The Root has allowed four women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s riff on just how significant is it is that someone, somewhere, grinned and bore it—literally—pushing a football-sized version of themselves out into the world. Some have even *shudder* done this themselves.
They’re all great pieces. I notice that in the younger ages, there is downward pressure—the being-a-daughter part takes center stage. In your 30s, there may be kids, but things turn inward—Rebecca Walker sums up mothering at that age as being “about getting your proverbial sh*t together.” Forty-something Salatheia Bryant-Honors, who lost her mother, feels both at once. But of course, the tale with which I identify most closely is from my friend Helena Andrews, who writes from her 20s with the specter of maternity breathing down her neck:
If you’ve ever been to a wedding, funeral or father-daughter purity ball, then you’ve sat—perhaps teary-eyed—through John Mayer’s “Daughters.” The song is the audio version of a Lifetime movie event. Basically it’s about how some girl got so messed up by her parents that now she can’t truly love the man standing on her steps with his heart in his hand.
The last two lines of the hook are something like a eulogy: “Girls become lovers, who turn into mothers. So mothers, be good to your daughters, too.” Why not “girls become lovers who turn into. …” something other than mothers?
Why, indeed? I’m certainly not averse to motherhood—I’ve seen some pretty great examples of it in my life. But like Helena’s, my own wonderful mother has also suddenly been afflicted with “a crazy case of the ‘grandbabies.’” At dinner in Washington this week to celebrate our mutual birthdays, she was way unsubtle about her desire for me to get hitched and start cranking out some grandkids. She jabbed me and said that I was “ready.” I got up to go to the bathroom. She waxed nostalgic about the joys of raising me and my sister—Irish (or Nigerian) twins—while my dad completed his medical residency 300 miles away. I swapped my empty wine glass for hers. She described what sounded like awful sacrifices and stresses. I joked about how lame it must have been to be pregnant-to-bursting with me on her 28th birthday. Still, she persisted in her relentless advocacy for early marriage, and little ones for her to go all Marion Robinson on.
This is all by way of saying that Mireille Grangenois has singlehandedly made me reconsider my glib eye-rolling. All of The Root’s storytellers do wonderful jobs of explaining their lives as women and mothers, but Grangenois, a media executive, gives a particularly honest take on what it’s like to have an 11-year-old at age 53—just as everyone else seems to be having all the fun. “I am flanked on both sides by the comparatively carefree existence of two other women in my peripheral orbit. My husband Steve’s ex-wife celebrated her 60th birthday in December with surfing lessons in Costa Rica as she vacationed with their adult daughter.” My mom is no M.I.A., but she couldn’t be more excited to be empty-nesting at 52 (sorry, mom!), sipping wine at a trendy out-of-town restaurant, instead of changing diapers or, heaven forbid, still wrangling my hair.
She really needs to stop being right all the time.
PS: Yes, that sign is for real.
Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.