In the place we live seasonal work drives the whole town. Yes, there are a few people with full time, year round jobs. But mostly, we work in the summer, when the Site is in full swing.
I choose to work in the summers. I could stay home, because my husband makes a good living for us all. The extra money is really helpful, but it is not my main reason for working. I work because the Theatre is one of the places my heart can sing, and one of the places my soul lives. I work because it brings me joy, fulfillment, profundity. I perform because it brings to my life moments of deep connection with others through the ritual of storytelling. Those are the big reasons. The other truth is I choose to work in the summers because, for three and a half months, I get to regain my sense of identity - the one the world loves to take away from me the moment I put on my mom face.
I had my twins when I was 42, almost 43. I had 42 almost 43 years to establish who I am. I have a very strong sense of me. I went through all of my "finding myself" years. I tried on personas and jobs and ideas that didn't fit quite right, or at all, and I altered and discarded and stripped away and added to and by the time I became a mom I was cooked and ready. So, I was really unprepared for what happened to my identity when my kids were born.
I have achieved many things of which I am very, very proud. I have written and produced and performed in shows. I have shown my art in galleries, I have been published, I have an MA. But the second I became someone's mom the outsider's view of me changed. For all the lip service we pay, in our society, to honouring and cherishing mothers, the absolute reality is, as with most if not all female specific roles, it is really NOT honoured that much at all.
Let me give you a little exercise:
Imagine a woman walking along a sidewalk in your town pushing a double wide stroller. One of her kids is acting up, she is desperately trying to take a sip of her latte, she is wearing exercise clothes, and she is kind of in your way.
You're already irritated by her, right? She is a soccer mom , a stroller mom, a latte mom. She doesn't have a job and she lives off her rich husband, and her kid is a brat and she is in your way. You roll your eyes and shake your head a bit as you pass her.
Now imagine a man walking along a sidewalk in your town pushing a double wide stroller, trying to sip a latte, one kid acting up, exercise clothes, in your way.
You think he's cute, don't you? He's got a fabulous job and he is taking some time away from it to be a parent - he is awesome and adorable and really, it's not that big a deal to step out of his way. You probably smiled at him as you passed. He is a great dad.
Don't even try to tell me you don't have these different reactions to parents depending on their gender. Because I won't believe you.
The second I walk out with my kids anyone who does not know me sees this: she's a mom. Everything else about me evaporates.
The woman who is watching my kids a few days a week this season is ridiculously accomplished. She is also over 40 and has a toddler and a baby. She and I have had some really wonderful bitch sessions about our struggles with how motherhood, for all of its wonders and joys, has also diminished us. Of course, we are really not allowed to say that. We are supposed to talk only of the profound ways becoming a mom has altered us and made us the ultimate versions of the female ideal. But there is a big, giant, obvious truth that we are just not supposed to talk about - becoming a mother has made some parts of our lives lesser than they were before.
So...what is the point of this post? Stay with me. I'll get there.
My wonderful friend who takes care of my kids a few days a week had to go away for a while last week. Now, my Mother in Law is no longer able to fill in when we cannot find childcare (she has not completely recovered from the massive setback a July bladder infection brought on, and by her own admission, she should not be caring for the kids right now). My husband had to be out of town on business the same time as my friend was away, and at this crazy busy time he cannot take time from work anyway. And I am in shows, which means if I am not there, the shows do not happen. So days off are not an option for me. So what was I to do?
Here's what I did: I sent messages to two really awesome moms in town, explained the situation, and they stepped right up without hesitation. One mom asked if I could watch her adorable baby boy one day while she worked in exchange for her watching my kids on one of the days I was desperate for childcare, and the other mom just took the girls for two days. This is what being in the mom club means. These awesome, accomplished, whip smart, razor sharp witted women did not even pause before agreeing to take my kids off my hands even though it meant a couple of exhausting days for all of us. Moms get what other moms are all about. Moms know that you can't leave your kids with just anyone, and moms step up.
So, let's return to that stroller mom you rolled your eyes at earlier. Here's the deal: she hasn't slept well in three years. She is trying to sip that latte because it will keep her awake and because it is one of the few things she will do for herself today - buy herself a big ol' cup of caffeine. The reason she is in workout clothes is because they are comfortable, and none of her pre-pregnancy stuff fits right anymore, and she kinda doesn't give a shit what she looks like right now. The kid who is acting up is going through this phase where she freaks out in public because she likes how much it embarrasses her mom. So her mom is ignoring it because this might be the one tactic that gets them both through this stage. You guessed that this mom is me, right? Okay, good.
I have three weeks left in the season. I have three weeks left of loving being an actor and loving chatting with people after the show about the show. I have three weeks left before the coach turns back into a pumpkin. And I will be happy when the season ends, because I miss my girls so much when I am at work. But as I take my last bow of the season I will grieve a little for the person I get to be in the summer. Because that version of me is a version I worked damn hard to get to.
So here it is...my point: the next time you are tempted to write someone off as a stroller mom, think of all the other things she is - and think of all the times she has stepped up for other moms like my friends do for me. And if her big stroller is in your way, think about what a tiny thing it is to just move over a bit for her...without even rolling your damn eyes.