Literary Reflections is pleased to present our featured writing prompt response from March. We asked, “How did the role of motherhood offer a fertile ground in which you could resolve inner conflicts? How did raising children help you to grow as an adult?”
Paula Kiger wrote:
Because one of the most vocal members of my book club is a biology professor, I have ended up reading two books related to agriculture within the past six months — The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal Vegetable Miracle. Both of them recommend crop rotation and polyculture as methods to reduce vulnerabilities in our food system. When you grow the same crop month after month, year after year in the same soil, you exhaust the soil and increase the chances of disease and pest infestation.
When I read this month’s writing prompt, acres of fields growing only corn came immediately to mind. When industrial farmers rely on only one crop (monoculture), they count on plants that are engineered to be extremely predictable: these plants are bred to fend off pests and (seriously) to be “considerate” of their neighboring crops by growing mostly “up” and not “out” so that the farmer can cram more crops into the growing area.
My family is no monoculture, nor can I predict what my children are genetically programmed to fend off. How will they grow, physically and emotionally? How will I grow in relation to them?
The self I brought to motherhood was one desperately desirous of being a mom. In those first few years, I didn’t have a lot of time to consciously work on inner conflicts or to assess the different adult I was becoming.
Now that my children are twelve and nine, though, I am in a decidedly transitional phase, one that gives me a small window in which to be retrospect, before the full onslaught of teenage girlhood descends.
My primary inner conflict has been the internal jostling among my “pleaser” self, my “fighter” self and my “showoff” self. Being a mother has been a thirteen-year process of resolving these three selves. Being the “pleaser” means that I have laid out a whole lot of outfits without teaching children to do it, that I have overemphasized to my children the importance of following directions to the “t” (even the stupid ones), and that I have acquiesced to choices that saved the peace but ultimately shortchanged me. The “fighter” self was kind of dormant until a load of debt pushed me to make more aggressive choices to get out from under the money issues, to take on extra work, and to strive to get the weight off my chest created by owing so much money. The “showoff” self has huddled backstage for a very long time.
How has motherhood helped these three sides find some degree of harmony? As Havelock Ellis said, “All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” Just like the soil is depleted if it never rests, so my soul is diminished if it has no periods of contemplation. I have learned that there is a timing when coming to terms with inner conflict that involves resting the soul — if you are always manipulating it, adding imperatives in and allowing erosion, it may never yield its abundant potential.
Paula Kiger can be reached at opuswsk(at)aol(dot)com.