once a mother | Rebecca Freeman

Once there was a woman, and she ran away from home.

How autobiographical should the story be, though? Remember The Lovely Bones? The mother ran away from her family, then. What did you think about that? You weren’t a mother. You couldn’t understand. What kind of grief is that, to lose your child in that way? You wish your children would leave you alone, but you don’t want them to die.

Once there was a woman, and she thought about running away from home.

You know not to talk about that kind of thing. You don’t talk about it, because people think it’s crazy. Normal people don’t want to run away. Everything is perfect. Everyone is healthy. You have enough to eat and the roof doesn’t leak. That wasn’t always the case, so what’s your problem? You don’t mention it to your doctor, because then they make you do a test and suggest you go on antidepressants, and you don’t want to go on antidepressants. That might make you fat or kill your sex drive or leave you dependent on pills forever, and the thought of all of that makes you sadder than anything else.

Once, a woman wondered where she ended and ‘mother’ began.

Remember being a not-mother? Once you have children, though, you can’t go back. Even those mothers who no longer have children… those whose children live with others, or whose children died… they’re still mothers. You can’t undo it. They leave your body but there are roots still deep within you; it’s like they’re plaited into muscle memory so that you find yourself talking to an empty pram or rocking the shopping trolley even when the toddlers have long outgrown the seat.

Once, there was a mother who didn’t know what she wanted, anymore.

Because when you look after everyone else, sometimes you forget. And then there isn’t enough time or money, and the years stretch into one another, behind you and in front, and you have lost all perspective. You know it, too. You know it will get better and you’re being ridiculous, but you can’t help feeling empty and resentful.

Once, there was a woman, a person, a human, who was also a mother, and she was tired of all the noise and the hands and the to-do.

So she bought herself a mango, and didn’t share it with anyone. Then she sat in the garden and drank tea and read a book and told everyone she needed some time to herself, and to please leave her alone. And to her surprise, they did.

Rebecca Freeman is an editor and writer of fiction, essays, and poetry. She lives on the south coast of Western Australia with her Handsome Sidekick and their many children and pets. She enjoys baking, gardening, and naps.

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