Washington - "Are you resigning from being our mother?" my 25-year-old son sputtered into the phone.
The ink had just dried on a nine-month sublet, 30 miles from our suburban home.
"Moms don't move out! - You're crazy."
Crazy - a term confused men sometimes cast on women.
Three nights a week, bathed in the silence of my apartment, I indulged in a space where I had the liberty to make myself a cup of coffee without making one for someone else first. Sometimes my husband would come in for dinner or a show, sometimes I met one of my kids to go for a walk or visit a museum. But it was on the four nights when I commuted back to our family home where I embraced my role as mother-in-chief, hearkening to the noises that are family.
I first read Virginia Woolf's essay, A Room of One's Own, when I was an undergraduate, and though I understood her position that women were deprived of most social and academic advantages inherent to Anglican men, I didn't appreciate the significance of the room.
Though I wasn't familiar with the verbiage, as I bore one child after another, I performed my gender, mimicking what I'd observed on TV. As I laid out our breakfast table, I was satisfied that I'd replicated those happy TV households. My primary home had been hollowed by a mom who fell ill when I was in kindergarten and died when I was in my teens. Barbara Billingsley, Florence Henderson and Phylicia Rashad - I wanted homes like theirs.
And then, my days were driven by my children's routines, athletic practices and games, parent-teacher conferences, doctor and dentist visits, music lessons, homework checks, library readings, dog walks, scraping up pet hair - and too many visits to the emergency room. I ran a few miles a day (my time) while preparing three meals a day and attending to a job I molded around my family's schedules, not my passions.
Making sure that everyone was where they needed to be, I forgot where I wanted to go.
I was so fritzed, I started watching reality TV. "This isn't how I want to end my life," I thought as I watched startling housewives injecting Botox and pulling each other's hair.
Heading toward 60, I made an attempt to fill the void.
"Are you resigning as our mother?" echoed as I unpacked my Nespresso maker.
"Of course not," I said.
But I was also mothering myself.
We cast women who live alone as isolated cat-ladies; spinsters who have failed their gender. But when I open the door to my apartment, when I find the yogurts just as I left them, when the Brita is full and the printer has paper, I turn off my phone and savor the moments of quiet. Naval gazing has its place.
In Anne Tyler's Ladder of Years , Delia Grinstead, the 40-year-old protagonist, walks along the beach in her bathing suit with $500 tucked into her tote as she leaves behind her husband and three children. Reading this I wondered, "How could she do that? - Why would she do that?"
Except it wasn't a single she. As I continued reading stories written by women about women, the theme of walking away from domesticity persisted. I noticed a theme of motherhood detached from itself, of women drunk on afternoon martinis as their children fell into swimming pools.
Women taking lovers on trains, women sinking in the quicksand of their own domestic bliss. Then I remembered "domestic" was a euphemism for a servant. And that servitude and bliss were an oxymoron.The Washington Post