You don’t know me

04.20.09 | motherhood | 19 Comments

Ode to my man . . .

Who doesn’t see my stretch marks (or ignores them).
Who doesn’t see my apron of spare tummy flesh that jiggles over my pants (or ignores it).
Whose eyes gleam quite flatteringly at the sight of my flabby white chest.
Who forgives my laziness, my yelling, my unreasonable, irrational, and variable discontent.
Who lets me be me, and loves me anyway.

If you don’t read Dick’s blog, you probably missed his post in response to the Penelope Trunk post* I tweeted/Facebooked about. Brock left a comment on this blog saying he feels like he gets the motherhood angst that his wife (one of my best friends from high school) feels. I think I understand what he’s saying, and of course Melinda’s motherhood angst is different from mine. Melinda, after all, worked for a special government agency doing special things before her children were born. And Melinda, more importantly, is a better all-around person than I am.

But for me, one of the regrets I sometimes I have about motherhood is the not-knowing what I could have done otherwise. Motherhood, for me, is a commitment to my children that excludes some other endeavors, at this time, at this point, in this place. I cannot be the kind of mother I want to be and also explore other things I would like to do, and since I became a mother at 23, and since I wanted to become a mother before that, it is something of a way of life. It is, for better or worse, who I have become.

And I don’t know how any person who does not plan this sort of way of being a parent could possibly understand what it is like to look back, occasionally, and wonder, what if?

When I had Sally, I went back to work for eighteen months, and Dick stayed home during the day and did his master’s degree in the afternoon and evening. This worked out tremendously well for us, but I wish that I had learned from how Dick went about being a stay-at-home father. He didn’t have the same commitment to stay-at-home parenting that I do now. He didn’t spend any energy on forging an identity for himself as a stay-at-home parent. He read and wrote and graded during the day. He took good care of our daughter, and talked with other parents at the park, but he was never emotionally invested in creating a place for himself in the world in that role. It was just something he did.

I think for me to survive and thrive as a mother, as a stay-at-home parent, which is how I have chosen to go about being a mother, I have to create an identity for myself. I have to be able to glorify, on the one hand, the great parts of my job, and I have to be able to grouse, on the other hand, about the terrible potty-training parts. Because if I didn’t think being a mother, as being a stay-at-home parent, was the most important thing I could be doing right now, I would not do it. And if I did not have an outlet for the un-happy parts of parenting, I would stick a fork in the artery that beats between my collar bone and my neck.

What I loved about Penelope Trunk’s article was that she said that being a stay-at-home parent is a choice. No matter how “poor” you are, you can be a stay-at-home parent if you want to. And she said that people do what they really want to do. So, I am doing what I really want to do, even if some days it doesn’t seem like it. Which is the other thing I liked about her article — what I have been describing as ambivalence for years, she calls “competing feelings.”

It’s okay to have competing feelings about something. Ambivalence makes it sound like I don’t care enough about either thing to be able to choose between them, or that I don’t either love OR hate stay-at-home motherhood enough to be able to lay it to rest already. But the truth is I care too much. I am passionately, intensely wed to the role I play in my children’s lives, and I am also desperately eager to do something else, something in addition.

Dick’s post (you should go read it) is about how we view our own roles and each others’ in limited ways. We’re quite traditional around here. I did not expect this domesticity and child-rearing when I was younger, but as soon as I met Dick, I started thinking about having a baby. I know that it is what I’m meant to do, what I’m meant to be, right now, but I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else.

Ode to my man . . .
Who, though he understands me better than any other person on earth, would never try to tell me he does.


*Penolope Trunk does go a bit bat-poop crazy in her post. I’m not advocating all of her methods, I just adore how she talks about motherhood, and the one reference to you-know-what? BRILLIANT.