Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bitter? Maybe a little

When John and I were in college, we helped found a debate society. I say "we" because I was involved in every aspect of its founding, except for the actual founding meeting where all the officers were elected. That, I was told I wasn't invited to because it was guys only. When John came back, he told me they'd gone and founded the society and voted themselves as officers. They graciously let me take minutes at the first debates, though, because they hadn't elected a secretary yet.

Do you see why I ended up such a feminist?

Anyway, the society continues, it seems to have outgrown its original chauvinism, and John remains very involved. I don't go often because the debates are in the evening and interfere with bedtime, and because when I've brought Marko we end up spending the whole time in the stairwell or outside, and because I would hate to make John stay home with Marko when he really lives and breathes debating, whereas with me it's only a casual hobby.

Sometimes I do go to their parties, though. Those are perfect. Despite the fancy dress, no one seems to care that there's a toddler there, and I can keep an eye on him while discussing politics or theology. Everybody wins! And the whole thing seems like proof that my life isn't over because I had a kid, that moms can use their brains too, that I am still an equal of anyone. I'm not dumb, I'm relatively well-spoken, so the informal sort of debating that happens at these things always is a self-esteem boost. I walk away feeling like I have expressed myself well, plus I have new things to think about throughout the next week or so (during which I most likely will not leave the house).

Tonight they had their induction ceremony for new members, with reception following. Marko had napped earlier, unusually, so I figured he wouldn't mind staying up an extra hour while we all went to this. I figured about 20 minutes for the induction, 40 minutes or an hour of socializing, and then we'd go home.

Well, the thing was much more ornate than in my college days. The first 45 minutes was just setup, and then the induction itself took an hour. Marko was fabulously well behaved, if you count snuggling in my lap and not wanting to move as well-behaved. It was great, but on the other hand, the whole time I was thinking, "He's tired. We shouldn't have come. I should have gotten him to bed." But around when I made the decision to get ready to go, the ceremony started and we were stuck. The whole thing was so formal you couldn't really move around at all. At the same time, Marko perked up and started babbling quietly to himself. Really quietly. But we were (with extreme politeness) asked to leave.

At that point I was happy to leave, because I was not particularly interested in the pomp and circumstance they were putting on, so I didn't make a fuss, I just picked up Marko (ow ow ow my back doesn't like carrying 30 pounds anymore!) and found an empty stairwell where we sat out the rest of the show. I would have just gone home, but unfortunately my coat and diaper bag were on the other side of the stage ... if quiet babbling was disruptive, I was pretty sure they wouldn't want me tramping through dragging a toddler and all my stuff. Of course after half an hour in a dim stairwell, Marko passed out on my chest. It was past when I'd planned to leave, and I hadn't eaten one hors d'oeuvre or had one intellectual conversation.

When the ceremony got out, I sent John for my stuff and beat a hasty retreat. Marko slept the whole way home, and did transfer into his bed okay after a few tries. But the whole evening was awfully disappointing.

I just don't know how to feel about the whole thing. On the one hand, we could have just gotten a babysitter. We've already done it once: put Marko to bed, then had someone come in for $7 an hour to sit in our living room and call us if he cries. But we can't afford to do that as often as we would like to go out. It just didn't seem frugal, so I nixed that idea.

The other idea is to talk John into staying home while I went. And he would do it, too, in part because he owes me -- he goes to a debate every other week or so, whereas I never go. And he wouldn't complain about it because he's a swell guy. But like I said, the man lives and breathes debate club. He's all about it. He's involved in every single activity or event they do. So if I made him stay home for something like this, I'd basically just wallow in guilt the whole time. I don't feel I can rob him of his hobby -- especially when I have other things I enjoy that aren't in the evenings, even if they're not as often as I'd like.

And either of these options has the unfortunate downside of being away from Marko. And the fact is, I don't actually like doing that. Even if he's asleep. I just have more fun when he's with me. The older he gets, the more entertaining he is. I prefer events where we are both welcome. The thing is, there aren't many events out there like that.

I guess that's the real beef I have: why do we segregate people into adults and children, men and women, married and unmarried, students and graduates? Why can't we have parties that are for everyone? What about the good old days in the country where they would have barn raisings or dances and everyone came, young and old? The kids would play together, the adults would talk, and I could have everything I want at once.

But that isn't really practical, not when you want to organize social groupings based on certain things, arranged in a certain way. For whatever reason, the debate society likes to wear black tie and have hour-long, boring ceremonies. It's just not going to be kid-friendly. I often feel that everything should be kid-friendly because we're Catholic and we're supposed to support families. But, come on. It's mostly college students. They're not anti-child, children just aren't on their radar at all.

So I'm not angry at anyone, except maybe a teeny bit at myself for even trying. I should have known it wouldn't work. But I am just a little bit bitter. I got my hopes up for an evening that would prove to me I can be a mother and participate in intellectual stuff, social stuff, things I enjoy. And instead, I got an evening that proves to me that I can't.

Well, there's always the internet, thank goodness. I've gotten in something like six internet debates this week, and I've also been researching Catholic teaching on gender roles (male headship, mutual submission, complementarianism, egalitarianism ... the googling never ends). It's not like my intellectual life is dead. I just feel a little isolated sometimes, especially with the cold weather keeping me indoors, and I wanted to put on a nice dress and talk to people to whom I'm not related. That kind of opportunity doesn't arise every day, or even every weekend, so I wanted to leap on it. So, comfort myself as I may, I'm still just a wee bit disappointed.


CatholicMommy said...

Yes. I understand completely. And in our very small suburban neighborhood, the other parents aren't home during the day, and their kids are older. It seems organic social time for children and adults just doesn't happen. And it's extremely frustrating. I'm glad I'm not alone, except that it means other people are unhappy, too.

Meredith said...

You know, it just seems like there's a crying need for moms to unite. Have their own debate club (or whatever), where the kids can make noise. It's so frustrating feeling like you have no power and are marginalized... Something grownup but with kids around, put on by moms... why not?

Meredith said...

There are so many busybodies and naysayers, though. I remember listening to a Protestant radio show where they were debating moms getting together at someone's house and enjoying conversation and drinks while their kids played in the backyard. You would have thought these ladies were doing shots while pregnant for the flak they got! I wouldn't see anything wrong with having a glass of wine with my friends while our kids played on their own, but all these callers were freaking out. Like, what if a giant eagle swoops down and grabs your kid, and your reflexes are slowed down just enough by that cheap Pinot Grigio that - no! never! you must be hyper-focused at all times or you are a bad mother!

Urgh. Not an incentive to reproduce.

Sheila said...

Yeah, there's a lot of mother-hate going around. I read an article recently about a mom who put her toddler down for a nap, closed her eyes for awhile herself, and the kid woke up and walked right out of the house! The neighbors saw him and called the police, and there was universal bashing of this mother for days. Because apparently moms aren't allowed to take naps, and she should have known her kid would learn to work the front door eventually.

Meanwhile, if we're perfect little mothers and never leave the house, we get flak for spending too much time on the internet. "You can't be as stressed out as all that if you have time to blog about it!" I actually *don't* think my kid needs 100% of my attention 100% of the time. I'm there if he needs me, but he needs (and likes) to work stuff out on his own sometimes ... and while he's doing it, I Facebook. So sue me. ;)

I do have a grand total of TWO friends with kids now, which is huge for me. And one of them recently invited me to a party at her sister's house where there were kids galore -- I had a fabulous time. I just have to get an "in" into these groups, and maybe host some things so that they happen more often. I'm just so extroverted that a party a month -- which I usually do get -- isn't really enough for me. I fill it up with playdates with my two SAHM friends, when I have the car, and that keeps me sane.

I just still find myself feeling annoyed that I have to drive 45 minutes to hang out with a friend ... what about those good old days when I would know everyone on the block, and they'd all be home during the day? And how come my mother lives in Korea instead of across town?

On the other hand, I have it a heck of a lot better than my mother ever did. Raising kids between the "good old days" and the invention of the internet sounds awful. She got one Bible study and a few phone calls as her contact with the outside world for a week. I probably would have shriveled up and died under that kind of treatment.

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