Raising Richmond: Mom jean blues

First it’s swim dresses and tankinis, next it’s cropped pants, short hair, novelty license plates that say KATYSMOM, stick figure family stickers, regular Ann Taylor and not Ann Taylor Loft. People will just be able to guess that I have a child who runs my life.

A guy was telling me that he can tell a lot about a person by what kind of watch he wears. He was talking about expensive fancy watches. I have a giant green Swatch watch–a gift that is better than the cheap Target watches I usually get myself–and I asked him what my watch says about me. He said, “that you’re a mom.”

I think he meant this as a compliment. I found it insulting.

“Why? Is it because there’s yogurt on it?” I joked. Then I seethed about it for a long time.

A few weeks later I was shopping online for bathing suits, which is the least fun shopping. If I could wear something like my running shorts, I’d be happy, which is why last year I bought swim shorts. They look goony but they’re comfortable. This year I extended my search to swim dresses, which sound adorable, but when I saw the photos of the models I thought, “Oh, no, this is how you can tell I’m a mom.”

First it’s swim dresses and tankinis, next it’s cropped pants, short hair, novelty license plates that say KATYSMOM, stick figure family stickers, regular Ann Taylor and not Ann Taylor Loft. People will just be able to guess that I have a child who runs my life.

Being identified as a mom first has two different sets of baggage.

First: “I’m not a woman anymore. I’m a mom.”

Oh, Mom Jeans. When I watch this commercial now, I get the same panicky feeling I get listening to NPR coverage about climate change. What can I do now to keep from turning into a cartoon mother who has just given up? Does it involve alternative energy sources?

It’s hard to find that balance between “mom” and “person who has interests and does activities that aren’t related to being a parent or guardian.” I’ve only been a mom for less than four years; I’m still wearing clothes that I had ten years ago, so four years isn’t a long time for me. People who knew me before then probably remember me as a whole person and not a half-woman/half-squirmy child covered in snacks, but people who’ve met me post-child, whether they know my daughter or not, just know me as someone’s mom.

Which is fine, I guess, but it’s not who I want to be identified by people who are not my child.

“But you write a parenting column, your Twitter feed is usually just updates describing your daughter’s outfits, and you’re constantly singing songs from Newsies. Also you chose to have a child,” you could say. That’s all true. And that Newsies thing is not child-related. I don’t know why I feel ashamed about only having parenting-themed topics on my brain, and I feel like I failed at something when I can only communicate mom things.

I do have interests that extend beyond my child. I can’t think of what they are right now other than watching Inside Amy Schumer, listening to Earwolf podcasts, and enjoying Cook-Out milkshakes after our daughter has gone to bed. But when I think of them I will remember that they were great and could use serious tending-to.1

I also feel a little fraudulent being identified first as a mom–like I haven’t earned it yet.

The title implies that I have useful information to offer if someone is sick or injured, or that I know what to do in emergencies. I do not. This weekend, for example, my daughter and I headed off in the car, and about four houses down she shouted “You forgot to buckle me in!” That’s not mom material. That’s senile-grandma-taking-the-car-by-mistake behavior.

Second set of baggage: I am self-conscious about how overly mom I am because I don’t feel like my experiences rolling with a three-year-old lend anything to the conversations I have when she’s not there.

Like people are expecting me to only talk about her and I disappoint when I do. When I’m catching up with a friend, especially one who doesn’t have children and therefore I assume doesn’t want to hear about that crap, I have to dig deep to find relevant life information to share. I feel like poor company.

I don’t make my child hide behind a tall plant if we run into someone in public.2 I am incredibly proud of her and love to share what she’s up to with people. But I am aware that she is eventually is not going to want to constantly be attached to me, and as strange as it sounds now, is not always going to find it necessary to barge in on me when I’m in the bathroom. Keeping my old self on deck is just going to help make it easier to let her go when she needs me to. She doesn’t need me to lose myself in her identity.

Her friends do and will see me as an old mom, and that’s perfectly fine. They’re not real people to me, either (just kidding). I just have to work a little harder to keep my non-mom self afloat when she’s needed. Maybe I am successful at that. Maybe when that guy said my watch makes me look like a mom, what we really meant was “I can’t think of anything nice to say about your watch.”

I might still get a swim dress though.

  1. I am almost certain that pre-wife and mother Kelly spent all her time thinking and talking about movie musicals and cooking. 
  2. She would love that. 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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