The Mom Mystique
I know that Betty Friedan brilliantly coined the term The Feminine Mystique. Her book came out at a time when women were voicing their dissatisfaction with simply being moms and housewives. Friedan’s book is often credited with starting the feminist movement.
I also know that Rosie the Riveter sparked an earlier feminist wave in which women worked the factories while the men went off to fight in World War II. It was the first time women in droves truly held jobs outside the home. And liked it.
No, this isn’t a book report.
My revelation is I never realized that being a stay-at-home mom, which I largely am, is a very recent phenomenon. Which is why parts of it feel unnatural to me.
Don’t get me wrong: I love being with my kids. I love the fact that I have such flexibility in my schedule. I had a successful TV career. I don’t want to be a desperate TV person, trying to hold onto a career that is so different now anyway. Good hosting jobs, which actually pay decent and cover interesting topics (i.e.: not reality TV crap) are few and far between. I’m not saying I will never go back to TV–and I do gigs here and there–but I refuse to be clawing to stay in the game. Not to mention the countless auditions it can entail. It’s all so exhausting and often fruitless, it makes me want to barf.
What doesn’t make me nauseous is writing. I picture myself as an author down the road. Or at least trying to be, once the kids are in school full time. That’s one of the reasons I keep doing this blog: to exercise that muscle in my brain. I don’t have the discipline to do it on my own.
But having said that, I can’t escape my type-A personality. Nor can I escape the blueprint of my life. I’ve always been a go-getter. So when I say I love being with my kids, what I mean, besides that blanket statement–is that I love “doing” things with them. Whether it’s adventures to our secret forest, watering the lawn, or baking with Fia, I like teaching them and accomplishing things at the same time. I actually love clean up. It is therapeutic for me to help sort the toys into different categories with them. Strange, I know. But remember, I had hypnotherapy to cure my cleaning compulsion.
What I don’t love is playing Legos. Or dolls. At least for an extended amount of time. Sure, 15 minutes here, 30 minutes (maybe) there…but all day? No way. I would lose my mind. (And thank god Fia doesnt’ like dolls yet. I never did. Maybe she will be like me.)
I went to a new therapist this week. I decided two years without someone to bounce ideas off in a neutral setting was long enough. We sold our Brooklyn apartment last month. We bought a house out here. It was time to put my roots down in California.
The woman I met with seemed, well, for lack of a better word: brilliant. In our first session I gave her a very condensed snapshot of my life. Manic depressive, drug and alcohol addicted mother (now deceased), narcissistic father who, with my step mom, labeled food in our house growing up so we wouldn’t eat the name brand stuff (No relationship with them anymore), two adopted siblings, blah blah blah.
Married, never wanted kids, cool career, traveled the world, then decided to have kids, then pow–best decision ever– and now–my life as a mom.
So here I am telling her how I yearn for my kids when I’m not with them but when I’m with them all day, every day, I realize why I need sitters. It is my paradox.
She then dropped this incredibly enlightening fact into my lap.
“You know that a mom alone with her kids is a new concept, right?”
“No, I don’t. What do you mean?”
“Think about it,” she said. “Before WWII, families were mostly together all day. Moms were doing things with their kids. But not Legos. They were tilling the fields while the kids played nearby. They were cooking the meals with the grandmas and the aunts while the kids were in eyesight or earshot. This whole concept of a big house alone with your kids goes against all of our natural instincts that date back to caveman days/the beginning of time. ”
Well, holy shit. Please hit me over the head with a frying pan. How did I never realize that?
She’s not saying it was easy. But I am guessing most of those moms didn’t feel guilty for their daily accomplishments while their kids played in the fields. Those accomplishments are what helped them literally survive each day.
In modern times it’s basically why the “play date” was invented. But instead of doing/accomplishing stuff, we are just chatting with our mom friends while chasing our kids around the playground. Which isn’t a bad happy medium, but it’s no wonder I don’t feel super accomplished at the end of each day.
She also pointed out that we live in a manic world. And what happens to manics? Having grown up with one, I got an A+.
“They crash,” I said.
“Exactly,” she replied. “Our mood swings are all over the place because we, as a society with technology, are all over the place.”
I’ve written about the Facebook Depression before and how I have largely broken my tech addiction (which has been damn cool). But if you put it all together–the frantic nature of our society, coupled with how we as humans, moms, communities, etc, evolved, it all makes total sense. Depression and anxiety rates have never been higher. It seems so obvious to me now. Not to mention I had kids late in life. It’s different when you’re procreating at 22 and haven’t “lived” yet.
All this to say, I have a new perspective on my mom guilt and the mystique of my emotions as a mom. My paradoxes make sense. They are still here, but with the help of this therapist and some new realizations, I’m hoping to alleviate a lot of it. Or at least comes to terms with why I sometimes feel the way I do. Because this guilt sh-t has got to go. It’s a waste of space in my already crowded brain.
At least for today I have accomplished a lot. I have partially cracked the mom mystique code. And took Fia to get a haircut. It may not be tilling a field, but I’m quite satisfied with myself.
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Tags: babysitters, Betty Friedan, feminist movement, Industrial Revolution, mom dates, mom guilt, nanny, play dates, Rosie the Riveter, sahm, stay at home mom, woman's movement, World War II | Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Moving to Los Angeles, Must Read