Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mothers Who Complain

“The only mothers I can stand to be with now are the mothers who complain. The mothers who insist that they always love their kids, love being with their kids all day, love the freedom (?) of not working (?!), love spending all day with toddlers – I can’t stand these women.”
This is something I wrote in September 2002 – let’s see, that means my son was just over 3 at the time – I wrote that over 4 years ago. But these words still ring true to me today. I can still only connect with other moms who are willing – no, who dare – to complain.

The Manic Mommies (one of my favorite podcasts) were recently discussing a comment by a listener (on their show entitled "Kids and Magazines") who asked if, for a change, they could focus on the positive aspects of being a mom. This gave the Mommies some pause, because, as Erin pointed out, the Mommies are Manic for a reason! She went on to say that she feels women connect with their show because it is a place that you CAN be honest about motherhood and how it IS hard sometimes (a lot of the time…) and that out in the world, you often have to hide that. You can’t just say to a stranger: “you know, I love my kids, but more often than not, they are really driving me up a wall…” So the Manic Mommies is one of the few safe spaces that moms can vent and really talk about how difficult it can be.

This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the 7 plus years that I’ve been a mom. First: why can’t moms be more truthful with each other? Why, when you meet a mom, more often than not, is it a contest to see whose kids are smarter, sweeter, easier, better listeners, more talented, etc.? Why can’t mothers be truthful with each other about the realities of their everyday lives?

Second: why does the media still portray motherhood in a such one dimensional, black or white way? There are the Good Mommies: the ones who stay home with their kids, perhaps even home school their kids, do all kinds of creative activities with them, sacrifice themselves on the alter of perfect motherhood…. Then there are Bad Mommies: the ones who go back to work as soon as the child has left the womb, have daycare and nannies to take care of their child so they can have as little to do with him/her as possible, who dare go out with friends, have interests outside the home, maintain a relationship with their husband, etc. etc. And there is nothing in between. You are either a Good Mommy, self-sacrificing and loving, or a Bad Mommy, cruel and loathing. When the reality is, of course, that motherhood is something in between. It’s a balancing act.

It is only the alternative media that crosses into the grays: magazines such as Brain, Child that publishes beautiful essays that describe the complexities of motherhood, or podcasts such as Manic Mommies, that describe the day-to-day challenges of being both a mother and a woman with a career, or Mojo Mom, a podcast, website, blog, and book that helps women figure out who they are now that they are a mom.

In the meantime, until the rest of the world catches up, I’ll just have to stick with my small but loyal group of Mothers Who Complain.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Starting a New Job

I started a new job this week, and I’m feeling kind of frazzled and exhausted. It’s that weird, uncomfortable feeling of not really knowing what I’m doing, not really knowing everyone, not really understanding the relationships and hidden agendas, wanting to contribute but being afraid that what I’m saying doesn’t make much sense because I don’t really know what I’m doing yet…. all these things combined. I know that it takes a few weeks (or months!) to really feel at home in a new job, so I know that I have to be patient and let myself become accustomed to this new role… but it’s hard, none-the-less.

Also, the topic of the first project I’m working on at my new job is one that I have little experience with, and it’s a pretty stressful topic: end-of-life issues for children in the pediatric ICU (PICU). The study I’m working on is to create a tool that PICUs can use to figure out if they are doing a good job with … to put it bluntly… kids who die. Are they having a “good death” is the question at hand. Every time I say that, it kind of makes me cringe. It’s a fascinating ethical topic to study, but it's hard to separate --especially being a mother -- my own feelings about kids dying. So this is going to be quite challenging…. Wish me luck.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Our New Governor Deval Patrick

Besides being heartened by Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the new Democratic Congress, I am heartened here at home as well. Deval Patrick, a warm, intelligent, sincere man who is also African-American was just installed as the first African-American governor of Massachusetts. I have great hopes for him, and I hope he can keep his ideals once he is confronted with the realities of governing our state. Our old governor, Mitt Romney, is gone, thank goodness, onto his conservative Republican presidential campaign. This is a man who brought abstinence-based sex education BACK to our public schools. This is a man whose views on abortion and stem cell research changed from a liberal to a more conservative position over time. Romney is headed back into the dark ages, and he was trying to bring us along with him… Hopefully Patrick will be able to bring us back into the new millennium.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Mom is in Power at Last

There was a great op-ed in the Boston Globe today by Ellen Goodman about Nancy Pelosi, our new (and first female) speaker of the house. Goodman says: "She's the only speaker whose first career was as a stay-at-home mom." Goodman goes on to comment how rare it is for job applicants to put stay-at-home mother (or father) on a job application under "work experience." She wisely notes, however, that this experience makes people into excellent multitaskers, problem solvers, and mediators of those with conflicting personalities...

Be sure to check out Goodman's article. It's great!