Saturday, September 18, 2010

GS: let me try this again

I've mentioned before that being a mom doesn't come easily to me.  At work or around other adults, I often find myself being maternal-- keeping track of people, or trying to help, or taking care of things.  But toddlers?  pre-schoolers? infants?  I just don't have the patience.  I did not feel a huge wave of maternal bliss the first time I held my daughter in my arms.  I felt a wave of terror, of complete and utter inadequacy.  I did not cherish The Baby Days.  I was utterly and completely relieved to leave my daughter four hours a day with a wonderful woman running an in-home daycare so that I could keep my job on a part-time basis.  The older she got, the more I enjoyed her.  Her teenage years had their definite moments of angst, but I'd take a teenager any day over an infant.  Heck, I'd take a whole house full of teenagers over an infant.

You get the idea.  June Cleaver I am not.  There are a number of consequences of this:  for one thing, I am enormously proud of myself for sticking it out.  It didn't come naturally to me, but I kept at it because it was more important to me than anything else ever had been.  I still remember the day when my daughter was 3 and we were sitting in the cab of the little Nissan pickup I drove back then, and we looked at each other and it was like we really saw each other for the first time.  I remember giving this little nod and thinking, Okay, then.  I can do this.  We're all right.  I don't take credit for the amazing person she has turned out to be (she is now 20, and she has done that all by herself), but I do take some credit for not screwing it up. (I'm leaving my son out of this for now since he is still at home and just turned 13, but he is a similarly awesome kid). 

So on the first day of class of "Progressive Voices" (Four American Women Writers of the Progressive Era), when the professor had us go around the room and each introduce ourselves and tell "something interesting" about ourselves, the only thing that came to mind was my kids.  My kids are far and away the most interesting thing about me. This is the bare truth.  I am by nature an observer.  I am not interesting.  I watch people and I think about them.  I don't do crafts or hobbies or sports, I haven't had an interesting career, I don't have any big accomplishments in my life to brag about.  Except that I survived my kids' childhoods (I'm still surviving my son's, of course, but he's out of the bitty kid stage, anyway).  (And honest to pete, it didn't occur to me until the next day that the fact that I've had a blog for seven years would be something interesting.  Never crossed my mind.)

But you can imagine the reaction that I got in a roomful of students in a feminist literary criticism class when I said that the most interesting thing about me is my kids.  It just isn't done.  We're women, hear us roar.  We don't find our fulfillment in other people, we find it in ourselves and our own accomplishments.  And on the one hand, I get that.  I've been a feminist for practically my entire life (I should write a post about my childhood moments of feminism someday).  I took a class in feminist literary criticism in 1983 before any of the other students in this class were even born.  But on the other hand, it pissed me off.  I could almost see their eyes rolling, their inward groans of embarrassment for me, the immediate conclusions that were jumped to with eager leaps.  But you know, I'm not embarrassed that I'm proud I've turned myself into a good mom.  I suppose I could have gone into a long-winded explanation of what I meant when I said the most interesting thing about me is my kids, but damn it, I shouldn't have to.

This isn't done yet.  Just more of the continuing conversation.


  1. Amen. And Amen Again.

    And I'm proud of you for sticking it out, too. I'm another one who was terrified of my infant, and then ashamed of not having fuzzy warm feeling about him. I thought I was a failure.

    And every year of life he (and the same could be said of his brother) has gotten more interesting and more satisfying to know.

  2. I suppose to be entirely honest I should say that I knew how they would react, and i said it anyway. There's this piece of me, which sometimes I like and sometimes I am ashamed of, that just can't seem to resist tipping sacred cows.