he still calls me witch

I’ve dreamt a lot about walking through shaky, wobbly high buildings, baby in my arms; or of giving birth in odd places – alone, in the bank, out on the street, the supermarket; on the floor in front of everyone. Private parts exposed, infant at risk. Other nights I’m heavily pregnant, struggling with bags of groceries while my nappy-clad daughter runs out onto the road or off into a crowd. I’m helpless, powerless and words are stuck in my throat. Where’s our protector? I want to shout. There’s something very wrong here – I’m supposed to have help with this. Then I remember why he’s not with us. Time is all skewed, events are muddled – my daughters are at school, the new baby is a year old, life is better, we’re OK. We’ve adjusted.

Waking from these dreams the feeling of vulnerability is hard to shake, so I live with it.

Days move along efficiently; four girls off to school, house tidied, baby and I go through our routine. We go for walks, sit in our favorite café while I write and she charms the regulars. She falls asleep to the sound of the coffee machine and I let myself drift a little.

“You’re so calm!” People say to me, stopping by.

“How do you do it?” they ask

“Its not fair” some complain, impressed by a cool demeanor, smooth hair and slim hips – as if I should be harried, overweight and upset that I have five children and no husband.

‘A defense mechanism’ is my carefully prepared response; ‘If I’m upset, baby’s upset, and I wouldn’t be able to cope’.

A calm mum makes calm babies is how the cliché goes – and so it satisfies most.

As for the rest, I smile and move on rather than say what’s really on my mind – a rant about choices and fairness and staying home eating vegetables, not drinking, not eating out and walking and walking and walking to stay sane. I shake off the resentment I sense, breathe deeply. I hold my gaze steady – stand by my convictions and the direction I’ve taken my life in.

Women have been doing this since we first looked up at the moon, I tell myself. We’ve been raising children alone – men leave, they go off to do ‘man things’; once they were hunters and warriors and often they didn’t come back. We call these things by different names now, but the nature of the beast hasn’t changed, and why should it?

So we get on with it and look elsewhere for understanding. Well, we hope for understanding. I do.

I know I’m not alone, not really. There are an alarming – and growing – number of children in this developed country being raised without fathers, with part-time fathers, by mothers who are under-valued, over worked and – I suspect – enraged.

One in five children goes through every day looking to a mother who, based on the cultural norm of ‘ the nuclear family’, is doing the job of two people [i]. There’s fear for the future, for the hearts of these children who will grow into men and women, but mostly for mothers who, right now, are also told that raising children isn’t enough, and they must do more. Be more. Be productive and legitimate members of the economic nation, within bounds.

Even women with partners, with legitimizing positions within community, careers, media profiles, and money – who do all of it willingly and joyfully – continue to do the lion’s share of parenting. It seems we had a feminist revolution but the boys, well, the boys are still taking the head off the Medusa and becoming heroes.

Heroes don’t change nappies do they?

And even though we are good brave patriarchal daughters we know that we face an issue that’s more than political – one that cuts to the deepest part of the collective psyche, to our very soul. It’s archetypal. It’s about a human relationship with the Anima Mundi – the essence of the world itself.

But its all too huge, too hard and scary and it feels like everyone else is satisfied with the way things are. Anyone who wants to change this Big Story is fighting against a powerful reality and losing. Its sensible to go with the flow, not to try and swim against the current.

Even so, there are the small things – taking care of what’s in front of us, and that’s what I do. I want let go of my fear and anger and my idea of the way things ‘should be’ and change my life bit by bit; strive to give others what I want for myself; become willing to see things differently; allow others to be right; to recognise the good stuff when I see it, when its in my hand.

If I can see that the problem of our relationship with the world – both the world as a concept and the planet Herself – and the worldview of mothers is tied up together, then I need to; it must be a calling. Writing it all down may be the answer to that calling, but mostly all I can do is nurture my own part of the world, my own piece of the Anima Mundi – my own soul, and those of my children.

Will it ever be enough? God only knows.

Over the last two decades, one-parent families increased substantially as a proportion of all families with children under 15 years. In 1986–1988, one-parent families accounted for 14% of such families on average. The proportion increased to an average of 20% in 1996–1998, reached 23% in 2002–2004 and then fell slightly to 22% in 2004–2006. (source; ABS, 4102.0 Australian Social Trends)

4 thoughts on “he still calls me witch

  1. strive to give others what I want for myself; become willing to see things differently; allow others to be right; to recognise the good stuff when I see it, when its in my hand.

    You speak so strongley when in the eye of the public, however, you, yourself fail to present a strong vision.

    You strive to make it seem so easy, no sweat, asthough you were born to be it.
    Deep down i feel you’re full of resentment and the inevitable question of
    “how did i end up this way”, whether you want to deniy it or not.

    You wern’t ment to be a single, struggeling mother, but neither was any woman in you’re position.

    What frusterates me most is you’re unacceptance to admit to you’re struggle. You’re marriage failed, you’re daughter has a useless father. That book you’ve always dreamt of finishing is still in the back of you’re mind, and no one appriciates how hard you have worked.

    I am a mother of three, two seperte fathers. Are situations are strangely close in comparison and i see through you’re writing the cry for help thats been covered.

    Stop deniying your self your strenght. You are one of millions of mothers who have been caputered into the relity of raising beautiful children on you’re own.

    Just remember you conceived them, beared them, sat through labour and brought them to life.

    They are yours and only yours. Men leave, vanish into the sunlight and fail to care and return. Children don’t.

    Take a deep breath, remember the process of growing those amazing inderviduals on your own, with little help from a man.

    You’ve raised them with the morals, prospects and dreams that you live by, and they will be good people. Just remember it was all you.

    As a single mother i remind myself, althouh it was at times hard raising a clan on my own. My ex, even with all time and dedication could not have raised such magical children without the warmth and devotion as a mothers soul.

    Good luck

  2. dear anonymous… thanks for your comments and what I think may be encouragement. I must admit its more than just a bit spooky to have an unsigned comment which implies that you know who I am!

    You are right, I definitely feel resentment – and I can see why the rest of you say about me is true.

    and.. whether anyone appreciates the work I do, here or elsewhere, can’t be as important as how I feel about myself now can it? As long as I can still live with myself, forgive myself for my resentment, for’not writing the book’ and can love myself even though my marriage failed or if I’m denying myself my own strength while I’m busy making it all look easy, no sweat, as though I’m born to it, then, I think I’m OK. I can still dream, strive, try.. hope to one day get that book done, and keep raising my voice as one of the millions of women raising children alone, as you correctly put it.

    I love it!

    And how wonderful for you to feel so satisfied with your own family situation 🙂

    joy to you, whoever you are x

  3. As you so eloquently put it Dan – women do the lion share of mothering regardless.

    Heroes may change nappies- but only on the weekend and the odd public holiday (when they are around). I have been working through my motherhood issues with my kinesiologist .. and I think any mother would be lying if she said that there was no resentment in the foundation of her new identity. So thank you for providing me with one hook in, through this post and associated comments, to further explore what being a mother REALLY means to me.

    My kinesiologist also pointed out something interesting to me – and this would apply to you also, any fundamental issue we have with mothering – they are ours, we own them – we dont project them onto our children, make them suffer or dysfunctional as a conseqeuence of them. I looked at her oddly for a moment and commented ‘well of course not.’ Motherhood was a choice (even though I really didn’t understand at the time what it meant at the dirty end of things – and I’m not talking nappies!) and therefore I have to own it.

    Anonymous – having had the pleasure and honour of having known and worked with Dan over this past year, I dont think in anyway, especially here, does Dan gloss over her struggles or pretend that they don’t exist. What I believe she portrays here is the strength and the capacity to work with the darkness – rather than run or hide from it, as many of us do. Or to try to transcend it. I have been challenged many times by her words – especially when I’ve not wanted to sit with my darkness … when I’ve wanted to flick on the flood lights and chase away the shadows.

    And that book that’s been in the back of her head … I know it’s going to come out … but it will take love, support and encouragement to enable her to do that.

    Peace and love to you Dan

  4. Hi Danae,
    I am not sure how I arrived at this web page / blog but am here never the less, I hear what you are saying. In my view there is in justice ever where we look there are also many great people who do wonderful things and make sacrifice that will rarely be recognised. This goes for both women & men and the stereo type roles we play. Life dishes out many challenges none of them are forever, the choices we make will define who we are. You have made me think of my own situation where with 4 children who at separation where taken from me and just because I am a male it was deemed not to have the same parental ability as the women missed out on so much, once was bitter am no longer…..life is good as I build relationships with my off spring in their adult lives..
    Anyway enjoy life and its challenges……that is life!!!.

    Take care

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