Sunday, December 23, 2007

(Don't) love me for my mind

There’s a young woman on the metro smiling at me. Okay, former student. Her name starts with an S. Or maybe a P. I’m certain that either her first or last name starts with either an S or a P. Or maybe an N. She used to come to office hours every week. I’ve asked her about plans for the spring, after graduation, and she pauses for advice. Here comes that look of concentration on her face that says, “I’m trying to follow you. I’m sure you’re going to start making sense any minute now.”

If I’m at all lucky she’ll assume I’ve been smoking weed and not that I no longer have a brain.

I miss my brain. I really do. It may not have been the most brilliant one on the planet, but it was the only one I had, and it wasn’t so bad.

Absent-minded ditziness is expected from expectant mothers. But that’s not really the point at which one needs one’s mind.

Recently I locked my baby and me out of our apartment after shopping for Shabbat. When I phoned the building super, he was in Virginia, an hour and a half away. Neighbors let us hang out in their apartment. Eventually the super felt bad for us and gave us the Secret Combination to the extra key box. The duplicate key to my apartment didn’t work, of course. And, to top it off, my phone battery went dead. The nanny in the suburbs 45 minutes away has the spare.

Oh well, the neighbors had just installed a plasma television, so we watched the 10 laziest animals in the world (sloth is #1, no surprises there, but did you know #2 was the male lion?).

When people ask me if it’s hard to be a mother, I say, so far, not really. I mean, it's physically and emotionally demanding, but it's not hard. Well, it would be nice to be able to put the teething, feverish, congested sweet thing down for two seconds to use the bathroom (not to mention brush my teeth), but this is as bad as it gets. And anyway, the fever has subsided, and she’s almost back to normal.

Right now I get to sing songs like “Froggy Went A’courting” out loud in the street s of our nation’s capitol without looking at all strange. I can spend hours on the floor reading cool books and looking at wild illustrations. I can make weird food and crazy noises. And of course, because of breastfeeding, I get to eat 600 extra calories a day.

What’s hard is doing anything else: writing a book, commenting on student papers. I keep reminding myself that sleep deprivation is a means of torture. It’s okay not to be completely with it when you’ve got a baby. But I'm really worried about giving two papers at my profession's national conference this week.

I don’t blame my brain for deserting me. There is a certain amount of tedium involved with child rearing that might have bored it.

Still, if anyone sees it wandering around somewhere, please tell it that I miss it, I need it, and I love it, and I’ll be here for it whenever it decides to come home.


Anonymous said...

Being a mom is one of the most mentally challenging tasks I have ever faced in my life - and I have 2 careers and 2 degrees behind me. If motherhood isn't presenting a challenge, perhaps you should take a breath and take a fresh look at the miracle you are nurturing and caring for.

And by the way, it gets better every day - don't give up hope yet.

Anonymous said...

Motherhood is hard, but it is all the harder when you have to work outside the home and be a mom. It frustrates me so much when my friends who are stay at home moms talk about how hard it is to be a mother when I have to go to work everyday and then come home and do my mommy duties.

With all that I have to deal with everyday, it is hard for me to think that my role as a mom is the hardest thing that I do everyday. And I don't feel that I am disadvantaging my child to say that -- we are the first generation of women who honestly and consistently think that our bundle of joy is the greatest thing since sliced bread. My mom is right when she tells me that I was one of the things that made her life worthwhile but I was far from the only or most important aspect of her life.

Maya said...

I suppose we all challenged by different things. But I do find that sleep deprivation wipes out my vocabulary. I don't have the brainpower. And that makes it hard to work in profession that depends upon communication.

I find motherhood physically and emotionally challenging, but it's not "hard" to care for someone I love so very very very much. But then, I've been changing diapers since I was 7.

I don't have a choice in the matter, but even if I did, I would keep my job after having a baby. We're all made differently, temperamentally, and I don't think it makes us bad women or bad mothers to follow our nature. Personally, I found the year I spent writing a dissertation MUCH harder than the first year of my daughter's life. But that doesn't mean there's anything inherently good about difficulty. It's just an observation.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #2 - don't get frustrated by your friends. Being home all day with my child, and being solely responsible for her experiences and growth and development has its own stresses and challenges. And there's no pay, bonus, evaluation, or positive reinforcement everyday. Nor is there consistent, adult interaction.

We all have to make choices. But we should try to think about life in each other's shoes - stay-at-home, nannies, or daycare: I doubt any one of us has it much harder or easier than the other.

We're all just focused on loving our children, and doing the best we possibly can.

Ima Shalom said...

Everyone's situation is challenging in different ways. I can't imagine why we'd criticize other moms for feeling too challenged or not challenged enough. We all have our own joys and struggles and tolerances and it's not easy--but is most certainly joyous--to be an Ima. But we must be supportive of each other!