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women’s roles


Right at the moment I’ve resigned myself to sink into the comfort zone cocoon of impending winter, an indoor life and being on a first name basis with my (fake) fur booties (I get cold feet easily), another school of Great White media sharks come swimming over the event horizon to gnaw on my insecurities.

I have a few.

In a large Danish newspaper this morning, I came across an article asking with bright and cheery insouciance:

“Are you a smommy?”

It may only have been 5:30 AM, but no kidding, there I was, not even entirely awake, suddenly spitting out a loud “WTF???” into my first cup of coffee.

“Are you a smommy?”

“Smommy”, which is how it translates, is a contracted version of “smart mommy”. A smart mommy.

I sit there – remember, people, it’s 5:30 AM and I really don’t have to be up at this hour, but old habits die hard – pondering my IQ. It’s one of the few places in my life where I have no insecurities whatsoever. In that respect, I’m (also) supremely arrogant.

Now, a smart mommy – indeed, I am one – is an advertising catchphrase for a mother who’s on top of the trend. She surfs the many roles of her life with perfect equilibrium and ease, going from career creature to best female friend to playmate for five-year-olds to horizontal tiger in the bedroom without breaking her stride. She considers her friends to be a part of her family, not a world apart. Nothing in her life is a coincidence, it’s all part of a greater plan to sail in to the golden sunset of trandsetting motherhood.

That’s right, she’s a trendsetter.

“It’s important to you that your relationships with your husband and your children is friendly and based on dialogue, and that you do family activities together. You like to stimulate your children, and they like to help you cook. You like to play lively, stimulating games with them, or read aloud from educational children’s literature. You’re the one your girlfriends come to when they need a new dress, and you’re the one they come to when they want to show it off. You may be liberated from gender roles, but you feel tied by your personal ambitions to be 100% on them, when you are. You cook from scratch, not because you have to, but because you like it, but you’re not so fanatical you can’t buy readymade food if it means you get to spend more time with your friends.”

Not even 6 AM on a Saturday morning, and already, my teeth hurt. My head will surely be soon to follow. Because this one little article in the lifestyle section of a national broadsheet newspaper had already ruined my day before it even got started.

No. I am not a smommy, not even with a Mensa material IQ. Here’s what one Real Life looks like:

I am not the one my girlfriends come to for fashion advice, for the simple reason that I don’t have any – girlfriends, that is. I have a much-loved sister I don’t see nearly enough, and she lives a good 200 miles away, which is about 198 too many for my taste. The closest thing is the re-establishing of a friendship that started in high school, with one of the few women I have only fond memories of, and like my sister, she also lives 200+ miles away. I’d love to give fashion advice to my girlfriends, but most women don’t trust me about as far as they can spit. Why, I can’t tell you, but I suspect it’s because I scare them.

Instead of having a home filled with Nice Stuff, I have a home filled with “It’s you or the Salvation Army” stuff, otherwise, we wouldn’t have any – stuff. In spite of all I do, there is always, somewhere, a spot where incipient chaos either reigns or threatens.

I do believe that it is important to be friends with husbands and children, the former because otherwise I can’t live with the guy and the latter because both my children are very distinct and very different individuals, not extensions of myself. (Thank the Gods! More than one of me would be more than the world could bear!) But when push comes to shove, and it sometimes does, I am a parent, not their best female friend.

The one true friend I do have is every bit as much a part of my family as the Buttkicker or Damien, so much, in fact, that if I ever do manage to get out of BFE and head toward the one place on the planet I belong, he likely wouldn’t be too far behind. He was born and bred here, and he doesn’t belong here, either.

I cook from scratch, because I like it, and because I have to. It’s all I can afford. Damien is beginning to help, which doesn’t mean he eats what I cook. I’m working on it.

I do read to my son, and I can’t wait until he’s old enough for books like “The Hobbit” and “Huckleberry Finn” and both the Dumases and Jules Verne and all the books I loved as a child. Already, Dr, Seuss is a massive hit. Already, he’s picking up words in “The Cat in the Hat”.

But otherwise, forget it. I am a Dismommy. A distracted Mommy. One part of me always has my head in some other location entirely – on the Effing Book, on archaeological finds on Lambay Island in Dublin Bay, on musical musings or this blog or the next book series or whatever catches my attention on any given day.

I am a slobby Mommy. If inspiration strikes, if the Muse comes to call, then the restoration of order and calm will just have to wait for it. If Damien wants to eat corn flakes for dinner on a day I’m banging away on an important scene, if a chocolate cookie gives me the precious half hour I need to finish – a scene in the book, a blog, whatever – then I let him have it. He’s healthy, he’s active, he’s partly vegetarian and eats huge quantities of vegetables and fruit. It won’t kill him, but I might if I can’t finish what I’m doing.

I know. The Mommy Police will be arriving any minute now.

On the other hand, if a four-year-old can say – without provocation or incitement, I might add – “Mommy, you’re sweet and you’re beautiful and I love you and bring you flowers, and I don’t want another Mommy”, I must be doing something – right.

So then – screw smommyhood, I say. Is it anything more than yet another attempt to prey on women’s insecurities and doubts? Is it yet another artificial construct to try and pigeonhole the many hats we women have to wear in our lives, the roles we have to play? We MUST be perfect, we MUST be – hip, happening, devoted, dedicated, friends, lovers, mothers, we MUST be – career women, achievers, movers and shakers, we MUST be – young(ish), gorgeous, fragrant, fashionable, and we MUST be staggering intellectual giantesses, with many considered opinions on anything and everything – the latest books, movies, plays, current events.

We MUST!

Wrong. I seem to recall that a very long time ago, one paragon of achievement – if not motherhood, Ms. Helen Gurley Brown – once said that there are limits, even in this, the best of all possible worlds.

You can be the total career monster, you can be that elusive unicorn, the Perfect Mommy, you can be the Perfect Slut in the bedroom and the Perfect Saint in the kitchen and the Perfect Girlfriend, even. Yes, it’s possible. You can do it. There are no limits to anything you really, truly want to do. None at all.

Except one.

You can’t do it all at once!

So why do the media keep insisting that we can?

If we can’t, if the doubts creep in like November fog at 5 AM, if we think it’s perfectly normal to change our answering machine to something including a rock song and along the lines of “Please leave a message after the guitar solo!”, if playing airplane in a pile of leaves with your child is your idea of a perfect Saturday afternoon, if the laundry can wait until after the villain gets his and the hero gets the girl, if you want a Playstation 3 not so the kid can play, but so that you can play BrĂ¼tal Legend (true story), if, in other words, you are just too bloody-minded and outrageous and daring enough to buck that trend and refuse that label – then you have joined the legions of ladies who embrace their slobby, slutty selves and their sometimes chocolate-covered children and even life itself – with gusto, verve and a healthy dose of “I don’t give a flying spaghetti monster WHAT people think.”

You are a Slobby Mommy, and you will always buck a trend.

I’m ME, at whatever cost. Try gluing a label onto that! They’re still digging for the last one who tried…

Image: Raphael, The Alba Madonna, ca. 1510

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