Monday, November 7, 2011

Mother Women.

I'm not sure when things changed for me.  I read The Awakening in 2010 with my Senior English students, and I found Edna Pontellier to be very selfish and irresponsible.  What about her children?!  How could they be so far from her mind, when my children overwhelmed my thoughts constantly?
This quote didn't offend me, it inspired me:

"The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels."   

And then, things changed...  Life changed.  Life changed.  In 2011, I found myself defending Edna.  I remember two male students, who also took the side of Edna in a debate for or against the mother woman standard,  and argued:  "Her husband should have known.  He should have talked to her and found her help and told her it was okay.  He should have helped her."  I remember sitting there listening to my students intelligently analyze this female character and I thought, "Heck yeah, pay attention buddy!  It's not all about you."  Really, how many men have this problem? How many men hear only 25% of what their wives say?  How many men stopped listening?  How many never listened at all?

This was at the conclusion of the novella, as we discussed, "Did Edna have another option?"  Of course any woman has another option to drowning herself in the ocean when she feels caged and stifled by life, and family, and duties.  Edna was from a very different time period.  Yet, many mothers still allow themselves to be lost to their children.  They become Mother, and not just a mother.  As Edna came to her awakening, she said to the golden sunshine character who embodied mother-woman, "I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself. I can't make it more clear; it's only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me." Madame Ratignolle understood none of these words Edna was uttering.  She did not hear her plea for understanding.  Yet this time, as I read the story this quote was most inspiring.  Aren't children more blessed with a strong, smart, engaged, and worldly mother, than a doting mother?  Can we dote... Sometimes?

I have twins.  It was so easy to fall into a single role to just stay sane and survive.  I gave myself to my children.  Now that I am also beginning to comprehend this--that maybe I can be a wonderful mother and a wonderful individual simultaneously--I feel happy.  I wasn't happy.  Does a good mother admit that?  

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