New moms: Do they vant to be alone?

Bob Morris wonders how much social time is too much social time for mothers of newborns.

Published September 12, 2006 1:00PM (EDT)

Bob Morris had an interesting, if lightly considered, piece in the New York Times Sunday Styles section this weekend. Last week's dramatic unveiling of Suri Cruise on the cover of Vanity Fair, along with the 22-page portrait of the infant inside the magazine, provoked his urgent trip to the newsstand, a trip that in turn made him feel guilty. Why? Because he realized he knew more about this stranger (and strange) baby than he did about the brand-spanking-new offspring of some of his best friends.

Morris' piece treaded gently around some delicate points about the land of the newborn. First, it came right out and said something that has become a bit taboo: Brand-new humans can be (OK, often are) sort of dull. That's a bummer, because with the ones you care about -- your own, or your family members' or friends' -- there's so much time spent awaiting the arrival of this new person whom you can't wait to meet and then they get here and they're hopefully healthy and often adorable and it's a thrill to look at them and see whom they resemble and hold them and smell them and examine their tiny fingernails and then, well, if they are not your own (and, I have on good authority, sometimes even when they are), that's pretty much where the good times stall.

Morris also looks at the question of how much time and energy to lavish on a noncelebrity new mother. It's easy to assume that a tired, sore mom whose life has just been quite thoroughly changed would want people from her "old life" to hang around, help her, talk to her, remind her that she's still the same person she has always been, admire her good biological work, etc. But, Morris counters, based on his experience and conversations with some moms, many tired, sore moms whose lives have just been quite thoroughly changed would really rather that you leave them alone for a while and let them pull themselves together and spend some alone time with this new little creature, so please could you stop calling already?

Anyway, as a friend of new moms, and as a new aunt, this column tickled me. I imagine that like so much else about motherhood, the question of how much alone time one might want or require after welcoming a new family member is probably the kind of issue that you can't imagine how you'll feel about until you're actually in the midst of the experience. Did Broadsheet mothers want company or privacy after the births of their kids?

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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