I am more than the sum of my two children. I am a person in my own right.
There, I’ve said it out loud: my mantra on the frequent occasions when I feel like a vanquished comic book character—The Invisible Mom. Drowning under a sea of banal chores and endless errands, I must strive to maintain a sense of self, or I might easily morph into that reluctant superheroine … The Facilitator. No job too mundane. No task too demeaning. No thanks expected.
There are many facets to being a mother, and on the privileged Westside of Los Angeles, where many of us don’t have to work for a living; we’ve silently agreed to keep to the pact that we are all utterly fulfilled by our lot. For some, this conspiracy is easier than for others. I know many, perfectly nice women who are completely satisfied with the task of creating perfect lives for their perfect children.
It really isn’t their fault, because children are like parasites. We give, give, give, and they take, take, take. I once made that statement at a ladies coffee and, unbeknownst to me, I was silently damned by many of those present. I have since learned to voice my true opinions only when I am in like-minded company. I believe that there are others like me. Hell, I know a grand total of two who mirror my opinions. We are mothers who love our children without question, but who have (or crave for) their own identity beyond their offspring. Popular opinion appears to dictate that any mother who does not devote herself, selflessly and entirely to enhancing the lives of her children is not doing her job.
I spend a healthy amount of time away from my children. Since my boys were infants I have left them with a nanny and waved a cheery goodbye, skipping down the driveway as I depart for an overseas adventure with my husband. He and I need ‘us’ time. Sure, we have a lot of ‘them and us’ time but every once in a while we need to reconnect. Alone. Together. However, I know people who never leave the house without kids in tow. These parents are with their children 24/7 until they are obliged, by law, to drop the little darlings off at school. These are the people you see in nice restaurants attempting to have a cozy dinner while appeasing a crying infant. Small wonder that their children are often clingy and uncomfortable being left with anyone else.
I have an urge to tell these mothers, “It’s not too late. You can get a sitter. You don’t have to do everything family style. Your kids will not die if they miss an activity/party/play date because you found something that you would rather do instead of drive them around.”
I struggle to comprehend why one (including me) would choose to attend the umpteenth, Fourth Grade Football game of the season (where the child spends the majority of his time on the bench) rather than choose, say, an afternoon at the spa, a peaceful hike, or to simply sit through a leisurely lunch without worrying how late they will be to kick off. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my time on the sidelines—it’s just that I have no burning desire to be there for every, single, game.
The trick is to find a balance between being a ‘professional’ mother and preserving a sense of self. The self that went to college, was respected professionally and voiced original thoughts and opinions.
Yes, having something to say for yourself is just as important after your become a mother than it was back when you were a fully functioning individual. There is nothing more soul destroying than sitting at dinner with women whose sole conversation revolves around their kids/school. I’m sure that’s why God invented Martinis—to help people like me make it through those long evenings. The purpose of a night out with other adults is to focus on being just that, so let’s talk about Manolos not math tutors, and Presidential candidates instead of pediatricians. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying watching jaws drop as I pass the time at cocktail parties regaling guests with the details of my recent marathon. I relish describing the hours I spent away from home during training, the ice baths, which aren’t for the faint hearted, the fact that my kids made it back to school after Spring Break courtesy of our nanny since while their parents were in Paris.
By the way, if you were to catch either of my kids in an off-guarded moments, you might hear them blurt out the positive things they feel about their folks. On occasion, they both acknowledge how extremely proud they are of their mum. They don’t have any friends whose mums behave like theirs and they celebrate that.
To use an agricultural analogy, there is a sheep element at play here. While I have acknowledged that some mothers are born into and thoroughly relish their role, I suspect that there are many others who are too weak or scared to exhibit the slightest sniff of individuality. They follow the rest of the flock for fear of being singled out and thus let each other down by pretending that they are content. For every woman who genuinely rejoices at the slightest sniff of a homework project that requires her input, I believe there is another who is not so overjoyed at the prospect of creating the state flag of Mississippi from liquorices laces and pipe cleaners.
Yet, I feel like a lone voice speaking out against the tyranny of social convention. “No, no, no—I do not want to go to the craft supply store and buy the wherewithal so that my little treasures can construct hand made holiday cards. I want to buy a big, convenient boxful of the things, preferably pre-printed with a heartfelt sentiment from my nearest and dearest to yours.” I’d rather poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick than cajole my boys into this kind of craft—they have way too much testosterone to engage in that kind of activity. And this is where God comes in again. He created all sorts of short cuts for people like me so that we don’t have to drive ourselves to insanity and back competing with people like them, the mothers who bake their own cookies from scratch and hand sew name labels into their kids’ clothing.
So, on Mothers’ Day this year, the big question, along with who will be the Democratic nominee, has to be—how do we mothers live in peace and harmony with our individuality when we live amongst the Bree Van Der Kamps (Desperate Housewives)? How do we reconcile our desires to be good mothers and yet at the same time fulfill our inner Carrie Bradshaw (Sex & the City)?
Perhaps we should call a truce and have mothers do as they damn well please. Whether that be showing up at every single sports fixture that their offspring attend, or doing precisely the opposite. While one soccer mom I know says there’s nowhere else she’d rather be on Mothers’ Day than at her kid’s tournament, this mother is heartily delighted that the game never got scheduled. Now I can get on with my plans to spend the day as I think all mothers should; doing things entirely for meeeeee!