Motherhood and Guilt
A MER VOX Folio Curated by Jennifer Martelli and Cindy Veach
Is guilt inevitable when a mother spends time focusing on something other than her child/children? Is feeling guilty just part of the deal – one of the prices of mothering or being mothered? What does it take to push back against the notion that a mother is selfish if she pursues self-care, writing, a career?
The poems in this folio ache with cognitive dissonance: the need to choose mothering over self, the need to choose self over mothering and the constant struggle to assuage the guilt. The speaker in Marjorie Maddox’s poem, “Regret,” is exhausted and seemingly overtaken:
…I was so tired of stepping in it,
remembering how tired I was
from stepping on it, from stomping it down,
long before it rose over my bare soles,
In contrast, the speaker in Rebecca Hart Olander’s poem, “Daily,” celebrates whatever time she can steal for herself:
Once cracked, the day runs away, over-easy into a triangle of rye,
and I let it soak and seep into whatever slices I’ve cut to fill myself.
Again and again these poems speak to the perceived selflessness of motherhood and the inevitable guilt associated with acknowledging and honoring the self. In “Poem Written While I Wait in the Cold Room After the Nurses Have Gone Out But Before the Doctor Comes In,” Meg Leonard repeats the phrase “I want the nurses to like me”:
I want the nurses to like me so everyone in the room will be smiling my baby will see smiling faces
& I will feel less bad
Each one of the poems in this folio wrestles and engages in their own way with mothering and guilt. Perhaps, the speaker in “The Suckling Leading Lady,” by Cheryl Clark Vermeulen speaks for all of us when she declares that:
…desire has fallen
or is false or passionately kissing the woman goodbye.
Never have I provided so much comfort to anyone before…
Language, I am ready. I am ignoring the babies.
We hope you enjoy reading Mom Egg Review’s June folio. It is our pleasure and honor to present the work of the following poets: