Saturday, November 28, 2009

I Beg to Differ

I never got on with the other Mommies.

I gave birth to my first child three weeks shy of my 21st birthday. If you ever wonder what the prime age for a woman to conceive and grow a child is, I can tell you that age is 20. Twenty is also the optimum age for postpartum recovery, your body snaps back like a rubber band. Mothers often mistook me for a nanny, or a much older sister.

After I left my husband, my singleness kept me apart from the other mothers, my working two jobs to pay the rent — my youth and my divorce.

I never enjoyed mother talk. Even as a new mother I avoided the circular path of birth stories, milestones, and percentiles. Last week I got together with some women I know for a “Girls Night Out,” and all they talked about was their children. My eyes glazed over before the third sip of my Cosmopolitan.

I am not the mother who bombards you with photos of her children, or sends cute mails of their latest escapades. It is not that my children are not adorable geniuses, because they are, I share those stories with the select people who ask, those who also believe my children are the most adorable geniuses they know. It does not occur to me to mass email the latest update in adorableness. I never know how to respond to those emails either, what can I write, except, ‘Adorable!’

Mothering does not define who I am.

My oldest son is 18 now, and in a few years I’ll be a mother for as long as I was not a mother.

I am remarried with two more children, six and four, respectively. I bottle fed, and I nursed. I was a single mother, and a married mother. I was a working mother, and a stay-at-home mother. I tell you all this because these are the ways some mothers judge each other. It is a complicated system of weights and balances to see who is on top.

I recently read an interview with two women writers who judged each other by the fact that one has children and the other does not. The mother writer’s responses embarrassed me as someone who is also a writer mother.

Giving birth does not make you more of a woman than a woman who is childless, by choice or by circumstance, just as conceiving a child does not make a man out of a boy.

Motherhood changed me in one irrevocable way. Once I gave birth I was never going to not be a mother. Perhaps being convicted of a felony would have the same effect, yet even then there is always the slim chance of a pardon.

In conversations centered on the choice to remain childless among women writers, one often cited reason is time to write. I do not have a nanny. I do not pay a sitter to watch my children while I write. I write around them.

I know I am fortunate. My life is abundant in choices – the choice to bear children and the choice to stay home and raise those children. I am fortunate in my choice of life partner as well, he knows and respects that I need to write as much as I need to breathe.

This need may be the reason I am less apt to get on with the other Mommies, particularly those who aim to categorize women with labels and neat summaries. Maybe I am the weird Mommy?

We are mothers, or we are not mothers. We are definitely women, let’s revel in our diversity.


This reflection was inspired by Jeannine's
On Motherhood, Writing, and the Body...


Justin Evans said...

You and my wife would definitely have a lot to talk about, seeing she had our first when she was 19 and she also hates mommy talk and mommy insecurity issues, and tons of other typical "mommy activities." She refuses to get lost in motherhood or be defined by our boys' achievements.

Jeannine said...

Amen, Suzanne! Let's celebrate what we have in common. Thanks for a beautiful post.

Ivy said...

Brava, Suzanne. :-) x

Stuart Greenhouse said...

Hey, that's a great post.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for this wonderful post.

Radish King said...


Wendy Wisner said...

This is perfect Suzanne. Makes me miss you :)

Anonymous said...

Great post, Suzanne!

Suzanne said...

Thanks, Everyone. I must admit that I was worried I might have to duck tomatoes after I posted this and I'm happy to report that's not the case. This is an important conversation and I felt compelled to contribute my own view. I hope the dialogue continues. xo