[...]the theme on all these mommyblogs seems to be an almost creepy mantra of "mothering is the most important job." Why the need for constant restatement of your position? I don't understand it. In other words, if you (plural) knew in your heart of hearts that mothering is the most important job, or more important than lawyering, why do you (plural) need to state and restate it at every chance you get?Yeah, I know I shouldn't have let myself get drawn into a pissing match, but I did. Live and learn. However, the whole exchange has made me think quite a bit about how my life has - no, how I have changed since having children and why it is that I, and so many others, feel the need to blog about it.
Before you have kids everyone tells you how much your life will change, blah, blah, blah, blah. But you don't get it. You can't get it. You won't get it. Until you join that sleep deprived, wondrous, frustrating, awe inspiring, hands in poo, overwhelming, beautiful, baby puke covered, life altering Mommy Club. (Or Daddy Club.) I hate to quote that corny Johnson & Johnson commercial (makes me cry every time, damn it!) but having a baby changes everything. Being responsible for this little creature not only feels like someone cracked open your chest and pulled your guts out with a pitchfork, it changes how you think and how you view the world. You start to see the world through the filter of Motherhood, with a capital M.
I watch the news or hear about a car accident, a murder, or even worse, abuse of a child and through my Mommygoggles, I picture one of my children dead on the side of the road/stabbed/battered and beaten. Having children has changed how I view war and global warming and even my job. I think very carefully about how I treat people, how I act, the example I set, all in a way I never did before. As a mother, I am motivated to truly make the world a better place in a totally different way. Welcoming a child into your world fundamentally alters everything about you in way you couldn't possibly have expected. It's the converse of a brush with death, but it alters you in a similar way - you realize that your family, the people you care about, your children, are the most important thing in the world.
And then we all step into the dark underbelly of the Mommy (or Daddy) Club.
The guilt. The judgment.
Oh, the fear. We push it out of our minds, and move back to the guilt. And the judgment.
Nothing evokes more passionate feelings of hatred and judgment than the work versus stay-at-home debate. We're hit with it from both sides. If you stay at home, you're wasting your education and are a drain on society (ala Linda Hirshman). If you work and enjoy it, you're worse than a child abuser. (See comments). If you have to work to pay the bills or work part-time, then you're somewhere in Mommy purgatory. But really, honestly, all of us are part of that same wonderful, scary Mommy Club. We should support one another rather than tear each other apart. Deep down, I think every Mommy who lets a grenade fly knows that. They know how hard it is to make a choice.
The complaint I got from the comments of the vitriolic poster I quoted above was that we (meaning Mommy bloggers) keep repeating over and over that motherhood is the most important thing in the world unnecessarily. What she didn't understand, and I don't know how to explain, is that being a parent is the most important thing that many of us will ever do. But motherhood, and the way it elementally changes you, is scary as hell. And so we write about it. We try to make others understand how we feel, we seek others who understand, and we share all those frightening and overwhelming feelings in the way we know best. We've built our own little blogging community of people who understand exactly why it is that our families are more important than any paying job we will ever have.
The commenter above also made a valid point - that everyone can have something to say about the work versus family debate. I completely agree. I agree that everyone in our society should be able to join the discussion about combining work and family. It's an issue that concerns all of us, male and female, young and old, childless or not. But how do you explain to someone who doesn't have children, who doesn't yet know what's in store, just how hard that choice between career and family is? How do you explain how wonderful and terrifying it is to be so completely and irrevocably changed by another human being? I have absolutely no idea. But I think that all these Mommy Blogs are a damn good start to the conversation.