Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mommy Maddest

Kristi wrote about this article about a week ago on her blog. It made me think a lot, but I was not sure I wanted to say anything about it until today.

The article discusses a French author who has written a book about becoming a mother and how she regrets her two children because they have hurt her union with her partner, hurt her career and basically made her life less enjoyable overall.

Since reading Kristi's post, something had been bothering me about this writer's claims. But it wasn't that she regretted having her children... In many ways, I do not find that to be such an egregious statement. I know many people were horrified by the idea that her children could read that, but I don't think that is the worst thing a mother could say. If I were her child, I would basically think: so what? You can regret it all you want, but here I am... I am not a mushy sentimentalist when it comes to children, despite what you may read here regarding Sam. To be honest, I think few people should become parents, far fewer than are, in fact, having children. And contrary to the Hallmark sentimentality so rampant in this culture, I do not think all children are a blessing. Far from it. I think there are many, many circumstances in which children would have been better off having not been born.

It also does not bother me that she said children ruin our bodies or that they ruin the partner relationships. There is no doubt that we are forever changed by children and if this author chooses to call it, "ruin" than more power to her. Further, I hate nothing more than a milquetoast woman who speaks only in platitudes and talks about motherhood as though there were no difficult or icky parts. I appreciate this writer's candor and her willingness to throw herself at the mercy of 15-million overmedicated houswives, thirsty for the blood of any woman who would dare speak against them. I am also always in favor of a little rabble-rousing. And my guess? This book was written for 90 percent that reason--and 10 percent to make money.

So, why was I so bothered by this piece?

This morning it occurred to me as I fed Sam her breakfast. Every morning we have the same routine: she gets up between 7 and 7:30. I nurse her for about 20 minutes, we play for about 10 and then I put her in her high chair, cheerios in front of her and make breakfast. Her breakfast is the same every morning: scrambled egg yolk, cereal and fruit. Then we go into the nursery and I read to her, first from her board books and then when she grows bored of that, I set her on the floor with her blocks and read poetry to her from my old poetry textbooks. She poops. I change her. She goes down for a nap. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. This morning as I followed through our routine, I started think about the piece, about what this woman said about motherhood, about the ways that these routines become deadly boring and stifling. But instead of hating her, the way that I did when I first read the article, I felt sorry for her. Here's why:

1.) Despite the boredom of the same routine over and over, providing structure for this person I adore makes me feel good about myself. I imagine the person she will become, the relationship we are making, forged over egg yolks and cereal and I can look beyond the banal sameness to our days. And besides, she changes a bit everyday. It is never really the same. We sing different songs, listen to different music, I have different thoughts in my head, things to stress about. Do we ever really live the same day twice?

2.) My relationship with my spouse is better because of the baby. This child who is a mix of both of us has enriched our lives, made us more of a family. I feel for this woman if that is not true for her. Maybe she and her spouse were one dimensional and only knew how to function if they could be completely hedonistic and narcissistic. The other day, K and I discussed why some people do not like things that other people love (parenting, working, etc) and we talked about the circumstances surrounding those things as being the deciding factors. Unfortunately, for this woman, it sounds like she and her partner had an inflexible arrangement that was not meant for children.

3.) Sam has made me a better person. There is no one more selfish, capricious and disrespectful of authority (and just about everything else) than me. Until Sam came along, I loved no one more than myself. I was immature in many ways and unwilling to compromise much of anything. Now someone else's needs trump my own. This is, at times, incredibly humbling, frustrating and aggravating. But mostly, it is liberating. I see the world in a different way, no longer through this lens of narcissistic, selfish desire. As a result, my friendships have deepened. I see people and their needs more. I forgive things more easily. I feel more of the world. I write better. Sam's presence in my life has helped to hone the me I would have liked to become years ago. She has opened parts of me I never knew existed and that, in itself, is worth everything that is difficult, rote and banal about parenting. Is it her I love? Of course. She is my sweet baby girl. But it is the me that emerged because of her that I love most of all.

For the writer in this article, none of that is true. The only transformations she has had--according to her book--are negative. I don't hate her for what she wrote. I am glad it is out there, glad I have a topic to blog about today. But I feel for her. I feel for the fact that she has missed so much of the good things inherent in motherhood. And she can't ever get them back.

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