Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mama Caleb

Mama Caleb. That's what people call me.  Not only because they think my name, Kim, is weird (which they do) but because this is what's done in East African culture. You call a mother by the name of her first born.  I learned this the last time I was in Kenya, at age 20, and I remember thinking that this was just a sad, subjugating, anti-woman thing to do.  It stripped the woman of her identity and replaced it with something that put her squarely in a domestic role, defining her importance only in relation to her progeny. 

But now that I am "mama Caleb" I have to admit kind of loving it.

Coming from the US, where I felt my role as mother did not elevate me, but instead kept me from engaging fully in the activities - mainly work and the like - that seem to count most in society's eyes.  As much as folks will tell you that motherhood, like teaching and nursing, is among the most noble and  important roles, it seems like just a bunch of lip service at the end of the day.  There's little recognition for the intellectual and organizational skills and sheer intestinal fortitude the role requires.  No one's impressed at dinner parties when you say you're a mother, and the more children you have the less intellectual ambition you're assumed to possess. 

So, I guess I like that a spotlight is thrown on my role as a mother here.  Hell, the best and hardest thing I've ever done is to take care of Caleb, and I like that it's so inextricably linked to my identity here.  Maybe my 20 year old self would shake her head at that remark.  But what does she know anyway.

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