Thursday, April 7, 2011

Motherhood Is A Way Of Life

I started this blog because as a woman who thinks and as a mother who is finding her way, I wanted to talk about or rather to write about the state of motherhood today. Literally, motherhood for me has been a place, mommyville. A place where I felt lost. At different moments I have read books about motherhood, but recently I really found myself on a quest to understand and possibly figure out why I felt like s#$% so much of the time.

I have found mommyville to be a very lonely place. Intrinsically, in my own head, the solitary nature of my life feels unnatural. Intellectually, I know that mothering has been a more group endeavor thru the ages and of course there is the famous line: It takes a whole village to raise a child. What is most distressing is how hypocritical that line is given the structure of family life for the modern 21st century mother.

Years ago, before I became a mom I read misconceptions by Naomi Wolf. In my process of transformating into a mother I sadly did not reread it. During my daughter's first year I followed the babyfruit blog by Aliza Sherman. I lived very remotely at the time and this was the only daily contact I had with a woman of my age who was a mom that I happen to personally know from years before when I lived in New York City. I think because I actually once knew her, she didn't seem completely removed from me and instead there was the optical illusion that somehow we were friends even though our connection was only via me reading her blog. Also my cousin had a daughter about six months after I did. Even though we are similar in age we don't really compare child rearing notes as I think we came to the experience from very different places. And yet I believe our struggles have been the same. When we (my husband, daughter and I) moved to a town I finally connected with a few other moms through the daycare program where I enrolled my daughter. Also I am lucky that my own mother lives close by and has actively supported me as a mom by helping me take of my daughter. Our relationship is such that I tend not to ask her too many question about mothering, but I do listen to her when we check in about my daughter and take to heart a few of her suggestions.

Thus my experience as a mother has been a lonely journey. It is this loneliness that I want to address and figure out can it be changed. Even though I now have a few mommy friends and my daughter is five years old, the day to day existence of mothering in the year 2011 is still a solitary effort that is completely invisible to the world. How did this happen? Does it matter? Maybe...there are many books looking at the postfeminist world. What I am interested in is how to make mommyville a joyful place where mothers really do enjoy the rearing of children. I am sure that plenty of mothers will cry foul and say that they enjoy being a mom, but isn't it possible that the structure of the modern life has really robbed mothers of a physical existence that could be more aligned with how women are wired to function? Couldn't mommyville be a place where mothers pursue the work of childrearing and pursue their own development as people without the crazy juggling act that most moms try to do? Functioning in a world that treats motherhood as an invisible occupation is crazymaking...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Getting Into A Groove

Day two: 5:18am...yesterday my mind was on fire. After I worked in the morning I had a million things to say. This morning a bit foggy, but like exercise, the warm up is everything. Of course the fun of blogging is seeing the uncensored, sort of...

When I taught high school in New York City, besides generating great stories of students using expletives like "pussy" I was also working on my MFA at Brooklyn College. At the time, the amazing program coordinator of Poetry, Lou Askoff, said write one hour a day. It's not enough, but it will get me started and I am a much happy person for having done that.

This morning though, have I squandered my moment to write by surfing the net looking at my former professors? I suffer from lack of focus or comparison angst. So much of what I have done does not fit neatly into any category on a C.V., but has made for a great life. Now my film—which is fiction and inspired by the Emily Dickinson poem, "I heard a Fly Buzz..."—falls into the same category. Whiner is what I hear. The artmaking process is so high-maintenance and I should know since I ran a gallery for three years in NYC a life time ago. All artists are the same, even me. Would I want to be my gallerist? Probably not. Too whiny with a lack of focus and way too high-maintenance.

My old rule when I was writing every morning at 5:00am was that I had to be at my desk. Some days I didn't write, I read poetry. Today was maybe that kind of day. The daughter is up...and the chant of GET DRESSED has began. That needs to be a new kid chant. In my dissertation there are number of baby chants like:

Change my diaper!
Change my diaper!
I don’t care what’s in it!
But do it right this minute!
Change my diaper!

...I need kid chants now. 6:30am comes so quick. Now she and I are in a race to get ready. What's so funny and awful at the same time is that my beautiful spirited daughter is just like me. Let's review: Hocus, pocus, let us focus on our task right now. I should follow my own words...Hocus, pocus, let us focus on our task right now...Hocus, pocus, let us focus on our task right now...Hocus, pocus, let us focus on our task right now...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Getting Myself Started

I am so low tech that to start my blog I am using a pen and notebook. I have an ipad, but wireless connections can be sketchy in a small town and I don't like the ATT 3G network. So here I sit as my daughter is jumping around in her gymnastics class and I am using this hour to create a post. Every week I have this hour of waiting and here begins the collision of motherhood and artmaking. As a poet I keep thinking of a little poem I wrote when I was in high school...

inside the word hate
is a little word ate
hate ate me up

And still that poem rings true. I have had a lot of hate for the structure/nature/process of my life. This hate has been consuming. It is the conflict of what I imagine family life to be and what it really is...

I love my daughter, I love my husband, but I have not been able to find my place over the last six years with regard to my work—in any form: poetry, writing or filmmaking. The collision is constant and I am battered in the process. My daughter is five and only now can I breath and think.

The nature of hate is that it prevents one from really seeing things as they are. In six years of being married, I have finally begun to see my husband for who he is, not some unmet "Mr. Right" fantasy. I think that is what this moment is for me now, in writing here at "Welcome to Mommyville": seeing, letting the hate dissipate and reflecting on the collision, but moving beyond it as well. Hopefully, in this process of writing and exploring, I will uncover that mommy power I know exists.

I pause here for brief commercial break: my daughter is flipping around on the uneven bars. In 25 minutes that will be the topic of my conversation. It is so loud in this viewing section at the YMCA gymnastics center with all the kids in classes and parents plus siblings watching. It is this type of collision that I have resented—the total control of my time by others, by family. Now though, I have begun practicing the art of "tuning out" and hope to write through the static each week.

Probably due to my personality, I haven't really connected to other moms in this venue. Once and awhile a quick comment here or there, but so often folks seem connected to others and inaccessible. Breaching the mommy circles can be tough and intimidating. What's different now is that instead of heading into "the zone"—just sitting and vegging, I am taking back my time. I used to lead a life of quiet before I was married with a kid. I realized after reading The Highly Sensitive Person ( that my way of rejuvenating myself and destressing from overstimulation was to have total quiet—the kind where you lay in bed all day and watch the clouds pass by the window. Okay, so that is not happening with a kid.

Finding another way to rejuvenate myself is the quest. Writing my own blog as a way to focus myself and stretch my brain will surely improve my disposition and propel me towards...what, I'm not sure? And as I sign off at 6:30am to start my Monday morning, a discussion of undie selection has ensued: "Guess which underwear I picked Mama?" Then a quick of flash of the stripeys, of course. The collision continues...