“We need to talk about Kevin” by Lionel Shriver is one of the most confronting books I have read in a long time. I stumbled across this courtesy of my daughter and I read it in one sitting. Gripping stuff.
I am not going to wax lyrical about how easy it is for mass shootings to happen. Or how we allow our children access to weapons. This book hit home on what it is to be mom/mum/mother. Often I would have to place the book down and just breathe for a moment because the author had hit home with yet another sentence.
I was a young mother. 19 years old to be exact. Definitely not planned, and at first not wanted either. I had this dream in my head of what motherhood would look like, of how accomplished I would be and what I would have to be able to give a child. Instead I was a child myself, playing house with another child and living far from any adult.
There are countless horror stories about mothers who abuse their children, who neglect them or just have no time for them. I tried not to be that mother and succeeded for the most part. But I fully understand why your temper would snap after a day of non-stop crying and screaming, just to have that switched off the moment dad walks in the door. I understand how you want to throw the child across the room after another round of “I won’t” or “No”.
Being a parent is not an easy job. Being a mother a little harder. You get to see what others do not always see and you are unable to comment on it. As the child grows up into adulthood, you cannot point out these things for fear of alienating the young adult. You have to watch them fall and get hurt and let them work it out themselves.
We are on call 24/7 for the rest of our lives. And no one asks us how we feel about that. It is the one piece of small writing in the contract that no one alludes to.
I had to admit to myself, once the second arrived, that kids really wasn’t something I wanted. I liked the idea of them around, but actually did not know what to do with them once there. I suddenly had to deal with all of this extra when I was barely managing myself.
Don’t mistake me – I love my children and will sacrifice everything for them, and I mean everything.
This book made me confront those feelings of ambivalence, those feelings of being imposed on, of having to place my life on hold. It made me stop and reflect on the things I did, which I cannot change, which have affected my young adults today. It made me realise that we sell the image of being a mother as the absolute for every woman, or else she isn’t a woman, when the reality is that we are selling an image.
An image. An idea. Let that sink in.
We are not being truthful about motherhood. We do not share those deep dark days where we are unable to decide if staying is actually a good thing. We do not share those moments where we wish we were seen as something other than a mother. We portray this to be the ultimate goal but it is fraught with danger.
We love our children, once we have worked through the myriad of disappointments that accompany it. We sacrifice all for almost no recognition. Very confronting and hard to admit that being mom/mum/mother is really a hard choice. We have to constantly revise what we want our children to achieve versus the realities that is life.
This book helped me understand what it was I needed to change in myself in order to be better. Not just as a mother, but as a person. For me the stand out was that I had to stop fighting and resisting. Once I manage to do that, things will be a little easier. Maybe not better, but easier.