“to mom or not to mom” – day 3: the queendom of mommyhood

It’s Day 3 of the “To Mom or Not to Mom” Open Salon hosted by Keiko of The Infertility Voice and Pamela of Silent Sorority.

Today’s topic: The Culture of Motherhood in America, or “The Queendom of Mommyhood”

Please be sure to read Keiko’s post “The Queendom of Mommyhood: In Which I Claim my Crown” and Pamela’s post “The Unintended Consequences of Placing Moms on Pedestals” for different takes on the subject and join the discussion on their blogs.

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I am not very adept at discussing cultural issues, particularly with respect to women. I am not appropriately well-read or thick-skinned. To wit, I just read The Feminine Mystique last month, and rather than have the reaction I thought I supposed to have (Empowerment! Sisterhood! Etc!) I felt a lot like I did the first time I read 1984. The feeling of “This was written a LONG time ago, but it eerily about NOW. Holy hell.” And that is the sum total of my comment on that book. I get it – I do. I understand the issues, both in my country and internationally, but I am simply not eloquent or brave enough to discuss my viewpoints necessarily. Enter Keiko and Pamela’s post today. Both provide very good food for thought and a starting point for me to unpack my thoughts in a more focused way, which I fully intend to do when I revisit both later.

I am not really sure what to say about “mommyhood” in America. To begin with, I am not American (and yes, Canada is similar, but not the same thankyouverymuch). I am also really not fond of the word “mommy” – I just don’t like it for a number of reasons. I am not into “mommy” things, or groups, or whatever. I don’t really care about gear, or obsess over milestones, or defend my parenting to the death. I would not call myself a “mommyblogger” but I don’t think I would classify myself as an infertility blogger either. I think I exist somewhere in the nebulous region between them because I cannot separate the two. I am not online to build a brand, or gain followers, or what have you – I don’t have a vision, basically. I’m not very interesting, or brave, or whatever it takes to write a “big blog”. I blog about parenting and infertility/loss for community (which I don’t doubt the big bloggers do too) because I cannot tailor this kind of support in real life. A “mommy group” IRL based on geography and birthing months is not exactly conducive to the kind of community I require, if you feel me.

That being said, I see where Keiko is coming from in her post. There should be spaces online, and in this community, where there is a big old mute button on the Mommy channel. But that is also not only okay, but necessary to embrace the transition to “mommydom” should your resolution lead you there. The transition from an ALI blog to a parenting blog is extraordinarily difficult and is handled with different degrees of comfort and grace across the blogosphere. Each case is different. It is fair to transition. It is fair to open a new space. It is fair to stop blogging. Each according to their needs – each according to their abilities. Our main goal at PAIL, is to encourage folks to keep talking, because we firmly believe that this part of the journey matters too. The ALI journey is not linear, but fluid – the healing is complicated.

Pamela’s post really got under my skin though – right from the get go. Oooooh I love me some MTM! I have so many thoughts to collect, and did so much nodding. I think she is right – there are not adequate roles models for girls and woman on television, in every arena, but particularly women whose identities are not defined by their mothering status. This quotation in particular struck me:

In my lifetime women have gone from being celebrated for all of their unique gifts to being celebrated for their reproductive output.

I know that for a long time, I defined myself by my total and complete lack of reproductive output. I felt completely useless and broken as a woman, despite my accomplishments, and in spite all the other wonderful things and people  in my life. I was less than a woman because I could not have a baby. I agree that the cultural obsession with motherhood (as a defining identity) is not healthy. I simply do not care about new celebrity mom Kristen Whatshernuts from that show. Does anyone? Does it need to be EVERYWHERE? I steer clear of a lot of parenting “literature” explicit or not, and I am not sure why. But I am beginning to have a clue. Yes, I am mother. But I am a lot of other things too. I wonder, what fives words, in what order, would I use to describe myself if I did not already have this topic on the brain. Would I say “mother” first? Is that how I define myself, or is it how I define myself in this phase of my life? Now that I have the “title” I desperately longed for, is that *all* I am? It’s a thinker.

There is a lot to unpack in both of these posts – everything from economics, to what we teach our daughters about identity and self-value. I encourage you to head over, read them, and add your thoughts to both. I plan to.

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What is your take on the “culture of mommyhood”? (Yes – this is a very broad question!)

Do/did you feel added strain and pressure to build your family because of these cultural expectations (outside of typical family pressures)?

How do you define yourself as woman? Has this shifted now that you are parenting? Did your path to parenting influence how you define yourself as a woman?

Do you consider yourself a “mommyblogger”? An ALI blogger? Both? Neither?

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If you have posted about this topic before, or if you are inspired to talk about it now, please provide the URL of your post  in the comments below, or simply post a comment and share your thoughts with us.

And of course, please visit the hosts of this event, and read their Day 3 posts:  Keiko’s  “The Queendom of Mommyhood: In Which I Claim my Crown” and Pamela’s “The Unintended Consequences of Placing Moms on Pedestals

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