Thursday, October 18, 2012

Time

I remember on a cold December morning back in 2007, sitting at my kitchen table and crying. It happened to be the day of my son’s bris (a ritual Jewish circumcision and naming ceremony). My father assumed that I was understandably emotional about everything that I and my newborn son would face that day. But instead I remember I looked at him and said that I was crying because I couldn’t believe how old he was. 7 whole days! Can you believe it? I had waited so many months for him, counted down every second and then he was finally here! And now a whole week had gone by in what seemed like the blink of an eye and I was humbled by the idea that the moments that would follow would be equally fleeting; that we would be on a perpetual fast forward button. I didn’t have a newborn! I had a week old baby, a real old timer. I remember quite clearly what my father did next. He yelled, “Ronni! [my mother] Get in here! You won’t believe this one!” And then the two of them laughed at me. Not with me, but truly at me. One of those great, silent, belly shaking laughs. I’m pretty sure one or both of them might have cried and/or peed at my expense. At the time, I didn’t get what was so funny.

Obviously now I get what a ridiculous statement it was. In just about 8 weeks my newborn will turn 5. How did that happen? The quality of time as a grown up and specifically as a parent has become so bizarre. I remember as a child that life and time seemed endless, long, stretched before me like a road with no end. Summers went on forever. So did tests and homework and stress about school dances and first dates and then I blinked. And I was married. And I blinked again and I was pregnant. And honestly that’s how it feels. Like one minute I was on this long slow meandering trip through life and now I’m on this treadmill where someone has amped the speed and I can’t quite catch up and I’m trying to hold on tighter and tighter to the bars in an effort to slow it all down.
It’s funny because trust me, there are those days where the kids are intensely crabby and Phil is traveling and it’s snowing or raining and we can’t go outside and I catch myself thinking, I just have to come up with 4 more hours of original mom programming and then blessed bedtime! And is it really so wrong to put your kids to bed at 6pm? I mean, it’s getting dark earlier and they can’t tell time yet. They won’t really know the difference. But then are those moments where my floors are covered with fire engines and princesses and they are playing together under a blanket pretending it’s a fort and I want to literally hit a pause button somewhere and just freeze it and keep them 4 and 2 forever. I can’t quite reconcile how I seem to feel both emotions so much in equal measure. But perhaps that’s the exactly the problem. Trying to pick and choose and analyze moment to moment rather than just live it.

I blink again and it’s a beautiful fall afternoon. Not the crisp kind but an unusually warm one: sunny with blindingly beautiful colors all around. I am jogging and my body doesn’t quite know what is happening because it’s been that long since I exercised. I feel my heart beating up in the back of my throat, the Jackson Five beating in my ears, leaves crunching underneath. Two unbelievably amazing little people spot me and from the blur of our house run toward me. My feet are slow, the moments feel fast. I am not examining it or shuffling through it. I am in it. And it feels amazing.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mommy For Sale

Recently, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend: the monetization of motherhood. We are no longer individual people or women, but rather seem to be a highly lucrative brand. Let’s be clear: I get it. Women and particularly mothers have tremendous purchasing power and when those energies and dollars are harnessed toward a specific product, the receiving company (and potentially its partner mommy website) can reap tremendous financial rewards. And I think I’m supposed to feel good about that, right? Women finding alternative ways into the workforce and connecting and working to get their share of the pie by finally hawking something we know how to sell: motherhood. But I’m bothered, I think by the idea that a) my mommy-ness is somehow for sale, and b) the version of it they are selling is so one-dimensional. After all, what are they really selling and what am I supposed to be buying?

I happened somewhat accidentally upon a site I’d never been to the other day: The Moms.com. Ever been there? If not I’ve just given them free advertising – sweet! I have no idea how I found them except I think I read something on the Huffington Post Parents or Womens section that connected me there (and don’t even get me started on some of the Women and Mommy-themed Huff Post headlines you’ll find there (The Real Key to Great Sex!). Okay wait – I have to sidebar here, but that ridiculous story about great sex which was one of the Huff Post Womens headlines the other day totally buried another interesting story which was all the way at the bottom of the page. In it, Barbara and Shannon Kelley discuss the danger of subverting our individual selves to a larger culture induced “gender identity.” They write: “…surely there's some wisdom in … consciously putting more investment in our ‘individual personhood’ as opposed to our ‘gender identity,’ in worrying less about what it means to be a woman and more about what it means to be our self.”[1] Yes, maybe that’s what’s bothering me here. When did I stop being an individual person and start being a mom-themed brand?
Now, cut to my new found not so guilty pleasure – The Moms.com. The subsections call out to me, oozing their punn-ification of my mommy-ness. Am I a Mamarazzi? What is my Mommentary on life? First stop – Mamarazzi. Not too much here except some coverage of a red carpet event for the newly released Won’t Back Down. I’m interested. Let’s get their take on the movie and what it means as a mom and a woman and person currently interested in the battle to save our schools. Have you heard of this film? Let me give you the short form description – based on a true story of two moms in a Florida school who activated a law that does exist in some select states called the Parent Trigger law. The law enables parents of students in failing schools to effectively take over the school and create parent-led reforms. I haven’t seen it, but I know based on some chatter from friends and running commentary about the movie, that it is incredibly controversial in that many view it as a highly inflammatory piece that demonizes both public education and teachers unions. Now look, I don’t know. As I mentioned before – I didn’t see it. But I was hoping the overly punny mommies might help me break down some of the debate here.

The movie (either directly or indirectly) highlighted an ongoing, complicated and often times vitriolic debate regarding failing schools, and specifically the role that parents, teachers, teachers unions, and ed reformers can play to address this. I suspect the movie was overly simplistic here and didn’t get into any of that. And by the way, the Moms.com didn’t either. I saw a red carpet with the movie stars. I saw some guy representing both Office Depot and Lady Gaga’s Born this Way Foundation (is it possible someone really lives and works in both those worlds? I digress…) talking about the importance of saying no to bullying and leaving messages of hope on post it notes about bullying, which is weird because that’s not what this debate or this film is about.
After about 5 minutes, I felt more stupid. I felt the Moms, whoever they are, didn’t know me or what I cared about. What was the deal with this site? And would I ever get the past 5 minutes of my life back? Doubtful. So who are these women? According to their site, they are “…a multi-platform lifestyle brand and event company with exposure on the web, television and in print.” In another words, they want to sell me a mommy lifestyle, a brand. They are to moms what Lulemon is to Yoga. If I watch, if I read, then whether it’s real or not at least I’ll look the part. Yuck.

I get that marketing to women as a unified one-dimensional block is not a new marketing strategy. In fact it’s an old and rather useful hat for brands and companies looking to sell a message that they assume most women and mothers want or need to digest. But I think what feels more raw and slightly annoying to me now is that they are using my mommy title specifically as the marketing hook. My mommy name and badge is special. Dylan was the first person to ever give it to me back on a very cold day in December of 2007. I love it for a lot of reasons, but especially because it links me to a generation of women who came before me who gave and shared and loved in a way that was so strong and unique and selfless and complicated, not one-dimensional or brand specific.
This and likeminded sites have their place and are working for someone out there, but not me. I suspect what I’m looking for I’m much more apt to find on the individual posts and blogs of my genius women and mommy friends who in their great collective wit, intelligence and good humor make me learn, laugh and feel each and every day. So you can keep your mamarazzi and your mommentary and your mom-alogues and your pseudo gender friendly brands. Because my mommy-ness is not your version of mommy-ness.  Because I am more than my mommy-ness. And because either way, whatever my is-ness is, it isn’t for sale.





[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shannon-kelley/end-of-men_b_1931012.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women