I suppose the basic issue is determining what sort of voice mother/motherhood is: am I a person if I speak/write as a mother, or is that just a posture? Is all the world a stage? (Speaking of which, Stanley Fish--Renaissance scholar turned law professor--has a great general post on Milton on his NY Times blog.) I like Milton. I do. I like Milton better than Shakespeare. Milton knew how to craft a complicated sentence. Shakespeare spoke to the masses. Enough. Enough Shakespeare-bashing for today.
Motherhood: if motherhood is just a role that one dons, how does one speak, then, through writing of various sorts: essays, poetry, blogs? If motherhood is a character, then you have to connect to character. Is speaking as a mother looking for that bit of redemption at the end of the day, that bit of something that proves you're not just a human being, but a selfless human being, after all? The essence of what is recognizable as motherhood seems to me often to be that element of selflessness: the moment of not-existing. Of willfully not existing. Of willing the extinguishment of the self. I immolate; therefore, I am.
If you separate from that bit of self-immolation, denial of self, the-placement-of-course-of-others-in-the-life-raft-first, are you still a mother, or just a birthing machine? Fathers are allowed to be bad, so very bad. They can be evil--they can be Darth Vader--and yet, the very obstacle-ness (yes, I know that is not a word) of them is converted, mythically, into an act of redemption. Hmmmm . . . maybe the evil father has to self-immolate to accomplish that.
But, MOM. When mom is bad, she doesn't serve as a way for her children to springboard into Virtue Central. She destroys. Medea, etc. Isn't it rather dull to seem to have to choose between Very Evil Baby-eating Mommy and Even My Eyes are Sunbeams Mommy? A third way, admitting some humanity seems inevitably to have to be a way back to an unadulterated virtue. Thus, the warning in the Literary Mama submissions guidelines: 'Work that fits the too often used formula of "I am flawed as a mother, but my children lead me to a realization that I am a good enough mother, and even though mothering is hard, it is all worth it."'
Constantly I am led back to the well of virtue. Which is why Milton's Satan is THE most interesting character in all of Western literature. Yes, there are days I feel such as this:
Nay curs'd be thou; since against his thy will
Chose freely what it now so justly rues.
Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep
Still threat'ning to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav'n.
O then at last relent: is there no place
Left for Repentance, none for Pardon left?
None left but by submission . . . .
Satan is really a girl. Satan may be a mom. And this is probably a good juncture to ask, why, pray tell, is this a quick Robert update?
I am flawed as a mother, but my children lead me to realize that I will always be flawed as a mother, and even though mothering is hard (and may often suck), there are days when I don't have any concept anymore of what 'worth' might mean.
I was saying to Roger the other day that I am constantly made to feel that because I have not accomplished basic things with Robert (in part because his neuromuscular disease makes these impossible, but why should impossibility not be a reasonable yardstick in the Land O'Moms?): toilet training, taking some food by mouth, using the walker (f*ck the walker), and finding some kind of assistive communication device that actually works--these are my measuring sticks because they measure what every mother is supposed to do. Once I read some guy bitching on a website about mothers that his mother completely failed him on multiple levels (many legitimate), but he knew she was a total failure in the end because she had never taught him to wash behind his ears. Your child is supposed to pee on the potty, ambulate, eat right, not watch too much TV, and not use swear words. OK, I fail at all of this. Can I go home now?
But Roger said to me, he [Robert] seems to be a well-adjusted kid in the midst of all these overwhelming difficulties and disabilities and problems, and that's got to count for something. Maybe. I don't know if it really does, though. Because half the summer programs that would benefit your kid are only for kids who can pee on the potty. Rules are rules. People only achieve humanity through the gauntlet of these basic human/mom rules.
Never submit! "The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heavn'n."