Museum of Motherhood

MamaBlogger365 – No Mercy by *Dr Mama* Amber Kinser

Photo courtesy of morguefile.comMotherhood is relentless. It just keeps going and going and going. Incessantly. And on some days, that’s a lovely thing. Like days when I’ve been so sucked dry by the demands at work, or the intensity of maintaining partner relationships, or the callous and inexorable neediness of home ownership (don’t make me bring up our new water damage issue, fresh for the month of February —- a little Valentine’s present from the universe to our house; just read my December post “If By ‘Serene’ You Mean…” and add to it images of an upstairs leaking toilet, boxes of waterlogged keepsakes in the basement, and a downstairs guestroom with squishy carpet where my parents will be staying this week (since my house chooses to leak especially when my parents are coming to visit)). Like days when things are tanking but my children make me laugh by teaming up to do their “booty dance” all over me; or one of them sits next to me, in quietude, while we watch a television show; or one wraps me in a sweet embrace that lingers for a moment or two. And they do all of this because I am their mother and they do love their mother. On these days, and there are lots of them, the ways that motherhood is unrelenting can be an oasis in the middle of the spiritually desert-like conditions that surround me. But there are other days. And lots of them, too.

I have vacillated over the years between hoping my children stay tightly connected with me even into their adult lives, and hoping that I’ve taught them well enough to go off and do their own thing and not need me much at all. I’ve thought at times that good mothering means remaining open enough to “let them be who they are” quite separate from me and with the internal fortitude to venture forth without needing my input; and I’ve thought at other times that good mothering means being open enough and accessible enough that my children are inclined to come back to me to pull from my experience and the insight afforded by my vantage point, which has been built up tall and strategic by life years. And of course, mothering with grace and wit means both of these, and more. But sometimes I am surprised at the way it just continues, implacable, as I watch some of the people I am close to work at still parenting their children who are grown. Suddenly I’m curious to know if my own mother feels she’s still mothering me… and if it feels implacable to her….

I wonder if any of us really knows when we start out with small children just how much the demands of parenting never really ends. When my daughter leapt down the stairs at 2 or 3 years old, fully anticipating that I’d know, though my back was turned, that she’d need me to catch her, and I sat there at the end of the stairs (having caught her, miraculously) sobbing at the terror and near-miss of that moment, thinking, how in the hell am I going to keep her alive until she’s 18?!!, I seemed to have no idea, really, that the work doesn’t stop at 18. Now my oldest is 19 so I still don’t really have a sense of where, or if, it “stops” but I do see others pulled without mercy into parenting issues with their adult children, who are simultaneously needing a parent-child relationship and an adult-adult relationship and these are exceedingly complicated contexts for parents to manage simultaneously. And as I’ve written about before, it is so very difficult for children (even as adults) to really, truly see the personhood of their parents, and perhaps especially of their mothers; to see that mothers are people first, and then they are mothers and other roles or identities after that. I see some of the parents around me really struggling with the ways in which motherhood demands continue unabated, even years later, long after they thought their work was “done.” I think this is something that gets missed in the public imagination, and in the texts and images that permeate pop culture, and in the academic literature on family life. I think we’d do well to hear from mothers about the complexities of mothering children who are no longer “children.”

BIO: Dr. Mama (Amber Kinser) is a writer, feminist mother, professor, and speaker who lives in Tennessee. Check her out on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @DrMamaWit, and see her webpage. Kinser writes for the MamaBlogger365 series each Thursday at the Museum Of Motherhood, Mamapalooza and Mamazina Magazine.

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About M. Joy Rose

Woman, Mother, Human, Rocker, Educator, Activist Director; Museum of Motherhood President and Founder; MaMaPaLooZa Inc. a company by Women, Promoting (M)others for social, cultural and economic benefit. Dedicated to a more educated, more peaceful, more musical planet.


5 thoughts on “MamaBlogger365 – No Mercy by *Dr Mama* Amber Kinser

  1. Well said Amber! Any Mother with adult children that are commited to her children has experienced that “in the middle” feeling that creeps up on us. Then one day when their doing their own lives – and quite well, your like… YES!! yes… But…
    Then you get a call for advise or counsel and things start to fit in the beautiful puzzel that has so many pieces.
    I love your “Oasis” metaphore, my girls, all of them are just that to me. As I reflect on my relationship with my Mother, who is coming down for a visit this Monday, I know I am an “oasis” to her. As she experienced my cancer in a way no one else on this planet could do, I realize how that experience would have been so much scarrier without her with me – my Mommy-bear, whose comfort and understanding made it all a litlle bit more bearable (no pun). She cross examined each one of my many doctors like an attorney, held me up after my radiation treatments and was there for me in the hospital every second after my surgery along with my husband and girls.
    Yes, I’m almost 50 and I still need my Mom. She is very healthy right now but after cancer I don’t take one healthy day for granted and almost everytime I hang up the phone from talking to her, I marvel at the fact that I could not have had “that” conversation with anyone but her. I know that my girls feel the same way when they hang up the phone with me. Because I’m their Mom, the only one in the world. I love it!!

    Posted by Kimberly O'Keefe | February 25, 2011, 09:04
  2. Thanks Kimberly for your post. I don’t suppose it would have influenced my decision to have two chlldren if anyone had told me, but wow, I sure did go into motherhood with a very different view of the people I’d be mothering (I was only thinking little people…turns out they’re not little for long. Who knew). I don’t think I wrapped around the years and years and years of it. Thanks for sharing some of your cancer survival story. SO glad you were able to ‘break on through to the other side’ of it.

    Posted by Dr. Mama | February 26, 2011, 09:51
  3. Wow, Amber!

    I never really thought about this aspect of parenting, from either side. My parents made it very clear that once we were grown, that was it. My dad refuses to give the slightest opinion and has developed a completely hands-off philosophy so we die or fly on our own, and I don’t speak to my mother.

    One of my dearest friends is the opposite. Her children are 24, 22, and 11. She is still very much a mom to her oldest, to such a degree I think she enables their dependent behavior. She says she’s overwhelmed and it amazes her that motherhood never ends, but at the same time she is just as accessible to the older boys (who have children of their own) as she is the 11 year-old. So when are they supposed to learn to be adults on their own if she comes to the rescue every time?

    So while I know my parents don’t have it right, and I can see neither does my friend, the happy medium is obviously very difficult to find and maintain.


    Posted by Delena Silverfox | March 8, 2011, 22:38
  4. Thanks Delena for commenting. My parents were similar to yours and I followed a lot of their example in raising my own kids. They are both quite independent, my daughter, who is 19 and in college, especiallly so. Still, the maternal concerns are there, and the advice and listening ear and heart must always be at the ready. And you’re right, finding the balance is the trickiest part, in motherhood as in all things.

    Posted by Dr. Mama | March 13, 2011, 22:53


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