In her column at Daily Life, Andie Fox has written a wonderful piece about mothers vacationing with kids. The description of the community that emerges is lovely, as Fox portrays the children of different families roaming and mingling in shifting configurations, like “flocks of birds.”
For me, the most interesting part is what Fox begins to notice about family structure itself:
Something interesting happens on these holidays with other mothers. The boundaries between families collapse without the fathers there to keep them nuclear. The children roam from cabin to cabin. They eat together and sometimes sleep together. If I am lucky, one of the mothers will take my children with her into a shower and she will wash the salt and sand out of their hair for me while I find their towels.
This paragraph took me a bit by surprise, which might be ironic given that I’m a mother who parents completely on her own. Because I have never parented with a partner, I think I take this lack of nuclear structure for granted. The article reminded me that my family is not and has never been constrained in the paternal sense that Fox suggests.
It’s a freedom that I enjoy most of the time––the freedom to define parenting and family in ways that don’t involve the sense of property that is implicit in many two-parent, middle-class, nuclear setups.
Although Fox acknowledges that such holidays are “not all sharing and harmony,” she observes,
There is a sense of lost community in these holidays, and I wonder if there was a time when mothering was more like this. Are we simply rediscovering something mothers used to know?
Indeed. What did mothers used to know?
In the current U.S. cultural climate that vilifies single motherhood, degrading it as an unequivocally sad and pitiful state of affairs, it is wonderful to find gems like this article (and perhaps no accident that the writer is not American). Read the full piece here.