Posts in motherhood is---
Workaholism

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I don't really want to talk.  Or cook. Or write. Or wipe noses or floors, do the dishes, play "choo choo", read stories, sing songs, go to playgroups or to the park.  I do not want to make play dough or cake or dinner or lunch or breakfast or second breakfast.  I do not want to pay the bills or listen to the crying.  I do not want to give baths or brush hair or change nappies or tackle the mountain of laundry.

The interuptions that come at 5 minute intervals send me snappy and on edge.  I wish I could say that the 6,000 lego spaceship of the day was more interesting than a new design or the need of a 10 month old to be held all day long was as fufilling.

But, its not.  They aren't.  

I love them.  I love their little noses and blue eyes.  I love their funny laughs and their messy hair.  The way Georgia says "Thchoo -Thchoo" instead of "Choo Choo".  The way Ellis says "I got it from my brain" when congratulated on a good idea.  The way Theo gives open mouth kisses on demand.  I love them so much...

But the constant pull is there.  I want to be with them, but I want to be working or not even working, just doing something else. Something that is wholly me and not someone else.

And then, that means that I end up doing most things badly.  Half-attention and stolen moments are not the way to do anything well from designs to laundry.

And so today, I will not be working.  I will put it down and draw a line under it so that the talking, cooking, writing, wiping of noses and floors, doing of the dishes, playing "choo choos", the washing of laundry and all of the other things I *need* to do can get done well and without shouting or crying...

...plus we've run out of underwear.

 

*pictured: Texere Chunky Wool

A Day Like Today

inspired by Claire's post 

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The yelling starts before 5.  Kevin has obviously fallen asleep downstairs, as he is usually the one to get up with her.  I curse under my breath and haul my tied bones out of bed to pad down the hallway to their room.  

She won't go back to sleep, so she is brought downstairs and deposited with her father.  Keeping mutterings and swear words to a minimum, I climb back in bed with Theo. His breathing has been terrible over the last few days, particularly at night, so I watch him for a few minutes before I fall back asleep. As my lids droop heavily, Ellis comes in. I look at him and can guess what he's going to ask. "Can I have a boy's movie?" we say in unison. Before I can answer, Georgia returns, having escaped her father and bringing me a bar of soap and a squeaky toy.  The racket, plus Georgias new found ability to climb up on the bed, wakes up Theo and he decides he's hungry.

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After surviving the extreme torture that is breastfeeding and 8 week old whilst being jumped on by a 14 month old, I lift both babies to carry them downstairs, one over each shoulder.  Ellis has already settled into his spot on the sofa for a morning of cartoons.  I feel guilty about the amount of TV he is watching at the minute, but I can't handle the fighting.  From the minute he wakes up until the minute he goes to bed, when he is at home, he whines for the TV.

I stumble into the kitchen to begin the endless round of cooking a meal, eating a meal, cleaning up after a meal. I resent it, but there is no changing it, so I have to get on and cook.  This morning its Gluten and Dairy free crepes. I can't stand the things, but as Theo needs a feed again anyway, I miss my chance for breakfast. Kevin finishes off the cooking and makes a pot of coffee that I glug greedily while I feed the baby, watching the 5 minutes of news before Ellis realises I've changed the channel.

After breakfast, I nip out to the post office to collect a parcel.  Alone.  Its bliss, this whole not being touched thing.  When I come back into the house, it all begins again.  Someone is hungry, always hungry.  A baby is tired. Siblings are fighting. They all need to get dressed and nappies need changing.  Laundry, always laundry.  If I don't do at least 2 loads a day, I start to twitch.

After a quick round of chores, we settle into the playroom.  I am trying to be more present with them, because they must get tired of hearing I'll play with you after I've done the dishes/cleaned the kitchen/made lunch.  We play recycling.  Theo watches his siblings and laughs.  He even laughs as Georgia tries to strangle him gives him a hug.  We laugh.  The three of them are so funny and loving. Theo laughs until Georgia throws a wooden tomato at him.

 

After tears all round, both of the babies are taken upstairs for naps. Ellis has wandered back to the TV and I do a quick round of cleaning.  Ellis is hungry. Again.

Cheese on toast is made and eaten and cleaned up. More laundry. Theo is awake. A replacement for a faulty mattress is delivered. Ellis is allowed to play with the small lego, a treat saved for when his little sister can't destroy his lovely creations. I add more to this post and take some pictures.

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A cry announces that Georgia is awake.  I realise its noon and the mad dash for lunch then nursery run.  I am always late.  Sometimes, its not too bad and I can see the other mums going into the building as I near the gate.  Other days, like today, I am the subject to the sad and knowing smiles  of parents who have already been inside, dropped their children off and crossed the wide school grounds to get to the gate.

Once Ellis is safely at school, I head down the hill to the other post office to post parcels and letters. Theo will not settle in the buggy, so he is placed back on my chest in a sling.  Town is the usual battle of pushchairs versus pedestrians, but ultimately the errands are run, a wool blanket is purchased at a charity shop for £2 and we head home.

The walk back up the hill takes about 15 minutes.  As I open the back gate to let us through, I notice that Georgia is missing a shoe.  I was supposed to meet a friend today, but the shoes were expensive, so its back down the hill to collect it.  By the time we return, its 2:30pm...and we have 25 minutes to do a round of nappy changes, give Georgia a snack and feed Theo before I head off to collect Ellis again. I notice a break in the clouds and a load of washing is hung out in hope. Georgia spends the time playing the timeless game of stones and rain water. I realise she is soaked as I load her into the pushchair to go.

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Needless to say, I am late.  Ellis is once again the last child in the classroom.  Its a terrible walk of shame past the other parents and teachers to collect him.  I sewar under my breath. I am not technically late, it is 3:12pm and the session runs until 3:15pm, but everyone collects early here.

The evening routine begins in earnest after school.  Ellis starts the incessent pleading for the television, Georgia does her rounds of unloading drawers and cupboards. Theo naps, cries and feeds, over and over.

Its Tae Kwan Do night, so dinner needs to be early.  It tacos. Ellis eats his, Georgia bathes in hers. I manage one and realise that I've only eaten chocolate and this one taco today. Oh and coffee.

As we wait for a friend to collect Ellis for his class, Georgia begins to lose it.  She follows me around the house throwing her cup at me with all of her might, over and over again.  I try and offer her a drink, but she is too blind with rage.  I make a bottle and sit down with her, Theo in the sling, sucking hungrily on his pacifier.  

Georgia is happier and toddles off to play.  Now its Theo's turn.  He has fed every 2 hours all day and night. I use the time he feeds to browse online, visit Twitter and blog. I am exhausted and starving.  Once Ellis goes, Georgia and Theo are taken up for baths.  Theo will not settle, so Georgia's bath is quick before she is thrown into bed, past exhausted.

Theo spends hours fretting tonight.  He won't settle for long, so I put the finishing touches on this post and edit the photos in between the up and downs of trying to calm him. Its only 7:30pm, but I am ready for bed. I know a long evening awaits me, so I make a conscious decision to get off of the computer and get my work done so that I maybe I can work on my crochet, rather than walk past it and look wistfully.

Kevin comes home with a sleeping Ellis and takes Theo, making him smile.  The new energy in the house gives me the oomph I need to get things done.

Number of nappies changed: 9. Number of cups of coffee: 4. Number of grams of Dairy Milk chocolate consumed: aprox 100 (maybe more). Number of loads of laundry: 3. Numbers of hours awake a the time of posting: 15. Number of hours till I can sleep: at least 3.

Its not a bad day, or a fantastic day, but a normal day. And then I push post.

Why Isn't It Enough?

I have a beautiful 6 week old baby, a gorgeous handful of a one year old and a precociously funny 4 year old...my hands are well and truely full, yet why isn't it enough?

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Why do I feel I have to tell everyone that asks that I was made redundant, that I didn't choose this stay at home motherhood? Why do I have to mention that I have "no choice" but to be full-time carer to this brood? 

Why is "just being a mother" good for other people? Why do I oogle over other families lives? Why do I love hearing about how other mothers spend their time? Why do I find such value and nourishment in hearing about what other people do, admiring the pace of their lives...whilst all the while devaluing my own?

The lovely Rebecca sent me a fantastic old crochet magazine and in her letter she wrote about this important work we do, raising humans.  When I read it, I agreed...in my head.  Logically, I know that this is my place, that it is important and incredibly valuable work, but my heart betrays me.  

I feel like such a failure.  Like I should be doing something else.  I should be contributing more to my family--as if working tirelessly night and day isn't enough.  As if constantly cooking and cleaning and doing the laundry and playing and feeding and changing isn't work. I am more tired in the evenings than I ever was as a civil servant, and yet as I sit at the end of the day, why do I feel like I've done nothing?

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Why do I scurry around at 4pm to make the house look just a little bit better, so Kevin doesn't think I am lazy, even though I only sit down to feed Theo and I rarely even go to the loo?

I write a blog, I take pictures, I knit...small things. In my particularly self destructive moments, I wonder why I even bother. "If you can't be the best at something, why do it?" the voice in my head says. Other voices tell me that its all pointless, nothing dramatic happens here, why would anyone care? Its "just a mummy blog" and my life isn't even that interesting, to me at least.

Maybe its the fault of a society that values work outside the home and devalues stay at home moms.  As a politically active feminist in the late '90s and early 00's, I was told that we could have it all.  We could work and have kids and burn some bras all at the same time.  Motherhood wasn't mentioned, except to lament all of those poor oppressed stay at home moms, who refused to "have it all".

Maybe its just that I am not cut out for this.  

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More likely, it is the normal ebb and flow of life that means that sometimes the grass just looks greener. There are hard days and easy days and good days and bad days. And days when I feel like a failure and days when I feel like a hero to the under 4 crowd.  I wish that I could say this is what I always dreamt about, that this is always what I wanted to be when I grew up...

But for now, I just need to work harder at enjoying-- to take it all in and see the beauty that is here, not the promise of elsewhere.

And to recognise that enough is, quite simply, enough.

 

 

To the Sea

beachedThe morning arrived in our house with a thud.  It'd been a long night.  One that included turns of wakefulness, leaving mama sleepless from 1am to 6am, with a short nap after that.

9am arrived with me staring at my two littlies grumpily with a long day stretching out ahead of us.  Looking out the window with a sigh, I noticed something remarkable.  The sun.  It was here.

"Ellis, grab your bucket and spade" I said "We're going to the beach"

I scrambled around, getting the things we could need and loaded it into our new (to us) car*. After various false starts for forgotten things, we were off to the coast.

Georgia cried the whole way (my babies hate cars) and Ellis talked endlessly about boats and whales and ice cream and other things we were going to do once we reached the Firth of Forth.

When we got there, the beach was dry and bright and sunny and cold...but perfect.  Exactly what we needed.  Georgia liked digging in the sand with her little hands and sleeping on my back in the fresh sea air.  Ellis liked chasing the waves.  And the ice cream. I liked just being there with the two of them, the sea used to be just a dream for a girl in Iowa.

A few hours cleared our heads and brought us back to a place more human. We bundled up into the car and headed home.  Ellis sleeping, me singing at the top of my lungs to stop Georgia crying.  

Things I Know

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- Strawberries will not jam if they are too wet.  Even washing them can upset the delicate balance of water to pectin (lets not get into weeks of rain). Leaving them to dry for a few hours after washing is often necessary.  Particularly sodden berries often require the addition of rhubarb, raspberries, or apple pectin.

- "Once begun is half done" only applies in certain circumstances.  Exclusions include but are not limited to:

     - The washing...starting is the easy part

     - Picking up little tiny pieces of Playmobil.  This is the task that NEVER ends.

- The correct way to hand-wash dishes is to wash cutlery first, then glasses and cups, moving on to plates and bowls, then pots.  This is to ensure that things that go IN your mouth are washed with the cleanest water.  The position of glasses and cutlery may be reversed if and only if dinner was particularly greasy and may hamper the sparkling shine.

- Having babies that sleep through the night does not make one a better parent, only a better rested one.

- Being at home all day with small children can be like being pecked to death by ducks, whilst at the same time being the most wonderful and amazing thing one ever does.  Yesterday's work included playing circus as Ellis "tightrope walked" on the low walls all the way to town.

- On days where the pecking outweighs the wonder, the magical combination of wine + hot bath + crazy-loud African pop can turn it all around.

- Clean sheets straight off the line are worth doing laundry for. 

- Toys are essentially pointless.  Cats, camping gear and sticks are all one really needs.

- The kinds of friends that one wants coming round to the house are the kind one doesn't feel the need to clean for.

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Motherhood

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Nothing has surprised me more about being a mother of two children than the love Ellis has for his baby sister.

From the minute she was born, he has done nothing but dote upon her.  She is the first thing he asks for in the morning and the only required kiss at night.

The other day, we were at playgroup.  Whilst I sat with a few friends with Georgia on my lap, Ellis came tearing across the room.  "My baby! My Georgia!" He cried.  He ran up to her and gave her a cuddle.  He then tore back across the room to his friends. "Come see my Georgia!  That's my baby" he said as he dragged his gaggle of 3 year olds over to us.

You know that scene in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas where the Grinch's heart went up a couple sizes?

I didn't know it was possible to love two little people so much...and then to see the two of them fall in love as well...almost too much for a mama to bear.

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Someone Else's Groove
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Step into my house at 10am, and you will see a picture of domestic bliss.  The house will be reasonably tidy.  My children will be laughing and playing.  I will be the world's best mother.  There might even be a baked good for your consumption.

Step into the same scene at 4 in the afternoon and the view would be vastly different.  Toys strewn everywhere. Dishes piled in the sink. Someone will be crying and its a one in three chance that someone could be me.

I am not good at being of service all day, every day.  Stumbling down the stairs in the morning to cries of "I'm hungry", then to be followed by endless cycles of nappy changes, feedings, meal and snack preparation, play, laundry, groceries, errands...I find it very tiring, very long and exceedingly dull.

In my family, rightly or wrongly, I am the one that provides the flexibility.  I slot into all of the jobs and situations that no one else wants to or can do. I am the fluid one, who helps fill the cracks of everyone else. Not to say, I don't get taken care of in other ways, but my job at the minute is to be of service in the variety of ways my family needs.

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Kevin comes home and a baby is thrust in his arms.  I may not be good at the relentlessness of caring for small children, but I am GREAT at sulking.  I stomp upstairs, throw myself down on my bed and glower at no one in particular.  

And here is the thing...I can see it coming. It happens most days - be it at home, at work, with my family. I am an introvert.  I need time to be quiet and do as I wish.  As my friend, Rebecca, wrote so eloquently, "I'm just someone who needs time and space in my house and in my brain, quiet and freedom to move as I wish,...depending on the day." I can fit into someone else's groove for only so long, before I must bust out.

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After my small toddler-like tantrum, I can hear giggles wafting up the stairs.  A cup of tea is thrust forward as a peace offering by a 3 year old messenger.  He is scooped up into bed with me and we laugh and talk and I am back in my role and happy.

Sometimes, its just a moment I need to recharge...sometimes its more.  Ideally, I wouldn't get hit those low levels in the first place and of course, some days I don't. One of the thoughts that I come back to time and again, is that women being left alone with small children all day is a recent phenomenon.  We used to have family or other women around to share the enormous responsibility. 

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I wish I could make it all look effortless...No, I actually wish it could be effortless.  But its not.  We are a wildly happy, chaotic, crazy and sometimes ever so slightly destructive family with a wildly happy, chaotic, crazy, sometimes ever so slightly destructive mother. 

So probably perfectly normal then.  

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I wrote this post and then say that Day 5's prompt for Creativity Boot Camp is Fluid.  How very very apt.

This Glamorous Life

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1. Yesterday, whilst having lunch with Kevin at his work, a childless male staff member came to see the baby, who, at that very minute, was fussing as I latched her on.  I have never met said staff member, don't know what he looks like, but as he walked up to us and leaned over my shoulder he got a full view of my right breast.  To say he ran away screaming is only a slight exaggeration.

2. My breakfast most mornings is cold porridge, eaten out of the pan as I can't seem to get time to eat it hot.

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3. Little girl spends much of the day asleep in her sling.  I have not figured out how to put deodorant on once she is tied on, nor have I yet to remember to put it on before I wrap her. 

4. I make beautiful, but very gassy and quite sicky babies.  Two people in two days (both with children themselves) have jumped in astonishment at the amount of baby sick little girl can produce.

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5. The combination of 3 and 4 means that we smell quite badly.  If I see you in public and I back away from hugging you, its me, not you.

6. Little Girl has some pretty impressive aim with said sick and the other night it ended up inside the back of my trousers.

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7. Though we do not watch the show, Ellis insists on listening to the LazyTown soundtrack on Spotify over and over.  I never knew it was possible to dislike fictional characters so intensely. 

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8. Most days, I can not get Ellis dressed.  Every neighbour and delivery person has seen my son in his birthday suit. 

9. The cats keep bringing us 'presents'...bloody furry or feathered gifts from the countryside.  Which, being the tough sort of person I am, is what it is, but it doesn't stop me from jumping everytime I see one of Ellis' brown toy animals lying on the floor.

10. Playing with one's food is getting more and more extreme here.  I was not allowed to clean up these crisps, because they were required for helicopter landing.  21Apr2010_7548

Note to Self

Dear Me,

Please remember, at the moments:

when you actually think that you may completely lose your mind and drop your (almost) 3 year old off at a rehoming centre,

when he stands on the bridge for 45 minutes refusing to either go forward or back,

when he fights every time he needs a change of clothes or nappy, 

when he wants to listen to the same Thomas the Tank Engine audio book over and over all day long and calls Nina Simone, "rubbish",

when he, in the 5 minutes it takes for you to go upstairs and deposit a laundry basket on the bed, climbs up onto the kitchen counter, turns on the taps, overflows the sink, empties a full litre of milk onto the counter and is trying to climb out the window onto the rubbish bins,

that you love him.

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That he makes you laugh.

That you miss him when he is not with you.

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That he makes everything adventurous.

That he is very sweet and cuddly and will not always be so.

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That his desire to help, really does outweigh his capability to create chaos.

That he is ridiculously cute.

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and then put on Thomas (again), make yourself a cup of tea and remind yourself that the rehoming centre actually has been redeveloped into new houses.  So, for better or worse, the two of you are in this together.   

Love,

Your Self

Stretch Marks
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I am bigger now than I ever was with Ellis.

With the growth, new stretch marks have etched themselves across my pale belly, often extensions of the now faded silvery trails left by my last pregnancy. I know I am supposed to be disgusted by them, buy expensive creams, worry endlessly.  But I can't bring myself to hate these small bits of myself.

Overwhelmingly, every time I look at them, I am grateful they are there.  Grateful to have these permanent marks of this baby written somewhere that will never go away, no matter what happens.  Morbid, maybe, but if nothing that last year taught me that pregnancy, even a full term one, is no guarantee of a baby to hold at the end. 

I am bigger now that I ever was with Ellis, but I am thinner too.  The stretch marks are more than just an indelible tattoo of this wee life, but also an outward sign of the thinning of the shell that I wrap myself in to get through the day.  When I was pregnant with Ellis, I didn't know what I had to lose.  Now I know all too well the joy and deep love a child brings with it into the world and I also know

the dangers

the worries

the potential that can so quickly take over and harm these small little lives we are responsible for.

I am thinnest in the deep of the night, when all of those worries creep through the cracks and sneak into my mind, playing over and over the: "what ifs" and the "I can'ts". I know that much of it is biological, hormonal and primal.  I know it is a natural element of pregnancy.  I know that I am not alone.

And after the tears of fear and sadness that grip me in the wee small hours subside, I am still grateful for the thinning because above and beyond everything else it is a reminder:

of the miracle that is a new life entering the world

of the preciousness that every moment we get to share with a child...inside or out

of how remarkable the role of parent is.

If stretch marks are part of the price I pay for the knowledge, then let them be.

Finished

Today I finish work for 13.5 months of maternity leave.  I am excited/terrified/tired/anxious/ready/unprepared/worried/relieved

Its a day of finishing (for a year at least):

::The last day of wrestling Ellis into clothes whilst he sobs he doesn't want to go to nursery

::The last extortionate taxi ride  I will take to said nursery because I can no longer cycle there

::The last time I will blast Nina Simone as I waddle up the hill to my office

::I have finished talking about Full Cost Recovery, Social Return on Investment and iPerformance for at least a year (hopefully longer)

::My last cup of hot coffee, drunk without interruption, every time I drink a cup of coffee from 9am to 4pm

::Very possibly the last time I am able to go pee on my own, every time I pee from 9am to 4pm (god, I will miss that)

::We won't be getting dressed every morning because we have to BE somewhere

::And I won't be able to use work as an excuse for not cleaning the house

:: Its the beginning of the end of a small part of my own economic independence for awhile at least

:: The last time I will have to cram friends/crafting/cooking around a full work week, just TWO children and a husband with a busy work schedule.

:: The last work paid for trip to the highlands or West Coast of Scotland.. (sigh, its a fantastic thing to work to protect beautiful places...not least because a trip to see my boss means a train journey through the mountains to the coast)

:: The last time I HAVE to be somewhere and be social or at least polite.  From here in, getting out of the house will have to be on my own steam and I am no longer paid to be nice and helpful.

::I won't have to wear uncomfortable work trousers and could theoretically wear completely elasticated ones for over a year.  

::Spending my days with adults will be giving away to my days spent mostly in the company of small children...and a history of loneliness and depression.

::I won't feel like I am letting work down or worry that I have damaged my career every time a child is sick and I have to leave work.

Good, bad and scary. Positives definitely outweigh the negatives as above anything I have the opportunity to spend time with my children while they are little, with some financial help from work and no fear that doing so will cost me my job.  For that I am deeply, deeply grateful. But still worried about what it means to be a stay at home mother with 2 children, 2 cats and a goldfish. But today, for a year at least, my working life is finished.

Incidentally, I have also finished the Milo Vest and am seriously in love with the pattern and the way it turned out (with just over a skein of Mirasol Tupa for you fellow nerds...its the green one and much more green than the photo is picking up)

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So I guess I will just have to make a new beginning

new beginnings

...on many levels

The Path Through Motherhood...

...is paved with good intentions.

I had intended to take lots of photos of what motherhood means to me...but I keep forgetting.
 
I had meant to finish my mother's hat, scarf and hand warmers before Christmas, but I can't remember the last time I sat down to do it.
 

I had wanted to tidy out the accumulated baskets of rubbish that have collected in every room in the house...but I needed to play birthday party instead.

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I had wanted to get caught up on the laundry before the holidays...but an entire jar of fish food was dumped into the fish tank (again).
 
I thought it would be fun to make Christmas cookies...but he wanted eggs instead.

I was going to make E an apron to go with his Chritsmas gift from us...but I seem to have misplaced the scissors, the fabric and the pattern.

I was going to send out Christmas cards, but I made the mistake of sitting down at the table during a boys craft session.

My creation
 

I had intended to write up those recipes from yesterday, but I haven't had time in amidst all of the above.

Motherhood is a meander down a winding path, with so many turn offs and scenic routes and sometimes dead ends.  But we get there eventually. And the journey, though not planned, is wonderful (on the whole).

Motherhood Is...
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Seasons are changing.  I can feel the change palpably, not just the weather, but in our family the tides are turning.  After a relatively quiet season where motherhood has been concerned, I can feel and see it becoming a stronger presence in my life. I stand on the doorstep of being a mother of 2 and maternity leave is fast approaching...something I have to admit I view with a lot of trepidation.

I took the first year of Ellis' life off of work and it was not a good time for us.  I was lonely and drained and depressed.  I missed the company of adults.  I was tired of being yelled at 22 hours a day by a very fussy baby.  I wanted successes that were my own.  Motherhood felt like a pair of uncomfortable shoes that I had bought on a whim and was stuck with wearing forever.

I am glad to say I have moved on from that, the shoes fit a bit better now.  I am more confident and comfortable in my role as it stands today. I have a more robust support network, even a mother who parents a spirited boy the same age as mine. I understand the limits of my son's sensitivities and know his (and my) limits so much better. But it is a moveable feast, often in flux, but beautiful and precious as it stands. 

And so, I want to spend at least one day a week for the next few weeks or more documenting what motherhood means to me at this time as a mama of one, before I am a mama of more.

And so off to collect my thoughts...but I leave you with a question, as mothers, daughters, sons and fathers, today:

what is motherhood to you?