The first few months of Alex’s life, we were a stumbling mess of exhaustion and scattered hormonal reactions to Hallmark commercials and VH1 reality TV. Okay, when I say, “we” I mean “me.”
I wasn’t prepared for the way that motherhood would slam up against me – body and heart and mind. It was a tidal wave that left piles of wet diapers against the wall in my bedroom, because at two AM, the walk to the diaper genie was just that much too far.
What saved me, honestly, was writing. And I don’t mean, writing about the hard facts of walking face first into the concrete wall of never fully and soundly sleeping again, giving up fun nights out for sweatpants and Blockbuster rentals, hope you enjoyed your adult freedoms while they lasted, sucker – confusion.
No, it was the writing that I did that had nothing to do with me as a mom at all. And it might not have been the act of writing itself, but the act of attending the MFA program that forced me to do something, to be something, outside of Alex’s mom. As an added, bonus, it was being enrolled in a program that forced me to read and to talk about art and literature and ideas larger than myself, larger than overflowing hampers and a diaper wall.
I read Alice Munro and Grace Paley. I read Sylvia Plath and ee. cummings. I read Dostoevsky and Hemmingway. I read and I talked about what I read. I wrote and talked with others about what I wrote. I went to art museums. I spent entire days out, apart from my baby, and, unless someone asked if I had children, I didn’t tell. Because, for those blessed days when I was either in a class, or the one time I took an entire week and went to a writer’s conference, I was only Melanie. Not Alex’s mom. Not the twenty-five year old woman who just had her first baby.
Ten years into motherhood, into sleepless nights and stained clothing, overflowing diaper piles, years of school buses turned homeschool dining room tables, fights over who spilled what and whose turn it is to eat out of the I Scream You Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream bowl – I’m spent. I am just plain tired out.
My social media feed is clogged, often, with motherhood related articles, questions, boards, updates. Things that I think that I could have maybe plugged into more, if they had existed when I was still that new mom who needed support.
But, I’m going to be honest. I don’t read (m)any of them. Months ago, I lamented to a friend that I’m just done with and bored by, writing about motherhood, and with reading about it too.
Until yesterday, I took a chance and read this article Our ‘Mommy’ Problem, shared by a fellow mother and writer and friend (and someone who has also written, herself, about the need for creative space, outside of motherhood). And, as it struck a chord for me, I realized, this is where I am.
I’m sort of becoming an anti-mommy mom. Not in any bitter or condescending sense. I don’t see anything wrong with embracing mommyhood in whatever way brings you joy. If Pinterest-inspired lunch box creations or elaborate birthday parties are your thing – amazing. If you enjoy being an avid part of an social media community of motherhood because it helps you get through your day without losing your marbles – good! If you love reading and sharing heart-tugging, emotionally wrought “mommy blogs” from the online community (some may even see me as a part of it, having written countless posts about motherhood from my own personal journey) then read on and share on!
I suppose anti-mommy is too strong of a term, but, in this culture where mommyhood has become larger than life itself, I am just plain, mommy-fatigued.
And I want a bigger picture. I want to BE a bigger picture, one where motherhood is just the part of the color scheme in the art of my life.
I’m wanting nights out, where I’m surrounded by conversations that don’t start or end with babysitting questions or tips and tricks for discipline. I want nights out where my brain, my heart, my soul, are stimulated by things that my children, quite frankly, won’t get.
I want to read like a reader, again. And I want to write bleak fiction that my children wouldn’t be allowed to read until they’re much, much older. I want to socialize and spend time again as Melanie, and not necessarily Melanie-Mom-to-Alex-and-Lila-and-Asher-and-Evaline.
Maybe it’s because I’m ten years past where I was when I first had children.
Ten years of any label starts to itch, doesn’t it?
This morning, for only about an hour and a half, I babysat a six month old who likes to be held much of the time. I tried to work, with such a ridiculous backlog of editing waiting for me after the closing out of wedding season over the weekend.
Baby was NOT having it.
And so, I walked. I bounced. I rocked. I did laps around the living room and gave my older children stern glares when they started to be louder than library voices. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and saw how, well, not happy I looked, even with an adorable baby snuggled against my chest.
I watched him in the mirror, blinking back at me. I offered what meager smile I could. He grinned back. We kept walking.
All I could think was, I’m glad I’m done with babies, because I’m clearly too selfish for them now.
But, then, am I?
Is it really selfish to want to have the freedom to do what you want to do (work, write, walk) without having another body attached to you? Is it selfish to want to have a space where you are only who YOU are, no other sticky, itchy labels attached?
Having a sense of self, and caring for that self, is not the same as being selfish.
And being a mother who also wants to be her own interesting and unique person, and who does things outside of kissing boo-boos and clearing dinner tables, is, perhaps, not the same as being Anti-Mommy.
It’s just being pro-herself.
I’m going to go with that.