Maternal instincts

For a long time, I’ve known I wanted to have kids. One of the ways I knew was that I always acted like a mom, even when I was a kid. I took care of my sister, through sickness and health (this is one of the first subjects of Homesick), and I also remember always carrying around dolls with the same care I saw grownups applying to real tiny humans.

I never questioned that this meant that I should have a child, even though the late spate of natural disasters provoked by climate change (bound to also worsen) have made me more inclined to adopt a preexisting person, rather than create another. But I never questioned I should somehow be a mom—that is, until this weekend.

My own mom sent me a Facebook message with a snapshot from my grandmother’s archives in Tulsa, revealing me with one of my dolls:


In the photograph, I think I look frightened, or nervous, at the very least. And I think that instead of taking care of my doll, it looks like I am using it her as a shield. Instead of wanting to protect an essentially helpless fellow creature, in other words, perhaps what I want is to be protected: from a sense of purposelessness, idleness or being in vain; from old age; from the incessant demands of my (of any) profession; from people who make me nervous, from whom I might hide behind the cuteness and the drool of a squirming little bundle of pure life.

I don’t know. I still think I could take great care of someone small. But perhaps for now I ought to try and focus on my own life without a shield.

Now Sheila Heti’s novel Motherhood makes more sense to me. I reviewed it very favorably for LARB earlier this year, but at the time it felt more interesting on a craft and an abstract idea level than it did on a personal one. Maybe it’s just the kind of book that takes a while to fully process.