Monday, September 12, 2005

Are you just a mother? Then what am I?

I started a new bible study Sunday night. It has an amazing turn out - over 30 women! I'm not really surprised. The topic is "Frazzled Female". To start our first meeting, we went around the circle and introduced ourselves.

"Hi. I'm Anna Bell and I have 2 children and 8 grandchildren." <warm applause and reverance>
"Well, I'm Marie and I have teenagers!" <laughter and smiling groans>
"I have a son and a husband. That's it. That's my life." <giggles and nodding heads>
"I'm Martha and I'm the mother of a newborn." <cheers and welcome to the club>

On and on it went. 30 women. And they all said the same thing. I'm a mother. At each introduction, the group would laugh, encourage, moan, reminisce. There were even two women selected to team teach because they represented different stages of experience in mothering.

I started to cry. I didn't want to introduce myself. I can't stand the blank stares. It's like I'm some unknown beast they aren't sure is safe.

<trying to be funny>"Hi. I'm Rhonda and I'm a geek and a sugar momma." <awkward silence>"I'm putting my husband through school." <acknowledged laughter>

Why was I so sad? It is not because I wish I were a mother. I am not a mother by choice. But it was because I was an outsider. They were all mothers and nothing else. I felt utterly alone.

I go to women's functions in hopes of meeting new people and maybe finding a new friend. But it's a real struggle because there are very few women who maintain any sort of adult identity outside of being a mother. And if "that's it", if that's their life, they don't have a need for a relationship with someone like me.

I think it's completely natural for people to group themselves according to interests or commonalities. Motherhood is a major grouping and it is vitally important that mothers have a support system. But I know these women have interests of their own that they seem to be denying. They are interested in art or books or movies or politics or writing or bicycling or some other adult thing.

I know a couple of mothers who have worked hard at keeping an adult identity. And they are better mothers, wives and friends for it. They are multifaceted - in full bloom. But they are RARE! It's hard to find women who have read something besides "Goodnight Moon" or seen something besides "Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed" or get their current events from someone besides Oprah.

I will never understand what it is like to be a mother. I admit that. But I also know that motherhood is not the definition of "woman".


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Erin said...

I have no doubt that all 29 of those women around you identified themselves primarily as mothers, because motherhood is so all consuming. If you've got kids, you can't escape the job. Even if you escape THEM for a night of coffee with a friend, or break free from the house for a weekend retreat with the girlfriends, the kids and the kid-affected house are waiting to pounce on you when you get home. Pounce on you with love. Pounce on you with "I missed you!" Pounce on you with neediness. Pounce on you with "He did this to me, well she said that to me..." Pounce on you with "I need you to sign my field trip form and wash my socks."
I also have no doubt that many Christian women (including myself)are missing opportunities to commune with God and with others because they allow themselves to get sucked into the whirlwind of child rearing. We tend to think that an unmet need or want in our children automatically makes us a bad mom. But even Christ himself put off some people's agendas because it was more important that He spend time in solitude with His Father. Who knows, maybe He took his watercolor set and brushes along with Him! Or a thermos full of Tomato Basil Soup and his journal! ;)

I don't think my kids are going to shrivel up and blow away with the wind if I take a calligraphy class once a week or hook up with a friend for coffee and cheesecake WITHOUT children clamoring at our heels. There is something very refreshing and redeeming about my time spent with other adults. And when my time is engaged in activites that have nothing to do with raising babies, I often feel like I am more prepared to face the drudgery of motherhood with new resolve. Did I just say drudgery? Yikes! We'll... yeah... sometimes the greatest joy can turn to a real drag after a few years. Hence the need to take a break.

I appreciate friends that encourage me to spend time with my husband (who so often gets short shrift when it comes to my attention), to spend time alone with the Lord, to spend time pursuing activities that rejeuvinate me, and to spend time interacting with other women. But it is so, SO easy to let the Little Pouncers (who eventually become Big Pouncers asking for car keys and $$$) pounce me to death.

So here's my question: What can we do as women and friends, to not only break free from the motherhood vortex, but to encourage each other to see that, at times, we NEED to break free?

rhon said...

I think breaking free might have something to do with the expectations you have for yourself as a mother. One lady in our BS said her goal was to be a wonderful mom. She gave everything to work and to her kids. Everyone wants to be a good mom. Naturally! But women's expectations of themselves are often grueling, cruel, and a pack of lies. Recognizing and letting go of the illegitimate expectations might equal freedom to a mom.

Erin said...

As a mom, I realize that my circle of greatest influence is in the lives of my children (ooo, scary!), so that lady's comment about wanting to be a wonderful mother rings true with me. But I also see a huge disconnect... don't I also want to be a wonderful wife, a wonderful friend, and a wonderful lover of Christ? What about a wonderful daughter and sister?
All of us would intellectually agree that pursuing excellence as a disciple of Christ would spill over into all the other areas of our lives. And yet, I'm in the same boat with your BS friend- my identity as a mom often supercedes my identity as anything else.