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Monday, April 14, 2008

My mother, myself

As a little girl, I wanted so much to be like my mom. I wanted to know all the things that she knew. How to bake the best pies. How to make the most delicious spaghetti sauce. How to can tomatoes, or peaches, or pears. How to be a beautiful belly dancer. How to sew. How to be silly. How to not care what other people thought of you. I wanted to look just like her too.

Somewhere along the way, I realized I didn't want her life, her domesticity, her dependence on my father. I needed more. I needed to get away from the small town I grew up in, I needed college, and a job, and a partner that was my equal, a life that was my own. I didn't even want kids for a long time. I felt that having kids would equal failure. It would equal falling back into the roll that I wanted to escape. When I finally did have a baby, I was 10 years older than she was when she had her first baby at 19. It was almost as if I thought those extra years would ensure that my life would be different from hers.

But it's not so different after all. I haven't had a full-time job since a couple of months before my first son was born. That was more than five years ago. And I am very much dependent on my husband.

Early in Waiting for Daisy, Peggy Orenstein writes of her own mother, her ambivalence about having children, and how her childlessness made it difficult to connect with her mom who also had children early in life. She wrote, "I longed for a mother who I could be a mentor, someone I could turn to for wisdom and guidance. Her limits made me short-tempered....It wasn't just hostility I felt around my mother, it was inadequacy."

Like Orenstein, I also feel inadequacy when I think of my mom. I get so dragged down with my kids' constant needs that I sometimes find it hard to enjoy just being around them. We don't bake pies together. And my kids have logged many more hours with sitters and preschool than I ever did. As a result, I sometimes feel that having children has made the gap between us even larger.

Hopefully someday I'll figure out how to get past the fact that my mom and I are similar and different, and it isn't good or bad or success or failure. It just is.

2 comments:

  1. In The Woman At The Washington Zoo, Marjorie Williams has an absolutely stunning essay about her ambivalence toward her mother. If you haven't read it, I'd highly recommend it.

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  2. As a stay at home mom myself I don't like using the term "dependent" when I refer to my relationship with my husband. For two main reasons:

    1: I view marriage as more of an interdependent relationship. My husband earns the money, which allows me the joy and extra stress of staying home with my children. I stay home which allows him to play with the children for the two hours he is home before bedtime. If not, he would have to come home and clean the bathroom, do some laundry, pay the bills, or cook dinner. All of the things required to have a functioning home. He depends on me for these things to be done so he can enjoy his children.

    2. I also don't consider it dependent because it was a choice on my part to stay home. If my husband disappeared I have set the groundwork so I would be able to support my children and myself. If not, then I would be afraid of a dependent relationship. From what I read on your blog, I think you also would be able to handle life on your own. This does not make you dependent, but a choice you have made.

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