Last night was the moms…

Last night was the moms blog dinner at Viand (graciously hosted by Yahoo), which was *fascinating*. A few of the Silicon Valley bloggers (the original group, the one Thida belongs to) were there, but it was mostly Chicago moms, and it was great to meet them. A lot of them live out in the suburbs, which in this city means that we'd probably never run into each other except at an event like this, so I'm really glad that the blog owners organized this. That distance (physical and psychological) to the suburbs is one of the things that makes Kevin and me really hesitant about moving out there -- we're worried that we'd just never see our city friends again, because people really seem to rarely go from one to the other. On the other hand, we could afford a house three times the size of this condo, with a yard, a safe neighborhood for Kavi to bike in eventually, maybe some woods nearby... It's tough. We'll worry about it more in a few years, when she's ready to go to school. The schools are generally better out there too, I think.

In any case, last night I met a lot of really interesting women. What was oddest for me, though, was realizing that the one thing I knew about all of them, walking into that crowded restaurant, was that they were mothers. That was what they -- what we -- had in common, right off the bat. I've never interacted with a group of women on those terms. And in fact, I've never met people and been known primarily as a mother.

It's disconcerting. You know, I've had my five minutes of Internet fame. Being online (and blogging) since 1995 means that I've been around the net long enough that people in certain circles do know my name. Even if it's just for having the oldest ongoing blog on the net. :-) It used to be that I'd go to a convention and people would say, "Mary Anne Mohanraj? Are you the woman who writes erotica and puts it on the internet?" There was a time when that was a shocking thing to do, when it got me written about in the Philadelphia Inquirer, even invited to be on (local) tv discussing the dangers of internet sex writing. Now, writing smut and putting it online is a little surprising, maybe, but hardly newsworthy -- there are just too many other women doing it.

And then after the bit of sex-writing fame died down, there was starting the two magazines -- people knew me from that. And after that, there was writing books. When Aqua Erotica sold over 100,000 copies (and damn, don't I wish that I had gotten royalties on editing that book, instead of a small flat fee), I just kept running into people who had read it. And of course, after HarperCollins published Bodies in Motion, I started meeting people, especially in the South Asian community, who knew me through that book.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've been known for a very long time primarily as a writer/editor/publisher. When I met people, that was what they reacted to. And it was at times difficult (when they were offended by the smut I wrote, or when they were upset that I'd rejected a story they'd submitted to one of my anthologies, or when they wanted me to read their 2000-page novel and get it published), but I got used to handling those essentially professional issues. But now, now I'm a mommy blogger, and the main thing these women knew about me last night (and that I knew about them) was that each one of us was raising a child (or more than one).

So I ended up talking about breastfeeding difficulties, and people offered kind support and good advice. I listened to them talk about the challenges and pleasures of raising a large family of four, or of being a stepmom, or of adopting twin sons with a variety of developmental issues, and then raising them as a single mom -- and so much more. They were great conversations, and I'd love to talk to these women at much more length than I had the chance to last night. They clearly have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, in an area that I am so ignorant about.

But still. It was weird, that's all. Walking into a restaurant, meeting a bunch of strangers, and presenting myself primarily as a mother. I definitely had moments of: "What am I doing here? These women are all mothers. I don't belong in that group. They're going to know I'm just faking it and kick me out, back to the land of the non-parents." But of course, now I am a mother, even if I've only been doing this for two months so far; I do belong with them. I get to have the 'mother perspective,' just a little bit, and there are going to be people I meet who couldn't care less about all the writing/editing/publishing stuff I've done, who mostly will be aware of me (and judge me) on my mothering. (My own mother falls into that group, by the way -- she has no interest in my writing, but is *so* excited that I'm finally a mother myself.)

It's going to take a while to figure out how to integrate 'being a mom' into the rest of my personal and professional identity. I'm worried, I think, that Kavi will kepe me so busy that I won't write, or edit, or publish and that all of my earlier life will fall away, and all I'll be left with will be being a mother. I desperately wanted to be a mother, to take up that rich and challenging role, but I don't want to lose my earlier life. I'm trying to have faith that I can integrate it all, without compromising either the care and love that my baby deserves, or the attention and thought that I want to give to my books. I hope I can.

This should be an interesting ride.

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