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Jun 28, 201309:42 AM
Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

Adjusting to the Mom Identity

During a recent team-building exercise, the group leader passed out little slips of paper that read simply, “I am...” We were all given 30 seconds to complete the sentence with one word that summed us up. After rejecting “detail-oriented” because I wasn’t sure if it counted as two words, I just stared at the paper, trying to think of something. Thirty seconds doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but it really can drag on longer than you’d think. Finally, as the leader started to count down the last few seconds, I just wrote “Mom” and passed it in.

Mom. It is absolutely true that that is one of the main ways I identify. I adore my kids and think and worry about them and delight in them constantly. And from as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a mom – an artist/acrobat/singer/mom when I was 5 and a vet/writer/mom when I was 10 and a journalist/editor/mom when I was 13 to ... well, now. While everything else changed, that never did. So it’s not really that weird that “Mom” was the one word I picked to define me.

But still. A few months ago, at a first birthday party for the son of a friend of mine, I met a woman my age with two daughters roughly the same ages as my two daughters. Our girls immediately became fast friends, and so did we. We talked for two hours about schools and different methods for teaching reading and potty readiness and cloth diapers and poop and pregnancy cravings and our birth experiences and pediatricians and vaccinations and sleep and so on. Two weeks later, we were surprised to find ourselves seated next to each other at a media lunch; we had no idea that we worked in the same industry. We had talked for two straight hours and never once mentioned our careers. It just hadn’t come up. I am sort of OK with that – I mean, we were at a kid’s birthday party with our kids, not a business networking event. But I still was a little disturbed that motherhood has become so much my primary identity that I didn’t even mention in passing what I do to earn money, nor did I ask her about her career, even while we were discussing other extremely personal matters.

To be honest, though, I am really just too tired and busy to have an existential crisis about the whole thing. Right now, Georgia is pushing the same button repeatedly on a toy so that it keeps making this god-awful noise in an unceasing loop, and Ruby is skating by me with one foot in a My Little Pony car and a too-full cup of root beer mixed with milk in her hand. I started to tell her that milk-plus-root beer was a bad idea, but then I figured, “What the hell; it’s almost like a root beer float, and anyway, I am not going to fight this particular battle because even if it’s gross, it won’t hurt her.” I have just finished Googling “dry drowning” and scaring the crap out of myself because the baby swallowed a mouthful of bath water earlier. Ruby’s sheets are still in the wash with bedtime looming. A basket of clothes needs to be folded, and even though I make a constant vow that I will do one load of laundry, start to finish, every day, I never do; I just wash and dry the clothes and then pull them, wrinkled, out of the basket as needed and fold them all on the weekend. There are dominoes and Cheerios scattered all over the floor and half-full bowls of cold spaghetti on the table. By the time I get everyone to sleep and drag the house out of squalor and safely back to just basic mess, I will have enough time to choose between shaving my legs or reading one chapter of a bad novel before I fall asleep (I have been working my way through James Thurber’s biography of Harold Ross since November but have somehow managed to read approximately 27 terrible mystery novels in that same time span). The existential crisis will just have to wait.

I did not know, all those years ago when I wanted to be a mom, just how all-consuming this “parenting” thing was. When I was pregnant with Ruby, I remember complaining bitterly on a trip that “when you’re pregnant, vacation apparently just means a new toilet to throw up into.” Little did I know that “vacation” would soon be a foreign concept altogether.

The closest I get to vacation these days, ironically, is days at work when I am not too busy. Those are the times I can take my time drinking a cup of coffee, have a long lunch with a friend, chat with coworkers about real issues that require a lot more thought than just answering a constant stream of “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!”

And yet, in the end, even if being “Mom” isn’t all I want to be, it is all I ever wanted to be. Of all the words I could pick to describe me in an impossible exercise that has zero real world applications, it’s probably the most apt. And for the people who matter most to me, I know it is the word they would pick to describe me.

“Who am I, Ruby?” I ask her when she skates by me again with her root beer-milk.

“Mom,” she says, wrinkling her nose at me like it’s the stupidest question in the world. “You’re my mom.”

And I really couldn’t ask for anything more.

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Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

about

Eve is further proof, if any is needed, that New Orleans girls can never escape the city. After living here since the age of 3 and graduating from Ben Franklin High School, Eve moved to Columbia, Mo., where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Missouri School of Journalism and became truly, unhealthily obsessed with grammar.

She had originally intended to strike out to New York City and work in the cutthroat magazine industry there, but after Katrina, Eve felt a strong pull to return home, to her roots, her family, her waterlogged and struggling city – and a much more forgiving work atmosphere that would allow her to skip a routine of everyday makeup and size 0 designer label business suits and enjoy the occasional cocktail or three with an absurdly fattening lunch. She moved back home in January 2008 and lives in Mid-City with her two daughters, Ruby and Georgia; her stepson, Elliot; and her husband, Robert Peyton.

Eve blogs about the joys and struggles of living in post-Katrina New Orleans, the unique problems and delights of raising a child in such a diverse and challenging city – including her experiences with the public education system – and her always entertaining and extremely colorful family.

Eve has won numerous writing awards, including the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society Gold Medal, the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for column-writing and Press Club of New Orleans awards for her Editor’s Note in New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and for this blog, most recently winning the award for "Best Feature Affiliated Blog."

She welcomes comments, advice, empty flattery, recipes, drink invitations and – most especially – grammatical or linguistic debates.

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