On Unconventional Motherhood

Since my last blog post, I have become a mother. I am happy to report that my children are much cuter than I could have imagined and everyone in the neighborhood agrees. I’m also happy to report that my children are wildly self-sufficient, charismatic, resourceful, and intelligent, despite their physical limitation of being 1 foot tall. Their names are Meesh-Meesh and Meow-Meow and they are my world.

I first met my children on the way home from Tesco on an abnormally warm day in late October. They were loitering around an older apartment complex adjacent to the Tesco parking lot, meowing at a half-open window two stories up. Chicken bones were scattered around them, presumably hailed down from the resident with the open window. I didn’t catch a glimpse of the person dropping the chicken bones, but their generosity inspired me to return to the Tesco and purchase two cans of chicken liver pâté. I opened both cans and left them by the curb. I figured this was the first and last time I’d buy proper cat food in Ireland. How foolish.

My first encounter with Meesh-Meesh
and Meow-Meow.

I wasn’t planning on informally adopting two neighborhood cats, nor did I think I had the financial resources to support such an endeavor, but as my trips to the neighborhood Tesco increased, so did my run-ins with my 1-foot-tall children. They quickly realized that they had not one, but two fools in the neighborhood who were willing to feed them, and I became a target of their seduction. By mid-November, my Tesco receipts reflected the shift in my new status as a mother: lettuce, carrots, eggs, coconut yogurt, tomato paste, dark chocolate, 8 cans of chicken liver paté, 8 cans of salmon paté, 12 cans of whitefish pâté (they prefer the whitefish). My night routine consisted of walking to and from the apartment complex to feed them dinner after I had finished my own.

One night, toward the end of November, an unfamiliar man approached me outside of the apartment complex. It was around 10:30 PM. I was fully aware of how off-putting my presence was, given that I was perched outside of a residence that was not my own, mumbling falsetto gibberish to two stray cats. The man was mildly intimidating and spoke to me in a language that I couldn’t understand, motioning rapidly to the cats and myself. Without any idea of what he was saying or whether the tone of his message was a positive one, I decided to leave the premises as fast as possible.

Before I could make a swift exit, the man began speaking in broken English, pointing at each cat and saying “Meesh-Meesh”, “Meow-Meow”, names I instantly adopted. He then pointed up to the window two-stories up. I was in shock. After weeks of co-parenting with an anonymous stranger, I was face-to-face with the mystery window man. He managed to explain to me that my children—whom I assumed were siblings—were actually father and daughter. Meesh-Meesh was Meow-Meow’s father and the mother had abandoned them in August, when Window Man started to feed them. I thanked him for his continued generosity and felt a strong sense of relief that I was not a single mother.

I recently learned about the phenomenon of “matrescence”. Psychologically, matrescence refers to the transitional period that new moms experience as they come to terms with their entry into motherhood. With the birth of a child comes the birth of a mother, and this identity shift often follows the naming of the child. After learning of my children’s official names from the Window Man, I experienced a shift akin to matrescence. In the span of one conversation, Meesh-Meesh and Meow-Meow had metamorphosed from being my informal neighborhood children to becoming a part of my bloodline, and suddenly, I felt complete.

My journey as a new mother in Ireland has taught me several things. For one, it has taught me that being a parent is much more fun when you don’t have to worry about typical parenting stressors, like putting your child through college or ensuring that they don’t do drugs. It has also taught me that quality parenting requires a quality support system, to which I thank my housemates and the Window Man for stepping up and feeding my kids when I was absent and/or unable to brave the cold. Finally, being a mother in Ireland has taught me that, no matter where I end up, I will find family in the most unexpected ways and unpredictable places, be them human or not.

My Galway children.

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