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Before I Was a Mother

by Leah Laiben

I.

Before I was a mother
I had a mother of my own.
She never read me stories,
she never stood her ground,
she never even picked me up
when I was feeling down.
She worked at a factory
in the middle of our small town,
at home she smoked and slept and cleaned
and played solitare til dawn.
I never understood her,
why she was the way she was,
but I know that she was tired and alone
in taking care of all of us.



II.

Before I was a mother,
I thought, "How hard can all this be?"
I never really got it,
but now it's happening to me.
I'm different kind of mother, though--
as I'd promised myself I'd be.
I play and sing and stand my ground.
I also sit and read.



III.

I'm surrounded by small hands and feet
and fingerprints on walls.
I cook and clean and even kiss
their boo-boos when they fall.
Milk spills and things break. These will be forgotten.
What matters more is the care I take
in the blessings I have gotten.



IV.

And as I type my children play,
not with their me or each other,
but with the woman I knew as 'Mom'
before I was a mother.


12/02/2007

Author's Note: This was supposed to be a journal entry about what life was like before I became a mother. This is what it turned into. It came out sing-songy and nursery-rhyme-ish and I like it that way.

Posted on 12/02/2007
Copyright © 2021 Leah Laiben

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Genevieve Sturrock on 12/03/07 at 02:04 PM

i love this! isn't it amazing to watch our parents interact with our children and see how different they are now than we remember them growing up?

Posted by Alison McKenzie on 12/03/07 at 06:49 PM

My own mother was terrible as a mother, and terrible as a grandmother. But I think I finally know what it's from - from being extremely self-absorbed, and that overrides whatever instinct there may be to nurture....anyone, even one's self. I love how the perspective of this shifts, though, and how you capture the different ages and roles we end up playing in our families.

Posted by Mo Couts on 06/06/11 at 03:32 AM

I've started writing letters to my unborn children (I'm not even pregnant) but I don't think any of them are as awesome as this. I had a horrible mother, but I think that I'll do okay with it. Thanks for this!

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