Kanaya Maryam isn’t a mother because she wants to be. She inherited that role from life and tries to wear it gracefully as she can. She’s as calm as she can manage on the surface, like a dam: she lets through just enough to ease the stress, but not enough that she gets overwhelmed.
Kanaya defines her success by remaining capable of carrying out the one job in life she was given, the one thing she knew from a very young age that she was meant for- to carry and use the matriorb to begin her race anew, and then to raise them into self-capability. It’s not an easy job to look forward to. She doesn’t wear her mantle as gracefully as she’d like- not as gracefully as, say, Feferi, who was born with her job, or Karkat, who took his on voluntarily. She looks at them and feels selfish for being anything other than happy to have the honour. She tries to grab at what she can to be happy and feels like she doesn’t deserve it, making it hurt all the more when it blows up in her face.
The phrases Kanaya Maryam and Overwhelming Sense of Duty have always been synonymous.
She screams “Keep It Together Maryam” at her tears.