Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Women's Work

When I was working as an abortion counselor, every now and then I’d tell a woman struggling with her decision about how apple trees, left to their own devices, overgrow. Too many branches too close together choke off light and air circulation, leaving the entire tree prone to disease. In a particularly fertile season, so much fruit will set that the full-grown weight of it would tear branches. Therefore, the orchard keeper must thin the young fruit, breaking away every other, or every third, hard little undeveloped apple.

My point (and I wrote about this once before, see The Orcharder) was that we women have the awesome responsibility of being both the trunk sustaining our family trees, and the arborist, the arbiter of life. We embody both Mother Nature's mindless yearning to procreate, and the mindful parent's need to moderate, guarding space for rest, for breath, for growth, exercise, and pleasure. For our own health and survival, and that of the entire family, not to mention species, we must make sometimes extremely difficult decisions.

Funny that I should think of this now, as I sit at J~’s kitchen table amid the usual jumble of magazines and keys and dishes, plus the brand new chainsaw I bought and assembled two days ago. A maul (my favorite tool: half axe, half sledgehammer) is on its way via UPS. Just outside the house lie three felled trees, waiting to be transformed into firewood. The chore is mine, in part because I have time, but mostly because I want it. I love hard physical labor. And I love chopping wood.

But there are other, less pleasurable chores on the road to getting this house in shape. The list is sometimes overwhelming, rife with the tedious, delicate, and dirty tasks I abhor. Through no one’s fault, I’m on my own with it more often than I’d like.

Meanwhile, within me, potentially, grows a new limb to a brand new family tree.

“I’m scared,” I told J~ last night, before we fell asleep. As wonderful as he is, after work and his very sweet, but, let’s not kid ourselves, very high-maintenance son, there isn’t much left. Even without a baby, I want more of him than he has to give.

Mothering an infant is an all-consuming task, rife with tedious, delicate, messy responsibilities. I don't doubt that I can do it. I’m strong and I’m capable and whatever I don’t know, I can learn. One thing, however, remains unclear: Is this really what I want?

1 comment:

Nico said...

You know, I still find myself wondering that sometimes!