So we've all read this by now, I'm sure.
Let me just say, that as one of the Girls Who Could Have Done Everything, I never thought I had to do it ALL AT ONCE. But maybe I'm luckier than some of my generation of women, because I've always been a bit of a lazy bohemian who kind of glided from thing to thing and wasn't really set on ambitions loftier than "doing cool stuff". Which my current life qualifies as, so far as I'm concerned. So as to my role in society, I blow a raspberry in its general direction. I don't have anything to prove.
But there is certainly a lot of pressure in the context of motherhood, and even if it doesn't all affect me, it's still there. I still know it's there, can feel it, even if it doesn't necessarily change my ways. And we're all expected to just go it alone, and I see people lambasted every single day for asking questions about how to do this mother thing, and sometimes I'm even one of the lambasters (lambastards?). And you know, why should we have any idea how to do this thing, when we were all raised to be attorneys and astronauts? I'm sure our own mothers just figured we'd pick it up on the fly (or hell, that we'd take Motherhood in a pill form along with our meals, before donning our unisex spacesuits and jetting off to work in our hovercars).
Something struck me over the weekend that I'm going to try to put into words. Our little playgroup tribe, an offshoot of our big city playgroup, has gotten pretty tight. The dads playing rock and roll in my garage, the kids who've never known life without one another, the moms who all get their hair cut at the same salon. It's like that.
So last weekend, one of the families moves into a new place, and the dads are recruited to move them, and I send Molly along to keep their kid company, and then eventually Maggie and I drift over there and we're joined by another one of the mamas and her girls, and it turns into a barbecue and a wine tasting and a general good time, complete with the telling of dirty jokes in front of someone's parents.
And at one point one of the dads takes his daughter to the potty, and Molly decides she wants to go too, so he just puts Molly on the potty too. No weirdness. No worries. No bothering to call Dug or myself in to handle it. He just did it and it was done.
And I realized after that, that I've changed the diaper of every one of those kids, at some point. And you know how you always say "I can handle my own kids, but other kids' poop..." But no, it's not that big a deal. I've known these kids either from birth or close to it. I'd take any one of them in a heartbeat and just add another carseat in the back of the Jetta. I'd trust any one of these moms or dads with my girls. These families have become the family that we don't have living close to us.
And we don't all have identical parenting philosophies. Some of them have some ideas I secretly (and sometimes not-so-secretly) find wacky, and I know for a fact that I do things that probably make their skin crawl. But we seem to have found the balance, where we can disagree yet suspend judgement.
I mean, we are talking the difference between children who have never tasted beef, and a child who has four My Little Pony Happy Meal toys. And I think you know which kid is mine.
So anyway. It wasn't without some effort and the passage of some time, but what I realized is that I'm not raising these kids alone, that Dug and I aren't raising them alone, we're raising them within the framework, however loose, of a community of people. And that I freaking love those people and their kids, and that I take my responsibility to them pretty seriously.
I thought I spent a lot of time thinking about being a mother and about my role and my place in the cosmos, but apparently I don't. Because I am not terribly conflicted. I mean, no more than I was conflicted about working at a record store instead of a clothing store, or temping at a publishing company instead of getting a "real job". I mean, there's things you're doing and things you're not, and the only person who can decide how to proceed with all of that is you.
I just want to raise good and happy children. And so, I hang around with good people who make me happy, and I concern myself with the goodness and the happiness of my girls inasmuch as it's in my power to control it, and frankly, I don't care how smart or polished or talented they are, so long as they're good and they're happy. I know for a fact that nobody likes a smartypants anyway.
It bums me out that society sends such mixed messages about how we should raise our children, and what tools we make available to do it with. But you know society, it's a grey shadowy figure that nobody seems to actually be a part of. So, if you'll pardon my French, fuck society. Find yourself a good solid core of people who love you and your kid, get together, mix up a pitcher of margaritas and let the rugrats go wild. Good. Happy. Take it as it comes. Do what works for your family, and if it isn't working, find out what does. Don't beat yourself up, and don't let anyone else beat you. There are people out there who are going through whatever it is you are, and who are waiting to run into you in the store, at the playground, on a parenting board. Go find them, and raise some good, happy kids.