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.
Labels: blogging, children, family