Emily Orton | Motherhood – What’s In It For Me?

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(1 mom + 1 dad + 4 girls + 1 boy) x (4 homeschoolers + 1 toddler with Trisomy 21) ÷ (2 bedrooms + 1 bathroom) = Emily¹s life in New York City

When Emily Orton is not putting her teaching degree to good use, Emily can be found learning something new, hanging out with friends, contemplating exercise, de-cluttering, reliving the recent U2 concert in her head, or blogging about education, Down syndrome and other stuff.  She cherishes late night chats with her husband, Erik, who loves to talk almost as much as she does.  Night owl Emily temporarily kept morning hours to train for a marathon in 2008.  Her family cheered her on through the entire process just as they do in everything.


I've been reading about motherhood.  Women are deciding what it means to them; what value maternity holds for them, for their families, for society.  Women are changing to accommodate children entering their lives, their children's increasing independence or children departing on their own adventures.  We are defining the relationship with our kids.  Who am I in this relationship?  What is my role?  What if I change myself or my role changes?  The dynamics of important relationships always affect us.  In the best scenarios they draw us closer to ourselves.

Even before birth, every baby girl is endowed with the physical potential for motherhood in the form of millions of eggs.  This is a physical symmetry to the emotional connection I’ve always had with my children. As a little girl I made choices based on the possibility that I would one day be somebody's mother.  I would save a special dress, sweater or toy for my future sons and daughters.  I thought of them as I kept journals.

Photo of Emily; courtesy Mary Goodson Miller

Bearing in mind my future role as a mother often helped me make wiser decisions than I might have if I had only considered my teenage self.  The mere prospect of children was one of the empowering factors that strengthened me to break a bulimic addiction.  Reflecting on what kind of person I wanted my future children to have as a mother motivated me to move in that direction.  What if I didn't marry?  What if I didn't have children?  Regardless, the potential informed my choices.

Orton FamilyOrton Family courtesy Sarah Robason

I did marry and now have five children who coax me forward.  For example, I was never the type to ask to hold somebody's baby.  Having my own children has given me ample opportunity to practice snuggles, hugs, kisses, tender names and compassion.  One day I was dropping my daughter off in her second grade classroom and I noticed a little boy crying.  I approached him and asked him what was wrong.  In no time, he had wrapped his arms around me and was crying into my stomach.  I ran my hands over his little shaved head and whispered, “There, there.” I knew his parents had recently divorced.  My heart was breaking for this little boy.  At the same time I was amazed that I had grown from being physically aloof to comfortably nurturing a stranger's child.  The same could be said for becoming more organized, more ambitious, more politically active, healthier, more grateful, and any other legacy
I hope to leave my children.


Motherhood provides opportunities and incentive for me to become the woman that I hope to be one day.  There is precious little that could consistently inspire me to push the boundaries of my comfort zone, but my children do.  We give up so much to mother, but isn't there also much that we get?

In choosing to be professional mothers or Stay-At-Home Mothers, we often look at what women are saying ‘no' to, but in choosing this path, what are they saying ‘yes' to?

In other words, there is much that is given up, but, as Emily points out, there is a big ‘get'.  What is the ‘get' for you?

What is it about your individual children that inspires you?  What if you were to write out a tribute, as Emily has done, for a Christmas present?


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