I read an interesting article the other day (it’s posted below, in case you’re looking for a good read). Basically, it’s an interview with a 67 year old woman, Elisabeth Badinter – one of the richest women in France. She’s the author of a book called Le Conflit: La Femme et La Mère (in English, The Conflict: The Woman and the Mother). In the book, she talks about the constant state of guilt that modern mothers are in, all over the world. “Guilt about breastfeeding, about smoking, drinking, working, child care; about not doing ‘the best for your child’.”
Her thoughts are nothing that we don’t already know. That the world today is not conducive to becoming your own kind of mother. That ideally, you should be a perfect mother, or not be a mother at all. One thing that stood out to me in her article, though, is her discussion about working moms. In Germany, they actually use the term “Rabenmutter”, translated to “Raven Mother”, implying a working woman is like a raven, a bird that doesn’t care for her babies.
I flew the nest yesterday.
Baby D woke up for his middle of the night feeding and was stuffed up and coughing. He was acting fine, smiling, eating, and not feverish, but that little cough sent pangs through my heart. I knew that he was okay, but what if he got worse? We are extremely fortunate to have him at someone’s home all day, with someone we consider an extension of our family. I knew he’d be in good hands, and I knew she’d call me if he was really sick, but why did I feel so terrible all of a sudden? I put him back down to sleep and laid back down in bed staring at the monitor. I could hear him sniffling and snorting. The alarm went off 5 minutes later, and I got out of bed, turned on the coffee, and started the shower. But I couldn’t get in. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “You’re a Rabenmutter. Sure, he’s ‘fine’, but he needs nose drops, boogie vacuums, and extra cuddles today. And that’s YOUR job. You’re his mother. You should be here for him”. Then another voice chimed in. “You can’t stay home, you have a big meeting today. There are people counting on you. If you stay home, will they think less of you as an employee? You need your job, you know. You only have 10 unscheduled days left for the year. Is he sick enough for you to use one?”
And at that time, the answer was no. No, he wasn’t sick enough for me to use one. But I wanted to. I suddenly wanted to have an unlimited amount of days to use for sniffles. I grudgingly put on my work clothes and makeup, grabbed my coat, and threw my heels and (closed, or so I thought) coffee mug in my bag. Then, I left him with Papa D – my little sniffley man still sleeping in his crib. I cried the first 5 minutes of the drive to work. Not because I couldn’t stay home today, but because it suddenly hit me that this is my life now. I already missed him roll over, there will never be enough cuddles, and sometimes I won’t be there to suck out his boogies. I might even miss his first word or steps. That Elisabeth was right – I will live in a state of constant conflict as a woman, as a mother. A woman, who used to only cry at weddings or funerals (okay, and Forrest Gump), is a blubbering mess because of….the sniffles?
After getting to work and finding out that my important meeting had been cancelled and realizing I flooded my heels with coffee, I thought about the raven. I sat barefoot at my desk and started googling. I wanted to know why they didn’t care for their babies. And then something happened…all the information I found said Ravens are ruthless when defending their young. They’re quite attentive. That they’ve even been observed dropping rocks on potential predators that come too close to their nest. So either there are some twisted ravens in Germany, or maybe terms like “Rabenmutter” are just another source of fueling the mommy-guilt. Or maybe, I really am a Rabenmutter. Because even though I’m not home for every sniffle, tear, or smile, I am still doing what’s best for him and for our family. I’ll still jump out of bed in the middle of the night without flinching when he needs me even though I’m up at the crack of dawn – and you can bet that if any predators get near him, they’ll get worse than falling rocks.
It’s just that sometimes, for some families, really doing “the best for our child” means having to leave the nest.