Sunday, October 3, 2010

Expressing Motherhood

Tonight I went to see a show called Expressing Motherhood with my friend Christianna. We went because we both love a blogger called Damomma, and she was one of the speakers. It was a Vagina Monologues style show, where a dozen different mothers got up and told their stories of some aspect of their lives as mothers. Maybe a vignette, or a rant, whatever. I love this writer, and in the way I've come to feel like a student of all of my favorite writers, I feel like I know her. I feel like we have shared perspectives, and I feel like she's a kindred spirit. We parent in very similar ways, and she often makes me focus on things about my daughters that I might not otherwise notice.

So, there was the fun of seeing her speak. There was also another woman presenting who used to work at my school. That was cool. And then there was the experience of putting on high heels and lipstick and being with Christianna, a friend that I adore, sharing the joy of her new house and gawking in amazement at the fact that she made bowling pins out of fondant for her daughter's birthday party tomorrow. I loved drinking a pre-show martini at a fabulous girly bar, and swapping daughter stories with someone who is right down with me in the trenches, trying to be a mother while staying a real-live person in the meantime. She is one of the smartest people I know, and yet I know she needs the same things as I do...well-adjusted children, competence in her career, love in her marriage and a party with the Tribe from time to time.

And then we saw a show, 12 mothers with their own stories, and we had similar levels of appreciation/judgement/connection for the various monologues. I drove home singing showtunes at the top of my lungs, is so, so good. My children are home safe, eager for my return but perfectly fine without me there because they have the best dad. I have amazing friends and family, and daily get to do work that actually mattters in the world. I'm sure this sounds bromidic and trite but I am just overwhelmed with gratitude. One really good day is a powerful reminder of that.

Here is the note I wrote to Elizabeth, (damomma) but I haven't decided whether or not I'll post it to her. I am a little afraid that she'll think I'm a crazy stalker.. Which I'm not, but I have stuff to say. Maybe I'll just post it here and that will be enough.

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for sharing your beautiful story, and for an evening full of comfort and laughter. I would not have gone to that show if not for you, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to hear so many fierce and tender women tell their tales. Yours was the most resonant for me, which may be bias because I feel like I know you through this blog. (Or it might be because you were just the best.) It might be because I love that image of you - of Mother - standing under the stars, beside the oak tree with her baby in her arms, pondering a Universe that gives so bountifully but also has the potential to take without your permission. I am so happy that your story ends so well.

I also loved the woman who said the short piece about having the gift of hearing the quiet voice of her child's soul, and how she covered her child's face with kisses for one whole minute at bedtime. Isn't that the best thing we can do with the small souls in our care? Listen hard, and love without limits, even for the victim sherpa years. :)

I think the greatest struggle of my parenting is the same as yours - how to raise fierce and fearless girls in a world that offers so many reasons to feel afraid. I connect to your writing partly because I, too, am the mother that sends them off to find the milk, and lets them go to the summer camp, where I know many other mothers would not, and think I, too, should not. I appreciate the quiet support that your writing gives to the way I also choose to mother - mindfully, passionately, with trust and glitter, and always with a sense of humor and an appreciation for cold vodka and a well-made meal.

What I loved about your show is the reminder of the fact that for every mother in the world, there exists shared experiences. Mothers' experiences carry a variety of levels of shame and elation, and of smugness and adoration, guilt and entitlement, resentment and gratitude, and a thousand other layers in between. It was a comforting reminder that what I feel every day, however contrary and contradictory these feelings might be - Well, it's all just part of the journey.

I like how you say in your blog that your number one responsibility in life is raising little women. Mine too. I like the fierceness with which you insist that deciding to have a child is entering into a life-long contract, one whose first 18 years are exhausting. That's how it is. You don't get to sleep till noon for, like, 25 years. That's the deal, and that's the priority. But I love, too, that you are managing to still be you - writer, teacher, wife, speaker, whatever-else - for your own growth and financial contribution to your household, as well as to be the example to your girls of how to live a productive life. I am trying very hard to do the same, and I appreciate knowing you're out there in the world, travelling a similar road. It makes it much less lonesome.

So that's what I would write to her. And I will add, here, that the women that I choose to be friends with, the working moms and the stay at home moms, the ones who've already raised their kids and the ones with their babes in arms and all of us in between...well, even if we don't always have time to talk about it, I love you. I respect all of you, all of us, for doing the very best we can with what we've got.

I am so grateful for the ability to spend an evening tonight with Christianna, my glorious woman-friend, who quipped on the way out the door, "Geez! Even when it's girls' night out, it's still somehow about the kids!" I get it. I'm just so glad that we're all in it together.

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