Writing Down the Mom

I’m doing it right now: I’m telling you the low down on the mom-writer phenomena.

Yep, writing down “the mom” perspective is the New Big Thing.

Just check your bookstore, and you’ll discover books tailored to the every type of mom possible. Titles tout the full-range of possibilities: slacker moms, mommies who drink, stay-at-home moms, have-it–all moms – along with inventor, balanced, frazzled, cool, dowdy, sexy, miserly, buff, soccer, punk, briefcase, depressed, ordinary, yoga, doctor, murderous - and let’s not forget “Hot” Moms.

Sometimes, it’s overwhelming. Which mom am I? What camp will I join? Can I be sexy and miserly at the same time??? If all these purport to be ‘the way of the mom’ which am I to chose?

And it doesn’t stop at books. On blogs and at poetry readings, women share tales of diapering tots in yoga class and taking their daughters to a Green Day concerts. Tucked away across the U.S.A. are writing groups comprised of moms tending to kidlets in carseats while they compose their next greatest poem or tome on mom-ly wisdom. In my writing classes, women shyly or bravely bring out their tales of single-parenting and dating strategies, all while managing the kids.

Why is everybody writing about motherhood? Mothering in the human race been going on for what - several million years (if you count the ancestors)? And for a long time, we only had Medea and the Virgin Mary to look up to. Somehow parenting still happened.

Not that I think the book explosion is bad. A mere 13 years ago, I was the first of my gang to embark upon the mothering way. At that time, I could have used an alternative description of the mom-e-tary unit: the mom book-phenom hadn’t burst upon the scene yet, so my reading was relegated to ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and a book of poetry or two donated by friends. Let’s face it, Sylvia Plath isn’t exactly inspiring maternal reading.

I longed to have some support for my left-of-center iconoclastic identity that didn’t seem to be changing just because I’d pushed out a 9-pound human that needed a lot of tending and caring. I still felt like me - not a page out of Redbook, Family Circle or Good Housekeeping. If only I had seen an image or two of an odd mom, or read an article about alt parenting while standing in line at the grocery store. Ah, then maybe I wouldn’t have worried about my urge to still boogie-in-the-basement (yes, that’s a metaphor) or to have a marguerita or two at a blues bar. These desire didn’t make me a bad mom…I was simply a self-doubting product of a static 60’s mom stereotype.
To tell the truth, there has been a slow, but steady, breakdown in the past 40-50 years in the uber-mommy model - both in media and actuality. Back in the 60’s, the “mom” role was identified with one of three mainstream role-models: June Cleaver, Donna Reed, and, oh hell, I can’t think of a third. Sure there were a few break-though voices: Phyllis Diller providing audacious relief from the Mom tyranny, and the ever brave Erma Bombek bringing humor and compassion to the most mundane circumstances. But for the most part, as a girl, I understood ‘mom’ to mean contained, perfect, supportive, clean, and narcotized.

But then, things started shifting. For me, it started with Jane Fonda. When I learned she was a mom, that blew me away. Then Yoko Ono. And then Roseanne and Anne Rice and Sandra Day O’Connor and Toni Morrison and J.K. Rowling, and even Martha Stewart – and Courtney Love and Hillary Clinton and all the Desperate Housewives and…well the list keeps expanding. I’m still looking for a few more scientists and philosophers to stand out in the mommy movement, but that’s my thing.

All these mothers have intriguing new stories – and they’re just the shiny, noticeable surface. I encounter moms everyday, right in my own neighborhood, that inspire me: from funky and tattooed to powerful and chic, from hip and slick to zen and centered. Immigrants, home workers, artists, executives - all pushing their carriages and taking the kids to school.

So again - why all the books and tapes and blogs? In my opinion, popular culture is doing it’s best to deal with the new multifaceted aspect of mothering. It’s writing down the mom: capturing new stories - absorbing them, reconstructing them, turning them around – and giving credence to new ways of being maternal. That way, it’s harder and harder to slip back on the narrow templates from days of yore.

If bewilderment arises when you see the rows of mom books, just realize that as the boundaries stretch, you have the choice to be, read, and write your own mom experience.

By the way, I’m still looking for a book about mid-40’s moms that still feel young, but don’t really party, and that desire a good paying job with great benefits and minimal hours. A book about moms that don’t necessarily think about sex and wardrobe all the time (just when necessary): moms that are concerned about global warming and multinational corporations, but still have an interest in cheesy movies and a Starbucks latte.

Guess I’ll just have to write that mom down.

No comments: