Saturday, May 31, 2014

On Getting Mamas Talking

     There are several topics I have in the queue to write about that I haven't because I've been worried that they would make people--particularly some people I care deeply about--feel more than a little uncomfortable. I don't want people I care about to feel badly, and truth be told, I'm pretty conflict averse.  So I have not written or posted any of those stories.  And then something happened.    

Thing 2 got a job.

     It's been a long time coming.  He's been out of school and work for over three years. So it's a pretty big deal for us here in the FabFam.  Two weeks ago, I made a terrific fuss about Thing 1 graduating from college.  I want to make an equitable amount of hoopla for Thing 2.  Only, to celebrate this milestone requires me to publicly talk about how messy and complicated life for Thing 2 and the People Who Love Him can be.  

     I am aware that I already disclose way more about the challenges of having a child with co-occurring bipolar and anxiety disorders than most people do. In this day and age, issues surrounding mental health are still not considered appropriate topics for discussion in Polite Society.  Because the silence was literally putting my precious son in a life-threatening position, I finally started talking, but only in whispers, and only after it was too late to help him avoid a string of troubles. 

    It is completely acceptable to have a conversation at the office with a colleague you barely know about his recent colonoscopy.  Soccer moms can talk about their post-partum hemorrhoids while sitting in beach chairs alongside the pitch while their kids chase the ball like a bunch of honeybees.  Our parents can share all the details of their latest "procedures" at a holiday dinner, while the aunts chime in with their two cents from when they went through it, too.  We can gossip and cluck sympathetically when we hear that a neighbor's child has diabetes or asthma or a life threatening food allergy.  But I'm not supposed to talk about my son's (or my own or my husband's or my mother-in-law's or  my grandmother's or my friends' or your) mental health.  I call bullshit. If I have to listen to the details of your husband's prostate cancer treatment, you can put up with my tales of convincing my anxious son that picking up the phone to call the pharmacy to get a prescription refilled will not trigger the apocalypse.

     I get it.  My son's suffering doesn't look like someone who is suffering from a health care condition.  When he's manic and carrying on like Robin Williams (pre-heart attack, extra hyper), you think he's the class clown who needs to calm down and get to work. When depression keeps him in bed for days or when his anxieties paralyze him you don't see a sick kid.  You see a lazy bum.  I know this, because you think nothing of telling this to him, to his girlfriend, to me and my husband.  Thanks for that.  We really appreciate your world-class support.  It oh so very helpful.  Not.
This mama has had enough of that.  

    This is a thought that has been eddying in my mind for a while now.  See, I keep finding myself in conversations with all kinds of people that have at their base two ideas:  that we measure someone's worth by the category we put them in and that we allow others to be harmed when we keep silent about the treatment we receive because of our given category.  Stick with me here.  It should become clear in a second.

  There is always someone we see as Other  and by Other we usually mean Less Than.  We put those Other people into categories--gay, black, mentally ill, female,etc.--and for a whole host of reasons, we treat those Other people differently than we treat the People Like Us.  And by differently, I mean badly.  You know exactly what I am talking about.  You have been mistreated by someone who sees you as Other.  In all likelihood, you have treated some Other people badly, too.  

     Keeping silent about the mistreatment of women, the mistreatment of gays, the mistreatment of the disabled, the mistreatment of anyone deemed Other by someone else needs to stop.  And I think the only category of people strong enough to unite all the Others are the Mamas. 

I'm done keeping silent. 

     I know that I'm not the only mama out there who has been heartbroken by the treatment of one of her babies because of the color of that baby's skin, or because of that baby's gender, or because of that baby's sexual preference, or because of that baby's disability.  Every mama I know has taught their children how to cope with those attacks.  I have taught my beautiful daughter to not go out alone at night and to always have her phone with her.  I have taught my son to stick to his routine and keep with familiar people who understand his disorders. And I'm right to teach my children how to cope in a challenging world, but I should also have been changing the world, so that it was a little less challenging for them.  What I should have been doing all along is telling everyone who will listen that they will not get away with taunting, touching, or attacking my daughter; that my son is not dumb, lazy, or dangerous.

     So, it's a beautiful spring Saturday.  My Personal Chef is at work directing a string of catered functions.  My chores are done (well, done enough). The day stretches out before me, and I have time on my hands.  

I think I'm going to start a movement.  

     Yep.  I'm starting a movement to rally mamas everywhere to start talking about all of those things which we have kept silent about for too long.  Let's change the world, Ladies! I'm accepting applications for memberships.  And suggestions for the movement's name, you know, for marketing purposes and such.  Someone might want to write a protest song for us or something, so it should be catchy.  

   Hey, this is a brand new movement, my mama movement.  I don't yet know how it will play out. I don't have any rules or anything set up.  Well, here's one rule:  you have to be a mama to join  OR you need a note from your mama saying she gives you permission to join with the other mamas. You can sign up in the comments section. 

     And this here is more a guideline than a rule: I'm going to recommend that when you are representing the movement and talking about something We Don't Talk About, try to remain calm, so that the issues you now bring up can become normalized.  However, I recognize that there will be times that barking, screeching, yelling, or otherwise cussing out someone may be justifiably warranted.  

I think that's a good enough start for now.  I have to go take Thing 2 shopping for work-appropriate attire.  He starts a new job next week.



  1. So true about labeling other people

  2. Karen, the only label I will give you is "Awesome." I counting you as one of my band of mamas. xo

  3. I hate when I get labeled as Disabled. I'm not. I was born with one arm and I get along just fine, thank you very much. I may do it differently than "you" would do it, but seriously, I've got so much else going on that the opinion of others really doesn't even register on my radar, So if "you" think I can't do something, keep it to yourself. I'm busy doing it.

    Count me in.

  4. Absolutely, Stephanie, if you aren't too busy doing it, you are definitely in!

  5. Wonderful idea Kristen. I was a child of a momma who had mental illness. I always kept silent so I would not be judged. It was a tough way to go through life always afraid I would be judge by mothers sickness.