By the time eight o’clock rolled around last night, I was more than done. Done, as in: well-done; not even medium-rare. I barely made it through one of the Seinfeld Season Four episodes Andrew and I rented from Netflix before my lids were drooping. And boy, did we have fun yesterday!
With about 55 people in attendance at the Mothering Our Mothers event (including attendees ranging in age from 18-months to 70 years) the dialog, networking and awareness-raising was all fruitful.
I faithfully spoke from the heart about some of the challenges I’ve faced since becoming a mother five years ago, including redefining myself through and beyond my roll as a mom, the inherent isolation that sometimes comes with motherhood, postpartum depression and more.
I was doing pretty well working through my keynote piece, until I looked up to see half of the audience crying. Then it finally hit me: my story really is something other people can connect with. And not because it is my story. Because it is the story of my generation of mothers.
As a society, we have strayed so far off the path when it comes to ensuring an emotionally sound start to the life of each new family. And it’s no wonder social issues such as truancy, substance abuse, eating disorders, violence, ambivalence, egotism, and disconnectedness are becoming defining characteristics of a rapidly increasing percentage of our American population. If we, as a culture, continue neglecting to bathe new mothers in love, comfort, support, care-taking and nurturing…how can we expect them to adequately pass these society-saving attributes onto future generations?
The scariest part: since the turn of the century, our culture has rapidly steered away from supporting, teaching and nurturing new mothers through communal efforts. (Communal means MANY friends, family and neighbors.) This pattern has taken hold in a little over one hundred years. And now, as our great grandmothers, and grandmothers are rapidly passing on, we are losing the remaining subset of our population who even remembers what it was like to be adequately supported after childbirth.
As I sat at the Prairie style oak desk in a floral patterned, wing backed chair, signing copies of my book for friends, family and strangers, I heard words of congratulations, questions such as, “how did you find the time to do this?” and “when is the next book coming out?” But what I kept hoping I would hear was, “You know, Kimmelin? You’re absolutely right. We need to start making a change now in how we mother new mothers, before it’s too late, and the current trend gets away from us.”
But as I recall the sentimental, startled, understanding and even grieving faces of the people–mostly women–in the crowd from yesterday, I find within myself a little bit of hope that yes, we have started to make that change.
As I told those fifty-some people yesterday, I don’t want my “book signings” to be just about selling and signing books. I want each event to be about so much more: about raising awareness of the amazing difficult, fabulous, joyful, maddening, isolating, celebratory, mundane, and anything-but-mundane work we moms do. And about the fact that we need SIGNIFICANT SUPPORT to keep on doing what we’re doing from what sometimes feels like a dry well.
Oprah says it everyday on her Mother’s Day edition of her self-named talk show. “Motherhood is the hardest job on earth.” So how about if we, as a community, as a society, as a culture, as a generation, make the necessary changes that will finally bring us full circle (and back to where most other earthly cultures have remained) and SHOW mothers everywhere how loved they really are for the work they (we) do. And not just on Mother’s Day.
After all, as moms, what we want most of all, is for Motherhood to be all about this: