December 6, 2011

Don't Call Me Mama

I'm not unique in that I wear many different hats; we all do.

Just today I overslept and rushed to make breakfast, pack a lunchbox, restock a backpack diaper stash, brush teeth, dress a toddler, make myself presentable, let the dog out, grab an umbrella and drop Mac safely off at school in forty minutes flat.

While he was gone I scrambled to pick up Christmas clutter for a visitor who's not coming 'til Thursday. Oops.

I fielded client emails, worked for a bit, called the home warranty company, the doctor and the pharmacy, then looked over paint chips and fabric swatches for our little girl's nursery.

After crunching numbers and finding some papers, I skipped lunch to meet an accountant about my first full year of small business taxes. Said meeting ran five minutes over, so I barely made it to school in time to get Macky - who is now refusing to nap.

My remaining to do items for this afternoon include meal planning, grocery shopping, making soup (what else on such a gray day?) for dinner, preparing to host a small group Christmas party, folding ten billion loads of laundry, hanging out with my husband and resting my heavily pregnant self.

What am I getting at? Like you, I do a lot of things. I am a lot of things. I work at home as a wife and mom; I work from home, too.

It took this big talker 16 months to squeeze "Mama" into his massive vocabulary.
I still revel in it.

The things I'm most proud of in this world, however, are my marriage and our son. Hands down. These are my people, the one I've chosen and the one I carried.

I'm tied to these two in every possible way, and I find a strange freedom in that. This is the life I've been given and, on an hourly basis, the life I choose. I am so grateful.

(Even when I'm frustrated, behind, exhausted, confused, under-organized, frazzled, at a loss, overwhelmed or having one of "those" days, weeks, or months, I'm always thankful. Even if it's masked a bit by all my whining.)

Then I read this piece last week about a woman who fought back tears and hid her flushing face after a hairstylist identified her as a "mom," demographically speaking. I was a little puzzled.

The author suggests that women drop the identity of motherhood, one that is far more permanently and powerfully branded on us than on our male counterparts or even our husbands.

In a way, I understand. No one wants to be that mom, the slovenly and flustered woman sprinting three yards behind her kids, screeching at them to behave. Always late, never showered, rarely able to discuss anything besides the gory, disastrous details of childbirth or potty-training.

No woman wants to feel that she's "just" a mom or "just" an anything, for that matter. We're all busy, growing, multi-faceted beings.

But I think the writer missed the mark. While there are few labels I'd want to wear as my only identifiers, there would be no shame in one of those being mom. Or believer, wife, daughter or friend. The parts of my life I'm most passionate about and engaged in are going to be the easiest to identify me by, and probably the most accurate.

I think what she's hinting at is the fear that women, unlike most men, are minimized by parenthood. Do people see me differently now, especially pregnant, than they did three or four years ago? Sure.

My body, my personality, my life, my age, my "cool" factor - everything has changed these last two or so years. Why wouldn't they view me differently? People who judge me or minimize my abilities because I have a child are missing out, though.

From my point of view, I've been given a gift and am in a very specific season of life where I'm needed. In twenty years, I won't be a mom in the same way I am now. I'll be a hands-off counselor mom, not a find the shoes/kiss the boo-boo/change the diaper/ward off the tantrum mom. This time is fleeting, and it's a privilege no matter how bleary-eyed or short-fused I get.

For people to believe I can contribute anything less to society because I am a mother makes little sense at its heart: if anything, I am contributing society. Little people. A future generation. The folks who will take care of us when we're all past our "worried what my hairstylist labels me as" days - if we're fortunate.

I've walked the line, especially in my first weeks back at full-time work after Mac was born, between proud parenthood and concern over the perception that raising a child will overtake my life.

But you know what? It can't overtake my life because it is my life.

Even if I were in Beijing brokering the sale of a billion dollar company, my thoughts and my heart and my concerns would lie in the care and well-being of my children. (Typing that in the plural still makes me tear up.) There might be a million other facts tumbling around in my brain, but I'd still drop everything in a heartbeat for the role that matters most, the one only I can fill.

So, moms, don't feel belittled. Even if you do wear yoga pants to the grocery store after a full day of not doing yoga. Even if your business suit has spit up stains or your under-eye bags need a luggage rack and you have no idea what movies won an Oscar this year.

And non-parents, take a moment to think about how many things you do well. Don't fall into the trap of presuming a person can only be defined by one task, even if it's her biggest and most important role.

So that's my diatribe today: Mom shouldn't be or feel like an insult. And even if it is, it's still a gift.

May Mac never doubt that, even covered in his drool or tearing him, weeping, away from the "race car" grocery cart, I am proud to be his mom. I hope he can be as proud to be my son - at least 'til middle school rolls around...


melissa said...

So beautifully said, Anne. I'm proud of my new label as "Mom" and will continue to be - right up until the moment someone tells me I'm wearing "Mom jeans." :)

Elizabeth said...

Very well said! I love my mom label but not the oh you play & watch tv all day stereotype.

Anna said...

so well said! I too have walked the line of wanting to be the best mommy I can be, but fearing that perception of your life being "taken over". Can I not be a mom and still be me? It's so hard not to lose yourself, but it is essential to learn that being a mom is the most amazing thing ever, it doesn't erase who you are, it adds to it an infinite amount.
Great post!

Turner Aycock said...

Wow! Wonderful post and just what I needed to hear. You're a great mama :)

Life and Times . . . said...

Well said. Out of all of my labels Mom has to be the greatest and is rivaled only by that of Wife.

Beth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth said...

Loved this post, and I am not even a mom yet! Hearing you speak so eloquently about your calling is inspiring. Seems like you have found a great balance!

Kristen said...

I hate to break it to that author, but moms are in fact a demographic – and a very distinct one. They are a group of consumers bound by a common characteristic, and a group to which marketers tailor their message. I’ve received e-mails from PR training gurus touting their lectures about “How to Market to the Mommy Blogger.” Why this woman feels the term "mom" is an insult is beyond me.

If someone identifies you as a mom, maybe it’s because, well, YOU ARE ONE. It’s a fact, not a jab!

The saddest thing about this article is that this woman feels *insulted* by being referred to as a mom (not even “just a mom” – as I read it, the hairstylist simply said “mom”). Hopefully she can find some contentment in her life choices, and soon.

All that aside, I enjoyed reading your thoughts, which as always are beautifully and eloquently relayed! Love, love, love you!

Rowena said...

I love you and am so in awe of what a wonderful wife, mother, believer and friend you are. This made me teary and I'm NOT a mom. I do take great pride in my role as wife and daughter and pray that I handle everything that life throws at me with the grace that you seem to embody so naturally.

Kiersten said...

Great post, and so well said! My first is due next month and that naturally causes a lot of reflection about my changing roles, but I can't imagine not being proud of my soon to be mom title. Thanks for sharing.

Lauren said...

I starred this post in my Reader a while ago, and meant to come comment before now. This is such a great post. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that women fear being minimized to "just mom". The paradox is that while some would label others as "just mom", there really is no such thing as "just" a mom. (I don't know anyone who calls their mother "just my mom".) A mother is the, or one of the, most important figures in a person's life. So one isn't minimized or reduced to "just mom". I find it sad that someone would be insulted by the mom label and that such a feeling is a symptom of the stereotypes of some mothers. Very well written post!


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