The Stories I Tell ~ from The Word Cellar

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I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.

5.09.2009

Not the Mama!

When I was a kid, my mom sometimes told my brother and me that a woman in Iowa had been "mummed" to death by her kids. This story usually followed a particularly harrowing round of "Hey-mom-watch-me!" These scenes often took place in our above-ground pool each summer.

I don't think we ever really believed her, and I don't think we ever felt bad about our incessant mom-ing. Our mother had a plenty of love, patience, and attention to go around. I'm sure there must have been times when she really did feel like she was being mummed to death, but she never showed it.

As many people know, I have a bad case of mommy angst. I started out not wanting kids and then became ambivalent about it. Then all I could think about was how I didn't know if I wanted kids or not. The baby question became an endless loop in my head, making me go slightly crazy. I was being mummed to death in a much different way.

I'm feeling a bit more balanced about things these days, even though I definitely haven't made up my mind yet. But have you noticed that the media is mom-ing us all to death now?

Lately, the news is full of stories I like to call, "Motherhood if Effin Hard, Man!"

This is the obvious counterpoint to the other dominant media message about mommy-dom, which is, "Motherhood: Who Could Ask for Anything More?"

We have lost all perspective.

I watched the Oprah show about the secret lives of moms, in which Oprah and a slew of moms talked about how effin hard it is to a be a mom. Don't get me wrong. I like many of those women, and know at least one of them, albeit peripherally. I'm not saying they're just whiny women who complain about their kids.

Still, I was shocked by the general feeling (real or edited-to-seem-real) of surprise at how hard motherhood is. Who are these people that thought having a child would be easy? Nothing about it seems easy to me. From the pregnancy and birth, to the child rearing itself -- these things seem fraught with stress, worry, and hard work.

I told a friend that all that maternal honesty on Oprah was doing nothing to allay my concerns and make me want a baby. She said, "That show isn't for you. It's like doing a show on how hard exercise is. It's just an angle to make it interesting."

But it was the wrong show for me to watch. I didn't need that show. I didn't need to hear about how hard motherhood is, because my concern about becoming a mother is directly centered on how hard motherhood is. The other thing that surprised me is the general message that mothers are glad to finally be telling and hearing the truth; that until now, nobody has been telling it like it is about parenthood; that everyone was just pushing around baby strollers with big smiles on their faces and then crying quietly during their once weekly shower.

Maybe it's taken the mainstream media awhile to catch up, but I've been reading about how hard motherhood is for years now. The blogs -- they are full of it! But I guess it's like Twitter: the media has finally jumped on board.

Now, apparently even some of the moms who were featured on the Oprah show are fed up with the media's portrayal of motherhood as a curse.

Still, isn't motherhood like everything else? Good and bad. Easy and hard. Fun and not fun. Where are the drama ridden exposes about fatherhood? About how much it sometimes sucks to go to work? About the joys and pains of marriage?

Motherhood has long been an iconic flashpoint, a state of being that is bigger than the people in that role. The state of motherhood has been honored, vilified, vindicated, and deified. The interesting thing about the media stereotypes of mothers is that they are so varied. There are June Cleavers, Moms who drink, Moms who work, Stay-at-home Moms, Soccer Moms, Earth Mama Goddesses, Hockey Moms, Stage Moms.

I'm not sure what the media thinks of women like me. What do you call a woman without kids? I don't think there's a label for us, which may be part of the reason we've escaped the media frenzy. We're invisible. And in this case, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

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add to kirtsy | 9:40 PM

8 Comments:

Blogger heidiannie said...

I'm a mom. I like it. It is hard- it is fun- it is what it is- my life. My advice is - live your life- don't watch Oprah- and don't worry about the media. I'm hoping they will self destruct!;)

5/09/2009 11:55 PM  
Blogger B J Keltz said...

Such a decision needs to be made with your heart. Being a mother does not define you as a woman or validate you as a person. Nor does being childless rob you of the joys of mothering. Having kids is "terrible joy," both terrible (aka worrisome in modern language) and joyful.

5/10/2009 1:12 AM  
Blogger Karen Maezen Miller said...

In my life as a PR maven, I used to instruct my charges, "Remember, there's nothing new about the news." Soon I'll just be able to say, "There's nothing news." Then, "There's nothing."

Everything is just a story. Stories can illuminate, instruct, entertain and annoy, but we should not confuse the word for the thing.

5/10/2009 12:39 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

Love "listening" to you sort this topic out for yourself... I think there are a lot of other women out there wrestling with the same alligators... the media just hasn't gotten around to us yet : )

5/10/2009 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNkp4QF3we8

5/14/2009 6:16 PM  
Blogger Lex said...

I know what you mean - I'm ambivalent about having kids too.

I wonder though, if the choice to have kids or not, to make motherhood seem like a curse or not... is this just what women do to ourselves? Maybe we're overthinking it.

I feel both blessed and cursed to be a woman. But men, do they ever think about how they feel to be men? Or is it just something they accept and get on with?

5/15/2009 5:25 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I'm a mom and a career person. Motherhood is very hard but WELL worth it. In fact, I always say my daughter is my greatest achievement. My secod is rising through the ranks of a male-dominated company to become a VP, but I digress.

As a single mom for 16 years, I can attest to juggling a career, household, yard work, education and parenting. Now that was HARD.

But if you're married, you and hubby can juggle the duties and all will be fine. It'll be chaotic at first but in a few short months, you'll easily slip into a routine. The baby will also give you lots of new writing material.

However, don't have a child because you feel pressured by the media, peers or family. It's your decision. Women are waiting later and later these days. Many choose career first, which I applaud. My daughter is now 20-something and is putting her career first. I'm glad. She's a dancer/actress/aerialst and used to say she'd never have children. I did mourn that. Now, she's engaged and tiptoeing into the scary world of possible motherhood. I would never rush her but can't wait to see her as a mom.

You sound like a thoughtful, caring, educated person, and I love your writing style. Just remember this is about you and your decision (with your husband's input).

I highly recommend motherhood when you're good and ready. Just don't forget to ask for drugs when you give birth. I waited too late according to the nurse--I didn't know there was a cut-off--so now you know that, too. See, you're already ahead of the game.

6/02/2009 2:58 PM  
Blogger jenica said...

oprah can't tell you what's right for you, esp considering the fact that she's not a mama.

my take on motherhood is this: it is the hardest thing i've ever done. i did think it would be easy, that i would just know what i needed to do. but i wasn't prepared for the sleep deprivation or being pooped on.

another thing i wasn't prepared for? my heart cracking open and love pouring out from a place i didn't know existed. i never loved my husband more than the night after our first baby was born. i am never bored now that's for sure.

it's an experience you'll never regret.

6/04/2009 2:35 AM  

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