More Mommy Melissa

Outtakes from the June 22, 1999 issue cover story about Melissa Etheridge and motherhood

BY Sara Miles

June 22 1999 12:00 AM ET

Right. And, OK, today mom is angry at this or mom is very sad at this. I acknowledge that because kids are so perceptive. They notice that, Hmm, Mom's angry, and she's not saying anything and stuffing it down, so I think that's what I'm supposed to do. And they just imprint it, and off they go.

Do you see yourself sort of playing out those family patterns that you grew up with? Or is it more a question of trying to consciously break them? Yeah, well, I've been in therapy about 15 years, so I've worked through a lot of that. So where I'm at right now is very consciously trying to break that. I will feel the response of my childhood coming up [snaps fingers], but I work really hard.

It's odd how it sort of connects you back to all of those memories. It must be the same for Julie too, and then you wind up sort of playing those responses out with each other and seeing it.Right.

And do you feel that again with the new baby, having that around? You know, I think it was just such a revelation with the first one that I'm not noticing so much the second time. And because he's a boy and I'm sure I relate my childhood to the girl that I have.

What do you think the kids would say, years from now, is "the way we did things in our house"? Well, it's funny, 'cause you know we've only been at this barely two and a half years. So we've only started to develop our things that I see we always do. You know, Sunday morning we always go to the farmer's market. And we're just starting to build those traditions. One's in a high chair and one's still breast-feeding, so we're not quite around the dinner table yet. But that's something I want to make sure we have: either breakfast or a meal that we're all sitting down eating together and talking. You know, it's going to be different. I spent my life on the road. I spent a year on the road. It's going to be more unusual than it is for most kids.

What is the stuff that you hate the most about being a parent?Hate is such big word. I don't think I hate anything.

What is the stuff that drives you crazy? Um, I can never get anywhere on time. It's impossible. No matter what, you can't get everything together. [And] I guess I could use some more sleep. You know, that's about it.

Finding time to sleep.Yeah. I think I'm going to hate being away, that my work takes me away. I think I'm gonna hate that.

Do you find yourself worrying about things that you thought you didn't have to worry about anymore? I mean, I sort of figure, "Well I'm a grown-up, I can deal with it when people call me a 'dyke' on the street." You know, I don't like it, but it doesn't ruin my life. But when people say things to my kid. Oh, yeah.

It just tears me up. And it's been this whole other experience of having to look at homophobia through the eyes of somebody who's 4, 5, 8, 9 years old. I haven't been faced with that yet. I mean, the worst thing that's happened to me wasn't even that it's actually being famous and not wanting that to affect my child. And being in an airport and my child almost gets crushed because they want my autograph. That's going to make me crazy.

It must be a real tension.Yeah. People don't understand when you can't even look at my child. I get a little crazy. And I haven't even had that experience of what it's going to be like. You know, I know I can't shelter them. But boy I'm going to feel the same way you do, you know. It's one thing if it's just me; I can handle that. But I don't know. When we do the interview in ten years, I'll tell you what it is.

What does it seem like to raise kids in L.A.? You've been such an incredible role model because you've been so out, and yet privacy is a different thing, especially when it's your kids. It's not about "I want to live in the closet"; it's about "I want some privacy." Yeah, I want safety. It's very different. I don't know. We are not set anywhere for sure. And since they're so small right now, this is an OK place to be. But I don't know if L.A.'s the place to have them go to school. I think there's a question about that.

Do your kids have a relationship with their biological dad? Not really. They know him and know who he is. Of course, Beckett can't know anything right now because he's 6 months old. They've got male role models, for those that are concerned about that.

In case they just grow up surrounded by women. [Laughs] What a terrible idea. So doesn't it make you feel like even more of a dyke? Are you totally amazed at how great women are that they can do all of this work? We can do everything. Um, moving the heavy furniture is the only part that really bums us out. And we have to ask so-and-so to come over and help us.

Right. But other than that. And they say Beckett's gonna be very large, so in 15 years he can move the heavy furniture.

But if you think about the amount of violence and misogyny in the culture at large, how do you relate to that? What are your thoughts? You know, what we can do? What I can do is love my child, give her and him the best self-esteem that they can have and the strongest sense of self, a sense of discipline and a sense of the world and their own right and wrong. So that when they go out in the world, when I'm not standing by their side, they have enough sense of their own self and of pride in themselves and of love for themselves because they have been loved and mirrored and accepted and all these things. So that when they are approached with these dark sides, they can stand strong and know within themselves "This is not good for me" and make those choices. Or, you know, "This is not healthy." I have to believe that if one has enough self-esteem and sense of themselves, they can face the rest of the world.

 

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