music, musings

“A Mother for My Children”…

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I got a Homepod for Christmas. Yesterday, we spent the day listening to it. For the most part, it’s a pretty cool device, although I’m definitely going to have to figure out why the AirPlay drops out all of a sudden, even when I’ve changed screensaver settings and anything else that would encourage my computer to “time out”.

Anyway, as I was putting together the latest jigsaw puzzle– over a month in progress– a song by The Whispers came on. I’m not that familiar with The Whispers’ music. I must have downloaded a greatest hits compilation by them recently, because I heard a couple of their songs yesterday. One of them was a surprisingly upbeat number called “A Mother for My Children”. Edited to add: I see why I downloaded it now… it was for the 80s era song, “Rock Steady”. I like that one!

I think I know why the mother of his children left…

Here are the lyrics to this song:

I can’t stand to live alone
With two children and a home
When Mother’s Day comes along
They ask me where their mama’s gone

Left me here scrubbin’ floors

Never washed two dishes before
How can I tell two little boys

Your mama ain’t comin’ home no more

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
Don’t need no sister, don’t need no brother

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children

We couldn’t see eye to eye
Packed her bag, said goodbye
Didn’t care if we lived or died
The kids they always ask me why

Left us on a rainy day
Begged her but she would not stay
Said she had to go away
Gotta find someone to take her place

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
I don’t need no sister, don’t need no brother
I’ve gotta find a mother for my children

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
I don’t need no sister, don’t need no brother
I’ve gotta find, yeah, yeah, yeah, mother for my children

I got to and I got to, I got to find a mother for my children
Find a, gotta find a, gotta find a mother for my children
I don’t need no brother
Gotta find a mother for my children

Find a, gotta find a, gotta find a mother for my children, yeah
Find a, gotta find a, gotta find a mother for my children

At first, I wasn’t really paying attention to the song. It was unfamiliar to me. But then I caught some of the words. They’re about a man whose significant other– wife or girlfriend, I don’t know– has just taken off for parts unknown. And now, this man who apparently knows nothing about child raising, cooking, cleaning, or any of the other “wifely” or “motherly” duties expected of women in the early 1970s, feels compelled to find a “replacement” for the mother of his children.

I shared the song on Facebook as a joke, mainly because it just sounded crazy to me. I don’t hear the man lamenting that his woman left him sad or lonely. I don’t hear him missing her. I don’t hear him wondering what he can do to get her back, at least into their children’s lives. Instead, I hear a danceable song about how this man has to find a “replacement” for his children’s mother. I thought it was funny, so I posted “Why doesn’t he hire a nanny?”

A friend of mine is a man who is raising his daughter alone. His wife died a few years ago of lung cancer. Their child was days away from her first birthday when she lost her mother forever. My friend has understandably been sad about losing his wife and his child’s mother. I know it’s been hard for him. He posted, “Not the same thing.”

Of course, I know that. My point is that it’s very difficult to “replace” one’s biological parent, although some people do a great job of trying. And while I know there are situations in which it makes sense to find a surrogate parent for a child who has been abandoned by death or divorce, it’s still a very serious and difficult task. So I was confused as to why the song was so upbeat and energetic. You could dance to it… sing along, even. And I figured the flippant way in which this song was conceived gave a big clue as to why his woman “had to leave”, especially since his focus isn’t on finding a partner, but a “mother” for his children. The mood of the song comes off as insensitive, like the mother of the children was really more like a nanny/cook/maid who happened to share a biological bond with the kids. If he simply needs a replacement, why not simply hire a nanny? At least she’d be getting paid for that thankless job, and when the child raising was done, she could move on to the next people.

It’s not easy parenting another person’s children. It’s not even very natural. A lot of people expect stepparents to love their stepchildren as if they had created them. I never really had the ability to bond with my stepdaughters, but I would have tried to build a good relationship with them if I’d had the chance. I might have even grown to love them as if they were my own. However, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect a new partner to love their stepchildren as much as they might love their own kids. In many ways, love is a decision and a choice, but in the most fundamental ways, true love comes from the heart. And something that comes from the heart isn’t necessarily built on choices, reasoning, or necessity. Choices and reasoning are products of the mind. Expecting love to automatically blossom between stepparents and stepchildren is very unrealistic, even if it is the desired outcome. I think that a lot of things can get in the way of that relationship, even if everyone wants it to happen. In my view, it’s more realistic to hope for peaceful co-existence among steps than a parent/child relationship.

I think anyone who goes looking for a partner simply to be a mother or father to his or her existing children is dooming their relationship to failure. Yes, it’s important that a potential stepparent have the capacity to bond to existing children. At the very least, the relationship should be civilized and respectful. In time, when the relationship blooms, maybe real love will follow. I’ve seen it many times among my friends who are stepparents. But I’ve also seen stepchildren cast aside when the stepparent has their own biological child. I’ve seen natural parents do their best to sabotage relationships between children and their ex’s new partners. I’ve seen children resist their stepparents’ attempts to bond with them, especially when they are caught in loyalty binds.

Even though “A Mother for My Children” has a good beat and somewhat decent lyrics, I think the premise behind this song is ridiculous. You have lonely children who are upset because their mother left them. Did she really leave them for good? Is there a chance Mom might be back to claim her children? Is it wise to search for a “replacement” mom if the real mother isn’t yet dead? And if you’re focused simply on finding a “mother” instead of a “partner”, do you really expect the relationship to succeed? What will you do when the boys are no longer in such dire need of a mom? Will you then kick her to the curb because though she’s a good mom, she’s not a suitable partner?

Now, in my friend’s case, I can see why he’d want to find a “mother” for his daughter. His daughter’s mom is tragically never coming back again. She’s just turned seven years old, and it won’t be long before she’s in puberty. My friend will have to find some way to teach her about the things women have to know as they get older. I know he’s uncomfortable and totally clueless about it. I also think he’s lonely and would love to have a companion. I hope he’s considering his daughter’s feelings as he looks for a new significant other, but ultimately, he needs to find someone who is suitable to be his partner first. And given his attitude lately, I think that might be a tall order.

I have another friend whose wife– mother of their four children– died of cancer. He’s recently gotten remarried, and his wife now refers to herself as the “mother” to his children. They’re all apparently okay with it, although the children are old enough to remember the woman who gave birth to them. Personally, if I were in that situation, I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself the children’s mom, particularly if I hadn’t been married to their dad for very long. But it seems to work for them, and that’s great. Every case is different.

I just think it’s interesting that the songwriters of “A Mother for My Children” seem to think that this would be an attractive position for a woman to fill. When it comes down to it, being a mother to someone else’s children is a proposition that will likely fail as time passes. Real mom will probably come back at some point. Replacement mom will be pushed aside. And if she’s with the guy simply to be a “mother” to his children, the relationship will probably end very badly. Seems hardly the type of situation that would call for a catchy chorus and danceable beat. I do think this is a real situation that comes up and it’s good song material. I just think the mood for this particular song is very strange and if I were approached by this man on the hunt for a mother for his children, I would run the other way!

musings, narcissists

Love me for what I am…

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Carpenters’ music. I know some of it is super schmaltzy and borderline insipid, but they did have quite a few poignant songs that resonate decades after they were recorded. For some reason, I was reminded of a song from 1975 called “Love Me For What I Am”. The first time I ever heard it was on YouTube. Someone made a school project about anorexia nervosa and used “Love Me For What I Am” as background music. I can’t find that specific video now, but I was struck by how perfect the song was for Karen Carpenter, who famously suffered and died from years of anorexia nervosa.

Karen Carpenter sings her version of the blues.

Anorexics often become obsessed with perfection to the point at which they completely lose touch with reality. They might focus on one part of their body that isn’t quite right, losing sight of the fact that they have become emaciated and extremely unhealthy looking. For years, there was a theory that anorexics got the way they are because someone else had expectations for them that were too high. Nowadays, I think the theories have changed regarding why a person develops an eating disorder. It’s no longer automatically attributed to the pat hypotheses of yesterday– absentee father, demands for perfection, or not wanting to grow up. The truth is, people develop eating disorders for different reasons.

Although “Love Me For What I Am” seems like a perfect plea from someone suffering from anorexia nervosa, I think it’s actually more appropriate for someone in love with a narcissist. If you pay attention to the words, which were written by John Bettis and Palma Pascale, they describe a whirlwind romance that slowly develops into a hypercritical hell. Narcissistic people frequently give their love interests “the rush”, flooding them with positive regard and lovebombing them into believing perfect love has suddenly bloomed.

What makes this song different is that most people involved in this type of relationship lack the self awareness to see what is happening. As Karen pleads for her lover to “love me for what I am, for simply being me”, she might as well save her breath. Narcissists aren’t capable of that kind of love and they almost never change. They only love themselves… and even that “self-love” is kind of iffy and not very genuine.

The words go:

We fell in love
On the first night that we met
Together we’ve been happy
I have very few regrets

The ordinary problems
Have not been hard to face
But lately little changes
Have been slowly taking place

You’re always finding something
Is wrong in what I do
But you can’t rearrange my life
Because it pleases you

You’ve got to love me for what I am
For simply being me
Don’t love me for what you intend
Or hope that I will be

And if you’re only using me
To feed your fantasy
You’re really not in love
So let me go, I must be free

If what you want
Isn’t natural for me
I won’t pretend to keep you
What I am I have to be

The picture of perfection
Is only in your mind
For all your expectations
Love can never be designed

We either take each other
For everything we are
Or leave the life we’ve made behind
And make another start

You’ve got to love me for what I am
For simply being me
Don’t love me if what you intend
Or hope that I will be

And if you’re only using me
To feed your fantasy
You’re really not in love
So let me go, I must be free

I decided to record this song today. I recorded it four or five times. Sure enough, I was focused on perfection. Even as I listen to it right now, I am not totally happy with it, even though I know it’s pretty good for amateur hour. We waste a lot of time trying to achieve perfection, which is mostly impossible to reach. That is especially true when you’re trying to record vocals live on the Internet. You get static, distortion, or the timing is thrown off because of the instability of the Internet connection. When I want something more perfect, I use Garage Band, which has its own issues. But at least when I use Garage Band, it’s done offline and I get more clarity.

The funny thing is, it doesn’t even really matter how perfectly I record it. Not that many people bother to listen to what I record. The desire for perfection is for me, because like a lot of people, I don’t like to hear the sound of my own voice. I can’t simply enjoy the fact that I have a voice– good or bad– and have the ability to use it to communicate.

The Carpenters were always good for emotional, introspective songs. They also did “I Need To Be in Love”, which I also decided to do this morning. This one, I sang in one take. It’s probably not close to perfect, but I’m somewhat happier with it, even though I didn’t get the rhythm quite right, and the mic goes in and out. I guess it’s close enough to perfect for me. Actually, it’s not. I had to do it again… and it’s still not quite right.

I’m not a perfectionist about everything, only certain things, like music and writing. Some people are perfectionists about every aspect of their lives, particularly regarding other people. They have a fantasy of how things should be and they try very hard to make other people buy into their vision. It’s enough to drive an innocent person crazy. I may drive myself crazy trying to hit a note in just the right way, with just the right emotion or inflection, or choose the right words and phrases to get my point across in the best way. But that focus is not on someone else; it’s only on me. I don’t tend to care that much about what other people think, in the grand scheme of things. I mean, if you insult me to my face, it will hurt my feelings. But I don’t go searching for other people’s opinions about me… and I can’t abide hypercritical people.

The more videos I watch by Les Carter and the more Internet posts I read from people being driven crazy by narcissists, the more it seems like it’s an epidemic that is damaging or even ruining other people’s lives. My husband spent years with a woman who didn’t value him for anything more than what he could do for her. He tried to love her for who she was, but she couldn’t reciprocate. She blamed him 100% for all that went wrong in their relationship. She couldn’t love him for who he was.

I know so many people in this predicament. It’s not just lovers or spouses, either. Narcissists are everywhere and involved in every kind of relationship, from boss and subordinate to landlord and tenant. These are people who cannot accept responsibility for who they are. They won’t admit mistakes or accept defeat, at least not without a tremendous fight. They portray themselves as long suffering victims, even when the facts point to the opposite. So, as eloquent and plaintive as Karen’s singing is, a narcissistic person will never love her for who she is. It’s not in them. They’re always looking for flaws and defects, much like an anorexic is always looking for one part of their body that is “too fat”. They can’t get past the distortion that allows them to simply accept and trust another person and allow them intimacy.

The people I have known who were narcissistic usually had difficult childhoods. At least two of the known narcissists in my life didn’t have access to their biological mothers. It’s probably a coincidence, since I know not all adoptees turn into narcissists. The ones I’ve known didn’t have good relationships with their adoptive mothers, either, and exhibited feelings of anger due to being abandoned. But I will admit that I haven’t spent much time studying this link, at least not at this point. True narcissistic types have never learned empathy. They somehow stopped developing emotionally when they were still children. They have to be right at all costs, and will stoop to very low levels to achieve what they think is the upper hand.

Still, I have to admit to loving Karen Carpenter’s take on narcissism in the song “Love Me For What I Am”. She’s taken other people’s lyrics and injected them with heart and soul. One would have to be made of stone not to be moved by her emotional reading. Sadly, a lot of narcissists are like that.

Interestingly enough, my husband Bill doesn’t like Karen Carpenter’s voice as much. He says she’s too technically “perfect” for him. He doesn’t hear emotion in her voice. I think he hasn’t listened to enough of her deep cuts… or maybe we just have a difference in opinion, which is alright, too. Some of the Carpenters’ songs are truly cringeworthy, even if Karen could sound good singing the phone book. Just my opinion, of course. Some people feel that way about Barbra Streisand, who impresses me more when she acts than when she sings.