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Monday, October 17, 2011

Mama is a four-letter word

Growing up in the suburbs, I've always equated the idea of motherhood with SUV's, home-cooked meals, and the dreaded mom jeans (or worse, ill-fitting khaki capris and running shoes. Together). Even though my own mother was extremely fashionable and worked full-time, most of my friends' moms were entirely too involved in their kids' lives and defined themselves purely by their role as mother. As a result, I spent a good part of my twenties swearing that I would never have kids, then relenting and swearing I would never have kids before 30. In my mind, it felt like becoming a mother meant I would be forced to join the ranks of the poorly dressed and uncool. I recognize now how silly and even judgmental that made me, but for a young, twenty-something in Austin, TX (where identity is EVERYTHING), mama was a four-letter word. It meant a house in a master-planned community and the end of my social life. It meant spitup-stained chinos and a DVD player in my car that aired "Dora the Explorer" on loop. It's not that these things are bad, perse. They're just not for me, and my subconscious believed motherhood meant a sacrifice of my own identity for the sake of my kids', which was something I never wanted to do.

Now that I am a mother, I have a new outlook on things (we'll get to that later), but I still see the internal battle rage amongst my friends, most of whom are married, financially stable, and yet claim to be nowhere near the stage of procreation. Part of it is generational, considering most of us were raised by divorced parents. Parenthood does put a strain on even the happiest of marriages, after all. Part of it is the need to be more competitive in our careers now that college degrees are a dime a dozen. But I have to go back to the notion that many of us see motherhood as something truly unhip. My husband and I are the some of the only ones in our group of friends who have a child and, of course, Atticus is the center of attention when we get together since he's usually the only child there. Everyone fawns over him, especially our male friends (who are, oddly enough, more excited about the prospect of parenthood than their significant others, which further proves my point). It's not that they don't like kids. They just don't like the idea of their own kids.

It's not difficult to see where this idea of the unhip, yet totally devoted mother originated. Watch any sitcom or cleaning product commercial from the 90's (or 50's-80's, for that matter) and you'll see the tragic figure of a one-dimensional woman whose life is defined purely for the sake of her family's well-being. In other words, the "uncool mom" notion was ingrained from childhood, though not necessarily our own (remember, my own mom was and still is amazingly cool, but oddly I turned to the media to define the role of motherhood because my own mama didn't fit into the box that the rest of the world created). Thankfully, modern advertisers and TV writers have since recognized the dilemma and, as a result, the next generation of parents hopefully won't be as scarred and misled as we were. New shows like "Up All Night" and "Raising Hope" are a testament to the delicate balance of maintaining one's identity while raising a child, and let's not forget awesome, trendy TV families like those on "Modern Family," and even "30 Rock." Heck, I've even seen a few commercials where MEN are mopping floors and cleaning windows. MEN! But even with the subtle, yet important changes in the modern media, the old identities still remain for the current crop of 20- and 30-somethings.

As a result, it took a long time for me to embrace my role as mother. It's not that I'm not thrilled about my son. He's awesome. I mean really, really awesome. It's that I was worried how the role would change my identity. Did becoming a mother mean that I have to change who I am? Well, yeah. At least, I definitely needed to stop all the cussing. And my two-door coupe was no longer practical. And Costco is now strangely appealing. But after considering my predicament at length, it suddenly hit me that I could still be myself, hold on to those quirky things that make me unique, and set aside time for ME. We still see live music, hit up our favorite hotspots with baby in tow, and get out with our friends as often as possible. We take the time to travel and are even planning an epic road trip through the Northwest next summer, despite the obvious challenges posed by a two-year-old on the backseat. I still value my career and never plan to give it up, no matter how many children I have someday. In other words, I hold on to all the things that defined me before motherhood, with a few modifications to fit my new role into my old identity. And you know what? I am a better mother for it.


  1. i have always found costco strangely appealing. i just don't like all the people there who share my sentiment. nice work, mennes. and yes, you will remain eternally quirky. ;)

  2. From one Mama to another you're doing a fantastic job Megan. Keep up the good work and the awesome blogs.