Yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers and authors, Rachel Held Evans, wrote a post titled: “Why Moms Sorta Scare Me,” in which she compared the current culture of motherhood to fundamentalism. She explained that as she, a happily married woman of 29, nears the age of baby-making, she doesn’t fear the idea of children, she fears the culture of mommyhood (especially as she’s seen it in the blogosphere). “Having been exposed to the religious fundamentalism of Bible Belt culture all my life, I recognize the symptoms: the pride, the fear, the huddling together, the ostracizing of the ‘other.’ From cloth diapers to attachment parenting to vaccinations to sleep schedules, the fundamentalist sees parenting decisions not as preferences but as absolutes.”
Her entire post is completely worth reading. What I found most interesting, though, were the comments. As I write this, it’s 7 hours since she posted it and there are already 76 comments. Several of them are from women who have not had children who feel either ostracized or simply annoyed by that community. (I understand, I’m tired enough of hearing fellow moms talk about breastfeeding and preschools, and those things actually pertain to my life.) There were older mothers sharing their regrets for the parenting phenomenons they wish they hadn’t bought into (ie not rocking their babies to sleep in the midst of BabyWise’s heyday.) And there were both the moms and non-moms (and a step mom) all feeling judged in the church for varying aspects of their motherhood/non-motherhood. I was amazed how many emotions were stirred by one post.
What I found most disturbing though, was a thought posted by a woman with older children. She essentially said that she fears the day when Rachel has a child and her blog changes, becoming less interesting to all those not in her stage of life. Right now Rachel is politically and socially aware, a critic of the often absurd culture of Christianity on America, and always thoughtful. The thought that someone might actually be afraid that motherhood would make Rachel uninteresting really prickled my feathers. And then I stopped and wondered if, maybe, I’m less interesting.
Of course, being the completely self-absorbed woman I am, I had to have that thought, right? I never had a blog or tried to write a book in my days pre-children so I don’t know what kind of “writer” I would have been. And when I think logically about this woman’s comment, I recognize that of course I can’t help but be marked by my motherhood. But her comment made me really self-conscious. I couldn’t help but wonder how often you all (dear readers) are sick of hearing my complaints about pregnancy or toddlerhood or this “season of life,” (I know, I know, I love that phrase). And I know there are those of you out there who are not moms or even women and yet continue to read this blog. That’s a shocker in itself and I can’t believe (honestly) that I don’t drive you crazy with my inability to stop talking about motherhood.
But at the same time, I’ve never been the girl who wants to talk breastfeeding or attachment parenting or (it won’t stop lately!) preschools. I’d much rather discuss things that aren’t already filling up my brain all day long. (Then again, I was the girl in my twenties at dinner parties who tried to secretly stay in the men’s conversation when the “split” would begin to happen. Big generalization here: but their conversations were almost always theology or books or politics. It was only when it turned to sports that I purposefully joined the ladies’ conversation.)
All that to say, I understand. And though I don’t want to be the woman who used to be interesting before she became a mom, I have to be honest with myself about this stage of my life. My world is full of little ones. My head is full of decisions I need to make on August’s behalf, from what he will eat for lunch to how I will force him to sit on the potty to how I am loving and nudging him toward kindness and gentleness and justice.
What does that mean I’ve become? I hope it means I have more layers, that I can see the world in a kind of clarity I didn’t have three years ago before I had kids, even if having children has obscured my vision in other ways. And I hope that as I love-nudge August toward the man he ought to be, I will also become kind and gentle and able to have compassion on all the various “mommy camps” of the world, whether or not I’m aligned with them.