Lists

Muliebrity

Muliebrity is a kind of cool new word I just learned. Means “womanhood.”

But, what is it?

We define ourselves in so many ways. This train of thought has been circling in my head for quite some time, but it’s been brought to the forefront by my previous post, The Maiden, the Matron, and the…Other One.

So, in simple terms, who am I?

  • Mom
  • Wife
  • Daughter
  • Sister
  • Daughter-in-law
  • Sister-in-law
  • Aunt
  • Niece
  • Cousin
  • Friend
  • Neighbor
  • Homeowner
  • Community member
  • Citizen
  • Consumer
  • Pet owner
  • Earthling
  • Me

 

I am all of those women  – all at the same time. You can’t really separate them. It looks exhausting, sometimes.

I bought a rosemary plant at the grocery store today, and had the kids help me plant it, in the flowerbed right out front (edibles as ornamentals – this is a trend I am enjoying very much, and will probably continue doing long after it’s not trendy anymore). I bought it as a consumer, filled an empty spot in my flowerbed as a nod to upkeep of the property, in the name of being a good homeowner and neighbor. We use rosemary in one of our favorite dishes, so there’s my nod to wife and mom, too. I’d like to think, that exchanging pretty plants with plants that are pretty and useful is good environmental stewardship in its own small way, so hopefully, that counts towards being a good community member and earthling?

I try and explain to the kids – everything we do, every single thing, affects someone else. If we decide to drive to school instead of walk, then the traffic is a tiny bit heavier, and someone will have to wait an extra minute in the drop off line. If I stay up late after the kids go to bed, and binge watch season three of [insert trendy TV show I’m behind on here], then there’s a good chance I’m useless at breakfast tomorrow, and the corner doughnut shop is getting a little extra business.

With that in mind, I think the ultimate luxury is lack of obligation. Because we really are a lot of things, to a lot of people. The best thing, I think, is to find that point where the people you choose to indebt yourself to, are the people you like being in debt to (for the most part).

I love my family, I have great neighbors, and the community organizations I’m part of are full of people who are so fun to be with.

Now, that’s not to say that mommy doesn’t need to get away from time to time. (I am blessed with a family who understands that, and I do try to return the favor, when it’s possible to do so.)

But, in a way, that’s being good, too. It’s being good to Me, and it’s being good in that way that recharges you. I’m a better everything when I have a chance to step away and breathe for a minute. It’s like working a large jigsaw puzzle. After an hour or so, you have to step away from the table. When you come back, you glance down and see just how the pieces fit.

The kids want to SEE the Mommy Rule Book

It was inevitable, I suppose.

“Can I see the mommy rule book?” No.  No, you can’t.

“Why not?”  Because you’re not a mommy.  Yeah, they’re not buying that one.

Speaking of buying…”Where do you buy the mommy rule book?”  You don’t buy it.  “Then how do you get it?”  And that is where I got truly inspired…You don’t GET it.  You LEARN it.

People who are a lot smarter than I am, say there might be evidence to support that.  It’s called “The Internal Working Model.”  My best understanding of that is, that even young babies learn about themselves and how to do things – including how to be a mommy or daddy – based on how they observe the world as infants.  They internalize their infant experiences, and that becomes their working model for how to handle life.

But that doesn’t satisfy the kiddos.  They want something in writing.  I’ve tried to fake it.  Sometimes, I’ve even thrown in chapter titles.  However, when I tell them stories, the kids always call me on it if I change a minor detail or leave something out, so I dare not be inconsistent with this.

So, here’s my attempt at writing down the Mommy Rule Book.  (Inevitably, it’s going to change.  But I’m not trying to be definitive, or make real rules, or even be complete – I’m just trying to keep it straight in my head, and maybe get a couple of more years out of it!)

Chapter One: Because I’m the Mom, and I Said So

First of all, there’s that whole Internal Working Model thing.  We can “say so,” because we’ve learned so.  And because we understand germ theory.  And social convention.  And manners.  And seat belt laws.  And….all that other stuff the kids won’t listen to explanations for.  But there’s often a reason for what we say.  Really, there is.

Chapter Two: Hygiene
Kiddo doesn’t want to leave the playground at McDonald’s, even though urine is in danger of turning the tube slide into a water park? “I’m sorry, honey, we have to leave, it’s in the Mommy Rule Book.” Sweet little moppet threatens a category five temper tantrum over washing her hair? Yeah, I invoke the MRB.

Subchapter 1: Boo-boos. “Yes, it hurts, but you have to let me wash it and put a band-aid on it.”

Subchapter 2: Dentists

Subchapter 3:Barbers/hairstylists.

Chapter Three: Food
It’s hard to explain things like, “In fifty years, when your first bone density test results are awesome, you’re going to thank me for making you drink a glass of milk every day.” Probably, “Because childhood obesity is threatening to cut your generations’ life span,” is a bit much, too.

Subchapter One: things that aren’t food. (Gum, paper, play-doh, whatever…)

Subchapter Two: Inconsistency Loophole. “I know we had ice cream for dinner last night, but we can’t do it three nights in a row…”

Subchapter Three: Yes, you have to try it.  (Subchapter Three has a loophole – things that just about everyone agrees are icky.  “Just hide the….whatever that is….under your napkin, and we’ll stop on the way home.”)

Chapter Four: Safety
“Don’t stand on dead tree branches.” “Wear your bike helmet.” “Buckle the seatbelt.” “Don’t pet strange dogs.” “Change the windshield wipers.” “Drive with the headlights on.” Graphic explanations are for school health class and after school specials.  Chapter Four is for me.

Subchapter One:  Internet.  Because there is some scary stuff out there.

Subchapter Two:  Hygiene, again.

Chapter Five: Inclement Weather
I’m sure I’m not the only mom who sends a jacket to school with her kid, knowing the child isn’t going to wear it, but not wanting the teacher to think I’m the kind of mom who wouldn’t send a jacket.

Chapter Six: Social Niceties
Yes, you have to say please, thank you, and excuse me. No, you can’t run naked through the mall. No, you can’t scream at the top of your lungs in…anywhere indoors. No, you can’t stand on your seat in the movie theater. Etc. Etc. Sorry, it’s in the MRB.

Subchapter 1: Inconsistencies Loophole. That’s for grown-ups or movie characters only. Like why that man in mommy’s favorite TV show says THAT word all the time, but she can’t. “That’s the rule. It’s in the MRB.”

Subchapter 2: It’s not because YOU want to;  it’s because THEY would appreciate it.  Funerals.  Appropriate clothing at weddings (or anywhere else).  Photos at family reunions.  And all that jazz.

Chapter Seven: Social Responsibility
“I know it’s show and tell day, but you have a 101 fever and you’re covered in purple spots, so you have to stay home.” The funnier (if it’s not you) “Don’t pee on the slide.” Also good for sitting in the sick room during doctor’s visits and why you should cover your mouth when you sneeze. The answers to “why” on these actually exist, but are complicated. (Thank goodness for Google and wikipedia. The MRB usually buys me enough time to reference them.) If you have pets, you can throw in leash laws, pooper scoopers, and why you want to prevent your cat from having kittens, too.

Chapter Eight:  Let’s Go.                                                                                         Because my job is to encourage you to try.  So, we’re going to dance class/band practice/football practice/sleepaway camp….

Chapter Nine:  Education I’m doing you kids a great disservice if I’m not helping you learn stuff.

Chapter Ten: I Know You Don’t Like This Rule, But It’s For Your Own Good
Or, rules intuition tells you are good, but you couldn’t say why. Have a bedtime. Don’t eat worms. Do something other than watch TV.  Rules that you know must have a good explanation, but you haven’t looked them up yet, or the explanation is too complicated to make sense to you, so you have no hope of explaining it to them, or filing it neatly somewhere else in the MRB.

Subchapter: I’m YOUR mommy, and I said so – I don’t care if s/he’s allowed to do/not do it.  If I were her/his mom, then s/he would have this rule, too.

Chapter Eleven: Because If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy                           You are perfectly entitled to Mom’s Night Out every once in a while.  And having your own games on the tablet and phone.  And having an occasional glass of wine after the kids go to bed.  Or cooking what YOU like for dinner, every once in a while.  It’s like that little card in airplanes that tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before helping the kids.  It’s counter-instinctual, but if you pass out from lack of oxygen, then what good are you to them?

Chapter Twelve: Just Because, That’s Why
Sort of the intersection of Chapters Six and Ten.  This is for stuff you just want for the family, but the only explanation you have is the one that feels really corny:  memories. Maybe you want to institute a monthly game night. Maybe you want to take family pictures. Or sing a song in the car. Or whatever. Your husband may or may not understand your sudden need for everyone to decorate the Christmas tree together with handmade strands of popcorn (popped in a saucepan over the stove and strung lovingly in front of a cozy fire) while sipping apple cider and singing Jingle Bells. He doesn’t have to. But you’re allowed the attempt. It’s in the Mommy Rule Book.

Specificity

Lists have always implied social order.  -David Viscott

If I am going to be good at this “Stay-At-Home-Mommy” thing, what is it, exactly, that is required?  My oldest child is of the opinion that the important tasks are the ones that are assigned to you – everything else is optional.  (This means that if I want her to do anything, I have to assign it specifically.)  On the flip side, both kids use specificity to their advantage – only things that are clearly defined in a “no” list are forbidden.  We have conversations like this:

“Chickadee!  Are you supposed to be standing on the couch?!”

“I NOT standing.  I bouncing.”  Hm.  Point to the munchkin.

Okay, so the list of things assigned to me starts with that:

1. Attempt to stay one step ahead of the children.  But that’s pretty basic.  And it reminds me – it’s time to update the parental controls on the computer.

The next few things on my list, come from the observation that there are some advantages that two-working-parent families have over SAHM (or SAHD) families.  (Let’s get that out of the way, right now.  I am annoyed by the whole “Mommy Wars” thing.  Different strokes for different folks.)

2. Don’t stay home.  The world is a big place – let the kids see it.

3. Get the kiddos some social interaction – playgroups, Mother’s Day Outs, whatever.  Completely aside from learning how to socialize, kids need to see and meet different kinds of people.  Otherwise, when they do finally make it out into the world, the variety of personalities, races, body types, and all of the other varieties that make humanity wonderful – would be pretty scary, when confronted for the first time.

4. Have a routine.  Working families are forced to have a routine.  We aren’t.  But we get pretty cranky when we don’t follow one.  Plus, it makes bedtimes and mealtimes sooo much easier.  I’ve learned that it makes the back-to-school routine easier, too, if we follow a routine during the summer (albeit, a looser one – it is summer, after all.)

See?  Good stuff from working families.  Observation is good.  And, speaking of observation:

5. Pay attention to other kids, other families. What are they learning? What to we need to learn? I realize that too much comparing of kids leads to insanity, but at the same time, some of our little playgroup friends were already learning board games, and I hadn’t thought of that yet. Again, different folks have different ideas.

6. At the same time, learn to selectively ignore people. Yeah, different folks have different ideas. Someone is going to tell you that you are a terrible mommy, and it’s going to hurt. Just try to remember, that you are the one who’s had to wander the grocery store for two hours because it’s being renovated and everything is in the wrong place and the kids are cranky and want to get out of the basket – not them.

7. Get a village. Not only for the different perspective for the kids, but to give a different perspective for Mommy, too. You need girlfriends who understand what it’s like to have a daily conversation about the latest Backyardigans episode or Barbie movie, or answer “Why?” Eight thousand times.

And, don’t forget the traditionalist approach:

8. Dinner. My job’s on the home front – my job is to cook. Yeah, you can go all women’s lib if you want, but I’m home at the pre-dinner hour, so my job is to cook it. Besides, haven’t you heard? Aprons are hip again – seriously. Google “designer aprons.”  Over 5 million pages pop up.  (Some of them really are pretty cute – yes, I have one.  But I need at least one more…)  That, and if I’m cooking, then I get to decide the menu.  You don’t like it?  You cook.

9. Laundry and other housework. What, Favored Spousal Unit and Beloved Offspring are supposed to go around naked because playing Civ IV is more fun than folding socks? Not much of an excuse, is it?

10. Repair people, et al. I’m home, so it makes sense that if something needs to be repaired, I should arrange for that. I know when we’ll be here, and know when we can wait.

11. Know stuff. The family calendar. Where things are. I’ve answered the phone and checked the mail, so I know when stuff happens. I’ve put things away, so if anyone knows where it is, that’s theoretically me.

I’ve been thinking this out for quite some time.  Admittedly, part of this post is expanded from a facebook post of mine from several years ago.  (I have edited and expanded – a lot – so hopefully, that makes me not quite so lazy.  Cut-and-paste blogging.  What is this world coming to?)