Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

I have a story stuck in my head that I keep going over and feel I must share. It is from Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed. I'm enjoying the read although truthfully, I never felt her reluctance about entering into marriage. In her book, the US government declares that she must marry her love if she wants him to live in her country (he is from Brazil), and as she is a general skeptic regarding the institution of marriage, she researches and dissects marriage to see how it will "fit" for them.

Elizabeth has also chosen to be childless. One chapter in her book is on Marriage and Women and she has unending references about the sacrifices that many mothers make for their families. The story that sticks in my head is the one about her Grandmother Maude:

Maude was ahead of her time-the only one in her family who received an education (this would be in the 20's & 30's); worked outside of the house; made and saved money; travelled; and at the height of her success and independence, bought a gorgeous wine-colored coat with a real fur collar for twenty dollars. (I've paraphrased Gilbert). Expensive, extravagant, and an unusual purchase for her family and time.

Then, Maude fell in love, got married, had kids and soon "gave it all up" to raise her family and also cook and clean for her father and brother-in-law. They farmed, life was tough, they had no money and Maude used up her savings to help on the farm. And then, shockingly, when her first daughter was born and Christmas rolled around, Maude cut up her cherished wine-colored coat with the real fur collar and used that material to sew a Christmas outfit for the new baby girl.

Gilbert continues to say, They (the women in our family) cut up the finest and proudest parts of themselves and gave it all away.

I think that is what defines a mother. You may not have to give up everything, or the best parts of you, but a decision like cutting up a coat so you can dress up your daughter for Christmas, is probably pretty appealing. I'd do it. You want to give your best to this wonderful person that you helped bring into being. And the dilemma of giving up a career, success, image, is overshadowed by the happiness and love that comes with having a family and kids. The freedom to love another human being unconditionally. (also from Gilbert).

I do respect Elizabeth Gilbert for recognizing that she does not want to be a mom. At the same time I sometimes bite my tongue and refrain from yelling at 20-somethings "have kids now!". To me, the careers and money won't last, and when I'm old, I want my family surrounding me. But that's just me. And probably a large percentage of moms out there.

As for our Mother's Day, we celebrated as a family last weekend in Canmore. Today was Scarlett and Mommy day. We tried to go shopping but Scarlett wanted to be in the window display, so no new clothes for Mommy. Then we made a special trip to buy her a new teething necklace, from Babes in Arms of course. That's her version of the cut up wine-colored coat for today!


  1. OK I don't even think I can respond rationally to this, it bugs me so much (not you, the book). Why does sacrifice have to be something bad? Why isn't it incredible that this amazing grandmother took her education and experience and knowledge and used it to raise children who then went and shared that with the world? Why not think, "They (the women in our family) cut up the finest and proudest parts of themselves and reworked it and turned it into something new and different and wonderful!" Why is giving up something bad? Who the heck wants to stay the same forever?
    I personally think you can't experience unconditional love without sacrifice. It's kind of the same thing.
    Sorry for the rant. Great post!

  2. You say that so well & I totally agree. I still think that if a woman feels that she's giving it up and settling (and resenting), then it may be a good decision to not have kids. I need a new phrase instead of 'giving up".

  3. Love, love, loved your comments on the book - when I get out of here and back to a library that is one "read" I plan to borrow. (Borrowing from the library when I get home is part of my new plan to be more environmentally friendly :) Happy Belated Mother's Day!