Women do not have to sacrifice personhood if they are mothers. They do not have to sacrifice motherhood in order to be persons. Liberation was meant to expand women’s opportunities, not to limit them. The self-esteem that has been found in new pursuits can also be found in mothering. ~Elaine Heffner
Something has been happening to me.
It began when I was pregnant, the feeling that I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than the new life forming inside of me. I stopped reading my usual novels and started reading pregnancy/parenting books, I checked BabyCenter frequently to see what my fetus was doing right at that time (“Oh, look! The bitty baby is the size of an avocado!”) I disregarded these things at the time — of course, how could I think of anything else when something so momentous was happening to me? It was perfectly natural to be preoccupied.
As my pregnancy advanced, I found that I would forget things, like phone numbers, dates, and conversations I’d had. I joked that my brain had dribbled out my ear, and that surely once my hormones settled, things would be normal again. At that time, how could I be expected to see anything other than my burgeoning belly?
Then the baby was born. Things didn’t fall back into place; on the contrary, it all became much worse. I couldn’t think about anything other than the baby. What he’s eating, how often, his sleep habits, his bowel movements. These things would swim around my mind in the channels formerly occupied by my musings on politics, religion, art, and philosophy. And what had happened to those thoughts, those ponderings? They had disappeared.
Again, I disregarded it. After all, I am a stay-at-home-mom, trying to adapt to my new role and completely immersed in all things Mommy. I simply don’t have time to think about anything else.
Recently, though, I realized just how terrifying and insidious my condition has become. It happened when I looked at my new Facebook timeline and realized just how much I talk about the minutiae of my son’s daily life, and how little I talk about anything that is actually interesting to people other than myself. This made me examine my recent life in a whole new light.
I realized that I am suffering from the dreaded Toddler Lobotomy.
I named this condition years ago to describe the behavior of moms who had lost all sense of self, who could talk about nothing but their children. I scorned them for not having any interests in adult things, for losing track of current events, for not reading books that don’t have pictures. I thought, “I’ll never be like that. I know who I am, I’ll never lose myself just because I become a mother. I will pursue my own interests while also being a good mother.”
Oh, how wrong I was.
Clinically, The Toddler Lobotomy (or TL) occurs when a miniature human being comes between that part of a woman’s brain which contains the complexity of her self (her interests, her opinions, and her beliefs, for example) and that part which allows basic functioning (the part which controls eating, sleeping, and doing laundry). This effectively replaces the woman’s personality with the child, leaving her capable of caring for said child without interference from such pesky things as Interests and Hobbies. Symptoms include not only the inability to talk about anything other than the child, but a notable drop in personal hygiene habits, bags under the eyes, and the sudden, inexplicable wearing of capri pants. A woman who has reached the capri pant wearing phase (frequently also marked by the purchasing of a mini-van) may be incurable.
Clearly, I’m in a fairly advanced stage of TL, as judged by my Facebook feed, my personal hygiene (or lack thereof), and the fact that I have started a Mommy Blog. I haven’t yet reached the point of the capri pants, though, so there may be hope that my case is not terminal.
I’ve stepped up my efforts to fight this condition. I’ve become involved in the local theater scene, thus reactivating that part of my brain which contains my lifelong love of acting. This has helped me to make new friends and has forced me to get out of the house on a regular basis, which gives me something to talk about that is not child-related. It also gives me a reason to shower, dress, and put on makeup, which does a great deal to make me feel less like “A Mommy” and more like myself, complete with things to say, witty quips to make, and semi-considered opinions.
There’s a long way to go, though, before I really feel like I’ve managed to strike a healthy balance between my Mommy self and my own self. I’d like to know, what do you do to keep up your sense of self in the face of TL?