Listen to Your Mother is composed of a huge selection of short essays edited by Ann Imig and written by various women (and a few men) in a variety of relationships and life circumstances. Authors are daughters, wives, widowers, husbands, gay, straight, trans, single, and divorced–with children both biological and adopted (or even none at all). Honestly, the variety of perspective in this book is actually pretty impressive.
And this is serious motherhood here. Sure, there are a few lighthearted, aiming-to-be-funny essays, but these were actually the weakest of the bunch–and my least favorite. No, most of these stories are written from a place of honest-to-God struggle and pain, with a genuine longing to understand and improve and cope and love.
Some of my favorites:
A Year by the Lake by Jenny Fiore: “More than halfway into the deployment, Elizabeth and I are at a local gym for toddler playtime. She hates leaving, and I know it will end in a theatrical mess, but I go anyway. See, more than she does, I need the gym, the zoo, the petting farm. I need the pet store, the playground, the pool. I need these in order to keep my child happy enough, occupied enough to not break me.”
Mo’ Betta Mama by Tasneem Grace Tewogbola: “Accept all situations, she said. Recognize the struggle. Slide into the valley, if you must. Moan, stew, thrash, rage, if you need. But, soon, summon the Most High, the Creator, the One, Big Mama.”
Mother: A Multiplication Lesson by Dana Maya: “Because mothering is a difficult math problem, though, there is not only more in the sum, but also less. So many parts of our lives: gone. We lose what we need (sleep), what we crave (choice, solitude). We lose relationships and vanities, routines, and sanity. And we see, as the losses slough off of us, slow, then fast, what is now as plain as our own skin: there are a great many losses to come. When we flower, then we see.”
By the time I finished Listen to Your Mother, I actually felt a bit less alone. (I’m a mother of three kids, and, truth be told, this past year has been a bit rough for all of us.) I think sometimes it helps to be reminded of how many brave, resilient, intelligent, and thoughtful women (and men) are out there. It’s comforting to recognize that the world is full of good people who, though not perfect, are trying to make good decisions and live good lives. So even though this book ended up being much more serious than I expected, it really resonated with me and I enjoyed reading it.