My daughter Maya turns 10 today. You may not remember what it feels like to hit double digits, but take it from me: this is a big deal. Maya might say that hitting 10 means that she is definitely ready for a cell phone (not that she has one, however).
Now that I can talk about motherhood in terms of decades (well, at least a decade) instead of just years, it feels like a big deal for me, too.
In fact, motherhood has been getting a lot of media play these days. If recent coverage is any indication, we’re either too harsh or too self-involved. Consider the controversy surrounding Amy Chua’s Why Chinese Mother’s are Superior excerpt in The Wall Street Journal and Judith Warner’s roundup of recent memoirs in The New York Times. Warner claims that in contrast with their own feminist moms, today’s mothers are turning inward and embracing home and family with a “deep desire for rules and regularity”
Neither the overbearing mother nor the self-involved ones hunkering down at home sound especially new to me (Freud, anyone, or Cinderella?). But I am wondering where I fit into these public accounts of motherhood and how to define my own mothering.
For example, learning to ski would certainly have been low on my list of life pursuits before parenting despite growing up in the Northeast Ohio snowbelt. Now as a steward of my kids’ (I have a 7-year-old son as well) health, I try to cultivate an active lifestyle and exercise habits that can serve them throughout their lives. Thus the skiing lessons, which I have found that I love, and which allow me and my kids to learn something together.
And while I have given a lot of thought to teaching students about social constraints and feminist responses to them, I have also discovered that it’s altogether different teaching my children how to be change agents. For one thing, I have my children for more than a semester, so if I get things wrong we can always try again!
Last year Maya ran for class representative and found herself in a runoff, which she lost, much to her disappointment. Talking at home later she explained that she voted for a classmate in the first round because she “wanted to give someone else a chance.”
Although her generosity of spirit is one of her admirable qualities, I explained that it is sometimes fine and even important to pursue what you want. That is, if you want to be class representative, vote for yourself.
This year, I’m happy to report that Maya was elected class representative. But before you congratulate me for offering a successful lesson on assertiveness, I should add that Maya explained that she did not vote for herself in the first round of balloting: she voted for a friend, and the friend voted for her.
That same friend and Maya spent their Martin Luther King Day “on” by selling “Cocoa for a Cause” at our local sledding hill and donating the proceeds to an area soup kitchen. They raised $47.
Sometimes working together is the best way to make a difference. That’s not a bad vision for either of us to have as we enter double digits as mother and daughter.
And GWP readers, what’s your take on the latest mommy wars? Do you have favorite accounts of motherhood to share, and what does feminist mothering look like?