Friday, November 10, 2006

Mom in a Box

The latest post on Suburban Bliss got me thinking about something I’ve thought about before, but she really seemed to hit the nail on the head with this statement:

“We kind of couldn't be friends because it seemed, from her incredulous comments, that she didn't understand how people could incorporate versions of their former selves into their current life as mothers and wives.”

There seem to be some mothers who become almost completely different people once they have children. I've heard them referred to as the mombots. My friend called them “the women who are defined by the fact that they have children.”

When you become a mom it's like someone comes screaming into your neighborhood saying, "THERE'S A TORNADO COMING!" And you have 30 seconds to decide what you keep and what you leave behind to replace with something else. Not that pregnancy equals impending doom, but it does mean HUGE LIFE CHANGE AHEAD and everything happens relatively quickly. I am not trying to sound like I have it all figured out, because I’m still fairly new at all this, so what the heck do I know? It just got me thinking and I thought I’d share.

When I found out I was pregnant, I had a clear picture in my mind of what being a good mother meant, taken from old Betty Crocker cookbooks and Donna Reed reruns. Immediately, I went from being a complete slob to having a place that looked like some kind of uptight freak lived there. Without even giving it any thought, I started trying to stuff myself into a little box.

It was like I knew what I had to do to be a good mother and it was almost a complete reversal from what I had been doing for the rest of my life. After about 18 months, I started feeling like something was off. In my previous life as a non-control freak, I liked art and reading and I wrote a lot. However, those frivolous things had to go when I entered into the joys of motherhood, which involved a lot of cleaning products and nagging and wringing of hands. Of course there were amazingly good things too, but you know that's not really what this post is about. There are plenty of other posts on here about those things.

I remember sitting outside of Pier One with my friend after we had been doing artsy things all day and I was a wreck because I felt so torn between being true to myself and being the spawn of Betty Crocker. To shorten a drawn out tale of self-awareness that would probably send you permanently away from my blog, I will summarize by saying that I am trying to stop stuffing myself into a box, because life on the outside is good.


Russell Ragsdale said...

I like the image of the tornado. The question for me seems to hinge on are you comfortable to share yourself with your children. Is there something about you they shouldn't see either now or later (one must really examine this type of thing). Also, about the "wake up call," which is where you realize there are things about yourself that are outdated and you can change them now (such as things you used to do to get attention from your parents) to make your life more what you want and less somebody else's box. The tightening of the steriotypic chains, though, never really teaches your kids things that matter to you and will matter to them.

Jessi Louise said...

Thanks for the insightful comments. I definitely don't think it's a good idea to completely be the same person you were before you had kids, because there are things that are better off left unknown to them. It is a big process for me, figuring out what you want your children to know you stand for.

Russell Ragsdale said...

I don't know anybody this hasn't been a big process for. Everybody has lots of boxes but when there are the eyes of you child watching, everybody tends to start examining and sorting through the areas their self-awarenesss will let them see. You're just doing the normal job of a mom but, of course, that feels pretty weird in the begining. Thanks for sharing your process with us.

Samilja (formerly Mama Pajama) said...

Great post, Weeza. This is indeed something I really struggled (struggle) with and for me, YOU hit the nail on the head. The thing is, even though they'll sometimes be exposed to the 'warts', our kids will do far better to see their moms/parents engaged in their lives and pursuing passions rather than living a life of symbolic design and perceived obligation. I absolutely agree that in some respects we have to 'clean up our act' post-parenthood but that's editing, not reinventing.

Jessi Louise said...

Samilja, it's good to see you back! And you make some good points. It is like a process of editing yourself and re-examining your life. I felt a little lost at first and I still feel like I'm trying to find the right way. Glad to hear you can relate!

TaterTot said...

Excellent! This one got me thinking.

Sometimes I miss the things I left behind when I had children and other times I don't. My personality or "who I am" I don't think has changed since I became a mother as much as the things I do, or the things I enjoy doing has.

Jessi Louise said...

That's true. Being a mother gives you a whole new view. Most of the things I enjoy doing now involve them.