I have a lot of thoughts about the book Patsy. I have been on a streak reading about mothers lately, but I notice that I have always seemed to gravitate toward books about mothers (or maybe people just use fiction to process their relationships with their mothers). I think I am noticing themes about mothers more because I have finally reached that age where family members (my own mother in particular) keeps asking me when I am going to become a mother.
Motherhood is the hardest job. Convince me otherwise. I have had a glimpse of the mother life when I felt like a stay-at-home mom during the shut-in months earlier in the year. So much taking care of other people with the expectation of doing more with less gratitude. I came to the conclusion that if this is motherhood, I don’t want it. I did gain a greater appreciation for my own mother through that experience.
My point is, being a mother is tough, filled with damned-if-you-don’t-damned-if-you-do decisions. I will admit, when I first started Pasty, I judged her decision to leave her daughter behind to be with her childhood sweetheart. How could you leave your whole daughter?? I just couldn’t fathom leaving a part of you behind thinking you were going toward something better. Children don’t ask to be brought in this world.
But on the flip side of that, some people don’t ask to bring children in this world. Is it fair to ask these women, force these women, to take care of something that they never wanted in the first place? We do a lot of projection of our own values onto other people. Just because you would never do something, don’t question someone else’s humanity for making that decision because you don’t know their life.
I didn’t intend for this post to be about abortion rights, but let’s go there for a second. Abortion is a decision in which I never project my personal values on other people. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to have an abortion, but that is because I am privileged to have family support and a decent job with benefits (even though as a Black woman, I am more likely to die in childbirth, but that’s a whole other conversation). Many women do not have this luxury. I respect the autonomy they have over their own bodies, because who am I to tell them what to do? Some people (not gonna name names) pretend like they care about the soul of “an unborn child” when they give negative F’s when that child comes into this world and experiences the trauma of poverty, abuse, and other adverse experiences. Way to prioritize a fetus over a human that is already here. What about the person who wants an abortion’s potential? #abortionishealthcare
In our society, we love to tell women what they have to do, especially when it comes to having children and how they raise those children. People like me, who judge this woman for making a decision I personally wouldn’t make, but what she deemed to be the best decision she had at the time, considering her own relationship with her mother and the trauma she had experienced in her life. This wasn’t a moral failing, it was a societal one. We blame too much on the personal shortcomings of people and not enough blame of the systems that were designed to benefit some and fail so many others.
At the end of the day, the only person who is able to judge her mothering abilities is her daughter, but she doesn’t even know the full story. Mothering is so difficult, and we have to hold space for their shortcomings as humans. None of us is perfect.
If you have read Patsy, what did you think about her decisions she made as a mother?