That’s “Mother Blogger” to You!
I am “Mommy.”
I love being called “Mommy” . . . by my four-year-old son.
But let’s be clear here: If you are able to read these words in October 2013, you are (a) not my son, and (b) have no business calling me “Mommy.” This is true if you walk up to me at the grocery store, pass me on the sidewalk, catch me playing at the park or stumble across my blog and see I’ve written a post about parenting.
I’ve written posts about many topics, from abuse and safety, to bullying and mental illness, cancer and death. When I write about these things, no one’s called me a “depression blogger” or “abuse blogger” or “scary subject blogger,” though sometimes I think of myself in the latter light and decide—usually without follow-through!—to write more posts about boobs, bunnies and/or belching. I’d wager it doesn’t feel right to take complex subjects and boil their addressers down into diminute two-word descriptions.
Mommyhood, on the other hand, is apparently simple and cutesy, full of sweet things, afternoons on swingsets, and utter lack of exposure to life’s real trials and tribulations. Someone on this earth calls you “Mommy,” and you write about that someone, ergo you are MOMMY BLOGGER! Unlike weighty matters such as bullying or fear, there’s nothing complex about it.
What a bunch of bull.
I grew up in a single-mother household of five. I grew up seeing that motherhood was terrifying business. It was fending for four little ones against a callous world full of people who said things like, “You didn’t want to have to fend for four kids? Maybe you shouldn’t have had four kids.” It was rocking those kids when they were sick, even soaked in their vomit, standing up to teachers and bullies and even bullying pastors because the biggest thing in the world was not what other people thought of you, but that your kids made it out of childhood safe and strong. It was fretting how to make ends meet if child support didn’t come in, and fretting about decent child care if a job came in that would begin to pay for such child care. It was badly bruised legs from dropped cans from night shifts at the cannery, battered body from spousal visits, demolished ego. It was bearing tons of criticism compared to each ounce of guidance and support. It was a world of pain and responsibility for a scant amount of glory.
Is it any wonder I didn’t want to be a mom? When you are a mother, the weight of entire lives comes to rest upon your shoulders.
That’s mothering, not mommying. “Mothering” is simultaneously fierce and beautiful, gentle and brave.
“Mommying” sounds like something women do because they maybe don’t have anything better to do with their lives and their skill sets only allow them to chase after three-year-olds while other adults hold down real jobs.
I cherish the word “Mommy” when spoken by my little one. By random passersby, not so much. It feels both both dismissive and diminutive coming from an adult human being not specifically granted the privilege of its use in reference to another adult human being.
If someone self-identifies as a mommy blogger, by all means call her that! It’s something she’s comfortable with and embraces as a joyous thing. You are honoring her choice, and that is a powerful thing.
I am not your mommy. I am not your mommy blogger, or a mommy blogger. I am a mother, and I blog, so call me a mother blogger if you must, but please do not diminish the work of mothers by boiling their struggles and triumphs down to a cutesy two-word expression of possibly the most exhausting, ceaseless and crucial job in this entire world.
I have survived abuse, taken martial arts, gone to law school, run marathons, lived abroad alone with little money, negotiated complex contracts, commuted 2.5 hours daily, watched my mom’s devolution into mental illness and death to cancer, volunteered with homeless families and abandoned dogs, testified against criminals, been stalked, deterred would-be attackers, battled depression and chosen hope despite everything. I have done all these things and more, but being a mother has been by far the most challenging (and rewarding!) task of my life. I am a mom no matter how sick I am, or tired, and how I fulfill my duties is the foundation for another person’s strength and perseverance throughout the rest of his life. That is an enormously powerful thing, encompassing all the scary and joyous things I have experienced in my life to date, and more daunting by far because I now must do these things on behalf of one who has not yet learned all the skills to do them for himself. Years more of instruction are required.
The things I teach my son will be carried forward through his life, and part of what he imparts upon his children, which in turn will shape what they teach their own children. Unlike most projects at most paid work, the consequences of individual projects of motherhood will endure for generations. If done with great love, the positive impacts can be both timeless and immeasurable.
I often think back to a conversation with a friend’s mom who died of cancer a couple of years before my own mom was diagnosed with it. Sally asked me how I coped with losing my mom (to mental illness, at that point). Totally failing to understand what she was really asking me—How will my daughter go on without me here?—I answered, approximately, “I remember who she was before. I remember how much she loved me, how much she fought for me, and her love is part of who I am the rest of forever whether or not I ever get to see her, the real her, for even one more second in the future. Who she was when she raised me gave me the strength to endure this now.”
After I’d finished trying to explain it, Sally beamed at me and said, “Thank you.” Because I’m super bright, I only comprehended why she thanked me as I drove to her funeral a few months later.
Last weekend, her daughter–my friend Sydney–gave me a bear hug as she left my wedding reception. The look of love on her face before and afterward choked me up, reflecting not only her own love, spirit and soul, but little parts of her mother’s, too.
That is motherhood’s legacy. It is eternal, enduring well beyond death. Indeed, four years after my own mom’s death, I feel her still.
Is that incredible or what? There’s this job—parenthood, be it as a mom or dad—that can shape entire lives? Heck, the entire world?!
“Mommy” doesn’t capture the gravity of that for me when spoken or written by anyone other than the child or children who have that specific relationship with a person. Spoken by such child or children, of course, it is gold. In such a voice, the truth of William Makepeace Thackeray’s words is laid bare:
Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.
Any name for “mother” reflects this in a child’s voice.
Other than that, please don’t mistake the fact that my job title of “mother” doesn’t come printed on a business card as an invitation to tweak the title to your liking, unless you want me to start calling you “astry” (astronaut), “chiefeeo” (any executive), or “mangy” (for manager—sure to be a hit!). It’s serious work we mothers are doing, whether or not we blog or talk about all its countless responsibilities. It is worthy of the full title “mother” unless and until any specific mother invites you to call her “Mommy.”
Mothering is the most amazing work I have ever done, to be sure, but also the most overwhelming by far. “Mother” is a powerful title that reflects the complexity of the job it describes.
“Mommy” at the tongue or fingertips of a stranger feels diminutive. “Mommy” in the voice of a child, on the other hand, is unavoidably full of love and recognition that its real meaning is “my champion.”
My son might someday call me “mommy blogger.” I’m OK with that, for I am his mommy. Frankly, I hope that’s the worst thing he calls me!
Apart from that? That’s “mother blogger” to you.