So, I wasn’t going to post today. It’s Mother’s Day after all. But this morning I read “Truly, Madly, Guiltily, a New York Times piece written by Ayelet Waldman, and it made me want to write something today. On Mother’s Day. In part because I suspect that in taking Ayelet Waldman’s side, I may irritate some moms, but also because I suspect most of those moms will not be reading my blog on Mother’s Day… (I’m thinking of writing a book: The Coward’s Guide to Controversy.)
In her article, Waldman, who, with four children, has participated in more than her fair share of mommy’s groups, writes about a topic discussed often… the lack of sex after children. She offers several explanations for this before concluding that :
… the real reason for this lack of sex, or at least the most profound, is that the wife’s passion has been refocused. Instead of concentrating her ardor on her husband, she concentrates it on her babies. Where once her husband was the center of her passionate universe, there is now a new sun in whose orbit she revolves. Libido, as she once knew it, is gone, and in its place is all-consuming maternal desire. There is absolute unanimity on this topic, and instant reassurance.
Great, right? Everyone agrees. Except that for Waldman, this didn’t happen. She acknowledges that after each of her children were born, sexual desire took a while to return. She also acknowledges that even now she’s not always in the mood. She is often exhausted at the end of the day, “as drained as any mother who has spent her day working, car pooling, building Lego castles and shopping for the precisely correct soccer cleat.” It would be easier on those days to curl up with a good book than to “curl up” with her husband (Michael Chabon), but then she looks over at him reading, notices “his bright-blue eyes through the magnification of his reading glasses,” and she “folds over the page of her novel.”
In an article that is not afraid to ruffle feathers or be controversial, Waldman says that she loves her husband more than she loves her children, and while that is a startling confession, I will say this: If everything works out perfectly, her children will go on to live lives of their own, lives in which her role will be significant but not central. When that happens – if everything works out perfectly – she and her husband will begin living lives very different than the ones they live now with four young children still at home.
I do not love my husband more than my children, but I don’t love my children more either. Sometimes I’ve felt guilty about that. In the very rare instances, when Chad and I have gone away for more than a day, the freedom has made me giddy. At those times I feel sexy and independent and spontaneous in a way I never quite do in my everyday mom existence. When we get away, Chad and I flirt, we tease, we kiss, and no one groans in the background, tells us we’re gross, asks us to “please, take it upstairs.” I find it so intoxicating, so freeing, that sometimes I forget to miss my kids… and that’s when I usually start feeling guilty.
Waldman writes about that, too, how it’s different for men. If a man doesn’t make his children the center of his universe, he does not feel he is less of a father. Fatherhood is one part of a many-faceted life; while motherhood is all encompassing. Or, if it isn’t, it feels as though it should be. Why is that? If a man made the same confession that Ayelet Waldman made, if he said that he loved his wife more than his kids, would it stir controversy as it did for her? I don’t know, but I do know that I have always wrestled with guilt over the fact that I’ve never been willing to sacrifice myself for my children, never felt my libido was usurped by an overwhelming maternal desire.
But right now, on Mother’s Day, I’m declaring it OKAY. It’s okay that my boys grew up with a mother who was restless and searching, a mother who loved their father as fiercely as she loved them. A mother who wasn’t afraid to spend Mother’s Day kicking their asses at boccie ball… which is where I’m headed now.