Now I believe that it is only natural that a woman's primary focus be her children, except perhaps when her spouse is present. And I also understand that mothers need to discuss what is happening with their children with other mothers. There seems to be an inherent need to benchmark what is normal and to seek out advice with parenting issues or concerns. More to the point, due to the fact that parenting is the world's most difficult occupation, like any worker, a mommy needs support. She needs to gripe to someone in a similar position. Fair enough.
So, while I am not myself a parent, I can empathize with the impetus for the witnessed scene. That said, it would seem that mothers fall into one of two camps:
- Those who identify themselves solely as a mommy, i.e. being a mother becomes their sole reference point for who they are.
- Those who remain individuals despite having children.
Still, when you read someone's online dating profile and the first sentence is "I'm a mommy first", doesn't that make you feel just a tad sorry for any guy she may date? Maybe she is capable of making room in her life for a man, but the sentence does not create that impression. To be fair, my view on relationships-any relationship, be it with your spouse or with your children- is that you remain separate entities who come together and form a common ground called The Relationship. By definition, a relationship is the connection between one part or entity to another.
Growing up, I never once heard my mother discussing my bowel movements or other features of my development with guests, friends, or family. Rather, topics discussed included the arts and culture, with the men veering off on occasion to discuss the economy or politics in a light-hearted fashion. So when I witnessed that the majority of conversation on the women's side of the mechitzah revolved around their children (or outfits for their children's simchas, if they were already grandparents), I was dismayed. I recall distinctly telling my first husband that I *hated* the kiddush at our shul, because there was only so much patience I could muster for sheitel and baby talk.
Recently I went to a family for Shabbos. The hostess had been in a high-powered position prior to getting married and having children. On the one hand, she seemed to be very proud of her previous career, yet on the other, she was now compensating by making her entire life about her children. As she had been involved in arts and culture, I tried to converse with her on those topics. She responded by ignoring my attempts and instead telling me what age each of her children had been potty-trained. Indeed, she spent 99% of the time I was in her house ignoring me and instead playing with her children or otherwise occupying their space. By the end of the evening, my impression was of a woman who had made her children her top priority, to the detriment of herself, her children, and her marriage.
Thus, while parenting is an all-consuming job, one where a mother can feel overwhelmed and require support, I worry about the women who seem incapable of remaining a self-contained person after having children. Because it strikes me as unhealthy to not have any concept of yourself beyond someone else, even your children (the ten-cent psychological term for that phenomenon, by the way, is co-dependency). So, while a child is naturally co-dependent to a degree on their parent, I cannot say that the reverse is necessarily productive, for either the child or the parent.
But then again, I am not a mommy, right? What do I know?