Our Motherhood, Our Selves

March 19, 2008

When I wrote that MILF post the other day, I was sort of expecting that there might be one or two people, at least, that might say that they embraced the term MILF. To which I was fully prepared (and even set up the groundwork in the post) to say, hey, fine, whatever floats your empowerment boat. I have no interest in telling people what they should or should not find empowering; I just have some clear opinions about what seems to me to be unempowering. But although some people said that the term didn’t bother them (which, again, fine; I’m not looking to ban the term), no one said that they embraced it or took it seriously.

That, however, wasn’t the thing that most surprised me in the comments. What surprised me most was that someone turned up and read the whole discussion as an affirmation of the general tendency of mothers to view themselves as superior to other women and to other human beings in general:

Um. The statement that mothers are sexually more interesting is just as offensive as the suggestion that they’re not… Mothers are women. Childless women are women. There’s no “winner” but there seems to be this divisive battle going on, particularly in the blogging sphere. Problem is, I don’t see any non-mothers claiming superiority in the way I see mothers doing so.

My response – admittedly knee-jerk – was to defend the intended literal meaning of what I’d actually said:

I said that *I* was sexually more interesting, as compared to my pre-maternal self. It was a personal reference, not a universal one (although I would argue that sexual self-awareness and maturity does make one more interesting as a sexual partner generally. This, however, does not apply exclusively to mothers…) The fact is – as one anonymous commenter above makes abundantly clear – that mothers, as a group, are often regarded as asexual or unsexual by the culture at large, and certainly by popular culture.

When I gave it another moment’s thought, however, I realized that my irritation at the comment wasn’t that I’d been misunderstood, or that the commenter had missed my point about the whole MILF thing being demeaning to women generally, but rather that someone was bringing up this old saw about mothers having a superiority complex, and that I was going to have address it lest my head explode.

There are a lot of things that I could say about this whole ‘mothers think they’re special’/'parents think that the whole world should revolve around them’ nonsense, not least among which would be that until you’ve had a child, you can’t possible realize how many facking obstacles the world throws at human beings who pack children around with them. But my primary argument would be this: yes, actually, mothers (and to some extent, parents generally) do think that they are special. Not as a matter of superiority, but as a matter of difference. We have a differiority complex. We view ourselves as fundamentally different in many respects from people who do not have children. (Note this important point: NOT BETTER THAN. DIFFERENT THAN.)

Once you have given birth to or adopted a child, your entire world changes. Your entire world, and THE entire world, changes. You come to understand love in an entirely different way than you could ever have possibly understood it in the absence of the human being that is entirely dependent upon you. You come to understand your body, and bodies generally, in an entirely different way. You come to understand faith and morality and safety and security and learning and dependence and independence and fear – oh my god the fear – and passion and defensiveness in ways that you could not possibly understand if you did not have that child. This is, in my opinion, just fact. Children change you fundamentally and uniquely. Someone who has not had a child simply cannot understand the nature of this change firsthand.

This does not mean that people without children are less than, or inferior to, people with children. It just means that our life experiences are different. Parents – and especially mothers, I think – know things that non-parents cannot possibly know, because of those different experiences. If you do not have a child – by birth or adoption or whatever – or have not had a child (it does not matter for how long – five seconds or five years or five decades – or under what circumstances children might have been lost or given up, the experience of the having, however briefly, is what is fundamental) you cannot know how having a child changes you, how it changes your perspective, how it changes your relationship to yourself and the world. How it changes your heart. This is no different from saying that people who have faced death, or gone to university, or travelled the world have fundamentally different life experiences and different knowledge than those who have not experienced those things. It’s just that mothers, and parents, are a larger group, and so their recognition of themselves as a group with certain fundamental likenesses is perhaps more obvious in the culture.

So, yes: mothers do identify as a group and do bond over the similarities in their experiences (not least among these: oh my god did you know that it would be like this?) and do sympathize with each other over certain common struggles that they – rightly or wrongly – perceive to be unique to their experience as mothers. Because they want to, and because they need to. It’s a whole different world out here in Mommy Land, and for many of us it will take the whole rest of our lives to get used to it.

And if we sometimes (and I do hope that it is only sometimes, because we do spend time in other places) act or speak or write as if you need a special passport to get to this place and to really experience and understand it, it’s not that we don’t respect your travels and experiences – we do, because we’ve been on many of those same journeys ourselves. It’s just, well, you do need a special passport to get here and understand it for yourself.

It’s called a kid.

******

You all? Have made this such a TREMENDOUS discussion. I encourage anybody coming to this post for the first – or the eleventh – time to read the comments, and (of course) my contributions to the comments. Some of you have made me rethink some specific elements of my argument – ALL of you have me think, period – and I’ve explained that rethinking below, in the commentary. I heart you, Internets, I really do.

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    { 78 comments }

    Dawn @ Coming to a Nursery Near You March 19, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    love it love it love. I am so not the person I was before I had kids. I’m not better. I’m just different. We’re all different. Those that AREN’T different? Those are the ones that end up in the news. In a bad way.

    Don Mills Diva March 19, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    I could not agree more. Before I had a child I was very senstive to people who suggested they knew things I didn’t, etc, etc. but when you have a child, well, sorry but IT IS different. I wince when I hear people say their dog is their baby because well, it’s NOT the same. Not better or worse but not the same. The sheer effort – physical, financial, emotional, intellectual – that you have to expend day after day after day, it’s impossible to describe and it does change you, it does make you different from people who are childless, it just does.

    7aki Fadi March 19, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    very well said.

    Rachel March 19, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Perfectly put. I have never thought of myself as better than anyone simply because I am a mother. But, as you said, no one can understand what being a mother is like, except another mother. I am proud to be a part of that “group”.

    Just Powers March 19, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Beautifully stated. As someone who has worked with the Deaf in the past, this makes me think of Deaf culture as well. They have experienced the world in a very different way than their hearing peers, and so of course pull together around that experience in a way that is sometimes hard for hearing people to understand. They don’t think they are superior, they just know they have a view of the world that non-Deaf people don’t have. Which is exactly how I feel as a mom.

    Christina March 19, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you – you said what I have trouble trying to explain to others. Being a mom is a life changing experience. Non-parents can roll their eyes, but until you become a parent, you can’t fully understand the change.

    For me, the change is that you are no longer an individual. Sure, married people are bound to each other through their vows, but it’s different. From the moment you have a child to care for, your life is no longer entirely your own, you can no longer think about just yourself, and suddenly you find that the greater interests of the world – the environment, war, health care, etc – take on far more importance. Being a mom is an empowering and humbling experience all at the same time.

    It’s all a little hard to adjust to, too, and I think that’s why so many moms seek each other out for this little “club” of ours. Before I had children, I asked others what it was like, and everyone told me that I couldn’t understand it until I was a mom myself. And they’re right.

    Steph March 19, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    While I do not yet have children I am an avid mommy blogger reader, especially of blogs about mothers in Southern Ontario. What I find quite interesting and at times humourous about many mommy blogs (although not of my favourites) is the competition within the motherhood circle. I find not so much that mothers think they are better than nonmothers but often better than OTHER mothers. And I dare not bring up women who think or act as though they are the first to have ever had a child (ahem, Celine Dion types). It are those blogs who celebrate all mothers- all women- and those writers who are not afraid to expose their fears, challenges and dislikes which I find most interesting and celebratory of motherhood not as a label but as an integral part of one’s soul.

    Crunchy Domestic Goddess March 19, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    amen. excellent post.

    Heather March 19, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Amen. You explained it well. We ARE different because we’re parents…similar to how people who have a terminal illness have different life experiences than I do. They have different priorities than I, most likely.

    And people who say their pets are their kids? Definitely NOT the same, and they’d know that if they had a human child.

    Tracey March 19, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Oh! I love this post. LOVE it. Brilliantly thought out, hon.

    Anonymous March 19, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    hah! i once had a friend tell me that her watching my baby would be like me borrowing her car…cause you know, she was very attached to her new car…WTF?

    liv March 19, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    right on. i have had a problem with MILF as a term because, to me, if you have mothered someone’s child, that person should want to sleep with you– acronym or no.

    Janet March 19, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Yep. I don’t know what it’s like to backpack through Europe or perform open heart surgery. You could explain it to me in vivid detail, perhaps even show me a step-by-step video, but I still wouldn’t get it entirely.

    That’s just the way it is (with apologies to Phil Collins. And someone named 2PAC, apparently).

    B March 19, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Hoo-rah!

    Ree March 19, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    well said. it’s simply a matter of perspective. (although I have been around women, both mothers and non-mothers, who have a huge superiority complex – it has nothing to do with whether you’ve been puked on by the one you’re raising or not)

    This Military Mama March 19, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Amazing post!

    I had a similar issue with my sister [my sister!] about this. She was really upset that I wouldn’t leave me 4 month old with my mom [I breastfeed] so that I could hang out with her. She just didn’t understand my want and love to be with my child. She doesn’t have kids and just doesn’t have that experience that I do.

    Also, I know you were trying to cover all the bases to not exclude anyone, but thanks for including birth moms. I was a birth mom before I was a mom and it changed my view on everything. Thanks for acknowledging it, you have no idea how much it means.

    Miss Britt March 19, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Excellent.

    I think this is similar to when someone who is older than you (women seem to do this the most) will say “oh, when you get to be my age, you’ll understand.”

    And it’s frustrating to hear because damn it! you can’t help your age! And damn it! you still have valid thoughts and experiences!

    But yes… it is DIFFERENT.

    MamaMo March 19, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Well said. The underlying difficulty, I think, is that we all tend to “demonize” (too strong of a word, but couldn’t think of a more appropriate one) difference, especially in areas of personal choice (political views, having kids, parenting styles, etc., lifestyle choices). When we truly appreciate the IMMENSE spectrum of diversity in the human family (6 billion of us, no two exactly alike), we are less likely to be challenged (and then defensive, argumentative, etc.) when someone makes a choice that differs from our choice. Their diversity ADDS to the richness of our experience, not challenges it. We can confidently make choices for ourselves, and yet encourage and appreciate others doing the same.

    Linda C. March 19, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    i absolutely concur, and prior to embarking on this journey called motherhood, i never did understand what the fuss was all about. and now my best attempt at describing the contrast between life before child and life with child, based on my own experience, yields the following: days before child were like black & white (or sepia) photos — very subtle and beautiful, like a lyrical song, a quiet and peaceful dream that lingers. days with child are in full-blown color, drama-galore, loud with screams, laughter, giggles, crazy vividness at warped speed. not necessarily better, but very different indeed. someone once said (and it resonates with me very much so) that parenthood makes you a better person, not necessarily a happier one.

    as for the MILF discussion, i personally find the term no more offensive than the word “f*ck,” when used in the proper context. looking at the term objectively, it merely translates into one’s opinion as to the “hotness” of a particular mother. as in, “wow, there’s a hot woman (who happens to be a mother) that i’d LIKE to bang.” the term would be offensive only if used to infer that mothers, as a group, are sexually undesirable, which i don’t believe is the intent. also, i’ve heard the term used by (more mature) men to refer to not just mothers with physically appealing attributes but also mothers who have utter control over their crazy busy lives — families, careers, friends, finances, keeping up with current events, etc. — aka superwomen whom they find hot. hence, depending on the context, the user, the connotation, the term isn’t necessarily pejorative.

    zellmer March 19, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    My best friend had 2 children before I had my first. I lived in NYC and she lived in CT. She almost never came to NY to visit me, and I used to give her shit for that. I could never understand why it was so hard for her to leave her kids for just one night. Her husband could watch them. Her mother-in-law was there to help out. Now that I have kids, I understand that it’s not the physical detachment that was the issue. It was the emotional detachment that she couldn’t live with. And the guilt of putting her own needs in front of theirs.
    I have my own 2 children now.
    But, I had to have my own children before I could finally understand why I was the one who always had to make the trip to CT to visit her.

    Anonymous March 19, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Amen! Very well said, and I couldn’t agree more.

    GeekLady March 19, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    In regards to Anonymous’s comment on Hot Mothers, (which passed under my radar till now) why is it always women that bear the brunt of ‘unsexy’ in parenthood?

    What about the dads who are neat and clean and cheerful, but maybe carrying an extra fifty pounds? Gone are the suits and ties and impromptu romantic little things, but they’re never considered asexual beings. And if they ‘aren’t getting any’ it’s because the wife is an asexual mommy.
    Why do they get a pass? Because men aren’t as typically objectified. (Much to their sorrow, my husband informs me.)
    Where are the FILF/DILF acronyms? The smarmy ‘foxy fathers’ or ‘delicious daddies’ in the media?

    Fuck this. Sexy is an attitude, not a number on the scale, a level of trendiness, or a mode of apparel.

    Leah March 19, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Having often felt excluded from Mommyland myself, I do take issue with the idea that non-parents can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be a Person with a Child. Although, yes, it is impossible for me to feel those particular emotions and experience those particular situations, I do think it’s possible for me to understand what it’s like, and sometimes even imagine it to a certain degree of accuracy. (See Janet’s earlier comment.)

    Maybe this is just a problem of semantics, but maybe it’s deeper than that. Maybe I’m heartsick after years and years of parents leaving me out of conversations because I “can’t understand,” parents condescending to me because I “can’t understand,” parents treating me like I’m deficient because I don’t have the necessary understanding to discuss True Love or True Organization or True Body Issues or whatever.

    Dear Moms and Dads: For those of us who wish to become parents, please don’t exclude and dismiss us; we are trying to learn from you. And for those of us who don’t wish to become parents; we are also trying to learn from you (or if not trying to learn, at least able to benefit from what you can teach us). The way I figure, it’s easier for non-parents to be sympathetic to the crying baby on the airplane or the boisterous toddler in the restaurant if they can understand at least a little bit of what the parents–and the children–are going through. How else are nonparents to learn about parenthood unless someone lets us peek into that world?

    The biggest obstacle to helping non-parents understand–and appreciate–the challenges and joys of parenthood is to treat us as if we CAN’T understand or appreciate it. I think that mindset does a disservice to everyone.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I’m on board with what you’re saying, Catherine, but I disagree with your word choice. Maybe not “understand” but “feel” and “experience” and “know firsthand what it’s like.”

    Chicagoland Mamacita! March 19, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Part of the reason I began reading, and then began writing writing blogs, was because I searched in blogger for something to reflect my feelings after having a baby and struggling with just how hard it was. And then I found your blog, and read words that articulated my feelings better than I could think, let alone write about them; I felt connected, and it felt a little less challenging, a little more possible to raise a baby.

    Here again, you’ve articulated beautifully – this time on the challenge and the joy of being a parent. It’s just so wonderful and it can just be so hard. Thanks for the post.

    Jaelithe March 19, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    It’s amazing to me how many people without children seem to forget how all us parents started out as, well, people without children. We really DO know what it’s like from both sides.

    Leah, I have never deliberately tried to exclude any of my childless friends from my life as a mother. But many of them have deliberately excluded themselves. They don’t understand why I can’t have the same sort of social life that they do now (it took me my son’s entire first YEAR just to convince the majority of my childless friends that it really wasn’t a good idea to call me anymore after 10 p.m. because it would wake the baby, and I STILL have people inviting me to things at the last minute, and then getting miffed at me when I can’t come because I can’t find childcare on such short notice).

    And when I do manage to meet with my childless friends, I have found that if I talk to them about the daily realities of my life as a WAHM, their eyes gloss over with boredom until someone changes the subject.

    I think if it seems your friends with children avoid talking about their lives as parents when they are around you, it’s likely that most of them are avoiding talking to you about parenthood because they assume you will be turned off or bored by that kind of conversation, and they don’t want to face the sort of rejection from you that they’ve probably already faced from many other childless friends before.

    So, if you really want to be “included” in the parenting club conversation, I’d recommend just listening attentively whenever your friends talk about their children, asking questions about their children, asking questions about your friends’ lives as parents, and sounding genuinely interested when they respond.

    And offers to babysit now and again wouldn’t hurt, either.

    Jaelithe March 19, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    P.S. I should have said that MOST of my childless friends seem utterly bored by any conversation regarding my life as a parent. There are a couple of childless friends who really are interested and really do listen, and just that little bit of effort on their parts to learn about this aspect of my life makes me appreciate those friends SO MUCH.

    verybadcat March 19, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I think it’s just the inherent exclusion that upsets people.

    I’m not a Mom, I haven’t had kids yet, and I know what I don’t know- what it’s like to have a kid. Yet, it still took me a full ten minutes to lose the urge to make a nasty comment. People hate to be left out. HATE.

    Everything you said is true. Every bit of it. That doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

    Also, I know that personally, I get really sensitive to it, because emotionally, I really, really want a baby. Financially, we’re not ready. Frankly, I don’t know if we ever will be. So, even though I’m a frequent reader, and I heart you, so much, I kind of hate you. You know?

    I wanna passport!!!!

    Jenifer March 19, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Amen. Again.

    Leah March 19, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Jaelithe–I totally get what you’re saying. Yes, there are a lot of nonparents who absolutely don’t want to hear about babies all the time, and who don’t care about parenting issues in general. I try to distinguish myself from those people by always asking questions and listening and babysitting and making it very clear that I’m interested and appreciative in hearing about parenthood and peoples’ children.

    The problem is that about half of the time I find myself in that old familiar position: parents giving me all kinds of wonderful information but then ending every sentence with “but you can’t possibly understand what I’m going through until you have your own.” I want to say, “Um, you’re actually helping me understand what you’re going through right now! Can you please just do it without the condescension and dismissal?”

    It seems that with every parent friend I just have to find a balance between (1) opening up the conversation in hopes of sharing information and (2) risking opening myself up to yet another “you’re not in the club” snub. In many ways, it’s not that different than negotiating the boundaries of any other friendship, but it does sting in a particularly harsh way considering that I would love more than anything to have a child of my own but have had some obstacles crop up. For that reason, I’m much less likely to open myself up to the parents who have been especially smug around nonparents; it’s not that I don’t respect them and what they’re doing but that I have to protect myself from their lack of respect for my boundaries. It goes both ways.

    Leah March 19, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Also, what verybadcat said. It hurts to be left out, but its hurts even more to be left out when you really really really really want–and are trying your hardest–to be included.

    Mimi March 19, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Yes. Of course you’re right C.

    But what is uncomfortable for most people about this discussion, what makes your assertion seem like a claim for superiority rather than difference is that people who are parents have double knowledge: we were in Camp A (childless) before but are now in Camp B (parents) and are in the position of saying to the denizens of Camp A, “yes, I used to be you, and think like you, but now I’m different. I can’t explain it and you’ll never know until you become like me, too.”

    It’s perfectly true. It’s also perfectly infuriating to people in Camp A, who resent the implication that their experience is, well, partial. Because, in this context, it *is*.

    What’s even better is: we (that is, the denizens of Camp B, the parents) will employ precisely this strategy with our offspring in a soon-enough time when we try to help them avoid our mistakes: no you cannot ride your bike without a helmet / drink unsupervised and underaged / camp with your ‘special friend’ overnight / whatever. I’m an adult and I understand better than you! I used to be a teenager!

    (I realize I seem to have relegated Camp A to the same status as children / teenagers, and I don’t mean the slight. I mean that it’s funny that Camp B is going to fight this particular battle over and over and over again over our dining room tables.)

    To conclude: if you haven’t been there, you actually really DON’T know what it’s like. It’s nothing against you, Camp A camper — it’s an experience thing.

    Her Bad Mother March 19, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Leah, verybadcat – I tried very hard (or thought I did) to not make it seem like mothers have their very own special planet that is utterly alien to anyone who is not a mother. As I said – different country. And one that I think – personally – everyone should want to go to. AND I think that anyone who really really does want to get here probably has a better understanding of it than many other people. So you’re probably right, Leah, when you say that I should have stuck more to words like ‘firsthand experience’ rather than ‘understand.’ WANTING a child badly can, I think, bring someone pretty close – if not entirely – to understanding what’s at stake.

    I’m really very sorry if it seemed as though I was saying that non-parents *couldn’t possibly* come anywhere to appreciating the experience of a parent. That’s simply not true. I have some very wonderful non-parent friends – on-line and off – who really get how much I love my daughter, and, I think, really understand my frustrations and ambivalences v.v. motherhood, and I would hate for them to think that they’re excluded from my world. They’re not. But there are times and there are circumstances where I *do* think that it takes another mom or parent to really fully empathize. But, too, it also takes another PhD to fully empathize with my complaints about academia or another lover of Lost to get my fervent attachment to that show, etc, etc. (my husband, as it happens, falls into neither of these categories, and so JUST DOESN’T GET ME.) Doesn’t mean that NO one else has anything valuable to contribute, nor that I can’t love or appreciate those people in my life and want to share those interests with them anyway.

    As I said – different country, NOT different planet. And one that is fully visitable, even if the full-on citizenship experience is a bit tougher to come by.

    Sorry for any offense.

    Her Bad Mother March 19, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Mimi, you’re right of course. Which what makes this topic a difficult one to unpack sensitively.

    I guess that my feeling – and my basis for claiming that it’s differiority rather than superiority (which, yes, hard to escape) – is that there are, in life, all sorts of Camp B’s – not just parenthood. *Experience* creates Camp B’s – and everyone eventually, I think, finds themselves in one sort of Camp B or another and excluded from others (I went to graduate school; my sister didn’t; my sister has a terminally ill child; I don’t; I speak some foreign languages; my husband doesn’t; my husband can drive; I can’t, etc, etc) Some of these are more or less minor; others are pretty significant and can change entire worldviews. ALL of them accord some specialized experience and knowledge to their members. And for the most part, members of Camp B’s don’t *actively* try to exclude non-members (at least, I’d like to think that they don’t); it’s just that membership in epistemic communities (if we can call them that) just necessarily involves some exclusion, as matter of definition.

    BLAH BLAH BLAH.

    All of this is to say – YES, it’s hard to escape the implication of superiority when one breaks it down. But whatever sense or idea of superiority might be attached here isn’t necessarily a universal one (that is: it’s NOT that being a parent/mom makes one a better person overall; it’s that being a parent/mom gives one a better understanding of parenthood/motherhood and, so, a specific firsthand share in a knowledge/experience that non-parents don’t have.0

    Make sense?

    clueless but hopeful mama March 19, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    I loved this post and am fascinated by the discussion here.

    As much as I relate to this post, I find myself siding (I know, I know NO SIDES) with the non-moms who don’t want to be left out (even though I’m a mom) because lately I’ve been getting grief from my friends with more than one kid about how I can’t POSSIBLY understand what it’s like blah blah blah. What I hate about that statement is it totally shuts me out. It ends the conversation.

    Let’s keep the conversation going.

    Leah March 19, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    It would be nearly impossible for you to offend me, C, because where you’re coming from is not a position of This Is How It Is but of This Is How I See It, and What Do You Guys Think? Wherever there is open dialogue and wiggle room for people to grow and change and reassess their points of view, I think there’s room for greater understanding and a foundation for that sometimes-elusive middle ground.

    It’s true–exclusion is everwhere and it almost always sucks. Sometimes it just sucks more or particularly hard, right on the part that’s already sore.

    pkzcass March 19, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Good post, and completely reasonable and sensitive to nonparents (specifically, non-moms). I do try to be very sensitive to people who don’t have children because what do I know…maybe they’re trying desperately and are unable, have had and lost, etc. When I’m out with moms and non-moms alike, I tend to talk to the non-moms more because I know that the talk with the moms (of whom I’m one) will eventually get around to the kids, and since their kids are still little and mine are older, I’m bored with all of the stories. I guess I’m kind of like, “Yeah, you say that now but wait till your child is a moody 12 year old.” I’d much rather talk to parents with children my age than those with babies. So in a way, I’m guilty of doing the same thing to new moms (i.e., mothers of youngish children) as some moms are seen as doing to non-moms. Make sense?

    Also, no offense to moms of young children. Having been there and done that, I just have no desire to hear about others doing it, nor do I ever want to do it again. That’s just me.

    But, it doesn’t mean I’m going to STOP reading your blog. Nope, never.

    sweetney March 19, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    (dies)

    you are awesome and i heart you. i haven’t said that nearly enough. teh endz.

    Sleeping Mommy March 19, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    I understand exactly what you are saying about how very much parenthood changes you–how it makes you different.

    Before children, I thought I had my life and myself figured out. I was level headed and mature. I thought I understood so much.

    Then I had kids and learned that I didn’t know anything. Everything about me changed. And I’m not sure I will ever have it figured out again. I’ve learned a great deal about myself from the experience of becoming a parent. Alot of it I’m still trying to wrap my head around.

    jenB March 19, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    My asexual being (like a sponge) applauds you loudly for a kickass and SEXY post.

    xoxoxox

    Heather B. March 19, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    So Leah said the ‘something’ that I’ve been trying to think of for several hours. And she is far more eloquent and it has taken me HOURS to form simple words. But yeah, sometimes there’s the snub. You KNOW how many friends of mine are parents and that even though I don’t have kids, I at least have SOME understanding of how they feel about their children and their role as a parent. And if I don’t get it, I try really hard to listen. At times though there are other parents around who can be dismissive. It’s as if there is an assumption that because non-parents haven’t been there yet then they have no sense of understanding and should stand in the corner and be quiet and talk about disposable income. I’m saying this from my point of view, but chances are, if I am in a room with parents, I am more than willing to talk about a clingy 19 month old or breastfeeding or whatever. And I do it so I can understand and am generally interested. I might be in the minority in this case just as there are very few moms who give the cold shoulder but there are always the few in each group that make it a little difficult for the other side.

    What I’m trying – so terribly – to say is that no I’m not there yet. And HELL NO I have no intentions of being there for another decade but that doesn’t mean I need to be talked down to nor does it mean that I don’t care or have absolutely no sense of understanding. I am a woman who wants kids (in 10 years) and has done everything in her power to support and be understanding towards friends with them. I am also really, really lucky to surround myself with amazing mothers who would rather enlighten me than snub me. But not every single mother is like that.

    Chicky Chicky Baby March 19, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    I’d love to write some eloquent comment but my asexual pregnant tuckus is tired so I’ll just say – Yeah, I totally agree.

    Karen Sugarpants March 19, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    As a mother who embraces so very many different sides of who she is, I really LOVED this post. Catherine, you are such a wonderful writer. xo

    Pgoodness March 19, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Yes, different. Astounding, amazingly, abruptly different. This was a wonderful post.

    MamaMo March 19, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    HBM, thank you so much for beginning this wonderful dialogue – I have thoroughly enjoyed it and will continue to reflect upon it.

    Angella March 19, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Amen.

    You hit the nail on the head.

    SUEB0B March 19, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    The only thing I regret about not being a mother is that I will never have the opportunity to understand how much my mother loves me. That she DOES is apparent.

    What I can’t get, without a child of my own, is WHY? Why did she do so much? What gave her such reserves of kindness, patience and self-sacrifice? It seems CRAZY to me. I know that she must have gotten something special along with giving birth, but I can’t tell you what it is.

    Last night, thinking about the millions of kindnesses my mother has shown me (for instance, when I was sick, she used to smooth my sheets when I got up to use the restroom so they would be crisp and cool when I returned), I became so angry that some people have to grow up without that kind of love. I wanted to scream and yell at the bad moms, “Don’t you UNDERSTAND what you are doing?”

    I know Oprah simpers “Motherhood is the most important job…” and it sounds trivial after a while but she is right. Parenthood is. It just is.

    marymurtz March 19, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Amen, sister.

    jen March 19, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    standing up and applauding you Bad.

    Blogversary March 19, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    So, I am a new reader. And, I really appreciated what you wrote.

    You put words behind my thinking and now I can speak on the subject without sounding self righteous.

    Now, what about those parents that claim a higher superiority after having TWO kids. “Oh you only have once kid, wait ’til you have two.”

    Lara March 20, 2008 at 1:15 am

    i’m with the very small minority who’ve spoken here as being upset. don’t think that means mad, or offended, or anything like that. i mean it in the most literal sense – a part of me has been upset, shifted around, disturbed from its resting place. my instinctive reaction was anger, because you said all the things that i HATE hearing. “oh, you just don’t know what it’s like, because you’re not a mother.” i want to be. so badly. i feel like i’ve spent my whole life waiting to have my babies. i love them so much already that i already call them my babies. in my heart, i’m a mom – i just haven’t met my children yet. i hate being automatically shut out of the world i most want to be a part of.

    but the other thing is that i hate hearing that from all the people who sneer it at me with condescension and give me a demeaning pat on the head (figuratively speaking) while they say it. “oh, there there, little girl. someday you’ll learn.” i just want to hit those people – don’t talk to me like i don’t know anything about motherhood, because trust me, i get plenty of snapshots from being a nanny. do i fully know the heartbreaking emotional surge that comes with giving birth to a person who is – at once – both a part of me and uniquely him- or herself? no, and i won’t until it happens for me. but i know plenty, and until i know more, i don’t want to always be reminded by snobby parents that i’m not a part of their special club.

    yes, it makes me angry, but you don’t. you phrased it all in a straightforward way, and what you say is true. it just reminds me of all the people who say it less kindly, and they just remind me that i’m still not a mommy yet. and that breaks me heart.

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