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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Am I cute or what?

The struggle to fill this unemployed void seeps into every facet of my life. I'm a women, mother, friend, daughter, wife, and none of those segments feel complete.

Maybe I'm just plain crazy, but it feels like this void cuts into my soul. Maybe much of what I feel is a supreme hormonal imbalance. Maybe it's insanity. Maybe it's dreaming a dream that just is not going to come true. Who knows. No matter what the reason, it's a hard reality to deal with, and so many women are struggling with not knowing who or what they are now that they are at-home moms. In our old lives, we were assigned to a category that could be summed up in a single, all-encompassing and satisfying noun. I'm a reporter. I'm an attorney. I'm a paramedic. I'm a teacher. I'm a student. I'm a therapist.

Now our sentences start the same: "I'm a..." And they still end with a noun. But this is a noun that makes people at parties sweat as their eyes dart back and forth as they plot their get-away. Our sentences ends with "mother." I'm embarrassed to admit it, but before I was on the receiving end of that behavior, I was guilty doing the same thing. Why are we programmed to think that mothering is not worthy?

In addition to not being worthy, I want to thank David Hochman at the New York Times for proclaiming that women (and men) who write about parenting are also needy. A couple of days ago, I responded to that article by stating that moms can't be needy because we don't have time. But I change my mind.

Yes, I'm needy. I need to walk the dogs. I need to do the laundry. I need to grocery shop. Sometimes I need to do things that have nothing to do with parenting or domesticity. I need to take a shower (at least occasionally). I need to stay connected with friends and family. For sanity, I need to stand outside every day and breathe some fresh air. I need to drink decaf instead of regular. I need to write. I don't need--but it sure feels good--to help friends, organize the house, donate old stuff, and just try to be a good and productive human being. So I guess I'm pretty needy after all.

Yesterday, under-employed Attorney Friend, who is currently a scrapbooking consultant, helped me start assembling a very sassy wedding album (even though I've been married for more than six years). In return, I'm teaching her some basics of vegetarian cooking, since she gave up meat last Fall, after reading Fast Food Nation.

The two of us had a very productive and satisfying day. At least I felt that I had until I told Father in Chief about our afternoon of scrapbooking and cooking. "That's so cute," he said. He is a wonderfully supportive and loving person and meant nothing hurtful by this statement, but that comment cut off my sense of satisfaction and tossed it into the garbage bin.

I don't want to be cute.

Calling my day's accomplishments cute trivializes my world. Just because my work doesn't involve strategizing about cool new technologies, life-changing gadgets, mergers and acquisitions, IPOs, or SEC filings, or any other job that could be categorized in the "not cute" category, doesn't make what I do trivial or cute.

Yes, I admit that I am being overly sensitive. Maybe I need some serious therapy to get out of my slump. Maybe I need a job. Maybe I need to try harder to find greater satisfaction in what I do as a parent. Whatever it is, there's no syllabus or map or instruction manual. And it sucks to be lost.


  1. The "cute" comment is kind of emblematic of how women's experiences, attributes, concerns, and work tend to be undervalued. It's hard to disentangle the intrinsic value of an activity from the social constructs surrounding it---if scrapbooking were a male hobby, would it be considered "cute", or is it the fact that women do it that makes it so?

    Anyway, I'm sorry your day turned sour. It sounded nice to me!

  2. I know exactly how you feel. I definitely don't feel that what my stay at home friends do is cute or trivial, but it is often kind of intimate. The home is an intimate setting and if the woman is in charge of the home, talking about what she does to manage it feels like talking about sex. It's a very personal thing, how you manage what you do at home, and I think people tend to judge based on what you do. Is your home neat or messy? Is your day filled with scrapbooking or writing or playing games with the kids? People try to judge what kind of person you are by the answers you give and because it's within the realm of the intimate, they think they've glimpsed the real you. Which, of course, they haven't. I haven't really thought about this much, but I have a friend who writes about domesticity in the world wars and the separation of the public and private. And that's what made me follow this train of thought. The home is a private space. What's done privately is somehow not as important as what's done publicly.

    I really like what you write here. It really makes you think about why we do what we do and things are viewed certain ways. At least you have a dialogue going.

  3. Can I just say???? As a mom who's also trying to "find herself", I just have to say you all are so serious!!! Goodness, all of this could be great fodder for a great comedic film. And what's so wrong with cute? Aren't our babies cute? Or maybe calling them cute trivializes their experiences, too. Has this ever been considered?

    Mother in Chief, maybe there's a very witty screenplay to be had, here. A group of mothers blogging about their experience, about the inequity of it all, the cuteness of their babies, scrapbooking, vegan cooking, offhand dad comments, etc... You know this would hit home with many, many, many....