mothering intellect

I’m reading “The Lowland,” by Jhumpa Lahiri. It’s lovely, set in Calcutta and Rhode Island. I’ve read other work by Ms. Lahiri before, and I’ve noticed her male characters to be very sympathetic ones. (“The Lowland” is about, and I’m grossly simplifying, two brothers.)

But I’m irked.

The main female character in this book, Gauri, is described as highly intellectual, and independent, remarkable, etc. And she is a mother. But she’s not the mothering kind. Her mother-in-law could tell, knew this about her. Motherhood is “not enough” for her, does not define her life, does not give her contentment. (Gauri does not follow Indian tradition or social mores.)

It seems it’s her high intellect that blunts her mothering instinct. Or at least, I’m getting that impression. And it irks me. I guess it irks me because its converse would indicate that motherhood suits women who do not seek other things, who have no other intellectual pursuits?

This really, really irks me. I’m only halfway through the novel, so maybe I’ll be less irked as pages go by. But it seems to happen often in literature: women who are unhappy mothers are unhappy because they are, basically, too *smart* for motherhood.

I have had friends, mothers of young children, say that they need to work, that they need to “use their brains.” Each time I hear that, it’s like a little stab wound.

I am intellectually stimulated all the time. If not by the day-to-day parenting, then by the things I read, or hear, or see. And I enjoy motherhood, parenting as the at-home spouse. I have never thought, “I want to get back to work so that I can use my brain.” I want to get back to work, actually, so that more people, besides my husband and children, can enjoy all my brain has to offer. I just want to share, and show off a bit, coincidentally, if not intentionally.

Hmm. I’m now less irked by “The Lowland.” Gauri, the new mother, seems happier when she receives validation for actions that serve only herself–actions that have nothing to do with mothering, or being a wife. Who doesn’t feel better when they, and they alone, are rewarded, recognized, and remembered? She’s not too smart for motherhood. She just wants attention for herself, and not just for her time with her child, not just for her marital status. Who doesn’t want that?

We have egos for a reason. Why deny them?

“write about my life, like you”

So said our close-to-9-year-old daughter yesterday. She grabbed her little diary with a lock on it, and started writing, or logging, the events of her day. “Well, it’s September 29,” she began. She read it all to me this evening. From the morning of 9/29 through the evening of 9/30. It’s like a Captain’s Log from Star Trek. I love it.

She started doing this logging after I invited her to read this post. She was there you, see. She had her own perspective on that evening, not necessarily different, but it was her own. That she considered this, and on her own, decided to write about her own life… it thrills me. I would let her know how much it thrills me, but I know that if I did, I would ruin her efforts. They would no longer be her own idea. I would overshadow her. So I listened to her reading her log/diary. I laughed at loud at her recollections of her dad’s yoga practice–she doesn’t know how her matter-of-fact recollections translate into very dry humor. Or does she?

She wants to be like me. That floors me. Writing. It’s not a “Mommy” thing, it’s just a “thing.” She wants do to the thing Mommy does. 

Note: the final line of her log indicated she went to bed and snuggled with Mommy. I was snuggling with her in her bed as she read that, no pencil anywhere near us. 

“Heeeey… when did you write this?” 

(She wrote what she expected to soon do. Prior to our bedtime snuggling, she had asked me, as I typed at my desk, “How come I go to bed at the same time as [my younger brother]?” I answered “Because you end up winding down nicely, you play, or draw, or read…” She countered, “But why can’t I snuggle with you? I love you. I want to snuggle with you.”)

I’m done. I need parent no more. I’m just here to make sure nobody gets hurt. 

So. Thrilling.