Are You The Other Mother?
It sounded harmless enough. But underlying that question were the battle lines of post-feminist womanhood. If you choose to be a mother, what kind will you be? Will you breastfeed? For how long? Will you work or stay at home? Will you use a nanny or a day care?
Before I had kids, I thought these were personal, individual choices. I quickly learned our society is compulsively interested in what other women do. We watch and judge each other as we worry about our own emotionally-fraught choices like a loose loop on a hand-knit sweater.
Before I had my first child, I'd published two novels about my single-girl adventures. When my brother-in-law came to visit the new baby, he asked, "So, what are you writing next?"
"Fiction about the mommy wars," I said. "I want a character taking each side."
"The mommy what?" he asked.
Oh, how times have changed.
That book, "The Other Mother", has two first-person narrators -- a working mom and a stay-at-home mom who each tells her side of the story. Only you can answer which one is "the other mother." While the mommy war rages on, our personal expectations, desires, the extraordinary love no one can predict, changes all ideas of how we will live our lives as mothers and women. These are the things that make us pick sides, even if we defect -- daily.
My 5-year-old daughter recently interrupted her litany of what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up ("a writer, a doctor, a vet, a singer, an artist,") with this question: "But Mommy, will I have time to have all my jobs before my babies come?"
I can't wait to see how she answers it.
Gwendolen Gross's new book is The Other Mother. She offers a free workshop for mothers and others. She is also the author of Field Guide and Getting Out. She lives in Northern New Jersey with her son, daughter, and husband.
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