Finally… I told myself…
Finally… I was able not only to “capture” time but to actually schedule an appointment at the beauty institute (and spa) for what should be (or rather used to be) my monthly bikini wax routine. I am not afraid to say that for the past sixteen months, this act of self-care has been as far removed from my daily achievements as the feeling of the sun truly kissing my brown skin in this never-ending, winter stormy weather I abhor…. but I digress. Now mind you, it is not because my memory is failing or because I have become blind to this hair of mine. It was not intended to be an act of body radicalisation or resistance to Euro-driven, heteropatriarchal standards of beauty (although I am sure I could whip that argument up and believe it… but for once, maybe this once only, it just wasn’t it). And it is not laziness and self-abandonment either. I still very much like what I see when I look in the mirror. Most days that is… There are days when I’d rather look at pictures of myself (professionally done pictures of myself) but again, I digress.
What “this is”… reflects my inability to come to terms with my having to manage my self-time differently now that I am a mother, a mother of a very young child (because yes, I now am certain that this too shall change). To those who claim they can and will do it all, I say “Bravo”. I am not one who can or wishes to multitask on self. I like taking care of myself wholly, entirely, completely not by (stolen) bits and pieces, a “little here and there” or only when time allows it. And no, I am not fast. I am proudly, unapologetically slow and meticulous and nonchalant. When I enter what is one of my favorite rooms in the house – the bathroom- I simply let go and give in to caring for my internal and external body… And it requires time, space and complete self-awareness. My mind is clear and serene. No clutter. No planning. No fatigue. No solicitation. My body becomes my meditation.
Photo: Keletso Rabalao
Thus realising that this “me time” was no longer what it had always been obviously took its toll… a hairy toll… loose locks (I am talking about my head here), trimmed but not manicured (or pedicured) nails, and soft, velvety body hair. Needless to say that this appointment was therefore welcome and might I add, exciting in some ways. It meant more than relatively unnecessary hair removal, it meant I was ‘reclaiming’ my time (all puns intended)!
So here I am, chatting with the beautician, and of course, we talk “motherhood’ and “babies” because I enjoy sharing snippets of the joyful adventures of this wonder of mine. And I view this moment as one where I can happily reconcile my reclaimed self with my new, motherly self and the more we talk, the more my beautician shares about her own life and her wanting to have another child despite the fact that her partner does not wish to have one, having fathered two of his own and now step-fathering her child too.
And she reveals that she feels a deep sense of loss as she grieves over the absence of the child she would have so very much liked to birth. As we linger on the subject of the sometimes conflicting desires of people in relationships, I share my own bit by saying that I am not quite sure whether I am either prepared or equipped to have a second child as I already feel so consumed and enraptured by my little one. And not just time wise but also because my heart simply feels full. She looks at me in wonder and then proceeds to tell me that it is quite imperative for women not to completely lose themselves once they become mothers. If your child is fed, clothed and overall gently cared for, s(h)e will not ask for more and better yet, s(h)e will not even remember those precious early days spent in the warmth of our love, milk and tiredness, she adds. For her, being a mother ought not to annihilate being a woman. What did that mean, I asked?
It meant that I needed to care for myself, the way I had decided to on that special (hair free) day. But it mostly meant that I needed to cherish and safeguard the relationship that led to creating this tiny human being. I (and I do believe she meant ‘I’) needed to be attentive to my partner’s feelings and overall well-being. I also needed to be in a relationship to be reminded of my sensuality, sex-appeal and seductive powers. In other words, being a woman was not quite enough. I needed to be, what I concluded as, a woman for. Not a woman for me or a woman for my child but a woman for my man. Because Heaven forbids that I could just be… a woman.
Despite the inherent challenge I have with defining myself based upon my relationship with/to a man, what truly struck me was the fact that I felt compelled to tell her then that being a mother had already made me a different woman and in my view, a greater woman. My becoming responsible for another person than myself, my caring ever so deeply for an individual who is bound to direct, star in and produce the series of her life, my connecting with this older spirit in new and meaningful ways are also what defines me as a woman… much more so than any relationship has thus far.
(My) Sentimental relationships have at times unveiled, prompted or even accentuated shades of my womanhood but in all honesty, have never succeeded in determining it. My womanhood is of course experiential and influenced by a myriad of intangibles yet it has primarily thrived when not in defined, normative relationships. It has thrived in and because of itself, devoid of one too many expectations and most certainly, devoid of what most refer to as compromise – yet often perceived as sacrifice. I treasure companionship yes. Good companionship can uplift but good companionship is not radically transformative.
When I look at myself today, I finally see a woman who knows and feels the nuances of her worth, who can venture in the world, knowingly and humbly. It is not to say that every mother should feel the way I do or that self-esteem and self-worth are the direct consequences of motherhood (because they really are not), it is just that I have found a new and accomplished womanhood in my motherhood. And that feeling cannot remotely compare to what I have experienced thus far in my relationships. This feeling is new, undone, naive and most probably vowed to shift in more ways than one but it is a feeling that I cherish with all my might and all my heart now. It’s what keeps my eyes open and my body ready. It is what brings relief to my aches and peace to my worries. And it is a feeling of profound freedom.
I recall when I first learned how to swim or when I drove my first car, I was overjoyed because I had learned something new and exciting but mostly, I was overjoyed because I felt free. Free to swim in the ocean, free to drive up the mountains and blast (my) music… Loud and unadulterated… Free. Free to unlearn. Free in the face of danger because with freedom always comes free fall(s), so to speak. Being a woman is that for me. And being a mother has quadrupled that feeling.
So no, I am not a woman for. I am becoming a woman with.