Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!: Songs about Balancing Mothers

Last Mother's Day, I celebrated by posting a list of Balancing Mothers on the Big Screen, a look at some movies who feature mothers who are able to balance complex lives.

This year, my Mother's Day post will look at songs celebrating the complexity of motherhood.

This was harder than I thought. There are plenty of songs that celebrate mothers, but it's usually from someone else's point of view and the role of "mother" is usually pretty limited to the sacrifice, the nurturing. I was in search of songs that showed a mother balancing those things (which are important) with the other parts of her life (which are also important). I also wanted some songs where mothers represented themselves. Here's what I came up with. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments!

Sinead O'Connor "Daddy I'm Fine"

This song's about a woman who completely rejects traditional roles ("Sorry to be disappointing/Wasn't born for no marrying/Want to make my own living singing"). Throughout the song she demonstrates her sexiness ("I get sexy underneath them lights/like I want to fuck every man in sight"), her power as a musician ("I've had myself some big fat fun"). She appreciates her role as mother ("I got the most angelic son"/"My baby daughter is golden") but she realizes that her life is a complex balance of all of these components, and that's energizing ("I do what I like for fun"/"And I'm happy in my prime"). 

Alanis Morissette "Guardian"

This new single from Alanis Morisette's forthcoming album is said to be inspired by the intensity of motherhood. I love how this song demonstrates the balance required within the role of mother. 

"I'll be your keeper for life as your guardian
I'll be your warrior of care, your first warden
I'll be your angel on call, I'll be on demand
The greatest honor of all, as your guardian"

Think about the different skill sets and powerful emotions required in those roles: "guardian," "warden,"  "angel." Each one demonstrates a different part of caregiving. The guardian must be constantly vigilant in protecting a child against the outside forces of the world. The warden works hard to protect her children from the internal ones by setting boundaries and helping them grow. The angel must transcend and teach a child how to be spiritually prepared. 

I also love how she is the "first" warden, but not necessarily the last. In fact, all of these roles are transient. A mother has to provide all of these different versions of care early on so that her child can grow into a healthy adult who no longer needs such supervision.

Erykah Badu "Window Seat" 

I'm a little enamored with Ms. Badu. (Okay. A lot enamored.) I have to listen to every song she has about ten times before it clicks, but once the click happens, the song just weaves its way into my soul. I have turned to her music for reflection on my life so many times. (And did you know she's a doula, too?!) Her song "Window Seat" has some powerful reflections on the balance of motherhood.

"Concentrating on my music, lover, and my babies/makes me want to ask the lady for a ticket out of town" 

The song starts out with an overwhelmed woman. She's exhausted from the pull of her different roles, and she wants a break. "I don't wanna time travel no more" she says. She wants to be in the here and now, experiencing what she is without all the layers of relationship to others. "Can I get a window seat?/Don't want nobody next to me/I just want a chance to fly/A chance to cry and a long bye-bye."

Her desire to get out of town resonates with me. Sometimes the intensity of being a mother, a wife, a teacher, a whatever gets so exhausting. Sometimes the walls start to close in on you and you just need the chance to see who you are, without having to consider your relationship to anyone else. 

But it's never that easy, and Badu has some insight into that, too:

"But I need you to want me
Need you to miss me
I need your attention
I need you next to me

I need someone to clap for me
I need your direction
Somebody say, come back
Come back, baby, come back
I want you to need me"

So, really, the chance to fly wasn't an attempt to escape those roles, but an effort to get enough space to see why they're so important to begin with. Being able to back up and see what the role of mother means not only to ourselves, but also to our children, our partners, and the society we are a part of reminds us that we have value for that work. 

Not-So-Honorable Mentions

In my search, I also came across some contenders that did not make the cut. For example:

The premise of Trace Adkin's "Hot Mama" is appealing: here's a man telling his wife (and mother of three kids) that her body is still hot and there's no need for her to keep trying to fit into her old jeans because he's attracted to her just the way she is. Part of balancing the identity of a mother is maintaining a status as a sexual being, and I want to be able to like this message.

But the video is appalling. The husband just walks around sipping coffee and amusedly watching his haggard wife shuffle the kids from event to event, grocery shop, wrangle fighting children, and clean. He's never shown doing anything to actually--gasp, shock--help her with these responsibilities. His sole "assistance" is in gawking at all of her hard efforts and reimagining her in porn star-esque positions of sexual seduction--of her to him, with no effort on his part to reciprocate. He keeps asking "do you wanna?" You know what, Trace, she might "wanna" a whole hell of a lot more if she weren't so damn exhausted. Why don't you try helping out a bit?

So Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers out there. Take some time this weekend to reflect on what this part of your identity means and how it informs the others. 

What songs have you found inspirational to the way we balance motherhood with other parts of our identities?

No comments:

Post a Comment