“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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Comments

  1. OK…the title of my blog, changed after my daughter was born contains the word “Mommy.” I do not belong to any mommy groups or any thing like that. The biggest community I belong to is this one, the ALI community and PAIL. My blog is about my life, including my daughter, but also about my struggle with IF to get my daughter and as we try for our second child. I think the idea of “MOMMYHOOD” where women take it to extremes, the whole “Well, I’m a mom” shit drives me insane.
    I am a woman. I am a wife, daughter, sister, friend, nurse and yes a mother. Yes, I wanted more than anything to be a mom, but there is so much more to me than being a mother. I agree with your feelings: “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.” However, I don’t now feel magically better or more of a woman because I have a child. I am happier than I was before I had my daughter, but that had to do with depression resulting from feelings of failure. And well, my daughter brings me a lot of joy.
    As for feeling strain to build my family, I think the only person putting pressure on me to build my family was and still is me. Motherhood was something I wanted so badly, but not because of how women were/are portrayed on tv or in movies, but because in my heart that is all I ever wanted to be. I never had a burning desire for a career. I chose the job I did because it offered a great deal of flexibility if I were ever lucky enough to have children. I also chose the field of nursing I did for the exposure to families and babies should I never have had any of my own. I respect those women who want the career. I’m grateful for them, I just don’t want to be them. I’m happy being a homemaker and perpetuating the June Cleavers of the world, but I’m so much more than just a mommy.

  2. I’m having a really hard time with this and have been for awhile because I think being a mother IS defining me as a woman. It’s something I want (and wanted) very much, and NOT because of societal pressure, but I’ve found it very, very difficult to be the mother I want to be and to be all of the other things I’m expected (and usually want) to be. I wrote about it: http://fullbed.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/obsessed-with-motherhood/

    • I also want to add that the fact that a fifth of women, and even more college-educated women, do not have children says something about the increasing societal acceptance of that choice. On the other hand, in a country where fertility treatments are rarely covered by insurance and high-quality childcare is rare and exorbitantly priced, it seems risky to say motherhood should be valued even less. All that being said, I could use a few less celebrity baby bumps staring me down in the checkout aisle.

  3. Wooooow. This post (and Keiko’s, and Pam’s) all kind of blew my mind today. SO MUCH to think about. And I keep trying to reply to it and can’t… I delete and try again. I don’t know what to say about myself in terms of the “mommy blogger” thing without insulting myself or sounding insufferable, but I guess I am both a mommy blogger and an ALI blogger, and someday I’ll be an “and other stuff too” blogger…

    • Yes! Mission accomplished. It was these posts today (specifically a conversation with Pamela about my acceptance of Mommyhood Culture) that inspired a more complete dialogue and gave she and I the idea to expand this into a full week’s Salon.

  4. Loved this discussion. I didn’t really think of it in terms of blogging but I am an ALI blogger who writes about her baby. I don’t qualify for the mummy blogger thing!

  5. I struggle with this all the time: how to categorize myself as a blogger (because the feedback at BlogHer was: you need to tell an easy story! Me: uh….it’s about a bunch of things, infertility, loss, parenting after infertility, lifestyle: cue the eye-glazing.) and the ever growing paranoia that the culture of 50s women is back, that homemaking is being put on a pedestal. Lots to unpack indeed. Thanks for this post: I identify with it a lot.

Trackbacks

  1. […] topics being thrown around with PAIL asking about an obsession with babies to today’s Open Salon question “the queendom of […]

  2. […] highlighted Keiko and Pamela’s posts about the Queendom of Mommyhood. (Jules’ aside: Keiko’s post on this topic made me need to take a moment and get […]

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