by LaTanya Pattillo
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on all of the things that one muses over as they approach middle age. Gasp! Did I just say those two words? I did. I’m. Middle. Aged. And it is jarring. If I stop to think, I’m even more astonished that I (together with my husband, of course) have managed to rear and raise five children in this world. We’ve had some exciting moments, and been through some wonderful, trying times. But I am happy to say that we have provided our children with most of what they’ve needed, much of what they wanted and just enough motivation to chart their own path through the book of life, finding themselves through the glorious process of growth. Maslow would be proud.
Child rearing and caregiving require sacrifice. Most, if not all, mothers say the same thing. To be a mother is to be a “giver” from the very beginning. From the time that children are welcomed into this world, women give of themselves. What a remarkable, powerful role to have as the primary caregiver of these new beings! What an honor—that we shall usher and lead these little humans through this world on our shoulders and in our hearts until they are able to navigate themselves! Right? How fantastic, how awe-inspiring is that?
As mothers, shouldn’t we feel special and magnificent and appreciated? YES! We should. I do believe that motherhood—in the immortal words of hip-hop artist Keith Murray—is the “most beautifullest thing in this world.”
But other times I’m filled with anxiety that I have made choices based on complicated emotions that I am still unable, or unwilling, to express. I have realized that many times it is in everybody’s best interests that I keep some of my most personal, honest, doubtful, many times scandalous, and sometimes downright unsavory thoughts to myself. However, I do enjoy letting some of these thoughts “slip out” sometimes, just to break the routine or to keep our day to day fresh and exciting. My kids get a kick when I misbehave a little, even when they’re on the receiving end of some of that temporary craziness I’m willing to share. One day on a family ride, we decided to take a family picture… that consisted of us making a gesture that, while not a big deal, was not exactly a display of parental restraint. It was my attempt at being hip and risqué, and it worked—there was just enough amazement from the older ones and shock from the little ones. My daughter asked if she could post it, but I wouldn’t let her. Now here I am talking about it—go figure! What an exemplary model of a mother!
My initial notions of motherhood have been replaced by years of revolving philosophies, all of which have helped me form my own ideas about the role. How do I feel about motherhood? It depends. My appreciation for the sacrifice of mommy-dom waxes and wanes like the tide under the phases of the moon. Lately, my sentiments depend on how much sleep I get on the weekends, or the condition of my house when I get home after a few days of travel or how long the food from my last grocery run lasts in the pantry before it’s empty again. My feelings range from pure joy (when my ten-year-old hugs my neck like she never wants me to leave her side) to unadulterated fury (when someone forgets to empty the washing machine, forcing me to rescue clothes from a mildewed, stained existence). Overall, on the daily, I am required to feel, to be present, to engage in the development of other people every second of every day.
There are times when I rock my momma badge like a boss and times when I want to take that badge and throw it out of the car window. If I’m to be honest about my motherhood experience, I have to say that I’m at a point now where I see liberation on the horizon, and my emotions are a bit… mixed. But I don’t know why I’m fooling myself: Once a mother, always a mother, and the love and dedication to those we call our children will never go away.
LaTanya Pattillo is a Philadelphia native with roots in Whiteville, North Carolina, a wife and mother of five and a Jane of all trades. She enjoys many things, but laughing and quilting are at the top of the list.