Monday, December 7, 2009
ON SPAWN AND ON AND ON AND ON
I pity women who become mothers and then allow all other affinities and ideas wither to death.
Am I saying that motherhood is mediocre and women who make that their profession are wretched and pitiable? No. And if that's what you think I would imply, you're the one that's pitiable.
Listen carefully: I believe that motherhood is a divine calling, and should you choose to be a stay-at-home mom, good for you. If you choose to be an out-of-the-home working mom, again: good for you. Do what your life dictates. Fulfill your needs. But be more than that which the needs of your children prescribe. Have hobbies, and, in conversation, cover more topics than just your spawn and their development. Notice the world outside your home. Please. Otherwise, how will you be able to teach your kids about what they'll encounter when they step out the front door?
I believe that a woman who is a mother can be more than a taxi-driver and spoon-feeder; and I believe that when she does keep her horizons wide she is doing her kids a great favor. Conversely, women who completely lose themselves in their children are doing their little 'uns a great disservice. They're showing their kids that there is nothing more in life than than one choice at a time. That's false. You can be a great mother and know how to talk about more than soccer games, first steps, and rice cereal.
How do I know this when I've never been a mom? I know because three of my greatest friends embody this type of behavior. Three women in three different stages of motherhood.
And without their permission, I'm going to talk about them.
One is my sister, Whitney--your favorite not-really-a-rookie chef. Whitney has two kids and another one to arrive around May 2010. Jack is four and Van will be 2 next June. When you first meet my sister you'll learn that she's a mom within the first bit of the conversation. It's what she does. It's her job. It's who she is. It makes sense that such a tidbit would make the top of your initial interaction. And though she's a committed mom, you'll find that she understands that not everyone cares about her eldest son's propensity to play fireman all day long. She'll ask what you do for a living or for enjoyment and will very quickly locate a point of interest the two of you can discuss whether or not it has to do with her kidlets.
Whitney and I have little more than blood and religion in common--she's a SAHM, while I am a corporate slave; she loves to cook, while I believe that if I end up in Hell I'll be stuck in a kitchen for eternity; I love yoga, while Whit's never been to a class; I have a dog, and she doesn't want one. All this and so much more define our differences, yet she is my friend and we can talk for hours. We talk about people. We talk about current events. We talk about what interests us individually. And we're both invested in the answers. Not because we're sisters but because we're bound in a friendship we both value.
She knows I love her sons, so she'll let me in on their latest, but she also knows that I have a hard time relating to motherhood, so she makes sure that we talk about more than just what she does during her day. I do the same when it comes to work. I give her the cursory stuff, trying not to bore her stiff with pharmaceutical minutiae. It's gracious.
She remembers what we talk about so that when we next interact she's able to follow up. It makes me feel important to her. I am positive that her kids are her number one priority, but through her recalling my tidbits, I'm also sure that she finds me valuable. It makes me that much more interested in asking after her day-to-day when I know that she cares about more than just herself and her offspring. Her responses aren't tiresome. She's well able to function in a world that doesn't make her kids the number one priority like she does. Unfortunately, I've not found that she's the majority of mothers. She's an exception.
Another exception is my friend, Rabidrunner. She's a mom of two boys as well. Hers are older than Whit's. One eight, the other a kindergartner. I know their names, but I'm not telling you. To you, they are Yahoo #1 and Yahoo #2 (Yahoo #2 possessing perhaps the most awesome voice I've ever heard).
Rabid has done a great job of being an attentive mom and still cultivating outside interests. She's a runner of terrific proportions. She's a photographer. She's a crocheting machine. She's fluent in present happenings the world wide and has informed opinions on such. And along with caring about her kids and Spouse, she has a heart large enough to make me, a familial outsider, feel special.
Again, this isn't the norm. I have acquaintances who have a kid or two and they have done a lousy job of integrating motherhood into their lives. They have a baby and then, a year or a few years later, they still have nothing else. The bits they once had are gone. No hobbies and no remaining friends that aren't also obsessed with their own offspring. That's fine, of course, for we all have our choices and I am a respecter of those decisions, but if you're going to fall into motherhood and never emerge or emerge with nothing but your kids' stats to talk about, keep your mouth shut. You're an egocentric bitch if you have nothing to offer the world aside from tidbits on your children. It's narcissistic and dull. No matter how cute and "advanced" your child is.
In living in the world and interacting with people of all sorts, we have to be able to discuss and show varied levels of interest on many topics. This means that I need to try to understand how important your kids are to you and somehow demonstrate I comprehend that value. My way of doing this is through remembering bits about your children and actively asking after them.
Whatever way it is that you show interest in other people's lives (because it's the polite thing to do)--whether or not they have children--do it; that's just the right way to interface with people of the planet. If it means that when I ask about your kids you don't take the next 30 minutes answering me, bless you; because although I inquired because I honestly care about the answer (to an extent, that is, for I'm not your kids' grandmother), it doesn't mean that you should doom me to a three-month play-by-play. Good manners shouldn't be punished.
My third example of reasonable motherhood is my own mother. Despite the fact that my mom spent the last 28 years rearing daughters, she managed to cultivate a set of killer skills. Specifically, she's written one book that's ready for publication and she's heading into her second.
She didn't get her writing skills from school, instead she used opportunities like church callings and employment at the elementary school her girls attended to better her ability to work words. She used her job as a mother to make the most of the talents God granted her.
To do so, she had to write. She had to read. She had to listen. And she had to talk about more than just her daughters. Had she spent the last 28 years blabbing only about her kids to all who'd listen and even to those who would have spent conversations wishing she'd shut up, she wouldn't have the writing ability she does today. Good writing takes living on more than one plane, and even though my mom did a terrific job showing her daughters the ropes, she did it while diversifying herself to a point that made her able to call herself a Writer.
She wasn't the mother that everyone dreaded talking to because they knew the conversation would revolve around MeganWhitneyCaitlynHaleyMalloryandLauren. For that, I'm incredibly proud of her. It means that today, when I'm able to call her more my friend than just Mom, talking with her has the kind of dimension I appreciate in a friendship.
I don't have kids, and I'm not the only one. If you have small ones (or big ones) and find yourself interacting with people outside your home, you're encountering plenty of folks who are without children, whether that be by their choice or inflicted unfortunate circumstance. If you come across those people, please don't make the mistake of thinking that they care about your kids just as much as you do. For perspective, consider that you really don't care about their job or their dog as much as they do.
As a parent, you have a choice: you can teach your kids that its important to know what matters to other people, or you can demonstrate to them that giving a damn about other folks' interests and being polite in talking about your own is trivial and without consequence regarding social success. If you go with the latter, you'll be wrong.
I'm fed up with making efforts for friends who have kids--remembering their kids' names, ages, and interests--while these "friends" cannot manage to remember the name of the company I work for. It's pathetic, selfish, and one heck of a disincentive for me to focus my intentions and monies on their family unit.