Friday, July 21, 2006

Today's Reflection on Motherhood

Today is the last day that Ms. A. will be working at the girls’ daycare. She was Emma’s teacher between the ages of 24 months and 32 months. She was wonderful and I looked forward to chitchatting with her everyday. She’s moving to Florida to live near her family. As much as I hate to see her go, I can very well understand the pull that being near home can have. During my lunch break I went to Wal-Mart and bought her some note cards and a bag of M&Ms (that’s lemmy lems to Emma and Allison) as a small going away gift. On the card I signed my name “Jennifer (Otherwise known as Emma and Allison’s mother).” In a daycare setting, that quickly becomes your name. When I drop off or pick up the girls, there is a chorus of kids yelling that in some variation from across the room. It happens to all of the parents. So, when I signed the card like that it was intended to be sarcastic and I knew that it would make her laugh. Our relationship has moved far beyond that of teacher and parent, especially after Emma moved to the next room.

When children address me as my kids’ mom, I think it’s cute. Their entire frame of reference is their peer group. That’s the way they fit parents in to their world. What is irritating to me is adults who introduce me to other adults that way. Sometimes I feel like I’m either “Danny’s wife”, “Emma’s mom” or “Allison’s mom.” The name Jennifer seems to have disappeared. There is no longer a name for me as an individual. I simply am dictated by my relationships. Some mothers I talk to happily refer to themselves as their kids’ mom. That first makes me want to vomit and second makes me judge myself for not gladly disposing of my own identity for the sake of my children.

Something about signing Ms. A’s card like that stuck with me. I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon. It occurred to me that all names are what you make of them. When someone calls me “Jenny” – especially if I don’t like them – I have the same reaction. The only difference being that the name “Jenny” doesn’t cause me to mourn the supposed loss of my identity. After the irritation passes, I let it go recognizing that the person who called me “Jenny” doesn’t know me very well. The same is true of adults who refer to me by the names of my children. They are not viciously attacking my personhood. I perceive it as such because it plays into a fear I don’t want to acknowledge. Am I a person outside of my roles as wife and mother? Of course I am. The way to erase that fear is to live out my life as Jennifer and realize that a part of Jennifer is Danny’s wife. A part of Jennifer is Emma’s mom. A part of Jennifer is Allison’s mom. When I figure out what I want the remaining parts of Jennifer to be, that fear will no longer exist.

There is certainly nothing wrong with the name Jenny or associating a woman with her children. Like I said: names are what you make of them. I’ve decided to embrace my role as Emma and Allison’s mother. Who else on this earth can claim that honor? The Queen of England can either rise up to her singular status in life or she can waste it fretting over the fact that she’s not allowed to just be Elizabeth. Aren’t we sick and tired of hearing reports of celebrities, royalty and the wealthy complaining about how their fame and fortune get in the way of their “real lives?” How is whining about the riches I have in my children any different?

From now on, feel free to address me as “Emma and Allison’s mother” or “Danny’s wife.” It will be received as the highest compliment.

Just don’t ever call me Jenny.

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