There are three parts of a woman’s life: girl, mother, and crone. I have wondered many times if I had lost part of the woman’s path because I hadn’t given birth. –yes, I am one of those blessed with childlessness.
Funny, when I was young and healthy enough to bear children, this aspect of my life didn’t worry me. I was travelling with the U.S. Navy. I was seeing the world. My boyfriend (now husband) had one grown daughter and a teenager (both adults now). Also, the more my mother pushed the idea of children, the more I pushed back at her. She already had two daughters giving her grandchildren… why did I have to do it too?
But, as I look at it now, while other girls went through the ordinary path of girl, mother, crone, I went a very different way: mother, girl, crone.
Now don’t look at me funny. When I was five, my job was to make breakfast, dress my sisters, and go to school. My mother would sleep in … she was probably pregnant– again. By the time I was ten, I was the family cook. Plus, I helped in the house. I learned early to slip out of the house, breakfastless I might add, so that I could have some free play time. I wouldn’t come back until dinner time. My mother would refuse to feed me dinner because I had not come when she called.
Sometimes I would steal bread from the kitchen so that I wouldn’t go hungry. As I grew older, I became the housekeeper and teacher. I remember once my mother tell me that she had brought me into this world and that she would take me out. I believed her. Her face was red and her arm was strong.
By fourteen, I was raising my brother. My mother could not deal with a fussy baby. He wasn’t colicky. He just wanted to be held.
“He’s yours,” she told me. I fed him, changed his diapers, and sang him to sleep. He was like a lost baby. Mother wouldn’t even pick him up until he was three or four. She had a fit when he would run from her.
So I was mother first.
When I left home, I played.
I became a girl.
I joined the Navy… I had fun. This period lasted from the time I was about 24 until I became ill at 41. It was good.
So now I am learning to be the crone.
I am grouchy and happy… at the same time. I cackle and cry. I hope that this part of my life stabilizes soon.
What is the way of the girl? I don’t know. I feel like a stranger in a strange land of femininity. I don’t belong. But, the way of this girl? I have learned courage, persistence, and hope.