Today felt like a long, sad march away from my little love. Being a non custodial mother is not easy; there are some days I scream and cry my pain into a pillow. I didn’t scream or cry today. My heart is so full from the last four days I spent with Journey and David, my two favorite people in the universe. Journey did not cry when we said see you later which surprised me. For the last 24 hours she’d been clinging to me and saying she wants to stay with me. Instead, she promised she would write me letters and see me on spring break. Her focus was quickly turned to telling her sister about the robot we built. This is becoming her normal. Being away from each other is becoming her normal. So while there were no tears today, there was something else: a sense of permanence. That this - the long weekend visits in oceanfront hotel rooms, the long drives to and from mommy’s and daddy’s houses each spring break and summer, the constant separation from the person you love most in the world - is now our normal and it’s not likely to change anytime soon.
This made me sad in a way that is so deep and visceral that I can’t yet articulate it. But as the miles between us grew and grew, I realized something: it is time to start really talking about non custodial motherhood, as well as the larger narrative around motherhood. As with any discussion of motherhood, this topic is emotionally charged, and it is complex in the way that a human brain is complex which is to say that it is, at times, incomprehensibly so.
But it is what I know, and aren’t writers called to write what they know?
From the time I was born to now, I feel that motherhood - in both practice and concept - has been a central point of my life. This did not begin with me. As far back as I can look into my maternal lineage (my beloved great-grandmother, “Grandma Catherine”), there have been signs of maternal dysfunction. It appears that I am the first one to look at the dysfunction, give it a name, and do the excruciating work of digging it out of our legacy. I want to do this because I want Journey to have a clean slate if she decides to become a mother, and I want to heal the incredible pain I’ve felt on both sides of the mother-daughter coin.
This is not what I set out to write about. It also isn’t what I intended to happen in my life. But all roads keep leading me back to here. Back to the nudge, then the shove that I need to write about motherhood and all its many facets. So here I am, writing about motherhood - the most tense, loaded, emotional part of my life on many, many levels.
Writing about this is not easy and it is not fun. At times it feels cathartic, at other times like I’m ripping my heart out of my body. I am scared of being judged for my decisions and my beliefs. I know that by writing about this I am opening myself up to an internet full of potential trolls and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t terrify me. I have thick skin but I am a mere human; vile hurts.
I turned to my dear friend and prolific writer, Sarah Hosseini, for advice on the matter. Do I write about this and follow my passion or do I hold it close for fear of being judged? As usual, her words struck deep:
“I think it’s normal to feel scared about it. You’re not any less brave if you decide not to put your story out there. I think protecting your peace and mental well being always comes before using your gift and talents to help others. Also, people are going to judge the living shit out of you regardless so who fucking cares. Honestly. Clearly I feel two ways about it! I’m the worst advice giver. Listen, I’m embarrassed and ashamed about some of the shit I wrote about years ago, especially parenting stuff, even though at the time it seemed to be a good idea. And women DID write me saying they felt helped. So do I regret any of it? Fuck no. It got me here. I can’t be concerned with how I’m judged on past or present art. I just put it out there because without doing so my soul isn’t full. It’s my evolution. All of it. It’s all of our evolutions and women and mothers. The people who love and support your life and art will support you. The people who you want to reach will be reached.”
It is necessary, though, and I intend to follow this path as long as I am called by my soul and the Universe to do so. My hope is that I find healing and, just maybe, help to shift the perception around motherhood - especially for those of us that don’t fit the traditional model.
I am not sure what this project will look like. It may be just me, writing on here. But I am open to storytelling in a way that has a larger impact. All that I am focused on right now is standing in my truth - no matter how it looks - and using my experiences to serve a purpose beyond myself.