Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Connecting the Mothers to the Childless

One of the huge hurdles I see women facing today is relating across the parenthood line. When I was pregnant for the first time I had no peers who were first time mothers with me. I swore I wouldn't change, I could be a mother and hang out with my girlfriends and life didn't have to change *that much*. Well, I kept part of the promise and I do try to always conjure up the smell of being childless. I need it especially when I read certain articles (such as the article I read last night in Marie Claire about a woman being revoked godmother status) or talk on the phone with a long lost childless friend. But as time passes, it is harder and harder to remember. I don't want to stop reading certain magazines when I realize I can barely empathize with a writer, nor do I want to take breaks from friends when I sense they don't "get" me anymore.

Lately a few things have happened that make me feel the need to write about this and open up a discussion of the language barrier between those with and without children dominating their lives.

One very wonderful thing is that a close friend just had her first baby. She is a child expert, a step-mother and a teacher. Yet she said to me with such deep mixed emotion the other day "I just didn't understand how hard it was." I hugged her and I said, "you aren't supposed to, nobody ever does." I got thinking why IS this the case? Why does our culture not get it? I know she wanted to understand, just as I did too during my first pregnancy. Is it simply that we do not have words in our language that describe the changes that happen to you simultaneously when you have a newborn? Do we not do a good job mentoring women? At Birth Circle I feel like there is such a spirit of understanding, even between the first-time and third-time pregnant women. But is there ever a circle that includes the women who don't think about being pregnant or becoming mothers and what it all means to the feminist movement? I want to find this...or create this.

So that is one thing to muse on. Really it is how to get the childless women interested in this sort of thing when becoming a parent is a distant point in the future. It just doesn't seem real enough to care about until you are pregnant. But by then the learning curve is so steep, much steeper than it needs to be.

Another thing that happened is I read this post on the newly formed collaborative blog to discuss modern feminism. I am so grateful that I have friends who "speak" Feminism better than I do to help us start some good discussions. When I think about what we teach childless women, younger and older, about how to balance family with work, something truly does get lost in translation. I do think a lot has to do with how we use the word "career" and luckily, I read a review of a new book that encourages people (ok, women specifically) to rethink their "career" as a series of waves instead of as a ladder. I don't think we make clear that a "career" doesn't stop or start but is always morphing as your passions and commitments change. And this is a good thing.

While kids are happily playing I want to wrap this up and get talking about it more. The last thing I wanted to bring up are the actual phrases women use after they become mothers that I don't hear childless women using. I recently used "it is just too much" in an email to two very dear girlfriends as they/we attempted to plan a get-together. I have been wondering, did they both understand what I meant? One friend is a working mother with two children, the other is childless and in a long-term relationship. Did I ever say "it is just too much" in my childless life? I don't think I did. And if I heard it, and I do think I did, I thought "what is too much? just get a babysitter!" or "it is too much to prioritize your friends?" or a myriad of other things.

I may have to title a blog "It is Just Too Much" to really elaborate on all the things that includes. But now I have a crying child and I'd love to know any initial thoughts you have out there!