When your kids get to a certain age, they start the "Mommmm!!!" scream and it doesn't stop for many, many years. Women who have children will relate to this - being in a store (any kind of store), alone...no children... holding up a sweater or a blouse or a head of lettuce, when that sound invades her head and... yes, even though she's alone, she turns to reply. Why? Because the primal call of "Mooommmmm!!!" is universal. Women who have children respond to it - no matter who's mouth it comes out of.
I'm happy to say this does diminish over time. I have not had a little kid around (other than grandkid) for about 20 years, and I finally no longer turn when I hear the lamenting of a child in a store or other public place. I smile, continue whatever it is I'm doing, and thank the good lord that it isn't my kid.
I'm reminded of this by this article in The Daily Beast: "Don't Call Me a Mom: Why It's Time for Women to Drop that Identity."
I was amused by the rantings of Amy Reiter. Poor thing. She has two school-aged children and she's a bit worried that she's lost her identity. While at the hairdresser recently she experienced the dreaded "I am what the world sees me as - and that's a Mom, cause I have kids."
She writes, "Never mind that I had spent almost two decades building a career as a writer, that I took pains to engage in the world as a person with interests that went way beyond diapers and sleep schedules and preschools (parenting topics that, as far as I knew, I’d never discussed with my single, childless hairdresser), and that I was right then thinking not of my two small kids (whom my husband was watching), but of all the projects I’d slipped away from in order to get a quick midweek trim. As far as this woman—who I paid, after all, to help shape the image I presented to the world—was concerned, I was defined by none of this.
Regardless of how many angles and dimensions I saw in that mirror, she looked at me and simply saw a mother."
Sadly, Amy thinks men don't go through this. I think they do. When out at their kids' sporting events or dance recitals or school meetings, Dad is still just Dad. To the kids, to their friends, to their friends' parents, to the teachers, etc, etc. Whatever Dad does for a living may be part of his persona, and it may be recognized in a tangential way, but... he's still just Dad. And, they have a legitimate gripe also - they rarely get credit for doing as much as they do. (although, they don't get blamed, either - aren't all psychological problems the mother's fault?)
For Moms, we're the primary care-giver, generally. I've known my share of so called Moms who were not the primary caregiver. For the sake of this conversation, let's say, Moms are recognized as separate from whatever else they are by virtue of their... ability to give birth. This is not something men can do or will ever do. Despite popular movies.
Moms are the life-givers. The nurturers. It's something we do. Even when we're not inclined to. Well, often when we're not inclined to. Women like to 'help'.
Men like to 'get helped'. Just yesterday, Dr. Phil had a whole show on the disparity in most marriages around household chores - men just do less. (not at my house - without asking, Tom does his fair share and more... I'm spoiled!) It's 2012, almost, and many men still believe women's work ... is cleaning, cooking, taking care of the kids, and...being Mom. Unfortunately, too many women let them get away with that - they don the mantle of Mom as if it's a Queens cape.
Amy tells us, "Dads get to “have it both ways” in terms of identity, says Nathan Thornburgh, cofounder of the blog DadWagon. “We want to be recognized as fathers, but we do—thanks in large part to leftover social conceptions—have the ability to be chameleons about it,” he says. “Once we leave the home or the playground, we get to be captains of industry, drunks, amateur fishermen, whatever the hell we want to be.”
As someone who's been there, done that... I have to say, Oh really? And women don't get to do that? Yes, we do. It's just that... we don't. Do it, that is. We display that 'Mom' label on our foreheads when we go out and we use it; 'have to get going,' we say...when we really don't have to get going. 'have to get back to the kids - he's so helpless!' we say, when he isn't... 'i would have called you back,' we say, 'but the baby was crying and i had to get dinner started and...' whatever. None of it is true. It's a great excuse to get out of one thing or another. And, no one ever questions it.
Oh sure, women of a certain age are viewed as Moms, whether they are Moms or not. But, men of a certain age are viewed as... husbands and/or dads...it's just the way life is. Human beings are expected to ... act like everyone else and get married and have kids. Jeesh! What's wrong with that? (yes, there is sarcasm there)
In the end, your Mom persona is what you make of it, ladies. I felt a kinship to Amy for the most part. I remember being there. Looking back, I realize that it was MY choice to be viewed that way. To Amy's hairdresser, she was a "mom" as opposed to anything else - maybe because Amy talked a whole lot about her kids??? I don't know. In other circles, I imagine Amy is considered writer, traveller, or whatever she chooses.
What really upset me was the comments. The snarky, nasty, unnecessarily rude people who acted like Amy wasn't entitled to feel the way she does. Damn it! She feels that way and she shared why and if you don't get it, just shut up.
To Amy, I have a little advice - take charge. Let the world know who you are. But, treasure these moments. Your Mom life will someday outshine everything else you do. Your abilities and your life will be enhanced by having those two kids and by challenging the world to remember the other important facets of your being.