Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Mom and More

As the title tag of my blog would suggest, the major topic of choice for me at the moment is the whole conundrum of who we are as people. Okay, more truthfully, who I am. When I had my first child I took on the mantle of motherhood. That's not a bad thing and it's rather unavoidable in the circumstances. But, instead of being, 'Merry', the goofy, quirky, literary demon, who gets lost while driving (as I live under the delusion that all expressways lead where ever I'm going). Instead of being someone who writes well, argues often, laughs at the absurd, bends a few with friends, likes to shoot stick, yells at the tv during Cubs games (also unavoidable), and has many more layers - I became the one thing. The only thing. Somebody's mom.

Kate N Mia's Mom paid me a really high compliment yesterday. She said how I can write well and be a mom was remarkable... (I thank you with link love - it's also a compliment you should pay yourself). Even though it is a compliment, it brings me back to what has, over the past few years, become a running theme for me. Why do we have to be one thing? I'm not heading for a feminist rant here, but I don't know any men that cease to exist as people the minute their first child is born. My husband is a father of three. But the only people who view him primarily as a dad are his own children. To everyone else he's the same person he was before, or whatever he's evolved into for them in the last ten years.

Maybe it's because he doesn't take the responsibility of full time parenting. Maybe it's the way the world turns things, and makes you fall into this or that category. Maybe it's because in the nearly ten years since my first child was born I have built my life around that role of motherhood, because it is my primary career. That's my full time job and it has no retirement date.

So, while I've been wandering around in prose, some of you may have stumbled through, thinking, 'So what's her friggin' point?' You can be a mom and still be a person. You can place raising your children as the highest of your priorities and still harbor dreams and chase ambition. I'll take it further still, you owe it to yourself and your children to be everything you can be, to do all that you can do, and to chase your happiness. My kids need my time and love and effort, and they get that. It means writing in the middle of the night and not having what some other lucky writers have - peace and quiet and support on their journey... That I can hack, right now it's a balance and that's okay. But putting them first doesn't mean I give up on me, it's only a detour.

I'm somebody's mother... But I'm not your mother, so you shouldn't see me as a mom, see me as a person. If you're going to judge me, judge me for me, not my label. If you're a writing mom, dad, just a blogging fool, and you have an opinion here, let me hear it - I'd love to discuss.


night lightning woman said...

I admire your focus so much. I couldn't do it. I was one of the first three women reporters in the city room at the Fort Worth Star Telegram. At the time, the Dallas Morning News--and many others--allowed NONE. I knew a heck of a lot more about writing than I knew about parenting, except that I had two good ones. I do think back in the early 70s, Day Care was better. My husband and I both had demanding jobs. Maybe it's fortunate we made about the same, but we agreed to devide the parenting. When our son was sick, we took turns on staying with him (sometimes even splitting days). If I had a late meeting, he picked up and fixed supper. Over time, I did take on more and more of the direct parenting, but for a long time it was equally shared. I am bemused by how many professional women I know today that automatically take off when the kids are sick, even when they make the primary income. During the 60s, women got into a lot of professions they had not able to previously, but it doesn't seem like much has happened to the dynamics between men and women. I still hear young women of excellent education saying their husband "lets" them do such and such. Huh. My mother married in the 1930s and she never used that one. Neither have I. I wonder about what we are teaching children today, what society's attitudes are. Personal responsibility is a must, whatever gender. You have taken it. You model it every day.
Your writing is indeed a joy, and I am returning more and more often, and any day now, my son will get it through my head how to link. It isn't rocket science. I just need to practice on a list of several I want to link. Have a day with at least one unexpected joy!

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Night Lightning Woman!

I stop in by you whenever I can, too. I don't know if we do it to ourselves or if it really just depends on the type of man you marry...

When I became pregnant with my oldest I decided to stay home. My husband knew my career goals, we were dating while I was embroiled in fiction writing courses with some relatively heavy page counts - it's not like he could miss it... but, I stayed home, aiming to raise my kids full time until they were all in school and then focus on my career.

Ten years will have passed this October. My youngest starts school in August and on a professional level, I am ten years behind where I would have been if I'd chosen differently... I wouldn't have chosen differently, but the point is that my husband got ten years ahead because I was the one manning the fort full time. He never got up with them in the middle of the night, never had to worry about getting a sitter or cancelling where he had to be... that was all on me.

I think I got the short end of the stick, though I'll admit it was my choice. At the same time, I think many women face this, especially ones that work from home. You have all of the responsibility of full time motherhood plus your career.

It's great that you had such a supportive husband... I've talked to a lot of writers who do have that and it allows them a lot less distraction.

jjdebenedictis said...

I'm just a blogging fool - and I have no kids.

However, this reminds me of something I discussed with a friend once.

She's lesbian, and she prefers that the word be used like that - as an adjective, not a noun. She doesn't like being called "a" lesbian, because that seems to imply it's all she is. She prefers "lesbian" to simply be one of many descriptions that could be applied to her - on par with "cheerful" or "bookish".

So you need to define yourself as "mom-ish", rather than "a mom". :-)

Merry Jelinek said...

Oh my, I don't know about 'mom-ish' - that sounds like the chick with the soccer mom haircut wearing pleated jeans that come up past her navel and a hand painted sweatshirt... ughhh...

I like dropping the 'a' and making it 'I'm lesbian' though - kind of like you'd say your nationality or religion.

By the way, blogging fools welcome anytime. Thanks for stopping and chatting.

Jaye Wells said...

I've definitely struggled with this idea myself. Thanks for posting this.

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Jaye,

Thanks for stopping and reading. I just found your blog in the last few days and have been enjoying it quite a bit.

Jaye Wells said...

Oh yeah and thanks for the linkage. I've added you to my list too.

Jerseygirl89 said...

Excellent post! I think sometimes we moms forget that we're more than moms too, especially if we stay home. I joined a playgroup a few weeks ago and I still don't know what any of the other moms did before becoming moms. Isn't that sad?
Also, my cousin (who is gay) just wrote a blog about not being defined by his sexuality (
and it never even occurred to me that our situations were similar.

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Jerseygirl,

That was a good article by your cousin - I especially liked his elevator response, though you should have warned me not to drink coffee while reading it.

Stay at home moms, I think, have a harder time adjusting to self image as well as outside image. When this is all you do (massive though the full time job of raising children is) it's hard to see yourself as anything but 'mom'. So maybe the rest of the world follows suit.

I find it interesting, though, that men don't have that problem. Being a dad is just an extra facet of what they are, not the whole definition... but then, they are often judged by their job title or bank balance, and maybe it's the same thing.

The Anti-Wife said...

I think being a mom is the hardest job in the world. That's why I have dogs! I think when you don't have kids, it's easier to see moms as people rather than an extension of their children because we don't have the same perspective as other moms do. So, you're a person to me.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and voting on my house color. I'll let you know what I decide.

Merry Jelinek said...

anti wife,

Thanks so much for stopping by! I loved your latest blog on internet dating... couldn't think of anything suitably sarcastic to comment - but the bumpersticker is awesome.