32/365: Iris’s Mother and I

I’m not a big fan of the term “Midwest” so I rarely use it, mostly because it always seems to be used pejoratively in print—which is fine if we’re talking about Ohio or Iowa but not Michigan. So I settled on the word “northeastern” as I was driving from church to downtown Plymouth on Saturday.

Our northeastern town looks best in the autumn.

The colors are still gorgeous on all the tree-lined streets, and Plymouth is one of those vaguely uppity towns where everyone is just verging into paranoia about the state of their lawns. Makes for pleasant driving, though.

We went to the library after we dropped Carl off. I choose books the way many people read the Bible—mostly at random with the expectation that the right book (if not chapter and verse) will most likely appear when I need it. I have to say it almost always works. Saturday morning I picked up a book of essays by Katie Roiphe, stuffed it in the diaper bag, and we strolled out of the library, rolling by the tail end of the farmer’s market and into the square, where the splash of the fountain was the exact shade of wet pebbles.

There’s a Panera on one corner of the square, and we got a cup of tea and split a cookie. I only had time to scan the table of contents then, but later, when Iris’s hands were not quite so busy or so chocolatey, I read an essay on motherhood and Facebook that made me think. You can find the same essay here, and if you’re interested in motherhood or Facebook or pop culture, you’d probably find it chewable too.

It made me think about my online presence, the stream of consciousness that is my Facebook and blog feeds. And Roiphe is exactly right in her observations about mothers: my feeds are full of Iris. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I think we can all agree that a certain amount of adorableness is worth celebrating (to say nothing of a life in general), and my life is in fact very Iris-oriented these days. Again, it would be more of a problem if that wasn’t true.

But what did make me uncomfortable was the awareness that at some rather subterranean level, posting about Iris is easier than posting about myself. And at whatever point posting about your child becomes an easy exit, well… that’s not the kind of life I meant to be living. Not because it isn’t feministy, but because in lacks in some basic integrity I would like to have.

Although it’s interesting how addicting it can be to post about Iris. I think it’s comforting to tap into the cuteness. Especially when it’s hard for me to find time to shower. And political analysis and makeup are distant competitors for an imaginary third slot on the priority list.

So I snapped a picture of myself on Saturday afternoon and spent the weekend mulling it all over. I will always think about and talk about and take a lot of pictures of Iris. But it’s good to be intentional about creating one’s own life too.

Mostly, I wrote a lot of lists over the weekend.


2 thoughts on “32/365: Iris’s Mother and I

  1. Interesting. I read the essay and thought about my own Facebook profile pic. And yes, it’s my beaming toddler. But it’s also me. Very much me, and what I’m proud of if I’ll admit it. I’m carrying him on my back while cooking. I feel strong and capable. I’m multitasking: my baby is happy, my hands are busy. It’s similar with my background picture on FB. It’s of my children. But it’s also one of the pictures that I’ve taken that I’m the happiest with. I love the light. I love the field in the background. And yes, I love the subjects, but I was trying to share my photography work more than make up for my own lack of a shower. (Although, again, if I’m honest, showers ARE harder to come by now that I’ve got munchkins about.) When I want to be vain about my appearance, I post one of my husband’s pictures of me, and everyone will tell me how pretty I am, not necessarily because I am, but because my husband is awesome with a lens and equally awesome with photo-editing software, but then somehow the picture isn’t MINE in quite the same way. I’m rambling I guess. Just kind of processing. It’s also interesting to me that my husband’s profile pic is also of our children. What does that mean? And of my 169 friends, only five of them are completely replaced by their children and do not appear at all in their profile pics, three of those are women, one is a married couple sharing a profile, and one is a man. Clearly, in my tiny sampling, it IS more of a mothers’ “problem” if you want to call it that, but it isn’t JUST something women do. OK, I’m done rambling now. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    • Yeah, it’s not a problem unless it is. I don’t think it’s particularly useful on an individual level… As you point out there are lots of reasons for posting a photo. My background pic of Iris is also one I took that made me happy.

      But I do think there’s something unfortunate and wasted about living too much through your children–or in any particular role.

      Everybody is different, so I really was simply commenting more on my own life. I very much wanted a baby and I have no regrets about being a mother, but that doesn’t mean a part of me didn’t sigh with relief now that I’m a mom and everyone pats me on the back for taking Iris to the park and nobody expects much from me in the way of ambition or expression or influence outside the home. For me, that relief is interesting and a bit telling.

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