We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness.
David Orr from "Earth in Mind"

Feb 15, 2007

How I Do Mama 2

The story sort of starts with weddings, I am not sure if you did this but when Kevin and I first got engaged and chose a date I briefly got bitten by the wedding bug. I bought into all the stupid things that the magazines said and I wanted the frills and all. Luckily I quickly came back to my senses.

Having a kid is similar, first there is the wait between getting pregnant and having them. Second, there is all the consumer media about what you need to do/ buy for the baby. At first when I was pregnant I mainly thought about names, nothing concrete or committal. But after we moved to 34th Ave and I had to set up a "nursery" and get ready for the baby I started to let my mind drift mainstream. I chose colors and came up with room themes that I wanted (don't laugh) I even pondered a wishing well crib (2000 dollars). The romance of a nursery soon wore out when we decided to cosleep with Alder. After cosleeping and the choice to have a homebirth all the trappings of the soccer/SUV cult dissipated.

But the mainstream culture was soon replaced with the cult of natural parenting and attachment parenting. I envisioned myself spending my days wearing Alder in a sling and breastfeeding until he was four. The funny thing about the natural parenting resources out there they are also filled with consumerism. Sure you are not giving your money to Gerber or Pamper but you are still a market group being sold to. Still I agreed philosophically with the parenting ideas that were espoused (and still do). I wanted my baby (I won't say Alder yet because he was still just baby) to grow up happy independent and loving. But I also imagined him only playing with wooden or handmade toys. Any new parent can tell you that anything that you imagined parenting to be like is a fantasy.

Then came the day I was at the fabric store looking for fabric for the baby's sling. I was very pregnant and it was hot out. The air conditioning was wonderful and I was prolonging my stay in the store. It was then that I met the woman who invited me to join a mother's co-op. What a great idea I thought. So fitting with the ideals I had for my baby. I liked the image of spending hours in someones kitchen as the little ones played on the floor while we made homemade baby food and sipped herbal tea. I could see little Allia (what I called the baby to myself) running with a crew of slightly natty rose kids all in cotton clothes playing together like brothers and sisters.

I even started to go to their Monday playgroup/ discussions before the baby was born. It felt good to be around other mothers. Most of my friends don't have children. Sure I felt like the neighbor girl invited to the sleepover who was not really friends with anyone. But it was good for Adler (he was alive at this stage). I wanted to fit in, to be like. I started doing more with them and volunteering to organize things. As I did more I saw less and lass of my old friends.

Then came my offer to create a creative outlet for mothers. A blog where we could show our arts, writing, and crafts. My offer, that was only there because I wanted external motivation, was rebuked by the "leaders" as trying to steal their email list. That I was trying to duplicate their group, and somehow steal their idea. I even felt the need to diplomatically explain myself, making sure I dropped all sorts of platitudes towards the groups "leaders". Their reply was something about wanting to process this misunderstanding as a group.

Process, that word annoys me. It usually involves some amount of sharing secrets that have nothing to do with the issue at hand, a good deal of tears related to childhood wrongs, and still I would somehow end up apologizing. Perhaps that is bitter of me, but I have never been invited to process anything with out it really turning into a veiled excuse to dump on one person while others stroke their own egos (usually very fragile ones hiding in vocabulary). Process to me means that people want you to change and listen but they do not want to change or even hear what you are saying. Of course I am excluding all the wonderful versions of process; like the process of making a book or baking bread, I am talking only about the discussion sort of process.

Luckily for me just as the beginnings of the processing I was heading to New York. It is funny how being around people who have known you for a long time puts things into perspective. As I spent time with my family having fun and having interesting conversations an idea began to form in my head. I would never be friends with most of these women except that we happened to have children of approximately the same age. There was no herbal tea in kitchens.

Then, while I was still in New York, there was another spate of emails about misunderstanding. Again the same people were the ones offended. People that I liked left the group. Here I was with people who I love spending time with and what could I tell them about the people I had been hanging out with? Someone asked and then the words came to me. They seemed like lonely women who had always wanted to be popular and had now created their own forum where they were the popular ones. My move to volunteer is no different than the high school girl who helps with the prom to hangout with the popular girls (not that we even had a prom at Friends). When I said this out loud to my cousin I realized then that I needed to leave the group.

I do not really think badly of these women. They are filling a need by creating this co-op, but it doesn't fill any need for me. I know enough people with children for Alder to see other children once or twice a week. For me I need to be around friends who are interested in things that I am. I really do need to be around other artists or just other people who I like for themselves. So I left the group, and Alder and I have become busier since then, there are people to have coffee with, libraries to explore, walks to go on (alone and with friends). Also I am happier, I can focus on Alder more as well as me. I love my son and he has done much to enhance my life but he has not changed me to some other "mommy" creature. I am still the same Stacey, maybe a little calmer, but still me.

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