“My daughter is the MOST IMPORTANT person in my life. [My partner] could leave tomorrow and I’d be okay because I have her.”
“It’s like my daughters were me and I was them.”
“I don’t want to leave my child with a stranger. So I haven’t been out on a date in 3 years.”
You get the idea…the women, and they are everywhere, who at least publicly put their kids first. Before their marriage or themselves. I often wonder how much of it is hyperbole, because even I’ve been given to the occasional overly sentimental weepiness about E, but I also wonder when hyperbole becomes truth.
It is our culture that created this relationship? I don’t know that I see the same kind of fetishization of self-sacrifice for your family here…or at least the families have helpers and the moms don’t seem to have the same guilt about doing things for themselves. But as with food, women’s relationships to their children seem to have become an exercise in putting yourself down for doing something that is relatively harmless–the world (and your ass) will not explode if you eat the fry, so stop calling yourself “bad” for doing so. Ditto leaving your kid with a babysitter to enjoy a date night with yourself, your friends, or your partner.
It’s not that I advocate that our kids are like our shoes…accessories to complement our lives. Rather, it’s that perhaps we consciously try to find our balance more. Ignoring your spouse in favor of your kids isn’t healthy, and it will eventually have a negative impact on your marriage. Ignoring your own needs is likewise unhealthy, as is the loss of “self” that so many of us moms suffer in silence.
In becoming the center of the home, we become indispensable, no matter what. I got calls in the US from my husband in Singapore asking me where X was, when there was a perfectly capable helper standing right there who had a better chance of knowing where X is in the first place. With a broken tibia, I have made the effort to do more than I should simply because it’s easier than telling my partner that my phone is in my bag, only to have him look at right at it and tell me it isn’t. That directing my helper to cook while in the other room is unproductive, so this week I started just cooking again even though today I looked down and saw my ankle starting to swell again.
What I think I react most strongly to is seeing other women throw away their individuality with both hands, or ignoring their own child’s individuality. While I certainly see parallels in Elanor’s temperament to my own, I don’t think of her as an extension of myself. And while I will pick her extracurriculars for now, I’m not trying to live out some missed dream through those activities.
The dark side of this fetishization is that if you don’t engage in it, there is an implication that you’re some kind of selfish bitch who doesn’t love her kids as much. While I don’t question my love for Elanor, I do sometimes wonder what I’m missing here. What is it about motherhood and the mom/child (perhaps especially the mom/daughter bond) that I’m just not getting.