My Brain Agrees, But My Heart Has Some Catching Up to Do
by Natalie Ehrlich
As an avid reader of author Eve Rodsky’s work, including her New York Times best-seller, “Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live),” I was beyond thrilled to help organize Not Safe For Mom Group (nsfmg)’s first members-only event: a conversation between our founder, Alexis Barad-Cutler and Eve. Ever the good student, I reread my copy of Fair Play and was ready to hear about how I could rediscover myself in motherhood and fill up all my newfound “unicorn space” (as Eve coins it, more on that later) with meaningful-to-me moments.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent many years blaming the patriarchy for the inherent inequities and imbalances that I have experienced as a mother, since the moment I first peed on that stick. The thing I failed to realize, was the part I too had been playing in this equation. I had neglected to take stock of, (as I suspect many members of our community had as well) how deeply I had internalized the societal, and really, patriarchal norms about what it meant to be a mother and even more so, a “good” one.
Early on in the webinar, Eve pointed out that mothers in the past ten years have been fed a steady diet of cultural bullshit that has achieved massive levels of self-oppression. How? By striving to be the “perfect Pinterest mom” or subscribing to attachment parenting to our detriment, we are defining how we use our time, and what values we hold as women and mothers. And for many of us, we are not valuing ourselves — and therefore our time –enough.
Mind you, this was a work event for me. Yet, I laid beside my son, as he fell asleep with my earbuds in listening to this conversation. Because that’s what I’d been told – and had told myself – a good mother does. In a culture that has increasingly conflated being unavailable with being un-maternal – I’ve been all in on parenting with a complete and total lack of boundaries. Bringing my own baggage into the equation, I decided early on to be the softest, warmest place to land for my kids. And the way I did that? By completely eschewing my own needs. (Oh, you too?)
“Breastfeeding is only free if my time is worthless.”– Eve Rodsky.
Eve shared with us how she unequivocally believes that before we can implement the Fair Play system we must first do some unlearning. She shared that her own unlearning happened over a span of ten years. As Eve opened up about her own reckoning with attachment parenting, it felt a bit like looking in the mirror, or maybe my future? I’m still in the thick of toddlerhood and I feel so tethered to my children. Eve made me realize we may be in prisons of our own design.
But first? The unlearning. As Eve described it, this requires a complete re-imagination of our boundaries, systems, and communication. We have to unlearn how we value women’s time. You (like me) probably recall being told at some point that breastfeeding was free. Eve nailed it when she said, “Breastfeeding is only free if my time is worthless.” Eve called B.S. (in the best way possible) on how both women and men view women’s time and makes the salient point that mothers deserve permission to be unavailable.
“Everything good in life is a practice.”– Eve Rodsky
As I write this piece, I still have an entire trip ahead of me for which I need to pack my family. The pull to abandon my writing in order to do the mundane tasks of motherhood feels like an addiction. I know I deserve not to do those things, that I’m worthy of this time – and yet, it feels almost irresponsible to take it. I feel a pull to leave my work because of a narrative that’s completely changeable. What if I decided my time working is as valuable as my partner’s? That to be a good mom doesn’t mean abandoning myself? I’m reminded of a point that Eve made during the webinar, as I sit in the discomfort of meeting my own needs:
“Everything good in life is a practice.”
Essentially, before we move into this system and level up, we have to “retire toxic messages that we tell ourselves.” When we realize how complicit we are in our own oppression, we are no longer exclusively reliant on the system changing over time. We have the ability to shift away from the core four messages we tell ourselves and in turn, to begin our liberation from the inside out.
It’s a lot to take in and I’m still processing the conversation myself. I’ve found that a lot of the “facts” about my life are actually good opportunities to ask, “Is this true? Who decides?”
I hope we can continue our conversation with Eve in the future because it was so full of wisdom that we all need to hear. And of course, I’ll be pre-ordering her new book. And I’ll be taking the time to read it and implement it — guilt free (or at least I’m working on it).
The conversation will be available to Monthly Subscribers for the next six weeks, so if you missed it check your email for the link!