My most important role in life has been “Mother”. I took on the role with some false assumptions and no realistic script. Not even an audition. Getting the part was much simpler than other occupations I later tried. There was no training, no exam, not even routine practice questions.
That’s why I call it a role. I walked on stage and didn’t look back.
Before you all see me as a monster…there is much of motherhood that is instinctive. My love for my children was immediate. It is immense, and immovable – timeless and eternal. I needed no lessons in motherly love. It’s the care and feeding that could have used a bit more intense training.
Well, perhaps even some clues of how to show love and affection would not have gone amiss. After all, my children were very close in age. Maybe some lessons in active listening while changing a sibling’s diapers. Or how remain unconditionally loving and expansive when two children are awake and crying in the middle of a precious night’s sleep.
I figured out a few things on my own. I nursed the youngest while reading stories to the toddlers. I learned that if I put the infant down mid-meal (knowing that the baby would survive the interruption) and responded to the endless requests for a glass of water, a hug, etc., etc., the older children stopped worrying so much about their needs being met and paid attention to the stories.
But in what other life role have I been required to improvise continually? Where else have I needed to step up, back-pedal, react instantaneously and still operate calmly and methodically? Where have I needed to think on my feet while the pounding of my heart was drowning out coherent thought? Where have I needed to set aside exhaustion, grief, anger, and all personal needs in order to make sure that my beloved charges were fed, cuddled, and emotionally tended.
The upside? I have a great fan base. I have been (in my time) loved, idolized, appreciated, celebrated, and made highly aware of my importance. The spin-offs have been highly successful – creating a long line of gripping and worthwhile story lines that I follow with fascination and awe.
Given that my starring role was totally unrehearsed – the end result has been well-received. The critics have raised some good points which we have tried to address in the sequels. Only within the cast and crew do we know how many scenes have been replayed through the years, trying to make sense of them. A few script changes. Some retakes.
I am smiling as I take my bows.
Reprint from May 6, 2015