Motherhood, the truth (or my truth)?

May 29, 2008 at 9:45 am 16 comments

After reading atim’s comment on my comment about motherhood, and going to the website he recommended, I thought I might as well do a post regarding this “blissful” state of being.

Motherhood, then! A “kaba” every woman should wear comfortablly, or crave to wear comfortablly, until she gets it. Especially when she is an Ethiopian woman where God, marriage & kids – and lately Kinjit or atleast EPRDF-bashing, are things that come with a price tag that has an almost blackmailing quality. You want/believe/follow them, and you are normal (or atleast one of “egna”, “yeHizb lij”, etcetra)! You don’t and you are abnormal, weird, “yeTigray tewelaj” or a sell out!. A “Kaba” a woman should wear comfortablly, or crave to wear comfortablly simply because it is expected of her!! That’s what “should” does. It makes things an obligation instead of a choice, having them a duty instead of a joy, and not having them an act of rebellion or a curse! And motherhood is a duty as real and threatening to every Ethiopian woman as death. No wonder most women lose their desire to live when they find out they are unable to bear children! And you hear them asking heart-breakingly what they did to God to deserve this.

What you won’t find them asking is if motherhood was for them, or if it is what it’s cracked up to be. For we have all seen mothers who fall short of the title. Mothers we wondered over and associated allegorical characters to the behavior of. Mothers who would tell you, if you dare ask them to bear their souls without pretentions or illusions of living upto the “Ethiopian mother’s” image, how they got into it “bridled as a horse”, helpless & voiceless against the tide (that we are). How it has fallen short of it’s promise and their expectations of it! And you would have realized how although we need mothers to make sure life continued, if life must continue, motherhood isn’t for every woman. Like every other career, there are those who are good at it & those who aren’t. I personally believe if motherhood (like marriage, teaching and movie making) was done by only those who knew how to, there wouldn’t have been so many screwed up kids (students and soaps) in the world. Not to mention the welcome decrease in the actual number!

Take my cousin Netsanet for example. She’s awesome with kids! They love her without the need for bribes and she knows how to make them stop cry. She’s good at doing their hairs, wiping their nose & bottom and all that motherly crap with not a hint of disgust or judgement! They, in return, obey her like non-other. So, ofcourse, she dreams of becoming a mother like non-other. So much that she got pregnant (twice!!) by somebody she wasn’t married to and doesn’t make her happy. All these she did while she’s still living at her parent’s home and didn’t have a penny to call her own, and paid dearly for it. How is that “for the love of the job” :-)?! True, her first-born looks as if she’s aged years with worries @ 7 and Netsanet freely slaps her around whenever life hands her something she is unable to handle. But that’s natural, innit? Comes with the territory, so to say! She’s followed her call and done it! That’s the thing to do when it comes to dreams and talents! The dream of being a mother included!

Me, I love children. They don’t have to be mine for me to love them. Or to cry for them when I see how unkind life can be to them (kids and “Woyalas”; those are my sore spots). And not just when they look cute in their ponytails or butterfly neck ties. I love them in a real way. In the hard and painful way. Knowing we usually want them to validate our existence (make our husbands like staying home, please our parents or shut up the neighbours); that our love for them is nowhere near selfless or unconditional as we like to believe it to be; and that they are infact better off not born. That the world would neither miss out much from, nor even notice if not sigh in relief, if we failed to “continue”. And the most child-loving, selfless, act would be never to procreate. If you decided to adopt an unfortunate bugger who could have had it worse, moreover, that would make you a Saint!

Still, that’s not the real reason why I don’t want to become a mother. I don’t want to become a mother because I don’t see myself as a mother! I must be the only Ethiopian female, I certainy am the only I came across, who doesn’t go “ahhh..” (you know, dreamy like!) at the sight of a pregnant woman. For one; there is nothing attractive about the swollen look, the usually disturbing shape of the stomach, and the fact that they are so vulnerable to terrible tragedies. But knowing all the craziness, or atleast sickness, they go through due to chemical imbalances turns the abesheet stomach over. Which is why the pride seems to make a mockery of them.

The pride! 🙂 My God!! It’s almost ridiculous, the burgeoning pride you see on a mother-to-be’s face (especially if she’s young or has an inferior position in the office). It’s as if she has won a medal, earned a PhD or discovered the cure for cancer and expect us to pat her back for deed well done instead of simply lying on her back and bringing an ill-fitting creature into an already over stuffed world that is cruel to the powerless. A pride that is so shallow and pathetic it makes you wanna puke. And, mark my words, the worst a woman feels about herself, the more pronounced the pride is! The Book of Proverbs has the same thing to say regarding an ugly girl who found a husband! Only, in the case of motherhood, it results in the screwed-up kids mentioned above and an error, and a cycle, that may take more than seven generations to correct. Still “LiJoch aluut?” is the first thing we ask when we are told of a man’s demise. He maybe an irresponsible parent, the child would go through more hell without a father/mother than would with, yet we ask if he has kids and bless heavens when given a reply in the affirmative.

Now, I don’t know about you but I think the statement “children are a gift from God” needs a 21st century polish! Something like “children art a gift from God to those are emotionally, psychologically & economically capable of bringing them up good and actually want them. Or woe to them wee ones”.

Now, I know what that makes me sound like. Spiteful, un-Ethiopian, and completely non-female :-)!! However, the agony of carrying another human being for nine months and stretch marks are the least of a woman’s worries when she becomes a mother. And the child’s is just beginning. Trust me I know! I am a daughter & a child myself!

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Help! Finally..a good news!

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. sewit  |  May 29, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    As an pregnant lady with a belly swollen from housing an 8 month old…this was an interesting morning read. Vive la Différence!

  • 2. atim  |  May 29, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    lol now I gotta sit down and read everything you wrote sentence by sentence in order to be able to comment.

    When I quoted you in the “help!” section, I did know that you were referring to yourself. Just to clarify. 🙂

  • 3. Dr. Ethiopia  |  May 29, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    I am a dude, so all this pregnancy stuff sounds so boring, (just joking abesheet)

    Anyhow i must say this, I think it was Atim who agreed with you by saying – motherhood can make you give up on your dreams, or something like that.

    I am not a mother or a father. But, oersonally, i think it is all how you interpret the challenges in your life.

    Mother or not, you will always have drams at different stages of your life. Thus, what you have called a dream today, might not be so tomorrow.

    And having a child, can reshape your whole outlook in life and hence your dream. It can be a blessing in disguise. The disguise that will help you see your true dream.

    But what the heck do i know? I am just a dumb single guy, who has a dream of being, super-smart, a father, a grand father, and a great grand father.

    Abesheet, i honestly want to live very long, you know why? Because i would get a chance to do a heck of a lot.

  • 4. abyssinia  |  May 29, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    abesheet-ye, well I’m not going to think of you as a spiteful person. Are you insane! I’m sure you expect such reaction from all women as well as men.

    btw, I was kinda surprised when I first read about it on your Help! post but felt short to mention and discuss it further. I’m glad atim did!

    Where do I begin? Eshi, this may not be the right time, you may not be emotionally or physically ready…whatever! That’s understandable but you can’t just say “I don’t see myself as a mother”. yehe endet yemilewin tiyaqe yasketilal!

    Yes, you have a husband, you have a career, you have a book to publish, you have other plans in line, and you are not in your 30s yet. Really, if you think about it, it is not impossible to combine career/writing and being a mother. Especially, when you live back home where loads of help are available, where you can afford to hire a nanny, where you can still do whatever you please to do before you had a baby, etc. (I have to add this coz I think it’s way easy to raise a kid back home than in North America.)

    As humans, we wish to plan our lives this-way or that-way. However, we need to create our life plans with a reality check knowing that we may need to adjust them or ourselves.

    So the question remains, can you adjust yourself?

    ps. did you submit your manuscript?

  • 5. spacefog  |  May 29, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Chica, Cool post again.

    Very feminist I might add. I don´t think motherhood is something to be pitied or envied for. Just take it as a personal choice and If you don´t want to have kids its up to you. That shouldn´t make ppl who want to have kids lesser persons as not having one shouldn´t make you a better person. Some ppl also might say its human nature to have the need to replace once lineage. But one thing to note for is it really needs a sacrifice. You will have to put somethings on hold to do it.

  • 6. sistu  |  May 30, 2008 at 1:40 am

    wegeed belu,

    gobez, rid yourselves of this understanding air and tebaberugn, lets convince abesheet that a married woman has no business speaking against lij mewled. i know this may not be the sort of thing to expect from someone like myself who should be maramed-ing teramaj ideas, but i am dead set against accepting a no-child policy from married couple [women, mostly]. When it comes to marriage and children, i very much subscribe to the traditional views. the more traditional, the better i like.

    If a woman is married, my belief is that she should dub mareg it with its kachil come zetegn wer. but better a girl the first time around. a first born boy is bad luck, or is it only me who knows that? if a woman is not married, my belief is that she should hurry up and do so so that she can get on with the kachil business. lij belijinet. now, why am i talking, u might ask?…

    take my very own parents, motherina father. i strongly believe that the best thing those two did in their lives was producing their derzen-akababee deekaloch; the thought of those two being childless yiseketitegnal. min yiwitachew neber? they have really convinced me that children are an absolute necessity. [btw, Dr Single-guy-Ethiopia, don’t be so sure about not being a father. i know a few single guys who were [pleasantly? unpleasantly?] surprised by a wee one without their prior knowledge. just saying] now, i agree that some (ok, most) children are born into misery (as were my siblings) but, for parents, those miserable creatures do make a world of difference. and if my siblings and i are any indication, a little misery never hurt anyone.

    anyways abesheet, i encourage you to not just consider having kids but to actually do it soon. i am not a fan of marriage and i am an even smaller fan of men in general and i am not particularly crazy about the thought of having children but i know, come a certain age, those are the things that i intend to have in my possession.

    sewit, congra wideet. have you any names for it (sorry for the ‘it’) have you considered my name?

  • 7. abesheet  |  May 30, 2008 at 5:45 am

    Lol. Sistu. What a delight it is to have you back. And thanks for proving me right ;-). Everyone, it’s been a joy reading your comments and opinions regarding motherhood. It’s good to come up with something everybody has something to say about.

    Sewit: Qelaluun yargilish, dearest! May i suggest “Hidasse” if it’s a boy, and “Hidasse” if it’s a girl ;)?! It’s very Ethiopian, very optimistic, very millennium-child-like and works both ways! 😉

  • 8. RasX  |  May 30, 2008 at 6:17 am

    Nice post. Wonderful and insightful. No sugar about it. I really can’t imagine that I would say things like “What happened to these kids nowadays”. When I was I kid. I vowed to not forget what it was like to grow up in this terrible place. If I do, that’s the day I lose my soul. So when you say you are scarred, I’d like to think I can relate.

    On another note, there should be something said about influence. Its what kids minds’ are susceptible to. Impressionable and what not. For one, its because that mind is not able to comprehend history, that and realistic attainable goals. To see the light at the end of the tunnel instead of being trapped in a bubble.

    Sorry for not commenting on the mother part, I just wanted to clear the truth part of the post. I also might add that I do have a good outlook on the future. Only because every generation is instinctively going to figure a way to survive when the s&!7 hits the fan.

    So the mother part. My mother raised 3 kids by herself. My only comment is that the best mother and father possible is still not enough to raise a child. It takes a whole community. So in essence, being a mother or father, is all about building a community for the child. Has nothing to do with power over a child. If a child stops crying when you tell them not to. I’m really glad you brought up this issue. Its a big one.

  • 9. sewit  |  May 30, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Sistu and Abesheet, gracias for the good wishes. No names yet but it’s a boy. Will take any suggestions into consideration. Will even hand out a prize (mailed anywhere) if one wins.

    Just as an aside, I did want to get into the fray. I am obviously biased, but…

    Seriously though, it took me a few years of marriage to muster up the courage to step up to motherhood. I have a rather demanding job, live in the heart of a fast track, no place to raise a kid sort of city, I have busted my ass to get as far as I have so I understand your reluctance. The choice for me is not, and never was an either/or career/stay-at-home-mama. Just whether I had it in me to add another lovely thing to my already overflowing plate.

    The pregnant lady ‘pride’ issue you raised made me laugh. I am not as much ‘proud’ as I am totally amazed and in awe at the ability of my body to build a whole brand new human being without any assistance from me (all I have to do is eat and sleep). I have a newfound respect for the machinations of the human body.

    btw, I had such a beautiful childhood, (totally subscribed to the lijinete lijinete marina wetete version of it) This bambino will be blessed if he has as enjoyable an experience.

  • 10. sistu  |  June 2, 2008 at 5:33 am

    Abesheet,

    its a pleasure to prove you right. kuratu lene (yene?). Let me make this yeNehase zinab and keep up the “ignign” on the subject (i know you are looking forward to the zinab right now so i am sorry for bringing your attention to it…”bemir aykeledim” used to say a good friend of mine) … Although my heart merads at the prospect of proving you completely right, i agree with nearly everything you wrote. A question like “is motherhood for me?” is legitimate…once you move past the stage when your mother answers it for you, that is (a resounding “no, ancheenim alchalkum inquan lela chigar gotiteshibign”, my mother might and does say at the sight of us holding a pillow as a baby and rocking it accordingly). I agree that pregnant ladies have no legitimate cause for constantly showing that bilich-dirgim look of pride on their faces… since when is the-thing-we-all-know-they-did-to-get-pregnant a source of pride? meret-bewatechign be’ifret at the sight of a pregnant lady (i apologize for my kift-af sewit, i still like you and i blushed when i wrote that, if that helps).

    But Abesheet, the thing is, reality is reality. I know i am not in a position to dispense advice but i think there is something to be gained by doing not necessarily what you feel is ideal for you but instead what is realistic. I know you wrote your post mostly in reference to women but i think its something that applies to both men and women… there are somethings that make our lives easier later on and i strongly think marriage and kids are a part of it. I think the worst part is to spend tortured years thinking and speculating over whether you can/should get married and whether you can/should have children. I really think its a very consuming thing for people who go through that speculation for an extended time and its possible that they regret such decisions at their later years.

    I did not really write this post the way i set out to write it but i wrote it from my heart Abeshiye. I do wish you the best and I really hope you consider the matter of having children.

    so to lighten things up, let me use your own favorite book… poor Emet Widinesh, sost ken mulu with no one to turn to. I am sure that didn’t finkich mareg you but thought i would throw it in. What about Sibhat, what did he gain living his book-isque life of examining life and asking all the questions? like him i do, but i have learned a small deal about where we should separate philosophy/ideology from reality. Back to Emet Widinesh… here is a link to complete my rampage of the arts:
    http://www.4shared.com/account/dir/4577806/70188f07/sharing.html?rnd=67

    to avoid making multiple posts, that one is also for Abyssinia… ever since reading that you haven’t read amharic books, inkilf atiche new yekeremkut. enjoy if you didn’t happen to read the book in high school or catch the tireka. btw, you can’t really appreciate your own observations of life around you until you have read it written in amharic books. tuf-tuf

    Sewit, i like Hidasse too. And do you live in an english speaking place… i missed the discussion about names so i don’t want to bring up closed arguments but I am for giving english names in english speaking places and i just happen to love the name Micah

  • 11. abesheet  |  June 2, 2008 at 6:06 am

    Lol sistuye. I know you are writing from your heart, and I thank you for that. “Edmesh siyalf yiQochishal” is the first thing everybody tells you when confessing you aren’t into having kids that much. Been hearing it all my life, and may have even said it. Lol. And it may!! However, i refuse to believe this is “reality”. Death is a reality. The fact that we would probably not have enough air and water to go around in the year 2100 is a scary possibility. Food, shelter and water; those are realities you can’t do without. Marriage & kids are, or atleast should be, matters of choices. Things we are brought up to believe we can’t live without, or atleast shouldn’t, but could definitely do without!

    “Asrahuletegna kifil alfesh university kalgebash waga yeleshim”. Isn’t that what they been telling us? I know a couple of kids who committed (or tried to committ) suicide when they fail 12 grade. I remember how useless and woe-to-me we felt when we didn’t score university meGbia netib. And now, you don’t even bother to ask your kins “sintt endametu”. And not just because it’s easier to get into college nowadays but because unlike my highschool years, they got other choices now! Other things that give them a reason to live, and know they aren’t done for when they fail 12th grade or when they become 10+chich. My mother had better choices than her mother when it came to kids, because my mother atleast earned her living. She wasn’t a stay-at-home mom whose purpose in life is to serve her kids and husband. Still, she lived the unhappiest married life because nobody told her there was a way out. Atleast a shameless way out. For me, divorce is always on the table. I’m very very very Pro-divorce. Infact, i encourage it. It doesn’t mean i demand for a divorce every time i got mad at my husband, but there are things I could do without and know them well. (My husband is well aware of the matter, so not to worry ;)). So are kids. When i feel like it, i will feel like it. I won’t force myself to feel it just because it’s expected of me, or because i’d some day regret it. Doesn’t that sound absurd to you, sweetie?! It’s like that thing my protestant christian friends used to say to me every time i had a brother i’m not interested in (or didn’t give me the “zsa zsa zsu”, as the ladies on SATC would say, when i looked at him) asking me to “pray about it”. A spiritual version of “Qomesh endatkeri yeteyeQeshin agbi”. I said “Hell NO” then, I have to say Hell No now. Until, atleast, i got the “zsa zsa zsu” for kids! IF I do, that is :)!

  • 12. abyssinia  |  June 2, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    sistuye, thank you so much for sharing Fikir eske Mekabir. I haven’t read it or listened to the tireka but I heard it’s one of the books “you must read before you die”.

    Betaye ige wiste lemasgebat min yahil indemokerku! Eske zare qum neger yemisera tefto Igzihabiher anchin talelign. Thank you yene emebet, kewegebe gonbes beye ige nesichalehu.

    Ayee, semonune abesheet-in tAle-tAle laregat new. I got the “zsa zsa zsu” for <Fikir eske Mekabir. lol.

  • 13. abesheet  |  June 3, 2008 at 6:09 am

    I’m so glad you got to read FEMB (can we use that to refer to it, or FikirEMB?). But I’m sure you’d have some time to look in & ask how the sister is doing. Especially now that she has 7 more weeks to go before her manuscript gets rejected 😦 😦 :-S

  • 14. sistu  |  June 22, 2008 at 9:12 am

    ok, I guess its 5 nowweeks, huh?
    Haven’t forgotten my promise to come back to this topic, Abesheet, so here I am… going straight to the point:

    I agree, I agree and then I agree some more. Divorce should always be on the table, as a geTse-bereket ready to be served to anyone who might need it. Allow me to separate marriage
    from kids. The #1 reason for marriage, in my eyes, are children but marriage to me is not necessarily a prelude to having children. So Qomo mekret could appear on my to-do list and it still wouldn’t affect my stand on having children.

    Not to make this an ine-libis-anchee-tibish of mekera, but i am afraid it was actually my mother who lived the unhappiest married life. And all in the face of her being a completely stay at home mother without a besa besteen to her name apart from what she can methodically squeeze out of her not-always-guaranteed asbeza fund. But still, i can tell you that she is at the forefront of the line of people advocating children for all. Sometimes I hear my older siblings telling her that she should have considered divorce in her earlier years and both she and I look at them funny for that suggestion. And not just because such divorce would have jeopardized the very existence of the wonder of a human being that is me. But because her reason for staying is very obvious to me: her children… not because she wanted to save us the suffering of being motherless, i don’t think, but because we gave her life some meaning (hate describing it that way but know no other way). Even today, despite what marriage had meant/done to her and despite her not being a loving or an overly sentimental type, she is always ready and eager to say that children are pivotal to life. and i believe her coz i honestly do think she is happy that she had us regardless of whatever gud our coming may have entailed. and we make her laugh too.

    Remember that movie Ellen on ETV talaq film? “My Chilren!!”, her last words.

    I do have to disagree with the examples tho, abesheet. having kids, like you said is purely a matter of choice. Matrik and the like are not exactly by choice and i, of course, can’t possibly think that such things would appear on the ‘yalem mecheresha’ list. And you are right, if we were all created equal and at the same time, then the idea that you would do something simply because it is expected of you or because somebody promises you that you would regret it one day is absurd… coz that would mean some have become more equal than others and their expectations more important than others’. But the thing to the “Edmesh siyalf yiQochishal” argument is that it probably originated from edmew seeyalf keQochew sew who then told a friend who then told a distant cousin until the word had spread inde seded isat. I am saying: there might be some truth to it even if we are too young to appreciate the truth in it.

    Nigerign kalsh gin Abesheet, i am one of those people who are not at all scared at the possibility of there not being enough air and water to go around by the year 2100. I’d like to be scared, but just can’t get myself to feel it, you know? Global warmingma leeyasikegn hula yichilal. God may have just found Himself an opportunity for a good saQ for the yr 2100… i.e. by keeping me around till 2100. and he would definitely have the last laugh coz i wouldn’t even make it to the Guinness book of records… maybe as the oldest African. gidyelem, whichever way at least i will have the kids to fight for my air and water.

  • 15. abesheet  |  June 23, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Sistuye, you know very well that i’m not a match to neither your intelligence, nor “kirikir chilota”. I would rather enjoy your posts, and laugh like an idiot. They are my single source of joy after my hubby logs out of facebook mobile every morning.

    Be that as it may, i understand what you are saying because my mother and your mother, nothing to choose between them ;). Inspite of a “yeQum mot” nuro in her married life, nothing brightens my mother’s eyes than the prospect of marriage and kids to some poor girl ppl have been “memteting” their lips for. I guess it’s her way of validating her life, or her choice of career as a mother. A sort of “One other has joined our ‘gora’ so we are not as pathetic and/or helpless as logic would have us look”. For in numbers Ethiopians have been winning and do. It’s never about logic, common sense or choice. Infact, the bigger the “jemma”, the twisted the logic usually is.

    Which is why nobody learned can give you a good enough reason than what my mom and your mom can give when it comes to the question of marriage and kids. And which is why no sacrfice is ever too much when those two are concerned to my mom [and perhaps your mom]. I, for one, have stopped judging or trying to understand this point of view of hers, although it used to drive me bonkers in the past. I’ve just accepted it as something to live with if you gotta have her in your life. But have taken every precaution to protect my siblings (as i did with my dad’s beatings) from going through what i did as a girl. I guess it could have been worse!

  • 16. sistu  |  June 23, 2008 at 10:01 am

    abesheet, u sure know how to “uuus” masbal a kelkala/motmata chic like myself. very tactful and i am duly chastised.

    u know abesheet, the reason i feel motivated to keep up this subject is that i honestly feel in my bones that i understand the wiste-mister feeling of what leads to such opinions in life. huge presumption new akalehu but i can’t help feeling that. and most of it has to do with the feeling that i have of sharing a similar background with u, dare i say. i mean, the mix of traditional past that wouldn’t make it into conversations with fellow schoolmates, for example, with the modernity of the present that is a huge jump from where we originated neger. If that makes any sense at all… A part of that is this view/dynamics of family…siblings, dads and moms.

    my siblings, too, have done the impossible in sheltering me from moms and dads and the deeds they commit and believe if you may, one of the major things that always makes me seek u out yegebashibet iyegebahu is that part of you… u keep it v real when it comes to family matters and all things to do with how things go down in our midst. i have to tell u that in my heart of hearts (my modern self), i deeply share ur sentiments about kids and marriage and the like. Gin one time i communicated those feelings to one sibling who is very tolerant of my sometimes erratic ideas. and her response was a very emphatic “huletegna indezee aynet neger indatiyee/indatasibee” and them being people who have spent their lives protecting me with all their might, i don’t want to take that warning lightly and started to seriously reconsider my thoughts. wish i could find the exact way the sibling phrased it and show it to you.

    Anyways, i will say no more on the subject. Abesheet, i wish you a good life above everything else. Mean that with all my heart. See me getting sentimental, it won’t happen in other posts, i promise.

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