Recently, my mom (who is the best mom in the world, thank you very much), expressed to me how hurt she was that I had rejected much of my childhood. As an adult, I’d categorically decided I hated crafts and camping and sports and all of the other enlightening activities that adults see fit to force on children. She didn’t understand what I meant, and I tried to explain it to her. I had a great childhood, but I resented any activities that kept me from thinking, because all I wanted from life, even as a young girl, was time to ponder life, the universe, and everything. Back then, I didn’t demand time for writing. I didn’t even desire daydreams–I wanted time to think. Time to work out everything in my head. How precious is that?
Its preciousness is beyond value to that girl who grew up and married (hoping this would merit her more time to think) and had four children. Its preciousness is beyond gold to the woman who’s been told that what she’s supposed to be doing with her time has nothing to do with a constant thought life.
Are you aware of the stereotypes placed on women, even in the twenty-first century? There are two prominent paradigms that mothers are to fall into, especially in Christendom, but you’d be surprised that the world’s standards aren’t so different: 1) The Servant. This woman cooks and cleans in her service to others. She unties the laces of her husband’s boots when he walks through the door; she serves him second helpings at dinner before she’s asked. She nurtures and protects her children, clothing them in fitting ways, holding them in her arms when they’re sick. 2) The Artist. This woman plays with clay and stomps in mud puddles with her children. She makes crafts, cutting elaborate snowflakes from plain white paper. She doesn’t keep her house in perfect order, but she feeds all around her with her creativity and emotive arts. She may serve her children dessert for dinner and call it good, and yet everybody’s nourished.
What about the cerebral moms, I’d like to know? What about those moms who don’t know how to live outside their minds, who don’t know how to serve, let alone tap into their creativity? I’m sick to death of the obligations placed on mothers. I’m sick to death of the foodie-crafty expectations. God knows I’ve been searching my soul for years, now. God knows I’ve finally stumbled on an answer that doesn’t fit with the world’s reasoning. The world says that the cerebral mom is pushy and intellectual, the Irene Pollock type who knows no better than to push her children into reading their native language, as well as Italian, when they’re three. But I’m here to tell you that cerebral moms have a gift to give to the world–they have the gift of knowledge, of understanding, even of deep caring and sensitivity that springs from debating with themselves in their minds. They aren’t like Irene Pollack, I’m sorry to inform Alexander McCall Smith (author of the Scotland Street books).
God is greater than a world of expectations and stereotypes. God understands his creation, and I’m a part of it, not an aberrant castaway. God didn’t cheat me, either. He didn’t make me to be one type of person, only to yank it rudely away from me when I became a wife and mother. I may never solve the conundrums I ponder in my mind, but that doesn’t mean I should stop trying, and neither should the other cerebral moms out there.
*from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
**Painting by Renoir, who seemed to appreciate images of thinking women