Friday, November 14, 2008

Mama Juice

For about the past year I have been part of a local mom's group (you pay dues, there is a yearly banquet with a "theme"...the whole thing). I am not much of a joiner but I had an idea that I needed to meet other moms who would understand what I was going through as a mom-person. Also, at the time I joined I had just read the wonderful book Mommies Who Drink by Brett Paesel and had a vision of women coming together in a bar once a week, talking raunchily about everything in life over a shot or Zinfandel or several. I thought knowing other moms would help me to feel less alone as a woman transforming from a regular person into a mom (it doesn't just happen when you pee on the stick or change your first diaper...); or that at least it would help make me feel like less of a fuck-up and less of a shut-in, excluded from everything I used to do in my pre-child life. Intead, almost every time I have attended an event, with or without my daughter Sara, I have felt horribly out of place like I am visiting a suburban neighborhood in the 50's or 60's as the Scarlet Letter woman or something (you know, with a big "A" or a sign reading "I don't breastfeed" branded on my forehead).

The problem with moms coming together is that you check yourself against the other people to see if you're normal and are doing things right. So if you happen to be in a group where the other people all do it a certain way that is different from you, you're going to feel defensive and like you have to put down their way of life. This is how I have felt, and I'm not necessarily proud of it. However, it is not a crime that they all have husbands and regular babysitter/nanny/au pairs and are stay-at-home (must be nice to have the option) and breastfeed for at least a year and co-sleep. These are just choices that are made as one goes along as a parent, and are based on many complex factors. What IS a crime is...the group members wanting to change the once-monthly Moms' Night Out to a Moms' Morning In. As is so often true in my life, it is here, regarding the convivial consumption of alcohol in an actual restaurant or bar outside one's house, that I draw the line and place myself firmly on the alcohol side and NOT on the brunch / board games / potluck side.

Yes, our little group had a quaint and, by me, beloved tradition of having 1 night per month when moms are invited to meet up at a local restaurant, bar or otherwise slightly hip, atmospheric place and grab a drink or dessert together. It was bad enough that these "nights out" started at 8 and were history by 10pm. Bad enough that some moms drank seltzer, not alcohol, and others couldn't stop talking about the cute habits of their child the entiiiire time. But at least there was a gesture toward the idea of mothers still having an adult life, doing things they had done before becoming parents, and walking a little on the dark side. Staying out until 9 pm! Having a glass of wine or...2! Letting someone else put your kid to bed! Maybe the conversation might stray toward sex or crazy things we did in college! (It never did.) Alas this dark side proved too much for the group and the Moms' Night Out, after several months of pathetic / nonexistent attendance, is now going to be held only every other month, to be alternated with a Moms' Night In of board games at someone's home. One person suggested that the Night Out be jettisoned altogether and replaced with a Moms' Morning In brunch, also at someone's house (not actually out at a restaurant; that courts the dark side of feckless, money-spending self-involvement, not to mention that you are then fraternizing among the enemy--i.e., people who don't yet have kids and thus, still appear in public and seem to be enjoying themselves, not tensely managing their screaming toddler).

I know I am not just a parent-hating freak who happens to be a parent because I know other moms, through different social channels, who feel the same way I do and are also wonderful, devoted parents. The most nurturing mom I know, who happens to be my child's daycare provider, refers to wine as "Mama juice." She gets it--how we need time to ourselves and pockets of our lives that are not owned by our child and our fierce protection of our child, fear for our child's future, and dismay at our post-child body and identity as a Mommy. I go to a bi-weekly dinner at a single girl friend's house, at which there is usually at least one other mom in attendance, and they all get it too and we have amazing, truly joyful nights of great food, free-flowing wine, fires down by Cayuga Lake, reading poems out loud, dancing, laughing hard, joint-smoking (occasionally). Sometimes someone brings her child and that is welcome, too but the child is never really the center of attention, they are just part of what the adults are doing in this harmonious, organic way. This happens to be my idea of good parenting--that you don't give up all your pre-baby interests and become severely domesticated, that you are a role-model to your child that a woman can have a life and interests of her own, that even if you spend 90% of your free time being with your child and on domestic duties, something is left over for just you and that something is NOT apologetic for wanting a night out or loving "Mama juice" and the fact that you still have your own desires, thoughts, and feelings that would not be appropriate to share with your child (until the age when she can have a glass of wine too...) or in a playdate situation.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What are we here for?

This is what I'm wondering right now. You can't just exist; you have to have money and credit cards and a car, etc. and the bondage to all of these things. I spend my days sitting at a desk at one job or another, or running errands that need to be done (depositing money in the bank, mailing bills, going through junk mail, cleaning...). Is this what my childhood was preparing me for? Is it what riding my bike through the sweet blue evenings of childhood summer was leading to? And dressing up for dance recitals, posing for pictures in satiny skirts and bright pink lipstick, receiving shiny trophies at the recital every June (which didn't mean anything, because everyone got one just for making it through another year of dance...). By the time I get home from work I don't have energy for anyting, let alone hanging out with my poor toddler...I just want her to be quiet and removed somewhere while Mommy collapses on the couch with a book of poetry or a magazine or a burrito and a beer. And that isn't living either, it's RECOVERING. It seems only if you have money, a lot of money, can you actually have life--filling your days and moments with things you want to do and choose to do, living on your own rhythms. Imagine waking up, puttering over to a cafe and sitting there reading and writing for hours, then having a glass of wine over a leisurely gourmet lunch, then taking a long walk...but maybe on some level all these things, too are just things to fill time--the time of existing, which none of us can bear without filling it with something. But that is going way beyond where I wanted to go in this thought. I just wonder, what exactly is the point if all your moments are spent just paying for something you deserve in the first place--to exist, to take up space on the earth among all the other earth-inhabitants, and to feel what is meaningful about that existence, to look for meaning. I guess we're all competing for resources but the resources aren't actually scarce, it's the system that makes them that way. Like, it's not as if I have to spend my days making spears so that a wild boar doesn't kill me on the open plains. But spending my days making money is THE SAME THING.

People say to find a job you love. I think that's bullshit. Who loves their job? How quickly can love turn to hate when you have to do something over and over or else there will be dire consequences? I am burnt out and tired and I resent having to devote my best energy (all the daylight hours) to administrative tasks, to busy-work, to driving around and around through traffic to do other tasks. I feel a constant anxiety that whatever I choose to do with the rare free moment isn't good enough, because there is so little unoccupied, unspoken-for time. I'm even starting to nurture fantasies about taking this summer off from work entirely and making some kind of big change to my work life after that, since a recent inheritance gives me a financial cushion (but then, any use of such money feels frivolous). It probably is true that I need to make more money so there is less sense of living-on-the-financial-edge grind, and find tasks that feel less compromising, and that things would feel better after that. But I still think we all deserve, for no reason at all (not because of our status or amount of money, etc.), to have the time to exist and search for ourselves and have wild pointless sexual encounters that never go anywhere, and write poetry about it, and eat too much dessert, and visit a beautiful place and stay in hostels and just breathe, and let the garbage bags accumulate around the side of the house and throw the recycling out the window for deer to graze on! and spend four hours choosing a shade of lipstick or an outfit, and look through old photo albums and cry, and tell someone to fuck off and not feel bad about it, and not say "I'm sorry" when someone is blocking the aisle at the grocery store, and light a lot of scented candles, and make a sculpture out of pine needles and spaghetti that represents a lost moment of our adolescense.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I work for a Buddhist publisher and this image was sent around the office today. Due to some sickness, my head feels like it is stuffed with old socks at the moment, but I felt I need to post this because to me it says so much. Even before I saw this image, I thought of Barack and the DL as having similarities as leaders because both seem focused on the happiness and wellbeing of other people (which is what I love about the democratic party in general, at least in terms of its basic ideology). I fell in love with Obama 4 years ago when he gave the speech about red / blue states--"We are not red states and blue states, we are one United States of America. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't want the government poking around inside our libraries in the red states..." (paraphrasing)
I hope that what seems at the moment like a severely divided country will unite in some ways (whatever ways are possible) with hope for the future--personal and social.