Posted by: canthold | February 10, 2006

I, Claudia

I knew I was a bonafide stay-at-home mom when I turned into Claudia Roberts. Sure, I stopped working to take care of my daughters, but that was not the yardstick by which I measured my working title. Who is Claudia Roberts?

Claudia was married to an Army buddy of mine. He and I were stationed together in a remote-ish region of Japan on a relatively large US Airforce base. I spent some time with Claudia because, due to the nature of shift-work, our squad tended to socialize together a lot.

Being on base was like being stateside, but off base was another world. We were isolated on an island of America in a sea of foreign everything. None of us had much contact with anyone except our squad, though Claudia may have known other dependent wives in the military community. It was clear she didn’t get out much. Since becoming a stay-at-home mom myself, I have learned that children-only socialization can have a similar isolating quality.

Every time I saw her, my turn in the conversation would be volleyed with a hyper-speed blather that stemmed from a need to get in as many words as possible during her turn. I don’t remember her being impolite, but I remember thinking that she must not have much adult interaction because she talked so much when given the chance. If I only knew then what I know now.

I discovered that I had become Claudia while replaying in my head encounters that I had with strangers and even a few friends. Every chance I got to talk, I would spout about me and my experiences as if I were the most interesting thing since man walked on the moon. Soon I started noticing my Claudianess mid-conversation but I was powerless to stop it. Even now, as I meet with certain people, I coach myself to lay back, don’t talk so much. Listen. But powerlessly, I watch as the Claudia in me takes over and I brag about myself to the now noticable eye rolling and body posturing in preparation to run.

I can’t help it. I can’t hold my tongue.

Doing some thinking on my plight, I’ve come up with a theory. I think that we have a need to talk – or express ourselves – on a regular basis, just like we need to sleep eight hours a night. If we miss our quota of shut-eye, we have a sleep deficit that needs to be filled by sleeping late on Saturdays. Talking is just like that. I think I build up a need to talk, and with too few opportunities, the need manifests itself with full force in the wrong ways.

Limited adult contact in a child-centered world can be the most challenging aspect of becoming a stay-at-home mom. If I knew what I know now about why Claudia was the way she was, I think I would have have kept both feet in the same room while we talked instead of staying poised to exit at the first opportunity.

Wait! Don’t go…

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