How motherhood has changed me.

Micha, isn’t that what you’re whole blog is about? Okay. That’s fair.

Perhaps this post should simply be titled, “How motherhood has changed how I watch movies.”  Or, “What’s just not worth it anymore.” Or, “How my husband and I had a big fight last Friday night after I made him turn off our Netflix rental because I was sobbing (yes, seriously sobbing) in the kitchen.”

I’ll say this: I’ve always fancied myself a thinker, someone who reads books or watches movies because I believe they’ll teach me something or speak to me in some meaningful way, or simply because I will appreciate their “art.” I’ve never been a movie buff, but I love movies and in my former days, I would watch the newest artsy-fartsy thing out there simply because it was nominated for an Oscar. I’ve never been afraid of movies. Scary zombies make me laugh. I didn’t have nightmares even after the lovely Ryan Reynolds turned cold-blooded killer in The Amityville Horror. I watched Poltergeist when I was probably way too young and survived.

So, I wasn’t prepared for what happened to me after August was born. I should stop here and add that I’ve always been an emotional viewer. I’ve seen Little Women like, 42 times and every time I weep when Beth dies. (Sorry to ruin it for you, Person Who Should Have Watched That Movie (and read the book, come on!) 17 years ago like the rest of us.) When Chris and I were dating, we saw a German film about a family that moved to Kenya and I couldn’t leave my seat for 10 minutes following the credits. I wept and wept over my love for Kenya and the people I had met there a few years before and my longing to eventually live there. (That’s another post, by the way.) But, my then-boyfriend was a little overwhelmed with my earnest emotional involvement in films.

But, back then, I’d watch anything with Chris. Thriller? Check. Political satire? Check. RomCom? Absolutely. Foreign? Heck yes.

Three weeks after August was born, I left Chris with the baby for an evening and went out with a friend for Vietnamese food and a French mystery/thriller. Tell No One is still one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. But I had a surprising (and aching) experience: I couldn’t stop thinking about my baby. There were really no children in the film, but there was one conversation when an older man spoke of what a parent will do for a child. I had a moment of panic. I needed to see my baby and make sure he was ok. I needed to leave the theater. I needed to get home. Right then. I’d been so proud of myself for going out so early in August’s life. I’d convinced myself that I could be a mother who didn’t have to be crazy or live in fear or hover obsessively over that boy. Suddenly, my fingernails were gripping the armrests and I was taking deep, convincing breaths. My baby is all right. My baby is all right. I stayed.

Movie watching has never been the same. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable anymore. It’s not just when a movie refers to (or shows) suffering children. I simply don’t want to see suffering in general. I don’t like thrillers. I don’t like anything tense. I’m sure I would appreciate the art in Black Swan, but it will never be worth it for me to ache through it. I’m aware of suffering, of mental and emotional collapse, and I no longer have any desire to watch it.

So, when my husband (who has been incredibly busy with work lately and hasn’t had much time to relax) announced that Friday night he was going to take a break and spend some time with me, I was determined to watch whatever Netflix movie was in our envelope, for the sake of a happy date night. He mentioned Syriana, to which I cringed. I’ve never seen Syriana, but I knew it was about the Middle East and oil, and therefore, it would have suffering. I looked at him skeptically. He read me the sleeve, which seemed political enough. Nothing too scary.

I was wrong. Thirty minutes in, I watched, horrified, as a little boy we had been introduced to, was about to be a victim of an electrocution in a pool. I knew it was coming. I shouted, “No no no no no no no no!” while Chris said, “Just go to the kitchen!” so I could avoid seeing it happen. But eyes are not all you need to experience a movie. And our kitchen is not far enough away. I listened to the mother’s screams until Chris told me it was over.

There are some images you don’t need in your mind. My mind is packed with enough Crazy that adding something like that scene into my deepest fears is not only unhealthy, it’s insane. My husband said, “Micha, it’s just a movie. It’s not real.” But I can’t feel that way because movies are real; they are stories of reality. The characters may be created, but the darkness they display is real.

I brewed my tea without talking until I cried. I cried and cried for that little boy and his movie parents. I cried for August and my baby. I cried for the children around the world who are victims of our greed and corruption.

My husband turned the movie off. And our cozy date was over. We’re seven years into our marriage. Every once in a while each of us experiences the shock of the other’s change. We grieve for a while over who the other used to be, the things we once shared. Chris and I once watched movies and discussed them over coffee and chocolate. We were young and childless and I was always up for an intellectual argument.

He sat frustrated for a while. “Was I ever really that fun to watch movies with anyway?” I joked to my husband. But we were both kind of sad. It’s weird to grow up, especially when it’s your normal that slips away in the process. So we watched an old episode of 30 Rock on Hulu. Almost the same…



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8 Responses to How motherhood has changed me.

  1. Alysia

    I’m right there with you, friend! I made John watch (literally) six months of foreign language films because I got so tired of the violence in American movies (then of course, they usually have lots of nudity, which is a whole different issue!). And I have to tell you that after watching Tell No One with you I’ve never been able to think of the dock on the pond at John’s parents’ farm the same way-some things DO stay with you. And pregnancy doesn’t help the emotional responses, either. But I’m not pregnant and I found myself teary this morning when I had to throw away the Target coupons for all of the baby products we no longer need. We all have our moments. . .

  2. Sam

    I absolutely HATE it when my husband tells me ‘it’s not real’ about movies or TV shows. I know it’s not real, but as Madeleine L’Engle says, “story is truth” one way or the other. I absolutely had to stop watching things like Law and Order: SVU after Thomas was born. A really stupid decision was watching Children of Men when I was oh, one week postpartum. I nearly had a nervous breakdown thinking about no more babies! babies being born in filthy houses! bombs! babies!

    I love your tender heart. And maybe you can request only funny stuff or plenty of Jane Austen for the time being!

  3. MLL

    It’s as if the post and comments above have stolen my thoughts. I don’t watch the news much anymore because the constant stories of children being victimized, often at the hands of those who are suppose to guard and love them the most, exhaust me. Glad to know I’m not the only one and that I’m not crazy!

  4. I’ve never ended up sobbing in the kitchen, but fatherhood has profoundly changed my emotional response to TV shows and movies. I become extremely uncomfortable with any kind of children-in-danger plot. And anything related to lost fatherhood or lost childhood hits me hard. In fact, I wanted to watch Syriana until I heard about that element of the plot, and that is exactly why I have not watched it yet. And probably won’t ever. No amount of redeeming social value or artistry makes that sort of thing endurable for me.

  5. I’m a new reader of your blog, and oh my word, your posts have been simultaneously super encouraging, and stealing the words from my thoughts. My son was born almost 5 months ago, and this post is exactly how I’ve been feeling in general. Especially the part about figuring out changes in myself, my marriage, and my overall outlook on life. Thanks for this post… it made me feel a little less crazy, and a little more normal. :)

  6. You have all succeeded in making me feel much more normal. Thank you! Off to watch some Jane Austen…

  7. Hi, Micha!
    I’ve been following your blog for a couple of months now. I’ve never commented before, but it was so refreshing to hear someone voice my feelings almost exactly that I couldn’t help myself!

    I no longer feel like I am “entertained” as much as I am exhausted at the emotional toll certain movies take out of me. My husband, accommodating if a little disappointed, knows the list of what I’ll pay to see on any given weekend is pretty short, so he sees movies I won’t see with other friends. And I can curl up with a book or a re-run of “30 Rock!” :)

  8. Kristin Jones

    All I can say is TOTALLY. MY. LIFE. My sweet husband spends so much time recording any and all romantic comedies because it’s all I can watch without crying or having nightmares - and this from a former actress but now mama of two…

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