At the closing keynote session at the Mom 2.0 Summit the other week they showed a promotional clip for Oprah’s new network. In it, Oprah made a few remarks about why she never had children. “I realized that I didn’t want to make the sacrifice,” she said, “and motherhood is about sacrifice.”
Ugh, I thought. Sacrifice. I like the word sacrifice about as much as I like the word ‘goatspit’, which is to say, not at all. The word ‘sacrifice’ makes me think of ancient Spartan war rituals and that one Indiana Jones movie where that they tore out people’s hearts and flung them into pits of fire, which, sure, is maybe an appropriate analogy for parenthood some days, but still.
I almost never do this, pull narrative from the comment section of this site and present it alongside my own narrative, because that just seems so meta, although maybe I should, because it’s not like I don’t get meta – that whole last post was about as meta as it gets – and anyway so much of the commentary that you all contribute here is just so ridiculously smart, so I really should just get over myself and my conviction that I’m the lone storyteller here and that it’s not a good blog week if I don’t post a picture of my babies and just let you guys do more of the talking. Because, seriously:
Last Friday morning I was sitting in a conference room at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans, listening to Abigail Disney speak about her documentary films and about her belief in the importance of telling women’s stories. She made a film about women and war, she said, because women have historically been written out of that story. And why have they been written out the story? she asked.
Ooh, I thought. Excellent question. I pulled out my notebook and started scribbling. We could ask that about the story of the family, I wrote, thinking of all the times that I’ve argued that mothers have historically not been the tellers of stories about the family. Why have women been written out of that story?
And then I scrawled a big inky question mark beside those notes. Wrong question, I wrote, and drew a fat black arrow back to Abigail Disney’s original remark.
It was sometime early on in one of the first sessions of TEDWomen last week that the question occurred to me: are we saying to each other here – in this go go women go celebration of everything that women can do – that women are the new men? And if that’s the case, is the corollary that men are the new women? Or that less-advantaged women are the new (and old) women? Whither women qua women, if women are trying to escape themselves?
My mother always told me that I was beautiful. “You are a beautiful, beautiful girl, sweetie,” she would say, and I would reply – with much eye-rolling and heavy sighing – “you’re my mother. You have to say that.”
I knew that I wasn’t beautiful, not in the way that princesses in fairy tales or fashion models or the older, made-up girls who worked the cosmetic counter at Eatons were beautiful. I was tall and awkward and gangly, which, yes, I know, is exactly the way that girls who go on to become fashion models and perfume-spritzers describe themselves, but I really was tall and awkward and gangly and also frizzy of hair – hair that I insisted, after seeing the movie Pretty In Pink, upon dyeing red, which did not help its texture – and prominent of nose and so I am not being coyly self-deprecating when I say that I believed, that I knew, that I was not beautiful. My mother wasn’t lying to me, but she was, I knew, viewing me through mother-colored glasses, which as we all know are constructed with tempered and tinted glass and glazed with sparkles and stardust. Of course she couldn’t see what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I was looking at myself with clear and critical eyes. She was looking at me with love.
Oh, hi! Can I tell you something about myself? I am not a mommy blogger.
Yeah, I know. There’s a baby in my header. There are lots of pictures of my children here, including that one, right there, on the left. (Aren’t they cute? I let them call me Mommy.) But still. I am not a mommy blogger.
I am mother, yes. I blog about my children, sometimes, and about motherhood, frequently, and about other things here and there (including but not limited to: religion and spirituality, grief, social causes, my nephew, cupcakes, social media, feminism, and zombies), and I do have the word ‘mother’ in the title of my blog. But I am not a mommy blogger. You can call me one, if you want, and I won’t, like, have to restrain myself from punching you. But I’d prefer that you didn’t.
Before Emilia was born, I had a very clear plan about what kind of mother I was going to be. I was going to carry her with me everywhere in designer slings, I was going to hand-blend my own organic baby food, I was going to shun pacifiers, I was going to teach her sign language before she was six months old, I was going to lose the baby weight before she was four months old, I was going to forbid any and all toys that were not hand-crafted by Swedish artisans from entering my house, I was going to swaddled her bottom only in cloth diapers hand-laundered in eco-friendly detergents, I was going breastfeed her until she was two, I was going to not let her watch television until she was three, I was going to clothe her only in garments woven from pure cotton by Tibetan monks or, at least, certified Disney-character free. I was going to be master of my maternal domain! I was going to be the very best mother ever, and nobody would be able to deny it!
Then Emilia was born. You know where this is going. There was a pacifier in her mouth before we wrapped her bottom in some Huggies Little Snugglers, bundled her in a Winnie-the-Pooh sleeper and took her home from the hospital.