Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Writing Prompt Reader Response

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Last month, we invited readers to share responses to a writing prompt inspired by Wendy Gordon's essay "An Unsettled Mother in an Unsettled World" and Kelli Zaytoun's essay, "Bearing the Body in Paradox." We asked readers to tell us how contradictions inform their stories and their lives. Here is Lorisha Adams' response.

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Burning Mommy

By Lorisha Adams

Motherhood sets fire to logic. Mothers watch in horror as elements of society’s expectations are unintentionally kicked into the flames. When either of my 11-year-old twin girls cries, cold shots of ruin pulse through my veins. The societal standard of having happy, well-adjusted children burns in the fire of lousy mothering. I comfort my girls during their fluctuating emotions, all while attempting to steady my own. Sometimes it is utterly impossible to be both "mom" and a person. I find that I must reserve a space just to be a thinking, magical, creative human being. I am forever and always a mother, but my experience of mothering is just another feature of my life, albeit a sacred and intensely consuming feature.

Like life, the waves of mothering ebb and flow with the wind, calm one moment, chaotic the next. I begin to drown in kid stuff and the weight of my unpacked ambitions. That creative bag must be opened or I risk descending deep into a psychological state that can only endure feeding children. Children require a certain level of authentic affection–even affection burdened by laundry, dishes, sibling fights, and a dirty bathtub.

Motherhood is perplexingly limiting and freeing. I feel the confusion of this when I’m unable to steal away for an idyllic writers retreat, but am wondering around an enormous mall, shifting through one hundred thousand fashion choices for my three young girls. For my girls, I choose menus, schools, clothing, activities, dentists, doctors, hairstyles, media consumption, social conventions. With innumerable sections of life to facilitate for children, a mother can find many ways to manifest her creativity. And indeed many moms do use this busy time in a young child’s life to flourish, much like author Wendy Gordon describes in her essay. Mothering can serve ones’ creativity, turning menial tasks into cheerful opportunities to be mom and creator.  When my girls ask me the meaning of a word or when we discuss the ending of a graphic novel, when we cook together, or when we analyze a painting, I realize that these are moments when my mothering and creativity collide in fun and fulfilling ways.

To be suddenly pulled away from an elegant book of essays, fascinating novel, or a zealous writing session in order to nurse a fever, clean a spill, or help with a math worksheet, can feel like an attack on my creative urges.  A war has been waged. Mothering wins often. Helping the kids must be done. Resentment rises and it laces my interactions with the girls.

"Mommy, are you mad at me?" Vanessa asks after I’ve tried to explain, three times, how to do long division.

A lump of guilt sinks to the pit of my stomach. I soften. "No, honey. I’m sorry." I place an apologetic kiss on my girl’s pimply forehead. Remorseful forehead kisses are my modus operandi. A tender atoning forehead kiss extinguishes the unreasonable, unattainable flames of perfect mothering.

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Lorisha Adams lives in Ohio with her husband and three daughters. She has a BA in Counseling, writes about human behavior and reads everything, including emails. She writes at https://bohosky.wordpress.com/about/ and can be reached at lorisha17@gmail.com.


Whitney Archer is a writer, librarian, and a mother living in northern Virginia. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, AOL, and Salvo Magazine.


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