For the Love of Books and Other Things (That Didn't Come Out of Your Womb): Owning What You Love

Reading a book

Reading a book

Reading. Ah. Yes. That moment when you open the book find your place on the page and fall right into the world you left off on before sleep stole it you from you, your lunch break ended, or your kids called up from the basement moaning in hunger. That moment when you feel at once totally at peace and completely awakened, alive. I live for that moment. Reading is something I love to do more than anything else.  Really. There isn't one thing I love to do more. And you may be thinking--well, that's an exaggeration . She must love playing with her kids more. Nope. She must love going out to eat more. Nope. She must love to walk more. Nope. She must love to write more. No, not even that. OK, maybe sit on the beach more? Close. But, no, reading even beats that.  Though, truthfully, reading while on the beach is pretty much Nirvana for me.

And while I love to do lots of things: travel, paint, decorate, garden, play with my kids, sit on the beach, hang out with my friends, attend book signings and meet and talk to authors (met Jennifer Weiner last night and it was amazing),  binge watch t.v. shows (Mad Men, Downton, Homeland and Orange is the New Black especially) and drink wine, margaritas, and cosmos (on different nights of course) with my husband, walk for hours at a clip, lunch with my buddy, M, and dish about everything under the sun,  pin outrageously expensive kitchens to my dream boards on Pinterest, and IM my sisters throughout the day, I still like reading the best.  (ICYMI: I am big on superlatives. Something has to stand out. You have to make decisions. You have to pick a favorite. No cop outs.) And while there is no end to the things I enjoy in this life, when it comes to Number 1., the top, the winner: there is nothing else I would rather do than read. I mean that. Without any apology.

Now I know us moms are not allowed to say we enjoy doing anything else besides being a mom. It's written very explicitly in The 21st Century Mom Code:

Rule 1. You're a mom, your life is over.

Rule 2. Your children are Numero Uno now, therefore all fun, joy, happiness, and excitement shall only come from them.

Rule 3. You will be tired and exhausted and have no time for yourself.

Rule 4. You must spend copious hours complaining about said tiredness, your husband (or lack of one), child-rearing and laundry with other women who have children for the rest of your life. And if you're not doing that, you will spend hour upon hour reading blogs and assessing your parenting skills and thanking your lucky stars you're not like those other dreadful Tiger Moms, Hipster Moms, Indulgent Moms, My-kid-is-gifted moms, Free-range Moms, Hands-free Moms, Working Moms, SAHM Moms, Helicopter Moms, Meth moms, Soccer Moms, Hockey Moms, Swim Moms, The-Can't-Control-their-Kids Moms, Have-more-than-3-Kids-What-Were-They-Thinking Moms, They-Only-Have-1-What-Are-They-Complaining-About Moms, the Rich Moms, Poor Moms, and whatever variety the internet is pushing in the latest Mommy Wars installment.)

Rule 5. Any hint of joy, happiness, or reward or fulfillment outside the home immediately brands you as a selfish, ergo, bad mother.

(There are no less than 8 trillion rules for moms, so I'll stop here. Hey, I don't write the rules. The internet does. Huff Post Parents bloggers do. Blogs like this one do. Judge-y McJudgersons do. I'm just callin' it like I see it.)

So it's kind of risky for a woman, even now, in our seemingly progressive age (don't get me started) to come out and say: I LOVE THIS ONE DAMN THING. I really effing love it. I love it more than anything. I love it because it makes me happy. I feel whole. I feel alive. I can't wait to do it again and again. Whether it's reading, painting, traveling, cooking, taking pictures, writing, baking, mating, singing, dancing, running, posing (sorry, the only way I could make yoga a gerund), boxing, biking, napping (hey, it's a thing), it's OK, it's perfectly fine to come out and own it. It doesn't make you a bad mom. It doesn't make you a bad person to find joy and fulfillment outside of your home. It's all right to love something deeply that didn't come out of your womb. It's perfectly legitimate to own what you love.

I don't see this as a problem many of  my guy friends wrestle with. They throw themselves into golf, fishing, soccer, art, music, writing, their favorite sports teams, or even work, and they are unapologetic about how much joy whatever is their favorite thing to do brings them. They have favorite teams and decorate entire rooms in their homes based on it. They have no qualms about sitting in front of the television every Sunday for 8 hours while their teams play, or booking deep-sea fishing trips or entire days/evenings on the golf course. They don't have an existential crisis every time they leave the house in the morning for work and think that their children will love them less if they don't turn right around and go back inside. They don't race home each lunch hour in the summer (like I might admit to doing) to make sure the kids know, really know,  just how much they love them and want to be with them. No, they just go. Then they come home. They own it. This is my time. I am doing it.

Well then.

And while we can blame this on our current culture's unrelenting Mom Obsession--Look Celebrity's breed! Latest Issue of Celebrity Moms! Mommy Wars! Desperate Housewives! Real Housewives! Baby bump Sightings!--we moms need to take a little responsibility for it, too. We enjoy the complaining. We enjoy the "I am so tired" and "you wouldn't believe how busy I am" one-upping that goes on. For a long time I was ashamed to say what I love to do. Ashamed to own anything that took away from the focus of my "main job"--being mom. I was scared of being judged by others, because when it came right down to it, I was judging other women.  It's not right. It's not fair. It's not healthy. But, I did it. Why? Because I was insecure. If I judged someone else, put a label on them, distanced myself from them--Oh that's not me, that'll never be me--I was protecting myself. I was trying to reaffirm my own life decisions. Trying to make myself feel better about whatever it is I chose to do: Work (though not really a choice, when you're the only one who is around to earn an income for your child), not spank, feed the kids mac and cheese--yes, the processed kind, enroll them for two activities, not just one, send them to private school rather than public, go away without them once in a while, and the list goes on. We mothers are pretty horrible to each other, and by proxy pretty horrible to ourselves. By judging others, we're judging ourselves. Conversely, those who are so focused on doing what they love to do, rarely have time to judge others. It's a pretty cool circle: If you're not worried about what others think of you and just do what you love, you're less likely to think badly of others. Go figure.



But in our defense,  we women can be pretty awesome too on our best days and supportive when we want to be. And the first step to getting there is to own something that you love and say it out loud: I love to ____. Go on, fill in the blank. And if you love something and enjoy doing something, it's perfectly all right if another mom likes something different. My reading is another person's tumbling or running.  For example, this week my sister-in-law posted a gorgeous picture of herself. She was in a full-split, upside down, hanging from a trapeze wire. She also happens to be a mom of three (one of whom is my adorable and only godson, and yes, I take the opportunity to brag about him every chance I get). My brother bought my S-I-L lessons as a gift, and now this mom of three can tumble through the sky with the best of them. What a gift, I thought! What an amazing gift! And no, I am not talking about the gift of the trapeze lessons my brother gave her. I am talking about the gift my sister-in-law gave to her children. There they were on the ground literally watching their mother soar. They actually got to see the woman they refer to and think of as superhero actually fly! How cool is that?  Best part of it: She was flying upside down across the sky for herself. And she was beautiful, strong, energetic and embracing life, her life. Hers.  Hers. Hers.  By loving herself and taking care of herself, and honoring the things that she loved to do, she was loving them in the best way possible. She was showing them how they can live, truly live by loving and embracing their own gifts, talents, and passions. And I think back to my own mother when I was a child. Though she was my mom, she was so much more than that and so much more than the "mom of eight" she was known as  around town. Despite all she had to do on a daily basis, I can still picture her reading on the couch late into the evenings, running out to any one of her parish or club meetings, painting any number of pieces of furniture in the house,  packing to travel (without us kids) to Puerto Rico, Jerusalem, and Rome when the opportunities came, and even working passionately with the children she taught by day, and studying for her MA degree at night. Was I neglected? Loved less any less because my mother worked? Went to school? Pursued the things she loved to do? Absolutely not. And neither are my kids. And neither are yours.

Enough of this nonsense now, Tom Rachman's The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, Jennifer Weiner's All Fall Down, and Piper Kerman's Orange is the New Black are practically screaming from my purse to pick them up and start reading. So, as much as I'd love to keep going here, there's something I'd rather being doing...Hey, what would you rather be doing?

Picture of my sister-in-law, Tara Curran.