Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mama's got a chip ...

In certain childless circles of my acquaintances, I am sometimes reluctant to talk about my kid (a few years ago you couldn't shut me up about her as my family and friends can wearily attest). I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about that now.
The writer/organizer/editor/gadabout
My reservations are twofold. I now understand how truly boring it is for other people to listen to my blathering about my domestic circumstances and, secondly, I don't like the preconceptions that are sometimes attached to being a mother that seem to be largely negative (i.e. the other more interesting aspects of your persona apparently disappear when you give birth to a child).

Small examples, perhaps even insignificant examples; however, they stick in my mind.

I remember dining with some publishing colleagues and their expression of "delight" when they saw my neatly ordered wallet when we went to pay our respective bills. "Look at her!" they exclaimed, "You're such a mom!" Organized, I assumed they meant. I guess they attributed my neatness to some obsessive compulsiveness that accompanies motherhood as it sometimes does with certain women. However, I wanted to assure them that these anal characteristics exhibited themselves well before my giving birth to J. (My husband might respond to me with that old Woody Allen joke in Annie Hall: "That's a polite word for what you are!"

The Mom ...
Another very minor instance comes to mind ... a publishing colleague/friend wanted to discuss a position that she wished to apply for and I had some knowledge of. I was working on a tight schedule that week and we were trying to set up a time to talk on the telephone about a potential interview. I asked her to call before a certain time as I was having guests to the house. In this case it was a documentary film crew coming to interview me for my role in discussing the immigrant ship Saturnia, a ship my father traveled on in 1956 when he first came to Canada and about which I had been writing about. But she said to me, "Oh you moms, always cleaning and cooking, always entertaining!" Hmmm ... I didn't clarify the situation. It sounded like a too pretentious, albeit accurate, explanation.

I know it was kindly meant. But I could see that she saw me through a certain prism - as a younger woman, as a woman who did not have children, viewing an older woman with a child and domestic responsibilities. Most times that designation is agreeable to me. I love being a mom. It gives me more pleasure (and sometimes more grief) than any other role in my life. I am lucky in my circumstances with a great kid and a loving, supportive, wonderful husband. Yet sometimes I find that designation oppressive, narrow. Why assume all of my activities are related to my role as a mother?

I have an active literary career (I have published a book and numerous essays and stories). I volunteer as a co-editor with a prestigious literary magazine. I run a reading series. I write for two blogs. I volunteer with Out of the Cold as a Shift Supervisor on a weekly basis during the late fall and winter. I have a wide circle of friends and contacts. My friend knows most of that ... and yet.

But I have to admit ... if I had more than one child or if my child was younger and less self-sufficient, my life would be more restricted, more home-centric, more mom-ish. And I'd probably be boring the pants off you right now with some story about how adorable those kids were. Just saying.


5Rings said...

I think what you're saying is that publishing people are dicks. but I could be wrong.

Michelle said...

I was hoping it was a bit more profound that that!

Christine said...

I am childfree by choice but I enjoy hearing about my friends' children -- and I like spending time with them, too. I like kids a lot and almost decided to become a teacher.

But I know my friends with kids like to talk about other things as well -- and this is a good thing since too much kid talk can wear out anyone...parents or not.

I am also super neat and organized so I know that's not maternal in nature ;).

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the biggest reason that I always stayed on the periphery (if that close) of the arts scene was that there is a pronounced snobbery against anything domestic.