sobs,
for the life I had dreamed of that would never be…
For the poor baby that was going to have ME as a mother…
For not being more careful…
For never EVER paying attention to kids before….
For thinking about options…

But then we talked about it.  We made new plans of how to keep parts of our old dreams while changing the shape of our new future together. 

I would love to say that motherhood has come easy for me.  It hasn’t.  So many times I feel like there’s some assigned reading I didn’t know about or secret place where everyone is getting all their information.  I feel like I started out behind and am still catching up.  I now understand that I’m merely searching for my place in the mothering spectrum.  Being a mother has forced me to reconsider my goals and achievements in a completely different light.  Some days I’m just happy we are all dressed.  I’m never going to be Betty Crocker or Mister Rogers or even my mother, and that is FINE. 

I still got to take a month long pilot study trip to Berlin, just with a 7 month old baby and my mother along for the ride. I still got to finish both of my Master’s degrees.  I had another baby, this time on purpose.  Our family of 4 got to live in Berlin, Germany for a year while I conducted my dissertation research and wrote a blog about our adventures.  I’m even going to finish my PhD, though a complete inability to afford childcare does not help that process along at all.    

Motherhood has also pushed me to become an expert in things I never even thought about before like: finding appropriate places to vomit, natural drug-free midwife assisted childbirth in a hospital, breastfeeding (sometimes during meetings you are conducting), cloth diapering, how to handle two year old tantrums, and the politics of preschool.  I’ve also learned the hard way how far academia has to go when it comes to graduate students with children. 

Professional struggles aside, being a mother has brought me closer to my own mother than ever before.  I call her for everything now.  I do think it is inevitable that we all at some point become our mother, or at least parts of her.  I recognize the way that I bite off way more than I can chew and refuse to ask for help when I quite obviously cannot do it all on my own.  That came from my mother.  My love of artsy fartsy handmade homemade things comes from her too.  While my choices have been very different from hers, so were my options because of the choices that she made for us.  I’m coming to realize that self-sacrifice for my children is a good thing that they won’t appreciate until they have their own children.  I certainly didn’t. 

Being a mother is the best job I never knew I wanted. 

*Photo Credit: Mike Washington    


  1. I loved this essay, Hillary. I LOVED the fact that you were brave enough to be truthful, something so many wish they could do and can't. I KNOW you spoke for so many who might have had other plans and then motherhood changed them. Motherhood teaches us great strength, resilience, patience, and how to adapt to change--sometimes in the blink of an eye. what a gift, eh? Michelle and I were so glad that you were part of our inaugural. You, like all of our remarkable cast, made the evening magical, powerful and amazing! Stay in touch! (((Hugs!))) Judy

    1. It really was an experience to remember! Thanks so much for picking me to be a part of that ensemble of amazing moms.

  2. Beautiful in every way, and we can certainly see why you were chosen. What an honest, raw piece that we have no doubt touched everyone who heard it.-The Dose Girls

    1. Aww, you ladies are soo sweet. I count it a score when I can make people laugh, cry, and cheer all in the same essay. Mission accomplished.

  3. I'm so glad you posted this for the world to read! I love it so much. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. I love you and how all your hard work got these amazing stories together for a night of brilliance. Thank YOU!

  4. I am seriously crying. I love this. And the line about "the secret place where everyone is getting their information" cracked me up. SO relatable. This was a great piece and you are a fantastic mother. Trust me. I know these things. Congrats again!! Oh, and thanks for the shout-out. What an amazing ride, right?

  5. Love this piece. Woman need to hear that motherhood wasn't every woman's dream but that it can still be done and loved!

  6. I loved your piece, and the opportunity to share the stage with you! Thank you for the reminder that our plans don't have to fall together perfectly for our lives to turn out pretty perfect. ;)



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