Thursday, July 4, 2013

No Mommy Brain, the explanation.

Happy 4th of July, everyone! Today one of my posts ran in The Tennessean which means the first thing I saw this morning when I checked my email was a not-so-positive response from a newspaper reader.

This is a fairly common occurrence but still catches me by surprise. I very rarely get comments on my blog (not a complaint, just a fact) so to get a response from a complete stranger (blog readers kind of know me; Tennessean readers may be reading my stuff for the very first time) who went out of her way to find my email address and write a rebuttal to something I've blogged about seems very bizarre. And I say "her" and "rebuttal" because so far it's always been another mother reaching out to make sure I know I'm doing it wrong.

I usually don't respond because, well, why would I? I just move on and try not to take it personally. Which isn't really that hard. I mean, they don't even know me.

But today I got an email that really struck a chord. It wasn't what I had written that had offended this reader (see today's column here), but what I choose to call my blog. She found the handle "no mommy brain" insulting, like I was insinuating that to be a mother is to have a brain made of mush.

This could not be farther from the truth.

So, I responded. Before I hit send, I read it out loud to Bill to make sure I wasn't being a jerk or engaging in something I shouldn't. As I was reading I started to cry. I'm not even sure I knew how close this was to my heart.

Afterwards I wondered why I had never shared this on my blog. Here I was, typing away on my tiny little iPhone keypad, trying to explain something so personal to a total stranger, and yet I've never shared it with my real readers. You guys are my people. You deserve to know what I mean by no mommy brain...

Then again, you probably figured it out years ago.

Anyway, here's what I said:

I don't usually respond to emails like this as I find that there is little reason to engage with someone who is going out of their way to attack a stranger. BUT, I want to clarify for you what I mean by "mommy brain".

Like you, I have always wanted to be a mother. Not a working mother; a stay-at-home, full time, DIY mother. I see it as the greatest job in the world. Something that needs absolutely no justification whatsoever.

But it is not the type of job that lasts forever. I mean, yes, I will ALWAYS be a mother but not in the active, 24/7 role I'm in right now.

When my sister and I grew up and moved out of our parents home (an inevitable step to be celebrated like any other milestone...), our mom was devastated. It was as if we were taking her identity with us as we left. It was an incredible amount of pressure to put on us, in my opinion, and I hated the guilt I felt for simply growing up. It drove a wedge between us, put my mom into a depression, and seems to be the beginning of her descent into early onset Alzheimer's.

I will NOT do that to my children.

Or my husband.

Or myself.

I am very conscious that while I'm 100% engaged in my role as a mother (a role I love like no other), I cannot neglect myself as a person in order to care for my children. It isn't good for any of us.

Not only that, but I honestly believe children learn best by example. I can try to teach my boys how to live a full, successful life until the day they leave my home but if they never see my practice what I preach? I'm not sure they'll have much faith in my expertise.

(By the way, I believe being content in your station in life as things constantly change and evolve definitely counts. That is no small feat!)

I am sorry to rattle on and on but I obviously feel very passionately about this. "No mommy brain" is absolutely NOT a jab aimed at other mothers (or myself). It's a reminder not to pin my identity on my children. It's why I started writing my blog in the first place and why I continue to go out of my way to stretch myself as a human being. It will make me a much happier empty nester and, incidentally, a happier hands-on mother as well.

I wish you and your family a wonderful (rainy) 4th.

Sincerely,

Maggie Conran

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