I live in a family with many different mothers. Among us, inter-generationally and internationally, adoptees who are now mothers and mothers and through birth, death, divorce or adoption.
I could share the story about my long road to motherhood and my sense of meaning and purpose in being a mother. If I did share this, however, it’s likely to trigger someone somewhere to feel bad about themselves and perhaps rage at me.
It seems that this is a standard occurrence for just about anything today. A commercial about a mom and a dad negates two gays parenting. An ad with an Asian on the left and a Black on the right of a White causes an self esteem issues. The choice to sponsor a blogger with a hajib headscarf is called political pandering. Witches stricken from Halloween so society doesn’t equate Wicca with evil women on brooms. The term biological mother becomes birth mother becomes natural mother becomes first mother, still it means mother or does it?
Myself included, when did we all get so fucking sensitive? About everything. So politically correct, especially in Canada, that one can hardly turn without fear of using the wrong term or offending someone and where we are legislating ourselves into oblivion.
A practitioner who works with troubled teens, that included one of mine for a time, gave me Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankel was a doctor and holocaust survivor. He questioned why some prisoners in the concentration camp he was in rose to the challenge of life while others, even once liberated, failed to thrive. He observed, “… There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that so effectively helps one to survive even the worse conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life.”
The idea of finding meaning and purpose in life is daunting. How does one finding meaning in life when we are so sure the even out basic rights are not in our control? The step-parent with no child-raising experience is thrust into parenting rebellious teens. The 15 year old who finds herself pregnant and her mother making the decisions. The 19 year old giving birth in a war torn country with no family and no social services. The 30 year old who finds herself unable to maintain a pregnancy. The boy, whose father remarries after being widowed, who can no longer remember his dead mother. The father who feels himself alienated after divorce. The 21 year old adoptee who finds his birth mother and doesn’t like her. The adoptee who chooses not to search and gets flack from his adopted siblings. The adoptee who thinks his life will turn around if he given his birth history, but even then finds he’s still angry and confused.
All want to label themselves as unique and call themselves down trodden. If we are all down trodden on whose back shall we find true respite?
Frankl says, however, that while we have limited freedom with our circumstances, we do have ultimate freedom about how we react … how we take responsibility for ourselves.
He said that this choice [finding meaning] and action [finding purpose] for our suffering makes it an achievement rather than a tragedy. How many people do you know like that, like Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama?
I believe that suffering does not end whether we choose to parent, to place for adoption, to seek an abortion or remain childless. Even under great duress we still make a choice and all actions have consequences.
I am neither a sinner or a saint because I worked and eventually became a mother. I learned that my role as mother is precarious and subjective. You do not need to be a perfect mother, nor your children’s first mother, but I learned that you are only a mother when someone calls you mother.
Suffering is not something we can just get over or move past. Suffering is the universal human circumstance which we must make part of our everyday lives. It may shape us, but it cannot decide for us who we are and how we will act.
“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Viktor Frankl