Commentary: Why I’m Giving Motherhood a Microphone in San Antonio

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A speaker takes the stage during the 2015 Listen To Your Mother tour. Photo courtesy of the LTYM Facebook page.

“Me too.”

Those two little words can be incredibly comforting. Validating. When life throws us a curveball or hands us the proverbial lemons, the last thing we want to feel is alone.

I’m a writer, a storyteller. I write about life and parenthood as I see it…as it happens.

In November 2014, someone posted an announcement advertising the 2015 Listen to Your Mother season in one of the writer’s groups I belonged to on Facebook.

If you don’t know what Listen to Your Mother is, it’s a series of live stage shows that feature local writers doing live readings on the subject of motherhood in celebration of Mother’s Day. This is the video I watched:

Do you ever just get a feeling? I got a feeling.

I wasn’t sure what that feeling meant, exactly. I got sucked into the vortex that is the Listen to Your Mother YouTube channel. I snort laughed. I cried the ugly cry. And, I nodded my head.

“Me too.”

I felt validated.

Mothers onstage, telling their stories of motherhood. Non-mothers onstage telling their stories of motherhood. People talked about their mothers, their grandmothers, their daughters and sons. About being a mom. About not being a mom. About the joyful, heartbreaking, inspiring, hilarious, poignant and downright messy parts of motherhood.

When I came up for air, I knew Listen to Your Mother was something I needed to be a part of. I wasn’t sure exactly how – maybe just being in the audience and listening to those stories in person would be my part. Maybe I’d go up to one of the readers after the show, shake their hands and say “me too” in person. There was just something about the stories and the sense of community that brought the stories together that spoke to me.

I looked at the map and saw that two of the 39 cities hosting Listen to Your Mother in 2015 were in Texas. One was in Austin. Close enough. I fretted over what story to submit. Should I send something funny or something more serious, more heartfelt? In the end, I chose a story that was hard to write and even harder to read out loud without choking up, a story about some of my darkest times as a mother and about feeling inferior for not having the feelings that mothers are supposed to have.

I hit submit and I waited. A few weeks later, I got an email inviting me to come and read my story out loud.

I drove to Austin on a cold January morning in 2015 and I told my story. Although I had been sort of afraid that I’d pass out or throw up at the podium, I did neither of those things. I finished, and thanked the producers and left the room. My husband waited outside.

“Well? How’d it go? Do you think you got in?” he asked.

“It went great and I have no idea. But this was enough.”

It was enough to tell my story. I’d written something that I deemed worthy to read out loud in front of total strangers and saying the words I’d typed out onto the paper was cathartic.

It was really enough just to tell my story to the producers, but a couple of weeks later, I learned I’d been chosen to read in the 2015 Austin show.

It’s hard to get up in front of an audience and read a story about your hardest day as a mom, but I did:

I am a wordsmith by nature but when I try to describe my feelings on show day, my words fail me. I have a few gold star days that play in my memories on a loop. Everyone has those days, those crazy memorable days that really stand out in your mind. My wedding day. The day my daughter was born. The day my adopted sons joined our family. I can close my eyes and tell you every minute detail of those days.

(From left) Jill Robbins and her adopted sons, Zach and Kyle, laugh with "Cookie Monster." Courtesy photo.

(From left) Jill Robbins and her adopted sons Zach and Kyle laugh with “Cookie Monster.” Courtesy photo.

And now, I have a new day to add to that memory bank. That’s right. Reading on stage during Listen to Your Mother: Austin and being part of that community of writers and speakers left some definite footprints on my heart and mind. I remember every detail of the day I got up on stage and talked about my inadequacies and insecurities as a mom.

After the show, people I’d never met before came up to me and shook my hand. Some even hugged me and thanked me for my candor. Some said “me too.” My cast mates were experiencing the same thing. People sought us out to talk to us, to touch our arms, to thank us for sharing our stories of motherhood.

The spoken word is powerful and awesome things happen when you put motherhood on stage and give it a microphone.

Although I’m not one to seek out attention – I’m an introverted writer and like to hide behind my keyboard most of the time – I loved my night in the limelight and the connections I made.

While I loved my experience and the sisterhood I found in Austin, that city is not my home.

And, you know what they say about homes and hearts. My heart is here, in San Antonio.

Early on, I knew that Listen to Your Mother belonged in San Antonio. Every city has its own personality, its own flavor, tempo, voice; its own stories of motherhood.

I’ve done a lot of things. Producing a live stage show is not one of them. I took a deep breath and applied to bring Listen to Your Mother to San Antonio to give the voices of motherhood in the Alamo City a microphone.

Flying by the seat of my pants, fueled by coffee and vision, I secured a venue, a few sponsors and gave the shout-out for auditions. I heard 37 amazing stories of motherhood and was faced with the daunting task of picking just 13. There have been so many times when I’ve wondered if I’m crazy to try and take this on.

Maybe I am a little crazy. But take it on I have.

This year, there are 41 cities on the Listen to Your Mother Map and San Antonio is one of them.

We have 13 amazing stories of motherhood to tell at The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on April 23rd. Heartfelt stories. Stories that will make you cry. Make you laugh until you pee. Make you think. Make you walk out feeling good.

Make you say “me too.”

Sharing stories of motherhood can be incredibly comforting. Validating. I wish kids came with instructions – even crazy, confusing ones like the stuff that comes with furniture from Ikea. At least I’d have some sort of vector instead of blindly trudging through and wondering “am I doing this right?”

The answer is yes, you are. But you probably need a “me too.”

If you’re a person who likes a good story come and check out the inaugural Listen to Your Mother: San Antonio show. Tickets are $15 and proceeds benefit Child Advocates of San Antonio.

Come. Laugh. Connect. And say “me too.”

 

https://rivardreport.wildapricot.org

 

Top image: A speaker takes the stage during the 2015 Listen To Your Mother tour. Photo courtesy of the LTYM Facebook page

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