I have to confess a little something...to my recollection, and my own mother can correct me on this if I'm wrong, I didn't grow up dreaming about having children. I remember vividly going through a phase in high school where I wanted to move to Texas; a complete and absolute plan to become an actress; a fleeting vision of myself as a politician; and an equally fleeting vision of myself as a ballerina (particularly odd since I am dependably klutzy).
Sure, like other girls, I had some potential baby names picked out if the day ever came—names like Stella and Sophie and Emily and Orry (after Patrick Swayze's character in North and South)--but I don't remember my goal being 'to have a family'.
Oddly enough, I don't remember thinking I would be a writer either. In fact, I remember specifically thinking that though I seemed to have a bit of a knack for writing an essay, I would have absolutely nothing to write about as an author. I wrote a lot of poems...sad, longing poems about boys who broke my heart...but nothing that I ever expected to see the light of day.
Which means that somehow, I have stumbled into this beautiful life as a mother and a writer.
It's taken quite a while for me to identify as a 'writer'. Even now, I find myself unnecessarily justifying that title when people ask what I do. In fact, when I ran into Bradley Cooper this summer, and was stumbling through my explanation of my book, I actually said these words: "It's a book. Because...um, well, I'm a writer. That's...um...what I do."
Super eloquent, I know.
Fortunately, my children are more than happy to make their presence known, so I never have the need to quantify my role as mother, but the idea of it, the identification of it, didn't come immediately either.
Sure, there are the many months of pregnancy when I could have identified myself as a mother. Or the actual experience of giving birth. But none of those things made me feel like a mother. They were all part of the role, of course, but I felt a little detached from both of those things. Almost like watching a movie.
The thing that made me feel like I was a mom, to identify as being a mother, happened about two weeks after bringing Simon home from the hospital. I was changing him, for the 6 billionth time, on the two small dressers we had pushed together as a makeshift changing table in our room (his own little room clearly being too far away). And as he was laying there, this little tiny being just squirming about, I took a baby wipe and cleaned his hands.
It was obviously such a little thing. And not only that, it was a thing I had done for dozens of other kids I had babysat or visited or taught over the years. But that one tiny gesture, cleaning his hands, changed everything for me. Suddenly, I knew, I was a mother. I was his mother.
Why on earth am I telling you this story? Well, I think I was reminded on Mother's Day that so many of the women I know are struggling with their identity. As mothers, yes...and nothing brings that struggle to the surface more than Mother's Day. But also as writers. As artists. As dreamers. I mean, can you really call yourself these things if you're not doing them all the time? If you aren't fully living them?
And I think that my own answer to that is yes. I only wish I realized it for myself sooner.There are 'mothers' out there who have no children. Artists who have produced no work. And writers whose only story is still on the inside. There are these strange, seemingly small moments in life that solidify who and what we are, less so than the large fact of it. I think, at least a little bit, that who we are is who we are. Regardless of what life has thrown at us. Regardless of the actual reality of the situation.
I think that there's a little bit of a dreamer in all of us. And that whatever and whoever we are at our core, well, it's nice to have 'proof', but it isn't always necessary.
So my belated wish to all of you women out there...happy Mother's Day. Here's to celebrating all that you are, all that you do, and all that you dream...you rock.
Danielle Davies (@daniellendavies) is the creator of the internet sensation, My Life with Bradley Cooper, as well as a writer and artist living in New Jersey. Read more...
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