I go to a book club once a month. It is one of the few non-work, non-child related things I still manage to do, and I generally look forward to the meetings. For reasons that don't really matter to anyone outside of the book club, we need to seriously cut back on talk about babies, birth, mothering, and all that. Now, my book club knows about this blog, and some of them even read it occasionally, so I want to be really clear that I think this is a very good idea. In fact, I was the one who suggested it.
But. (You knew there had to be a "but", didn't you?)
But it makes my heart hurt a little to think about this. There are several mothers in the club (hence the need for the change). The other mothers seem to have done a better job than I have of keeping parts of their pre-baby lives. They watch TV shows and movies, and read books other than those we've chosen for our club. I marvel at this. By the time we get our kids in bed and our chores done, Hubby and I are usually too exhausted to do much more than crawl into bed ourselves. Our book club does actually discuss the books we read, but we also talk about other things. And frankly, if I stop talking about my kids and motherhood, and don't talk about my job (which no one in the club really wants to hear about)- well, there is not much left. Except for my opinions on health care reform, I suppose, but even those are informed by my experience as a mother.
To be honest, I don't think the hurt comes from the restrictions on topics at book club so much as the general restrictions on how I interact with the rest of the world when it comes to motherhood. I must not talk about the difficulties of being a parent because no one forced me to have kids. I must not wish out loud for a more flexible work place because the accommodations made for working families are so unfair to those who don't have kids. I must not wish for better government support for working parents because we already get so many tax breaks and that is unfair to single people. If I go out in public with my children (except maybe to a park), I must be hyper vigilant to ensure that they do not disturb anyone else, because other people have a right to enjoy public spaces without being bothered by noisy little kids. And most of all, I must not imply that having children is a good thing to do, because the planet is already overcrowded.
My husband wonders why I care so much what other people think. I don't really know, but I suspect it is because I used to be "child free", too. I remember how other people's kids weren't that interesting to me, and how I wished for an adults only day at the zoo. (Really! I did. In retrospect, this was a bit silly, but I really believed it at the time.) I know that there is no way to describe how motherhood has made me a better, less selfish person without somehow implying that people without children are shallow and selfish. I certainly do not believe this to be true, so I choose instead to avoid trying to describe how transformative motherhood has been for me. And I would never tell someone that they can't truly understand something because they do not have kids (especially if in my heart of hearts I think it is true).
This self-censorship is exhausting, and more than a little isolating. I find myself wanting to spend more time with other mothers, or with the few old friends I have with whom self-censorship is entirely unnecessary. The isolation I feel is one of the reasons I read (and write) blogs. I think that this self-censorship and the concomitant search for other people who are just like me is a sad thing, not just for me and my small little social life, but because it is indicative of a larger problem in society. Thanks to technology (like blogs....) we now have the ability to choose to talk with only those people whose views will not challenge our own. This is far bigger than parents and non-parents, although I don't think that this divide is as trivial as it may seem at first. (What would happen if we worked together to bring about true flexibility in the work place? I had true flex time at my previous job, and I loved it from the beginning, long before I had kids. I loved being able to arrange my work week so that I could leave early on a Friday for a long weekend getaway.) It is also Democrats and Republicans, Tea Partiers and Progressives. When was the last time you had a political conversation with someone whose views are different from your own? Or do you politely change the topic when it becomes clear you do not agree? We have lost the ability to politely disagree with someone, but to still listen and really try to understand their point of view.
I don't know the solution. I can try to listen, but it takes two to have a true conversation, and I'm afraid to talk.
I almost deleted this post as a little too whiny and self-absorbed. But then I decided that if I can't navel-gaze on my blog, where can I do it? (Hey! Look at all that lint!) And I really wanted to get this out of my system. Besides, self-censoring a post on self-censorship just seems wrong.