In the original version of Martyred Moms, one of the last scenes features me talking to two close girlfriends, saying: “I need to hear your voices in my head, telling me ‘it’s ok.'” (That was really difficult to punctuate!)
My consultant and collaborator in film, Matthew Polis, challenged me to cut the scene because he said the audience doesn’t need to see me seeking reassurance after I’ve figured something out. I cut the scene. I appreciate the advice of clear-thinking men because women, I among them, can become deeply confused in the murky waters of social expectations.
When I am in a group, my desire to fit in with the group is equal in power to my desire to resist its assumptions. Caught in paralysis, I am unable to marshal my usual humor and authority, and sometimes end up feeling like a wooden puppet.
I hear women talking about other women; I hear myself judging women who make different “choices,” and then I come back to the point I made in an exchange with Andi Buchanan: we judge each other because we don’t have power, because we don’t really have choice.
To be quite specific, it is not possible for two parents to have meaningful careers in our culture. Most of the professional occupations, at least in the New York area, require 40-80 hours per week of dedicated effort. The school day runs from 8:30 (ish) to 3 (ish), unless there is a holiday, or a half-day, or a snow day, or one of many celebrations to which parents are expected to go. True, we can ‘choose’ to use child care, have a nanny attend the parental gatherings at school.
But, if you are a woman, there are staggering financial, emotional and social costs to caring about a career enough to hire help for the kids. It is definitely not ok in my neighborhood to be a slacker mom. And, you know, despite my militant position, I want to spend time with my daughter. I just wish I could believe that what I give is enough. And when I see other mothers picking up their kids instead of letting them take the bus, or volunteering for stuff, or cancelling a work project, or otherwise putting the apparent needs of children over their own, I feel guilty. And critical. And I wish I could fit in.
So I renounce my desire to belong. I renounce my search for a tribe. I’ll go my own way and let it hurt.