When I was a little girl my mother told me the story of a woman who lifted a car off her child who was pinned beneath it. Since there was no Internet to serve as fact checker back in the day, I accepted her story with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Not until years later, after I'd had my own children, was my skepticism replaced with certainty. Motherhood filled me with a new kind of love; one that I could not have possibly understood as a child or even as a childless adult. A love so strong and committed that it could move mountains -- or at least cars -- if necessary. The story my mother had told me was now entirely plausible -- and verifiable. A quick Google search informed me that the rather unfortunate term for this type of strength is hysterical power and there are numerous anecdotal accounts of it. For instance, in 1982, neighbors witnessed a mother in Geogia, lift a Chevy Impala from atop her son when the car fell off its jacks and crushed him beneath.
Some job descriptions at least mention the heavy lifting requirement. I don't recall seeing that in the job description for motherhood. Come to think of it, I don't recall seeing a job description for motherhood at all. If there was one, it would read something like: Loving, nurturing, energetic multi-tasker, with ability to function on limited sleep and possessing excellent time management skills needed to to pick up & drop off at school and activities at all hours of the day, supervise homework, grocery shop, run errands, do laundry, sit on floor for long stretches of time while patiently coloring, building Legos and dressing and undressing dolls, see to it that breakfasts are consumed even if on the run, pack healthy lunches while simultaneously signing field trip permission slips and cook a nightly evening meal that satisfies multiple fussy palates. Hours M-Su 6am-11pm; No experience or references required.
The description would be mostly accurate, with one important omission: the heavy lifting, or what I refer to as the Mother Ganesha requirement. Ganesha is a Hindu deity whose dharma it is to place and remove obstacles. And, if you stop to think about it, that's what a good mother excels at. When her children are babies, she puts up gates, covers sharp corners with foam padding and installs locks -- places obstacles -- throughout the house. When her overly enthusiastic toddler tries to escape her grasp in a parking lot, or crowded amusement park mom clutches fiercely -- an unwelcome obstacle to the curious toddler.
If her son is being bullied, mom might have a word with the bully or the bully's parents. And if her teenage daughter wants to watch TV in her bedroom with her boyfriend and the door closed, there's sure to be an obstacle put in place even if it means removing an obstacle, in this case the bedroom door.
Mother Ganesha is still called upon even after children leave home. Why just this week my youngest texted me from college asking me if I could remove an obstacle in the form of a hold on his student account so that he could register for summer school. That obstacle cost me $130.
Last month my eldest called me in the wee hours of the morning several days in a row filled with panic and self-doubt about completing his senior thesis in time to graduate. Each conversation consisted of my offering him reminders of past obstacles he'd overcome, reasoning him through this distorted thinking and suggesting he get some much needed rest -- ultimately making it possible for him to move forward with his work.
Both sons have faced serious health issues in the past few years. I researched their conditions, found specialists and in general made sh*t happen around these crises. Once their conditions were treated -- their paths cleared -- they each moved on. Just as they've moved on to finish the thesis and enroll for summer school classes. (I may have cleared the path but it's their job to pave and widen the road as it were.)
If you noticed, I said they moved on, not I moved on. That's because mothers don't move on. Rather they stand by on permanent call until the next time a log needs to be rolled to the shoulder of the road. Mothering isn't a part-time hobby. It is a full-time job of jobs with one fairly strict requirement: Applicants must be able to lift up to 3000 pounds.