Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Parents as People

*I just want to say a heartfelt thank you for all your amazing comments on yesterday's post. I am so glad I shared my story, and to those of you that may be struggling with sharing yours, I know that someday you'll get there. And I also want to say, I know that my story isn't the most dramatic out there, nor did I suffer nearly as much as others have. But the more of us that share, the more of us that attempt to understand, the more difference we can make. Thank you again. And now back to the regularly scheduled post...*

I've been a fan of Julianne Moore since Benny & Joon. I think she's a great actress that makes really good choices (for the most part). However, this interview in Parade - not something I generally read, but I was passing time - disturbed me on a few levels.

After stating that her children (10 and 6) have never seen her work on film, she says:

"As a rule, kids are just not very interested in what their parents do for a living," Moore says. "If I ever say to somebody, 'Quick--what's your mother's office life like?' They go, ' Duh...ahhh...hmmm...,' and they can't answer. Children are only interested in their parents as parents, and that's the way it should be."

Moore says she would be surprised if her children even watch her many films after they are grown. "I want them to be interested in their own lives and their own accomplishments," she explains. "I don't want them to be interested in mine. Mine are of no consequence to them. I am their mother. That's all I want to be to them--not some artist who discusses her work with them. I don't care if they appreciate my artistry. I just want them to appreciate my unconditional love."

First of all, let me just preface this by saying this is not a criticism of Julianne as a mother, but I think her world is a little too narrow to speak for all children and their parents.

My children were with me when I graduated college. My children were among the first to know about my promotion. My children may not understand exactly what it is I do, but they've been to work with me, can describe my workplace to you, and they understand that my work is what provides their shelter and clothing. Sylvia even understands why it's important for me to get my office that's supposed to come with my promotion. She gets that my work requires concentration and quiet that I can't always get in my cube. But I digress.

Maybe, when you have a lot more than what it takes to provide the basics, you don't know how to explain what "work" is, but I think it's part of the process of parenting for our children to know that with adulthood comes responsibilities. While not all mothers report to an office, we all have jobs and duties, and it's much easier to tell your child to do their homework when they see you doing what you have to do. As Sondheim says, "children will see and learn."

I find it more than slightly pretentious that she feels the only way she could talk to her children about what it is she does is to talk to them about her artistry. How about teaching them about discipline by them seeing her be disciplined at her profession? Even better, that pursuing your passion can sometimes pay off? She's an incredible example of someone who "made it" by doing the work, and people sitting up and taking notice.

Particularly with a child as old as age 10, while it may not be time for picking careers or even colleges, a child that age should start learning at least a little about the possibilities of careers out there, and where better to start than with their own parents?

There's also an underlying tone of condescension to those who work in offices. No, I may not have a glamorous job, but I'm damn proud of it, and of my accomplishments. I'm also proud to work with a bunch of great people that I consider friends as well as colleagues. I may not get nominated for awards for the work I do, but my girls are still respectful of my work and workplace.

I also disagree that our children should only see us as mothers. My children see me being there for my friends, answering to my bosses, laughing with my sister, relaxing with a good book. My children have seen me cry and get angry, and have moments of elation, and have moments of self-pride. Our children learn to deal with our emotions not by what we tell them, but by what we show them.

Our children should see us as people who are interested in the world around them, who take pride in our community, who volunteer to help others, who actually take a break when we need one, and accept our imperfections with grace and humor.

And I don't think it's realistic, either, to expect our children to be grateful for our unconditional love. It should be a given, and I feel for the kids who don't get that. I get frustrated just as much when my kids don't appreciate all that I do for them, but then again, it's not really their job to indulge my martyrdom. It's probably better that they don't, actually, since I find martyrdom to be really, really annoying.

I also think that she's wrong that her accomplishments are of no consequence to her kids. The people most proud of me at my college graduation were my parents and my children. My children were acutely aware of what Mommy was doing nights and weekends to lead to that moment. And I was happy to have them share in that so that they could see that hard work can lead to accomplishments. Having our children share in our accomplishments helps them shape their own dreams and goals and make it all seem possible.

Before she left for her vacation, Riley was concerned that I wouldn't have any fun while they were gone. I assured her that I would, and she was happy to hear it. I think our children can't take the pressure of feeling that our whole world revolves around them, yet my girls still know that they are the most important people in the world to me. There's a difference.

Now, again, I'm not criticizing Julianne Moore directly, and I'm sure that there was a lot to that interview that wasn't published, but the statements still bothered me. I think it just puts too much pressure on both the parents and the children to separate their lives so distinctly. And more pressure, I just don't need.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more!!! Very well written, April!

Kori said...

I think, too, that there is a difference in the way single parents feel as opposed to married or otherwise attached parents-because I think our kids learn early on that they are not only a part of the team, but a very, very important part-and that while unconditional love is a given, there are also responsibilities that HAVE to be fulfilled in order for us to provide more than that love. My kids have also been here to my office; they know my co-workers and my boss, they know the basics of what I do, and they very clearly recall the crap jobs and the ramen noodles and the worry about whether or not we would have power. So they see the differences brought about by hard work and perseverance; I NEED them to know that. You are right on target with this post, April!

Julie@My5monkeys said...

I agree too. I want kids to know of important things that happen with me or hubby. we still give all our attention but its good to celebrate things too.

Anonymous said...

Wow, she comes from a completely different parenting world than I do. My son knows I work on computers, he knows my office, he knows my coworkers. It helps that his daycare is literally across the street from where I work, but even before he went there, he knew my office. He even has *favorite* coworkers of mine.

I really disagree with her, if she thinks the only thing she has to offer her kids is her unconditional love, then her children are missing out on a lot of wonderful things.

FreedomFirst said...

Given the nature of her line of work, I can excuse that way of thinking more in her than I might in others. If I were in her shoes, I might want to shelter my kids from the hectic and pressured scene of the film industry. But in general, I do think it's a testimony to the growing gulf between parents and their children, that some kids respond with blank stupidity when asked what their parents do.

LunaNik said...

You know, it's funny, but I didn't really, truly realize that my parents were people until I had my children and realized that I, as a parent, am still a person. Weird, right? Anyway, since finally realizing this I plan on really striving to make sure that my children see me as a whole person and not just a parent.

Mama Smurf said...

Fantastic post! And I couldn't agree more. IMO...kids need to see the responsibility, passion, dedication, and discipline that goes with not only being a parent but of being a productive member of society. They need to know that they are NOT the center of the universe and that their parents have lives outside of being parents. Whether that's through a career or other interests. I'm a SAHM but they are very interested in hearing about where I used to work and where their father now works. They love hearing about their dad's day at work and we feel it's important.

MarĂ­a said...

I think you make wonderful points. I couldn't agree more - they need to see more than just the parenting side of the parent. They need to see the PERSON that the parent is.

Jen said...

One word: Bravo.

Florinda said...

I think this is going to require a fuller response than I can give in a comment - you've inspired an upcoming post, I suspect :-).

I think Julianne Moore is a very good actress, but I totally disagree with her about kids knowing their parents as just parents. I'm not sure that some kids are that interested in their who their parents are as people, but that's not the point. We are so much more than just our roles, and the people who are closest to us need to know that.

Thanks for a great post!

Shiona said...

I agree with you. That is pretty ironic that she wold shelter her children like that when the very industry she's in does the exact opposite. That just makes it that much harder to maintain. I also agree with the actions speaking louder than words.
Great post!

Anonymous said...

I loved going to work with my Mom. I was able to see her as a leader, confident, respected, capable. It was so important for children to see their mothers this way and not just as "mothers".

I think Julianne Moore's view comes from a state of privilege to which most of us can't relate.

Me. Here. Right now. said...

I agree with you. I think it's important for the kids to know that I am a woman, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an employee, and even a romantic partner from time to time. That we are a part of a greater community made of up responsibility and also fun. It lets them know that my world is made up of many parts, them being the most important.

I took one of my kids to work with me one day. He was excited. I had time on all the PR folks' schedules so they could tell them what they did and where they went to college. They loved him. He came into my office and I let him do something on the computer I normally did. I showed him some of the stuff I did.

At the end of the day, I asked him what he thought I did and he said something to the effect, "You do a lot of paperwork and talk on the phone a lot." He was about 14 then. Know what? He summed it up beautifully.