I’ve been a phone sex operator, a drug procurer*, various kinds of office/administrative/executive assistants, a dominatrix, a college drop-out, a lead singer of a band, a model for pelvic exams, a hippie, a druggie, a sex fiend, et al., and all the while, I’ve been pretty open about my activities. I’ve talked fairly incessantly about my crazy antics. I’ve shared drunken anecdotes while on my way to the next party/binge/fling/one-night stand. Maybe I have no filter. Maybe I like the attention. Maybe I simply have no shame.
When I look back on those days of reckless abandon and remember my present situation, I laugh as I come to a conclusion: Becoming a mom is unlike any other life decision in that everyone thinks it’s ok to openly criticize your choices.
That’s right. When I was buying drugs at wholesale and reselling them to fellow students, no one ever told me a thing. When I was having sex in movie theaters and phone booths and park benches all over the city, people laughed and applauded and wanted to know more. When I beat men for a living, the most offensive response I got was from a friend who hasn’t experienced much outside of the average American daily humdrum (READ: I expect a disparaging comment from her).
But suddenly, I become a mom, and everyone has an opinion on what I should do and how I should do it. And, possibly even more disconcerting, suddenly I’m more sensitive about these opinions.
I feel no need to stop talking incessantly about my latest life change. It’s exciting and important, and extremely worthwhile. I’ve always been one to announce what I’m doing, no matter how the information might rub other people. And the fact that I’ve been able to discuss so many of my life choices without as much hooplah as my upcoming immersion into motherhood… It makes me wonder: Does this say something about Me? About my friends? And, if so, what?
Perhaps, the reason that everyone thinks it’s ok to criticize my impending motherhood is because I’ve been open to their critical eyes all this time; maybe it just so happens that they only now have polarized opinions of my actions. But why, exactly, is that the case?
What is it about motherhood that makes people reveal their personal ideals on social issues? Why does it stir so many comments about what should be done? Is it because parenthood is a rite of passage that is rife with opinion? Is it because having a child means adding a member to a society of which the critics (presumably) are a part? Is it because parenthood is the one life choice that we are all defensive about; that we’d all like to think that we’ve figured out the right way of doing things, so automatically, other peoples’ ways of parenting are wrong?
I think it’s all of those things. And I think, also, there’s that void between myself and many of my friends, that chasm of experience which separates theory from actuality. I have entered a stage of life that many of my friends see only as a hypothetical future scenario, and it’s easy for them to throw around predictions and aspirations about how they’ll handle what I’m going through because they’re not going through it. They haven’t been here, at this bridge. They haven’t crossed over into this strange and new territory.
So I excuse their insensitive remarks and sharp criticisms. I boil down our personal conversations to political theory about motherhood and economics and social history. I try to communicate in a language that is universal and trusted: the discourse of cold, hard academic study.
If I don’t protect my position, only harsh feelings will stir; yet I don’t have the fortitude to be battling with naysayers all of the time. It’s a truth that I think is common sense, and I wonder why so many of my friends have glossed over this fact – especially when they’re aware of the daily gauntlet of opposition that I am up against.
When I get tired of having to defend my actions, my position, my circumstances; when the day’s been long and social interaction simply takes too much out of me; when I no longer have the strength to casually and comfortably show my friends the other ways of thinking, I smile and nod.
I’ve learned to hold my tongue because my friends have yet to learn that lesson.
*drug procurer = I wasn’t dependent in any way on the income gained from selling a couple hits of acid or a few bags of weed, so I didn’t consider myself a drug dealer. Maybe it’s all semantics.