I can’t get a conversation I recently had with an associate of mine out of my mind.
“Well, it’s all gonna change when the second child gets here,” she said.
“Oh, I’m sure some things are going to change, for sure. But I imagine it’ll be more of the same, just doubled and even less organized,” I said.
“It’ll be interesting to see,” she said, with a sinister chuckle pre-empting her prediction. “I think you’re gonna become more mommy-fied.”
“Mommy-fied? What’s that?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” she said knowingly.
“I guess we will, but I really don’t think so,” I finished with a clipped tongue. I decided not to go further.
She is a Mommy and I am a Mother. Based on previous encounters, I know Mommies can be an acutely sensitive population.
Since that conversation, I have developed my own definition of mommy-fication.
Mommy-fication – Pronunciation: ma-mE-fe-kA-shun. Meaning: to turn (as in a woman who has birthed child(ren) into a mommy. See also mommy.
Mommy – Pronunciation: ma-ME. Meaning: to transform a woman who has birthed child(ren) into a robotic, dronish figment of her former self; commonly watches daytime television, wears cotton granny panties that have seen much better days, seldom discusses current events, and often talks about breastfeeding, playdates, toddler party-planning, laundry detergent and the latest in vacuum cleaning technology; generally good outlets for light-hearted, affable conversation about frothy topics.
You see, the particular mommy who has wished mommy-fied status upon me believes that with the birth of my second child, I will involuntarily morph into another being, as if she has forgotten I already have a child. I think, “Extraterrestrial technology must have gone mainstream for this to happen. Disclosure must be real, and the vast conspiracy has been lifted!” As the placenta leaves the environs of my flesh, it will become a sort of science fiction ectoplasm that carries with it the capability to turn my penchant for literature, politics, physical fitness and generalized industriousness and goal-orientedness into all that is quintessentially mommy.
For those who don’t understand, this means I might shy away from anything that holds substance, significance and sustenance beyond the purely domestic to-dos of my home address. In other words, my mommy associate believes I will unconsciously trade in my existing being for a new model, even though I curiously find it antiquated, stereotypical and self-limiting.
If a Mommy were a car, I’d have to rebuild its engine.
Why does she forecast this for me? And why does it sound like she wishes for it?
Mothers of varied financial, educational, political, racial, ethnic and other demographically qualifying categorization are linked by the reality of our biological, physical, mental and emotional commitment, ostensibly the deepest investment we will ever make – our children. We are linked by the work – both mundane and myth-busting – that come with it.
We wash dishes, fold clothes and dote on everyone and everything but ourselves. Contrary to my matter-of-factness, I do believe that real revolution begins in the home, and someone must run it. Without the hearth, the home, the family, we are in trouble.
But still I can’t shake the way the word mommy-fication rubs me the wrong way. In sound and spirit, it sounds like mummification, the practice of embalming and drying out a corpse to fashion a mummy. There must be a reason the parallels strike me so clearly.
I envision a cartoonish caricature of a mummy, arms outstretched, feet plodding forth pointlessly in scripted horror. I see the cinematic screenplays: lead character – a 21st-century mother who finds herself enshrined in the sarcophagus of her domicile, acting as crypt-keeper against all that might make her view herself critically.
She is the woman in the Suave commercial who has let herself go. But it’s deeper than her skin and hair.
It’s in her psyche, her air.
My daughter calls me “Mommy.”
And I carry the banner of Mother proudly.
But I’ll leave mommy-fication for the Mommies.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem