One day my son will realize I'm a writer and I'm writing about him. And he'll have an opinion about it. I even crafted a futuristic scenario in a previous blog, Future Therapy Session for Lucas, where I imagined a sullen young adult version of Lucas seething with anger at me for blogging about him. Of course, it's a fear I have that what I'm doing could somehow hurt him by its publicness. But after reading an article, My 10 New Ground Rules for Writing in Public about the Kids, I found myself disputing the idea that I need to give him a nickname and veto power over my writing as the author suggests.
Because I'm fairly convinced that if I didn't write, they'd have called social services on me by now. It's what I do to calm my extreme reactions, to separate the pressures from society from my reality, to make sense of the muddle that motherhood makes of everything. It's my yoga, my treadmill, my therapist - it's how I process and how I cope and how I stay sane. And it may be that in doing so publicly, I push against the comfort zones of my family and friends and, when he is aware, of my son's.
"I never write about my husband in anything but a positive light," I tell my writing group. They wait, thinking there is a punchline. But that's it. Hubby makes it pretty easy to write positively about him - he is so far from the stereotypical "stupid dad" or "slacker husband" and we have fifteen years of foundation beneath us that helps me feel strong in our relationship. But if I am truthful, this decision limits what I write about, but it's a conscious choice I've made to maintain our relationship. It helps that he is completely positive about what I write, and assumes no control over my writing. He would never have veto power over what I publish, but we have an unspoken rule about what's written.
The same has not yet been established between my son and I. In fact, as I'm writing this, he climbs on the edge of the couch and asks me, "Mommy, what are you doing?"
"I'm writing," I tell him. "About you." I pause, considering the topic I'm addressing. "What do you think about that?"
"It's good," he says then runs upstairs.
I wish I could count that as his approval, but I know he's not at a age to comprehend what I'm really doing. I don't feel like I'm writing anything that will hurt him, but I'm aware that that's not for me to say. It's funny because I'm completely uncomfortable with conflict. I avoid it specifically in all areas of my life. And yet, this is one area, I feel compelled to stir the pot. I've always been a writer, but ever since becoming a mother, I can't help but go public with my struggles, observations, and guilt.
After reading Erica Jong's piece in the Wall Street Journal on Mother Madness, I think I know why.
She writes, "as long as women remain the gender most responsible for children, we are the ones who have the most to lose by accepting the "noble savage" view of parenting, with its ideals of attachment and naturalness. We need to be released from guilt about our children, not further bound by it. We need someone to say: Do the best you can. There are no rules." It's not attachment parenting I have a problem with - it's the societal pressure to adhere to attachment parenting or being a supermom or [insert idealistic motherhood notion here].
I feel like, if I could start a movement, it would be around ending the pretense that motherhood is natural, simple, or happy-happy. I want the world to realize that the idealism of motherhood, the extreme parenting philosophies, and the perfection displayed in parenting magazines and ads, are just insults to all of us who are doing our best to raise our kids. Worse, they cripple us by invoking guilt and stress and exhaustion as we parents try to do it all and realize we can't.
I don't have to start this movement - it is happening already - as evidenced by the popularity of mommy blogging and articles like this making it into the Wall Street journal and momoir anthologies coming out into the mainstream. So, I put aside the ethnical dilemma of writing about my son. Because it's my way to be part of this movement. Because I can't live a lie and pretend that motherhood is what its not. I have to bear witness to this journey, this challenge, this life-changing experience. I have to share my story and inspire others to share theirs. I have to push back, to stir the pot, the invoke some conflict, and step out WAY out of my comfort zone to do so. Because I can't not. For me, as a writer, it would be a moral dilemma to stay silent.
In the end, you can look at me in either of the two ways I can look at myself. On the one hand, I'm a narcissistic woman blogging publicly about her kid as a way to make sense of our relationship. On the other hand, I'm a writer documenting a social phenomenon. Either way, I am attempting to redefine motherhood, both for myself and the world around me.