Reclaiming Wife: The New Mom Version

For all you silly people who decided I have something against stay at home moms, or moms in general (did you forget alllll those pictures of me from the wedding with ickles in my lap? Yeah, I’m famous for my love of babies and people like to bet on how many I will have), and for everyone else, the cuttingly smart Cate Subrosa (remember her wedding?) just wrote a brilliant post about her take on Reclaiming Wife. She has a brand new baby girl, and she has wisdom that I don’t. Oh right, and she’s a linguist. The part I loved the best was this:

“Once you have a baby, that’s the only thing that matters,” Birdy said to me the other day.

“Yeah,” I said, as I made the tea. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought “no.” No, no, no, no, no. My baby is not the only thing that matters to me. In fact, the things that mattered to me before matter just as much. There is room in my sense of what matters for everything else to still have its place, despite this enormous space now taken up by the needs and desires of my darling baby. I am still me.

Indeed. Having babies, or not having babies, moving to the suburbs or not moving to the suburbs, buying a house or not buying a house, but doing what’s right for you, and not losing yourself in your new married life? *That’s* what I’m talking about. Go read.

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  • FABULOUS!!! perfectly said… i promise to not be a mom who forgets herself. my future children's lives will be richer because they had a mother who had a defined self.

  • So amazing! I think a lot of women struggle because they think they *should* feel fulfilled just because they have a spouse and a child. It's so important to have these discussions.

    On the occasion of her 30th birthday a girlfriend of mine posted in her blog something about being "okay" with turning 30 because she had "something to show for it," ie: her husband and young child. She went on to indicate that it would be much worse if she weren't a married mother by then.

    As her soon-to-be-30 friend with no spouse or child in sight, it shocked me to see her post that so blatantly. And I don't know that I've ever been able to relate to her the way I had previously. She was OKAY with being alive and turning 30 because she had a spouse and a baby? And I basically witnessed one of my favorite witty, amazing women reduce her identity to His Wife and Her Mother.

    It isn't that those roles shouldn't be satisfying, it's just… do they have to be one's complete identity?

  • What an incredible way to talk about being a mom. We both sometimes are hesitant to have kids because of the whole idea that all you are is a parent, it is a frightening thought. Of course I realize that there are many things you have to give up and rearrange, but it should not come at the cost of losing yourselves (and not just the mom losing her identity!) I love this "reclaiming wife" series, it's gotten me to comment more than I ever have, and I don't think it seems like you hate "traditional" wives! You are just showing a different side, talking about the parts that are not always talked about, but that new wives need/want to hear. Well at least this future new wife does.
    Sorry for the novel.

  • Marie

    Hi Meg,

    I think the problem with the internet is that sometimes, what is meant to be thought provoking, non judgmental is interpreted as just the opposite (especially when we're talking about something as personal as what it means to be a "wife"). I can totally understand how you would be upset with *some* of the comments, but I also think that perhaps if you were removed from the situation (which is impossible of course), you wouldn't have taken the comments personally; as I don't think they were meant as such.

    I don't think 99% of the women who commented thought you were "anti-mom". By evidence of the sheer number of comments, I think there is a lot of ambiguity and fear associated with marriage and becoming a "wife" (or mom for that matter). I think it's equally as obvious that everyone greatly appreciated a forum to discuss these issues.

    From your reply to my comment, I could see you thought I was saying you were judging others, but what I really was saying is that women tend to judge other women (because somehow the choices of other women are often seen to "devalue" our own choices if they aren't the same ones).

  • Amen! True gender equality will exist when women become people, not entities whose lives we have to dissect based on their relationship to the world. That means, Meg will be able to write an awesome blog post about her wifely experience, and we won't have to spend two days discussing whether or not it is judgmental against soccer moms and how that effects wifing. Meg will be able to say, "I don't want a minivan" and people will just go, "Cool." As opposed to, "But what is your opinion of women with minivans. Is embracing minivans bad for our rights? I have a minivan. Please clarify the minivan comment."

  • Wow, I went back and looked at the comments on that last post about WIFE. Clearly this is a conversation we (women) need to have.

    On one hand, the whole point of feminist activism is to ensure that every woman (and man) gets to make her or his own choice about all of this (about money, about minivans, about careers, about who puts what on hold for childcare, about whether to have a marriage/children). On the other hand, though, the way that wife is wielded in our society works to take something away from all women. That's what I think you were getting at with the word "reclamation," Meg–the idea that we should be able to be wives and also NOT drive minivans if that's not our thing.

    Which isn't to say there is something reprehensible in the driving of minivans. The point is that each of us needs to consciously make these decisions for herself (rather than being carried by the very strong currents of society that tell us to do all kinds of things).

    For instance: as a wife, my husband and I will share housework, child-rearing (if there are some), and pursuit of careers equally. But this is something I will have to fight for, not because my fiance isn't a liberated and supportive guy (he is), but because there are still constant pressures for me to step back, rein in my career, take on more domestic stuff, etc. These come from family, magazines, friends, work.

    And women who stay home with their children have to fight for that decision, too. They have to make space for autonomy and respect the same way I have to make space for softness and femininity.

    Anyway. This is all to say that the point of "reclamation" is not to diss on anybody, but is to empower all of us.

  • I'm a mom, and I never thought you were anti-mom, or anti-stay-at-home mom, or anything… In fact, you were the one who reached out to me over a year ago after I left a comment thanking you for featuring brides that have kids, and you said I opened your eyes about this "other" difference… I'm still grateful for that (and for you later featuring me as your graduate).

    And for sure, like lovely Cate wrote so well, kids or being a parent isn't the only thing that matters! I'm very much still me, with all my previous interests, perhaps more drive and raw sensitivity to what's wrong in this world, but just with a heart that has dramatically expanded. Once they're there, no doubt they're a major part of your life, and I wouldn't want it any other way, but certainly not the point of losing yourself!!!

    But I also agree with the other commenters, this is such a personal and emotional issue, that it's almost inevitable for some feelings to be hurt, some judgments to be made or at least perceived, and so on.

  • Hi Meg,

    I commented on the other article, and first-off, I did in no way mean to disrespect your choices at all. I'm avoiding driving a minivan probably because of the same reasons you are…it's what society EXPECTS in a sense, and not what I personally want for now, though in the future it might end up being *practical*. All I was saying is that it can come ACROSS differently than what you intend, much like people's well-meaning questions about if you're having children, for example, and I know there's a fine line between declaring your own personal issues with something and seeming judgmental. I think that's what the whole hubbub was about.

    BUT I think things are explained really well in this post, and I agree that we can be good mothers, good wives, without giving up anything of ourselves, because all it is is broadening the definition of ourselves. And however we want to define those roles is our own choice, not society's.

  • I think what's really great about your blog, meg, and what keeps me coming back is that you're not judgmental and have a very "to each their own", "whatever works" kind of attitude which you don't find on a lot of other blogs about weddings and marriage that vomit judgment all over our shoes. I think it's great though that these topics are creating such passionate responses from women…because it means we're all thinking about what works for us and how we feel about weddings, marriage, family, kids and how it all fits into our lives. It's a great discussion and thank you for keeping it going!

  • I would like to echo a lot of these ladies and just say Thank You Meg for starting this discussion. As frustrating as it probably is to feel like people are missing the point or misinterpreting everything you're saying.. I think this has been a really healthy discussion (just finally caught up on the 100+ comments on the first post). You're making us Think. I can't get over how great it is to be surrounded by all these smart ladies. and I love that team practical comes back and corrects a grammar mistake.

    ..I think I'm just really breathing easier because before catching up on this conversation I spent a scary few moments on the WeddingWire discussion forums and the conspicuous absence of team practical absolutely. terrified me.

    I am five months away from being free of the loaded 'fiancee.' I am so looking forward to crawling in and rolling around all over the word wife. and I'm freakin excited to have APW around for all this.

  • i love that "not losing yourself in your new married life" I feel like I'm getting married to become a better version of me with his help love and support, and I hope I can provided that same help love and support so that he can become/do what he needs and want to do.

    I know people that where born careers, (often school teachers and nurses) and when they get married and have babies I look at them and think they have given up everything but lately I look at them and have realized, they didn't loss anything they have just grow even more in the career role. Personally, I don't feel I'm that sort of person, my list is very different (but still includes child way down the track) to those girls but what what makes the world great, everyone moving to there own music.

  • Cate Subrosa

    Meg, thank you. You say such lovely things about me.

  • Nat

    I just wanted to add another dimension to the discussion. I'm likely to be engaged and married in the next 18 months or so. While I am totally excited about it (hence my presence here despite not being engaged yet), I have been thinking alot lately about the expectations the role "wife" might have. One thing that has occured to me in particular is the expectation that we will now do everything together, for the rest of our lives. I am 100% happy to commit to no other sexual partners, shared finances and mutual child-rearing responsibilities. But do I have to forget about my dreams of a long overseas trip with a girlfriend or that every birthday must now be spent with my partner?? I really do hope not…