Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Notes on the club

ASIDE: A young man, who happens to be an in-law of a good friend of mine, has gone missing in E-town. He was last seen in the area of Folk Fest on the 13th. If you have some time, please visit this site to see if you maybe know something without knowing it or can help in some way.

One of my “child-free” friends made a remark a few months ago that she found it annoying that women act like they’re in some kind of exclusive club as soon they become mothers. She was drunk at the time, if I remember correctly, so I’m not committing her to her comments, but she did go on at length about how ridiculous it all seemed to her. She asked me if whenever I was at her parents’ house in the future would I start hanging out in the kitchen with her mom and the other moms instead of partying it up with the (not so) young ‘uns. I just may have been drunk at the time too, so I can’t remember exactly what I said. I’m pretty sure I didn’t say what was really on my mind – “motherhood is a club and you’re not gonna get it til a Junior pops out of your own loins" and "actually there is some stuff I'd love to talk to your mom about." I think I probably said something along the lines of “well, motherhood is a universal language” or some other platitude that, while true, doesn’t really illuminate anything.

Fast forward to a few months later. At a pretty large event, this same friend’s mother was fretting about her son who was driving in to our fair city from another province that night. Her son is well into adulthood, but the look on her face and the tone of her voice as I overheard her talking to another mother about how late it was getting really struck a chord with me. At that moment, something clicked in both my mind and my heart – this “FEELING” I have all the time about Daniel is NEVER EVER going to go away. The all encompassing love, worry, anxiety and pride will be with me forever. There is a motherhood club, and while it’s not exactly exclusive, there’s only one way to get in.

A few weeks ago another friend of mine, whose children are in their teens/early 20s, was talking to me about motherhood. She said, “I remember after I gave birth to my son, I looked into his face and saw the whole universe in it.” I don’t think there is a better way to explain it – if you’re not seeing THE whole universe in your kid’s face, you’re certainly seeing YOUR whole universe.

So, while I promised myself that my blog wouldn’t consist of expositions on “mom club” and just how darn tootin’ special being a mommy is, a recent “big fight” with a close girlfriend of mind has me musing about all of this and more.

First of all – why is my friend pissed off at me? She is upset because I missed her birthday. Well, what I actually missed was calling her on her birthday. I remembered her birthday, remembered to send her a birthday card and a small gift (which arrived only one day late!), but I didn’t pick up the phone and call on the day. She’s upset. Perhaps she has a right to be. Perhaps she had a right to expect a phonecall. From my perspective, however, I am now upset – I feel that I was dumped on by her at a time when I really didn’t need it (this week on TLC: Stressful Solo Parenting Week!). I didn’t call her on her birthday because her birthday was the day my hubby and I ran all the errands that needed to get done before he left the country for the better part of this week. I explained this and she was still upset. Well, that makes me upset.

One of the many significant things that happens when you have children is that your priorities drastically shift and change. Your new precious babe (or babes as the case may be!) is paramount and everything else, and I mean everything else, takes a shift downwards. A whole other human being’s needs now come before your own. Therefore, this small person also trumps the other people in your life, from husband to relatives to friends to coworkers. What I’m saying is this: I can’t be the same person I was before. I can’t be the same kind of friend I was before. If I remember your birthday or anniversary at all, I think I’m doing a pretty good job. If I get it together enough to get you a gift, well you should know that you’re pretty special to me. If I remember to do anything for you during the week that my kid is projectile vomiting and constantly shitting himself – well, that tells you that you’re one of the inner sanctum. I’m not an uber-mom who remembers to do everything and then some. I know I don’t cope as well as some other moms. I don’t love every minute of my motherhood experience (in fact, there’s a lot I really don’t like and resent). I often feel drained and "odd" and wonder what happened to that Emily girl. But I couldn’t love my baby more if I tried. There is nothing I would not do for him. Just looking at him makes me feel happy and swell with pride. Almost all of my existence and pretty much all of my decisions take him into consideration. Because of all of that, less can and will be done for you. I’m sorry if that’s harsh, dear reader, but I don’t know how else to explain it.

This same friend who is PO’d told me that my recent blog entry about what it’s like to have a sick kid offended her because I used the word “childless” in a mean fashion and apparently my tone indicated that I am mad at my childless friends or, at the very least, was somehow being condescending to them. This floored me! The entry was supposed to be humorous and entertaining – funny, in fact! It was not meant to offend. Yes, I was trying to illuminate a point – there are certain things that you just don’t get or completely understand until you have kids. There are things that you never considered and experiences that you never conceived of. I’m sorry if this offends. I’m sorry if those of you without kids think I’m being condescending. I’m sorry if you think that I am exaggerating the notion that you don’t really get what parenting is until you have kids. For those of you that think it will be different for you, maybe it will. In fact, I know it will on many levels as no one mothers or parents in the same way because no one has the same strengths, abilities or resources. My one and only intentional snarky point in the sick kid post was that telling me things like I “need to get out more” after I’ve just told you that I finished cleaning vomit an hour earlier is frankly obtuse and a bit insensitive. However, I’m sure I did similar or worse things to those of my friends that had kids before me. Why? Because I didn’t get it! I’m not mad at you for telling me that going back to work will be good for me (yes, it will be!) after I’ve just told you that I start crying at the very thought of my baby being in daycare. I am, however, somewhat bemused by the fact that you don’t seem to understand my reality.

My supposed attack on the “childless” (apparently the preferred term is “child-free”) was not meant to create a wall between us. I am very concerned about trends like the “mommy wars” and the “wall between women.” I think we need to work harder to let women mother and work and "self-actualize" however they want without judgement. So, I am certainly not trying to create a barrier between the “child-free” and parents, specifically between child-free women and mothers. I was trying to be funny (perhaps badly – I never claimed to be Helen Fielding!) and illustrate a point. I will try harder to look at things from the childless perspective. It’s actually not that hard for me – I was “childless” only a year ago! However, some of you that took offense could perhaps try a bit harder to look at things from the perspective of “mom.” Is your term “child-free” offensive to mothers because it implies that you’re free of some "burden" - our kids - that we’re not? If you compare me to some other friend of yours who is also a mother, but is apparently more considerate, attentive, happy, physically fit and less neurotic, do I get to be upset?

When I was considering getting pregnant and then once I was, I remember the smug feeling of “oh that won’t be me” whenever I read or heard about some "truth" or aspect of motherhood. How can breastfeeding be a nightmare? ~Oh my God, how it was for me! Well, my relationship won’t suffer! ~It’s suffered so much that we’re still in recovery mode! How can you not lose the weight? ~I’ve just bought a “back to work” wardrobe that’s one entire size bigger. I could never be a stay-at-home mom! ~I’ve been thinking about if for 6 months. Pacifiers, family bed, exclusive breastfeeding, attachment parenting, homeschooling, allergies are all ridiculous symptoms of the modern “psycho-babble” parenting. ~While a lot of that is not for me, I actually understand all of it now. Parents are just trying to do what is best for their children and/or are doing whatever works for them and their family. Once I was well into this first year of motherhood, I realized that these aspects and truths of motherhood do apply to all new mothers (OK, maybe not that Heidi Klum bitch!) on some level because you become a different person after having a baby. The “oh that won’t be me” will definitely come back to haunt you more than once. However, the one thing I kept disbelieving was the suggestion that many of my friendships would change, and not for the better, due to motherhood. I staunchly believed things would chug along like before. Not my friendships – they’re so strong, so old and have already survived a hell of a lot. ~Well, I was being foolish because if I’ve become a totally different person, of course my friendships can’t stay the same!

I just hope that if my “child-free” friends and I can all survive and like the new me (and eventually, in some of your cases, the future new yous) that we will somehow end up better and stronger friends than ever. If you’re looking for that Emily girl, I think she was just at the pub . . . two years ago. If you’re looking for Momily, there’s a good chance that she’s in the kitchen . . . apparently, there’s a club meeting going on.

Image source: It's from here, but I'm pretty sure its actual origin is the clipart that comes with Word.


At 9:47 AM , Anonymous akk said...

So much stuff here... love it! First, lamezzzzz joolz. Second, interestingly, I actually don't think that you've changed that much since having D Jr. I agree that you may have re-prioritized but you're the same neurotic, hilarious, sensitive, obsessive/compulsive, hypochondriacal (is that a word?), bitchin' woman I've always known. I think that the adjustment is that you're consumed by and thus talk about a NEW ISSUE (i.e., motherhood) that many of us are unfamiliar with and, frankly, not as interested in (yet). It's just timing, dahling. What I'm realizing is that, weirdly, becoming a mom has made you more YOU. You're amazing in the same ways and annoying in the same ways (sorry!) as ever; you're just doing these things and being this person with a completely new project. A project who happens to be very time-consuming and insanely adorable. I don't think apologies are needed.

At 9:49 AM , Anonymous akk said...

I'm also going to use your blog selfishly to ask that your readers check out stupid Margaret Wente's column in today's Globe and Mail. I am crafting a response letter to her and would very much appreciate the assistance of experienced writers of letters of complaint/disgust.

At 10:09 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salma Says:

Your friend didn't say she found it annoying that women act like they’re in some kind of exclusive club as soon they become mothers. The complaint was about the gigantic chip on the shoulder that many new mothers wear around.

"Oh dear... you'll get it one day. You poor confused childless idiot".

I'm guessing that likely THAT was what your other "friend" (subtle) was refering to as condescension.

You said it your self Ems no two mother's mother the same. So don't tell your friend how it IS tell her how it IS for YOU.

p.s. you started it.
p.s.s. this was all written out of love.
p.s.s.s. IT WAS ME!!!!!!!

At 10:32 AM , Blogger Momily said...

Ange first:
Intersting comments! Wait, I'm am annoying hypochondriac?!
I'm touched that you think I'm still the same me, even though i don't always feel that way. I think i've had a hard time separating the core stuff that makes me "me" and the superficial stuff - often the fun stuff - made me "me." The superficial stuff is certainly on hiatus (i.e. no beer grdens for two summers now!) but at least life is still interesting. Anyway, enough navel gazing.

At 10:34 AM , Blogger Momily said...

Ange second: i think the article that she is referring to is here

If I managed to piss off a few people with the word "childless" then this woamn has probably pissed off half the globe.

At 10:47 AM , Blogger Momily said...

And now, Salma -

I haven't exactly seen tons of you this year, but when I do, you often steer the conversation in the direction of what motherhood is like, what my days now look like, etc. even on nights when I've asked if we could talk about anything else. I've tried to be honest with all of you guys on what pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood is REALLY like - at least for me. I wanted to be the friend that talked about some of that stuff that a lot of women don't really talk about (hopefully, you're a bit less surpised in the hospital than I was). I think I've been fair with that. I've certainly tried to be honest.

I don't think that you guys are "confused childless idiots" but when you give me unsolicited parenting advice like I had to "get used to" just letting my 3 month old baby cry it out so I can shower - well you don't get it. Sorry. I don't think you "get it" til you are responsible for the care and feeding of your baby. I haven't met a mom yet who showered while her infant was screaming unless she ABSOLUTELY had to. I'm sure there are moms out there who do, I just don't know them, I guess.

I've always said that I only know how it is for me . . . and all the other moms I'm friends with. I know that you really want to bleieve that your life will hardly change when and if you choose to have kids - "oh that won't be me." Maybe that will be the case for you - how do I know!? It just hasn't been the case for me and my mommy pals.

At 11:03 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salma Says:

That may be how it seems to you. Sorry.

From my perspective:

1. You're right i don't see you much so when i do i think it's only natural to talk about the most significant thing in your life.

2. That is what you talk about. I always guessed that that is because motherhood is what is on your mind most.

3. That being said, if you still feel it is me, i can absolutely stop talking about it! I hardly think poker Thursdays is a regular meeting of the mom's club, do you?

At 11:52 AM , Blogger Momily said...

Yay - more clarification and axe-grinding:

To Salma (and some of the other child-free peeps):
I am not saying that I never want to talk about motherhood when we go out. I’m saying that there have been several times where I didn’t want to and ended up there anyway. Yes, motherhood is on my mind the most – often I will want to talk about it. Hopefully it’s not too annoying and boring. If we are going out on the town, etc., though, can I more frequently hear about you and your exciting “single” life? Can we talk about gossip and politics and stupid shit like we used to? That’s all I’m saying.

To just Salma:
RE poker Thursdays – we never talk about anything of a personal note on Thursdays when all the jabrones are around. In a way, that’s a blessing, and from my perspective, really enjoyable – and I certainly never want it to become mom club.

To everyone else:

I repeat that I don’t think that my friends are “confused idiots” because they are childless or not. I think you’re all idiots for a variety of other reasons =:)
We're in good company.

At 10:25 PM , Blogger AEG said...

Let me just add my comments that I empathize with you, Em, and I think you are ambitious to try to put this motherhood transformation into words. I love my babies more than I ever, ever could have imagined possible, and simultaneously laugh that if the 20 year old me could see me now, she would probably be disappointed in how I sold out. . . but how often have we agreed that armchair parenting is a lot easier than the real thing. Who knew? I certainly didn't.


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