Mommy Fundies

Yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers and authors, Rachel Held Evans, wrote a post titled: “Why Moms Sorta Scare Me,” in which she compared the current culture of motherhood to fundamentalism. She explained that as she, a happily married woman of 29, nears the age of baby-making, she doesn’t fear the idea of children, she fears the culture of mommyhood (especially as she’s seen it in the blogosphere).

“Having been exposed to the religious fundamentalism of Bible Belt culture all my life, I recognize the symptoms: the pride, the fear, the huddling together, the ostracizing of the ‘other.’ From cloth diapers to attachment parenting to vaccinations to sleep schedules, the fundamentalist sees parenting decisions not as preferences but as absolutes.”

Her entire post is completely worth reading. What I found most interesting, though, were the comments. As I write this, it’s 7 hours since she posted it and there are already 76 comments. Several of them are from women who have not had children who feel either ostracized or simply annoyed by that community. (I understand, I’m tired enough of hearing fellow moms talk about breastfeeding and preschools, and those things actually pertain to my life.) There were older mothers sharing their regrets for the parenting phenomenons they wish they hadn’t bought into (ie not rocking their babies to sleep in the midst of BabyWise’s heyday.) And there were both the moms and non-moms (and a step mom) all feeling judged in the church for varying aspects of their motherhood/non-motherhood. I was amazed how many emotions were stirred by one post.

What I found most disturbing though, was a thought posted by a woman with older children. She essentially said that she fears the day when Rachel has a child and her blog changes, becoming less interesting to all those not in her stage of life. Right now Rachel is politically and socially aware, a critic of the often absurd culture of Christianity on America, and always thoughtful. The thought that someone might actually be afraid that motherhood would make Rachel uninteresting really prickled my feathers. And then I stopped and wondered if, maybe, I’m less interesting.

Of course, being the completely self-absorbed woman I am, I had to have that thought, right? I never had a blog or tried to write a book in my days pre-children so I don’t know what kind of “writer” I would have been. And when I think logically about this woman’s comment, I recognize that of course I can’t help but be marked by my motherhood. But her comment made me really self-conscious. I couldn’t help but wonder how often you all (dear readers) are sick of hearing my complaints about pregnancy or toddlerhood or this “season of life,” (I know, I know, I love that phrase). And I know there are those of you out there who are not moms or even women and yet continue to read this blog. That’s a shocker in itself and I can’t believe (honestly) that I don’t drive you crazy with my inability to stop talking about motherhood.

But at the same time, I’ve never been the girl who wants to talk breastfeeding or attachment parenting or (it won’t stop lately!) preschools. I’d much rather discuss things that aren’t already filling up my brain all day long. (Then again, I was the girl in my twenties at dinner parties who tried to secretly stay in the men’s conversation when the “split” would begin to happen. Big generalization here: but their conversations were almost always theology or books or politics. It was only when it turned to sports that I purposefully joined the ladies’ conversation.)

All that to say, I understand. And though I don’t want to be the woman who used to be interesting before she became a mom, I have to be honest with myself about this stage of my life. My world is full of little ones. My head is full of decisions I need to make on August’s behalf, from what he will eat for lunch to how I will force him to sit on the potty to how I am loving and nudging him toward kindness and gentleness and justice.

What does that mean I’ve become? I hope it means I have more layers, that I can see the world in a kind of clarity I didn’t have three years ago before I had kids, even if having children has obscured my vision in other ways. And I hope that as I love-nudge August toward the man he ought to be, I will also become kind and gentle and able to have compassion on all the various “mommy camps” of the world, whether or not I’m aligned with them.

Comments

  1. Stephanie F. says:

    Couldn’t. Agree. More.

    And that’s pretty much all I have time to say right now :)

  2. Stephanie F. says:

    Couldn’t. Agree. More.

    And that’s pretty much all I have time to say right now :)

  3. Felicity says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I read Rachel’s post yesterday, too. I hate getting into polarizing discussions, so I’m hesitant to jump in here, but I think mothering fits so well with your theme of spiritual growth. For all its glory, it’s also a very humbling experience. We don’t get it all right, we don’t always do the “cool” thing. But we are doing something noble. And just like I won’t let the objections to my faith (or brand of evangelical faith) keep me from being one (in my estimation a healthy and balance version, of course!), I’m not going to let someone else’s fears add to my own insecurities about mothering. I think when you become a mom you sort of realize that all your fears and worries were both unfounded in some ways and worse than you imagined in others. If that’s possible. But no doubt parenting is where I am both spiritually challenged and emotionally fulfilled. It makes me a better person even in its out-working.

    I agree with Rachel that the mommy culture has gotten way out of hand in some instances, but, much like the Christian culture, some of that is bound to happen when passions run deep.

    • I hear you, Felicity. That’s why it makes so much sense that Rachel compared the mommy culture to the Christian culture. Parenting is all consuming…in the same way that faith is. It’s powerful and life-changing. And in the same way that it’s scary to admit that we don’t have all the mysteries of faith figured out, it seems like we fear questioning our own parenting camps because of our own insecurities.

      Hmmmmm. Super interesting stuff!

  4. Steve says:

    I’m not a mom, so I should probably just move along quietly.

    But that’s not happening.

    I’ve had an awareness for some time that I’m “less cool” than I used to be (or at least perceived myself to be). I see fewer films. I am familiar with less and less new music. I now get my news through reading online on my phone or listening to NPR between meetings. I suppose it’s only natural. I have to make a choice when I am done working for the day—and one of my options is almost always spending time with JB and the boys. So I do a lot of homework and board games and Phineas and Ferb (genius show) and Lego building and coaching teams. So, yes, I suppose I am less interesting.

    And, given enough time, I suppose you will be, too.

    Then again, the more time I spend with my family and other families, I discover that human interaction and making a good life filled with flourishing is exceptionally interesting. I find it makes me a better pastor and speaker. I find it makes me a better writer. And I find that I choose to invest my time in things that I’m truly interested in rather than squandering time.

    So I think that in another respect I am immensely more interesting that I have ever been, for I think about essential things much more intently than I did before.

    Your experience may not be the same as mine. To be sure, there are days when I wish that I could be more “relevant.” But I find that those days are less frequent that I would have suspected.

    So, yes, I suspect that you have more layers. But I also suspect that it will make some of your layers much more pronounced and significant than you originally anticipated.

    • I love your thoughts, Steve! And I always grateful when you don’t move along quietly! Thank you for sharing your perspective on what it means to be “interesting.” You’re right. There’s a major difference between being relevant and being a person who is flourishing and working to see that kind of flourishing in others. Interesting is such a vague word. I would always rather have a conversation with someone who is passionate about something specific in their lives and can explain that passion, than someone who is simply “relevant” in all things cultural.

      So what does that mean to mommyhood? I think you’ve still hit the nail on the head with your thoughts about interacting with others. When moms stop spending time with people other than our kids, we become obsessed with a very small world. If we long for and work for others’ flourishing (not just our own kids), then we’re capable of having that kind of passion.

  5. Denise says:

    I don’t read your blog often enough. I should, because everytime I do I feel so validated and encouraged. The ol’ “I-guess-I’m-not-the-only-one” feeling. (Thanks.)

  6. Denise says:

    I don’t read your blog often enough. I should, because everytime I do I feel so validated and encouraged. The ol’ “I-guess-I’m-not-the-only-one” feeling. (Thanks.)

  7. Sam says:

    I also thought the post and comments were completely fascinating. Like Felicity said earlier, parenting really is all-encompassing. It totally takes over your life. That can be scary for nearly everyone, but I think it’s just a season. I know I was dismayed when my best friend became a mother and it seemed like all she wanted to talk about was her baby. I mean, I loved her, I adored her child, but I wanted to yell, “I WANT TO HEAR ABOUT YOU! NOT THE BABY!” And I’m sure I did the same thing when I had my son. And once you emerge from the first year, all the fervor around breastfeeding and cosleeping or not and teething can seem boring, for sure. I think to criticize someone or warn them against being ‘less interesting’ is selfish, really. It’s something altogether to encourage a new mom to keep cultivating her own interests, even when it doesn’t seem like there’s time or energy to do so.

  8. I hear you, Felicity. That’s why it makes so much sense that Rachel compared the mommy culture to the Christian culture. Parenting is all consuming…in the same way that faith is. It’s powerful and life-changing. And in the same way that it’s scary to admit that we don’t have all the mysteries of faith figured out, it seems like we fear questioning our own parenting camps because of our own insecurities.

    Hmmmmm. Super interesting stuff!

  9. I love your thoughts, Steve! And I always grateful when you don’t move along quietly! Thank you for sharing your perspective on what it means to be “interesting.” You’re right. There’s a major difference between being relevant and being a person who is flourishing and working to see that kind of flourishing in others. Interesting is such a vague word. I would always rather have a conversation with someone who is passionate about something specific in their lives and can explain that passion, than someone who is simply “relevant” in all things cultural.

    So what does that mean to mommyhood? I think you’ve still hit the nail on the head with your thoughts about interacting with others. When moms stop spending time with people other than our kids, we become obsessed with a very small world. If we long for and work for others’ flourishing (not just our own kids), then we’re capable of having that kind of passion.