Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Playing" Mommy

Remember when this used to mean you and siblings or other kids were playing "house" and someone was designated as "the mommy." Well, now that we're big girls and the house is a real structure and the title mommy we earned however we did, this can take on a whole new meaning. Sometimes, not entirely nice.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I was talking to a friend. She was describing a friend of hers who I never met and told me that she "plays mommy." I asked her for some clarification on that. She told me, "well, you know, she doesn't work, she has a housekeeper, her kids are in school all day, she doesn't cook, all they ever eat is take-out..." you get the idea.

I know many people like her friend. I have one in my, ahem, extended family. I never would use the term "playing mommy" though because I think these people love their children, it's not a game to them. They are doing the best they can in most cases or the best they were taught. I may not think I could live like them, but I'm not going to hold it against them.

That being said, I can certainly imagine that there are some people out there did not become parents because of a "calling" or vocation to do so and do feel they have a part to act out and maybe it is something of a game to them. For some people, parental love is not an innate thing but a learned behavior, and some people may not be "good learners." I don't know the person my friend was talking about, so I don't know if she is the former or the latter.

With the high rate of divorce and parents choosing not to marry, is it any wonder this trickles down to parenting. I mean, really, let's think about this. I know many, many people who married to fulfill their parents expectations of them. A few of them multiple times. First of all, marriage is a vocation, one that should never, ever be entered into lightly. And one of the principle reasons for a marriage is to create a family. Now, when I use the term "family" that does not imply children. While I know the church teaches that children should be a natural blessing of marriage, there are people who have very serious and significant reasons why children are not part of their marriage. I will not be one to judge that. A family can be just a husband and wife. Marriage is not something to put on one's bucket-list or something we should be entering into lightly. There is a good reason for marriage preparation classes in all churches. In fact, if you are not Catholic and your minister doesn't require them, find a new minister. Seriously. I was married in a Methodist church where the minister complained that one thing he could say for certain that Catholics did right and Protestants screwed up was making marriage a sacrament. He felt at the very least it needed to be treated sacramentally. So, if we are "playing" husband and wife, isn't the next logical step to "play mommy and daddy?"

Bad idea. If you are already not entirely in this for the right reasons (each other) then, introducing new humans who are not used to chaotic upheaval (ie--divorce, separation, etc) might not sit well. But we've been doing it for a generation now, so it's become a learned behavior and accepted as one.

I am not going to say that my marriage or parenting is perfect. Both could use work. But that's what marriage and parenting are. They aren't your birthright. If it's so easy, it's not the real thing. Yes, there are tremendous rewards inherent in both marriage and parenthood, but let's not confuse those things with ease.

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