Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Motherhood -- by Cara

I just finished watching a DVD called, “Motherhood.” When the movie came to the theatres not too long ago, I heard that the reviews were not great. But I still wanted to see it, so I waited and rented it instead.

The reviewers were right; it was, overall, not such a great movie. But for Moms, there were a lot of underlying issues that the movie brought out that I felt were great for discussion.

The first and probably universal one was time. Time for oneself. Time to do everything on your “To Do” list. Time spent with family. Time you give to your children. There is just never enough “time” to go around to get anything done completely. And the movie draws this out nicely but almost too accurately. The Mom (Uma Thurman) has her list. And it is the day before her daughter turns 6 years old. And throughout the movie, this Mom is trying to “beat the clock” getting everything ready for her daughter’s birthday party that evening. I could almost see it as an average day in my life, with the exception that this movie took place in what appeared to be New York City, while I live in the suburbs outside of New York City. Yet, as a book I am reading, called “The Mask of Motherhood,” by Susan Maushart states, “When we consider the alternatives to the juggled life, the picture is equally, albeit differently, depressing. There is no doubt that to ‘Do it all’ leaves women breathless and resentful.” I like that description. I don’t know how many times I’ve said to friends, “I feel claustrophobic,” with regard to my overwhelming list of other’s needs, coupled with other various, “things to do.” Friends have commented that they can’t believe all of the errands I can get done within a six hour time period. My record was 10 different stores in areas as far as 15 miles away in less than 6 hours! Give me a Starbucks Latte, and I can literally race through my day! But still and all, I may win the race, but the resentment is still there. One way to get around this issue of “time” is also reflected in the movie.

It seemed, in “Motherhood”, that each parent voluntarily took one of their children (there were two children in this movie) as a way to “share the burden,” so to speak. I am finding that a lot among the families I know. Even in our own home, our son seems to get passed from my husband to me or me to my husband so that we both can have a little “down time.” Personally, I don’t know that this is a particularly good idea because the family almost becomes fragmented. I see it in our own home. We actually have to schedule events for all three of us to go to. Otherwise, I am the sit on the floor, play a game, or do a craft type of parent. My husband is the rock climbing, swimming, hiking Dad who takes our son on more physical outings. I see and hear of many parents dividing their parental duties this way. In some ways, it gives each parent a little breather. On the other hand, the family becomes too distant. I guess only time will tell what works best for each family. Susan Maushart, in her book brings out, “There is no doubt that the exclusive-care mother has a more intense relationship with her children. It is also worth bearing in mind that both the concept and the practice of exclusive-care motherhood are historical and cultural anomalies.” Throughout history, mothers have always had some form of “help” when it came to raising her children. Grandparents sometimes lived in the same home or very close by. Aunts and Uncles would drop by and lend a hand. And mothers who lived near to one another would congregate in one or another’s home and provided much needed support, as well as a place for their young children to play. “It takes a village,” to raise a child. And if the “village” is barren, sometimes it takes a spouse or even a friend.

Finally, a very noticeable thing was that Moms were portrayed as looking only half put together, frazzled, day-old, dirty messes. I must confess, in the early days of motherhood, that was me to a “T.” But this Mom had a Kindergartener and a 3 or 4 year old. A neighbor commented that Uma’s character was still wearing her pajamas as she walked her daughter to school. She changed outfits when she returned home, but decided to forgo a shower to work on a freelance writing assignment. So many Moms seem to be running out the door in their pajamas (yes, I am guilty) to take their child to school or to get a quick errand done. But I TRY to look at least HALF respectable. Yes, there are the Moms who have hired help to maintain some semblance of orderliness in their homes. And they are the Moms who can actually take a shower, blow dry their hair (do I even OWN a blow dryer? I think I do...somewhere...), and coordinate their outfit for the day all the way down to matching pocketbooks. In this movie, and in my world, that just doesn’t happen. I can manage a shower and throw on some minimal makeup. But I seem to grab the same (clean) clothes week after week because they are readily available and they are comfortable. I actually have to search for a presentable outfit to have a parent/teacher conference in!

I think the take-away from all of this is that the average Mom (working full-time, part-time, or not) doesn’t have the same life she had before kids. There was a scene in the movie where a young, good-looking messenger carrier, helped Uma Thurman’s character by schlepping her numerous bags of items she purchased for her daughter’s party, up three flights of stairs. She asked him in to her apartment to get some water for him to drink. Although absolutely nothing at all sexual happened between them, you could feel their sexual tension. And you could imagine where this would have led had Uma’s character not been a wife and a Mom. And to recapture a little bit of her former self, she put on some 90s music and danced. And the messenger carrier danced. And Uma’s character looked wild and free and unburdened by her present life! And you could tell that not only did she miss that feeling, she recognized that it was now lost. And she abruptly shut off the music and shook the hand of the messenger and bid him farewell.

There are moments in all of our lives when we say to ourselves, what happened here? What happened to ME? The fun-loving, crazy, independent me? She grew up, matured, maybe married, had children and life became a whole different experience for her. Late nights out are now replaced with television or a good book before collapsing from exhaustion. Fun loving is now replaced by how many times you watch your child go down the slide (or you go with them upon their insistence) and find your body was no longer made to go down the twisty slide! And independence has been replaced with total dependence concerning every possible thing you could imagine pertaining to your child. Again, as Maushart explains, “It’s as if we were uncomfortable with the whole notion of choice—as if the exercise of free will were a form of conspicuous consumption too embarrassing to reveal publicly. Maybe we feel deep down that real choice remains a luxury to which, by virtue of being female, we have no natural entitlement.” Very possible.

But then, when you are on your bed, frantically responding to too many overdue e-mails, your child comes in with an armful of stuffed animals, a couple almost half his size. And he throws each of them onto your bed and climbs up to snuggle right up next to you with each of the various stuffed animals. And you quietly close your laptop, put it down, and look into your child’s eyes as he tells you stories about each of his stuffed animals. It’s at that point when you remember what happened to “you.” She became a Mom. And she wouldn’t change that moment or her life back for anything. She is embracing what she now calls Motherhood!

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