Friday, October 12, 2012

The Mother-Child Bond: Too Strong?

It was awkward; listening to Dad say, “Children usually love their mothers more than their fathers. I know you love your mama more. It’s okay.”

I was a child then, and he must have been having a pensive moment, or perhaps he’d recently witnessed a display of affection between Mom and me. I’ll never know why he said that because I didn’t ask. I guess I didn’t want to, because my childhood definition of love would have deemed him correct, and I couldn’t bear to let him know.
The mother-child bond that my dad noticed - is it innate? Does a child cling to his or her mother based on the familiarity of being in the womb, moving with her 24 – 7, listening to the sound of her voice?

Adoption dispels that theory, so maybe it’s partly the softness of Mom’s body and riding her hip as a toddler; a hip perfectly proportioned with her arm and elbow, allowing Baby to fit cozily and comfortably in the core of Mom’s side.

Or… maybe it’s the helicopter we fly over them; taking care of their every need! Who wouldn’t love such a person?

I’m thinking of this bond because it appears to be the lifeline of many women; motherhood – the thing that dictates entire lives; the thing that gives identity, seemingly, more than any other role a woman plays, including “self.” Who were we before we became mothers?
So that I don’t mislead you, this is not criticism or a suggestion that you love your child too much - if there is such a thing. After all, if we were not created to want to procreate, there’d be no people, no us.

These thoughts stem from an article by Tina Brown (for NPR) who recommended in her Must Reads series, an article by Katie Roiphe in Financial Times titled Disappearing Moms. In Brown’s article, she quotes Roiphe, who thinks that women who use pictures of their children as their facebook profile pic, is “effacement,” erasing themselves. Immediately, I began to sum up how many moms I know on facebook who do this; not that I share her opinion.
Is this an issue?

I thought about it, scribbled down a few notes, and then searched for more on the subject. I read Roiphe’s article and also Googled “facebook mom profile.” It led to a few links, one of which was a question by a single woman complaining that her girlfriend fills her facebook with her kids’ pictures and that her cell phone has a recorded voicemail message by the kids.
(Remember that Girls: having your 4 year old record your answering machine message? I plead “not guilty.”)

The comments were irate. Women accused her of being jealous and unaware of what it feels like to be a mother. The comments were similar on Roiphe’s article; albeit, a more sophisticated anger.
“Oops,” I said to myself. I had similar thoughts when I was single without kids.

During my late 20s to early 30s, I had a best friend who had a young daughter and it was hard to understand why she did everything for her child (exempting the husband from duty); why she had to take the child everywhere instead of leaving her home with the husband/daddy sometimes. I was fine with her being married, having responsibilities, and needing family time, but it was hard to see her unfulfilled; not that I was fulfilled either – but that’s another story. There were times when I wanted her undivided attention; when I was annoyed to have an abrupt interruption in our conversation because she and/or her daughter decided that they needed to start a conversation in the middle of hers and mine. I was single without kids… what did I know?
Now I get it. I know how hard it is to take care of young kids and to find time to do personal things. However, some women seem to be fine with the total mother role. Are they the ones who post pictures of the kids on their profile?

Again, is this an issue?

A few of the responses to Roiphe’s article were from women who listed all the other things they do (their many interests and job responsibilities), in addition to saying that their child/children is top priority. They are annoyed at the constant evaluation of the lives of women, especially when it pertains to motherhood and how it affects the other aspects of their lives.

I think this can be an issue for some. I  also think it’s okay for people to raise questions and to make observations about the lives of others; be it reasonable (hopefully), ridiculous, or anything in between. It prompts us to stretch as we assess our thoughts and situations, enabling us to change or not to change.

Tact is good, though.

Do you think the enormous amount of attention paid to women’s psychological issues is helpful or hurtful?  Do you have a specific thought about facebook profile images?

Thanks jt.


Judy Thomas said...

I can't speak for anyone else. I love my son, would die for him, but never felt my identity subsumed by motherhood, there was and is so much more to who I am. I never felt the need to post my child's photo for mine or have him record our voice mail message. As for your opening line, I have a closer relationship with my dad than mom. Always have.

Mari said...

I think as children we are close to our Moms, because as you say they are always there and they tend to do the most caretaking. However, as I got older, I appreciated my Dad more all the time. My Mom has passed away, but I still love and appreciate my dear Dad!
My kids are now grown, but still are such a priority for me. As for FB pictures - I now have my 1 year old granddaughter as my profile picture. :)
I don't think this takes anything from me - my husband, kids and granddaughter have only added to my life!

Abby said...

I echo what Judy says. I'm a total "mother bear" when it comes to my kids, but I'm still ME. My facebook profile pic is ME, my voice mail message is ME, etc. I admit to wondering a bit about moms who use their kids pics/voices for such things.

I also think I relate better to moms than I do older women with no kids. Like an instant kinship.

As far as mom vs. dad? I'm more like my dad and so find him more interesting to talk with, but mom... she's who I go to with a problem. I think I love them equally, but in different ways.

Great post again, Anita!

Always Nesting said...

Wow! Great post with lots of thought provoking issues.

It's probably easier for me to address these questions now that my kids are grown. My perspective is different than the mom who is in the trenches or bliss (we know that can change day to day, sometimes moment to moment) of motherhood.

Although my bond with my three daughters is very very close, they are also very very close to their dad. They adore him, as do I, and they know he would slay dragons or move mountains for them. I don't think one or the other is closer - it's just different because we have different personalities.

I never felt the need to give every single ounce of myself to my daughters. I would have wilted and honestly, would that have been the best example? They needed to be raised to think for themselves instead of me thinking for them. It was my (our) job to prepare them to go into the world and not live forever in our world. They had to claim and live their own journey. Now 23, 25 and 31, they are all remarkable women.

Yet, we did do our share of helicoptering as we were team parents, room parents, volunteer parents, and just their parents as they grew. They always knew we were "there" and available, but we still made time for ourselves. Kids need security. Security opens doors of communication and that is soooo important, especially during the teen and college years.

There is no right or wrong. There is no perfect parent or parenting. Sometimes we just fly by the seat of our pants.We shouldn't judge other people for their choices because in the end, I think we all just try our very best. And, the facebook profile image, what's the big deal?

Sandra said...

First of all Anita, marvelous marvelous brilliant post. Magazine worthy for sure. I, personally, am one of those who doesn't care to see my "friends'" children as their profile picture because I want to see THEM! However, my philosophy with anything related to being a mom is and will always be: Whatever keeps you sane.

Auntie sezzzzzz... said...

Dear One, thank you for saying that I always have interesting observations, in my blog. So do you, Dear One!

I don't really feel qualified to weigh in on this conversation, though... As I am so far past hands-on-motherhood. At 75, the necessary emphasis has to be on hands-OFF-motherhood. ,-)

Right now I use an old pic of my youngest Grand, as my Icon pic. (Don't do Facebook...) Wonder what that says about me, to the wondering experts? -grin-

I certainly don't identify with him, or nurture him. I just think he's cute. And of course, I love-him-to-pieces. But that comes with the territory of being 'Nanna'. :-)

Happy Autumn,

Rob-bear said...

This is a marvellous post. I agree with Sandra that this is the kind of material which could well be in a magazine.

Being a male Bear, I'm not really up on womens' issues. Thought I think, generally, that there is too much talk about womens' (supposed) psychological problems. I think it is a way of marginalizing women, as portraying them as weak beings. And there's not enough attention paid to mens' mental health.

And for the record, I have my picture on Facebook. (Don't you think I'm an especially good-looking Bear?)

Stephanie said...

I too am a Mama Bear...for now. I do hope I am giving my girls the skills so that one day they won't need me to be a helicopter Mom (although I don't really think I am one) and I know our relationship will change and grow as we need it to!

Buckeroomama said...

My kids' pic as my profile pic? Yes. My kids' voices reminding me to pick up the phone? I use this as my ring tone on my phone. Proudly. Yes, motherhood defines me --a part of me, a big part of me. To imply, though, that women, who choose to do what I do (i.e., use their kids' pics as their profile pics, etc.), are losing their identity or are not much of an individual with other interests outside of parenthood is very judgmental. I guess I could choose to highlight on my profile pic some other things that define me (photography, baby sign language), but at this stage of my life, I am very much about being a mother who loves to take photographs of her children (and want to showcase her kids and her photos of them). Everybody can post whatever they want on their own personal FB pages. What does it matter to anybody else what profile pic another person chooses to use?

Seriously, don't people have anything better to do than to judge how others are, based on their profile pics or answering machine messages?

Barb said...

Sometimes I think there is too much worry about what is "right" or "wrong" for women. Being a parent is hard work, maybe the hardest and most important work, but self-identity is crucial, too, for both children and their mothers (and fathers). I think children sometimes face rude awakenings when they realize that in the larger world (outside their family), they aren't the center of the universe. As for Facebook, I've never given a thought to a Mom's motive for using her child's photo. Some of my friends use their pets! I wonder what that means...

Peaches Ledwidge said...

Anita, I love this post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

There's something that ties mothers and their children so well together. I don't know what it is.

I've tried to connect the link in my book and I don't know if I'm successful.

I'm still searching for answers.

myletterstoemily said...

you are very wise to be considering this
while still so young. the hardest part
of parenting is giving them everything
when they are little and then letting go
bit by bit to give them wings to fly.

i always kept a small corner for me:
singing in the choir, reading great books,
birthday breakfasts with special friends.
when they all left the nest, i was heart
broken . . . but then dived in deeper
into the things i love: my husband and
outside interests.

Rebecca S. said...

Interesting! And thanks for your great comments on my blog today - always good to read you there...:)

Ah women, such an interesting endless topic - truly a deep well. I have four kids, but I think I'm enough of a self preservationist not to have lost my self inside the lives of my kids. That being said, I know my kids feel loved and attended to, but they are proud of the things I do outside of our home, too, because they tell me. I was so proud of my mom when she went back to work and for all her volunteer efforts, but she always made time to talk to me, go for a walk if I needed her. She was very intuitive. It's all about priorities and balance, and realizing that different situations are better for some than others. There don't seem to be any hard and fast rules about what a 'good mother' is anymore.
I rarely post photos of my kids on my FB page. I rarely post photos of myself. I'd rather just say stuff that's funny or quirky or share links. My kids have their own pages, goldarnit :)

Jen said...

We were created this way to ensure survival of our species. Just like mama bears...

InSeason Mom Cynthia said...

Thank God I’m more secure in who I am than to think that choosing to have my children’s picture as my profile picture on Facebook takes away from my identity. I proudly acknowledge that my young children are one of my top priorities. Now I’ve never allowed them to record my phone greeting :)

Linda Hensley said...

The men were the attentive and loving ones in my family, and I adored Dad, my uncles, my grandfathers. I think the main thing is that children feel loved and cared for more than who's doing it. Sometimes women hide behind their children's cuteness and live through their kids' accomplishments. Sometimes a profile pic is just a cute pic. It's hard for anyone not living in that woman's head to know what's behind that pic. Wonderful post!

Haddock said...

I think the girl child is more attached to her mother.

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