When I’m broken I am whole
Bjork in “The Invisible Woman: A Conversation with Bjork” by Jessica Hopper in Pitchfork.
Posted in arguments with your partner, book review, fatherhood, feminism, motherhood, motherhood bliss, motherhood sux, preschoolers, school kids, sex of the icky parental kind, single parenthood, thinking, this moment, writing on January 12, 2015 | 7 Comments »
I was very flattered to be a guest writer for Meanjin this week for their series on writers reading. I was told to be very reflective on my year and.. I was that. Eek.
There’s a small child in the bed with us. I hold the sheet over me and reach down blindly to find clothes on the floor. Under the sheet I slip my underwear and t-shirt back on. So, this is dating now.
Posted in 10 feminist motherhood questions, ableism, arguments with your partner, child hatred bigotry, classism, economics, fatherhood, feminism, feminist motherhood, motherhood, motherhood bliss, motherhood sux, politics, preschoolers, raising daughters, raising sons, slow parenting, toddlers, work and family (im)balance on December 10, 2014 | 5 Comments »
My latest article is here.
Speaking of personal stories, Latham has an interesting story, too. He’s a stay-at-home father with a wife working outside the home. Having made the transition from political leadership to primary caring he might offer an insightful perspective, instead, he seems clouded by a kind of defensive masculinity. And his hostility towards feminist parenting is curious when you consider Latham’s own role reversal is exactly the kind of freedom feminists are seeking as an option to be available for more parents. But critiquing parenting has long been an underhand route for simply censuring women.
Women well know that when male commentators talk about women’s lives they are prone to holding unexamined views that run contrary to one another. So, being the primary parent has allowed Latham to see the hoax that fathers can’t be nurturing, but somehow mothering is still essentialist enough for inner-city feminists to be capable of running a secret campaign to “free themselves from nature’s way”. And further, mothers who take their experiences seriously enough to write about them are “self-absorbed”, but to not take them seriously is to be “breeding a generation of shirtless, tone-deaf, overweight, pizza-eating dummies”. Although Macdonald, apparently, manages to do both.
Quotes from Ariel Gore’s The End of Eve: A Memoir:
My mother stared ahead into the rain. I knew her well enough to know that she always had an agenda, but sometimes part of her agenda was pretending she didn’t have an agenda.
I thought of my Gammie, and the way she’d pour herself a nice, tall vodka tonic whenever she saw my mother enter a room and sip her drink and whisper under her breath, “If there isn’t chaos, there soon will be”.
I didn’t know if the cure for my life was to lie to everyone about everything or to become brutally honest.
And I didn’t want to say too much because, inexplicably, I still wanted people to like her.
This was supposed to be a book about a typical caregiver – a daughter with children of her own trying to help her terminal if eccentric widow-mother through a final year. But now here we were mid-narrative, more than a year gone by, and no one had died and I didn’t have a mother anymore and the semester was wrapping up.
Family and strangers sharing a meal; toothy smiles as if we weren’t all in it for the kill.
Maia lifted her Bloody Mary and shrugged. “Let’s not even list what we’re thankful for this year”.
I remembered when I was pregnant with Maia how terrified I felt that I would abuse her. That I would torment her. And I remembered the flood of relief when I realized unabusive motherhood wasn’t so very hard. That sure – it took a diligence, problably more diligence when emotional violence was my first language. But that in the end it isn’t so hard not to ruin everything we love. It meant deferring to my child when I felt that wit’s-end rage bubble up, meant stepping back to remind myself that she was the baby here, that I was the grown-up. It meant reminding myself to behave in a way I would be proud of. It meant not always needing to be right, apologizing when I was wrong. It meant a lot of pause-taking. But it wasn’t so very hard.
This book was such a great read.
Picnic lunch watching my brother-in-law play cricket. He’s the one batting below.
(Note the black armbands all the players are wearing in memory of the dead cricketer, Phillip Hughes).
In my garden.
Baby asparagus shoot.
Cormac, aged 5.
So many eggs.
I felt contented, for the first time in a long time.
I mended a broken door, all by myself like it was no big deal and these things don’t completely baffle and/or terrify me.
I cooked. Rosemary and lemon roast. Spinach quesadilla. Tomato and basil risotto.
I took the kids for a bike ride first thing in the morning.
I bought them advent calendars, the old-fashioned cardboard ones with windows. I let them open a window early because they go to their dad’s tomorrow night.
I laughed at text messages.
I watched Boyhood.
Because what my class of mothers consumes most is education. We know how precarious our world is, and how easily our children can fall out of it. We see the invisible line down the middle of the street that separates the good school district from the bad. We see the line that separates our Prius, hovering silently at the crosswalk, from the corner, where 50 lower-middle-class children wait for the bus. We see, at our Creative meetings, the line that separates state-college folk from Ivy alums. Clearly, the solutions for overwhelmed working mothers include either moving in with some kid-loving older relatives (but they’re Republicans! from Ohio!) or kicking it 1950s style by just letting their kids play with the other kids on the block. In my part of Los Angeles, this means going over to the Mexican-gardener neighbor’s house and jumping on an illegal trampoline with 11 children, five chihuahuas, and three chickens, as we did often enough when my kids were toddlers. But the gardener’s children were English learners, who would gradually (I was told) leach the vocabulary from my English-speaking children—and then my daughters would never test gifted, never have academically motivated peers, never get into the good college-prep classes …
So, like other Creative Class mothers in big cities, we band together with our fragile tribe of geographically remote, like-minded mothers (who, while friends, are also competitors for community resources—the last magnet application, spot No. 102 on the charter-school waiting list—resources of a dire, frightening scarcity never dreamed of in the 1950s). Weekends are a manic whirl of Kids’ Science Museums, Baby Mozart concerts, and laboriously educational “craft” days when, instead of dumping kids and going off for a 1950s-style hairdressing-and-martini break, mothers are expected to sit down and glue things with their children for seven and a half hours. (I remember decorating Easter eggs with the help of art-history books depicting glamorous Fabergé eggs. The refreshments, though, were still depressingly kid-focused—Domino’s pizza and juice boxes.) Today’s Professional Class mothers are expected to have, above all, the personalities—and the creative aspirations—of elementary-school teachers. But if you’re like me, you can’t compete with those seasoned professionals for whom child education is an enthusiastic vocation. My daughter Suzy’s kindergarten teacher, Lori, was the type all children fall desperately in love with. We are talking the high flutey voice, fluffy cotton-candy-like blond hair, pink glasses on a chain, hugs, rabbits, treats, prizes, songs, games, fun. (For God’s sake, I want a Lori!) Suzy devotedly made Lori love cards throughout the year (even for Mother’s Day), although truth be told, the next year, Suzy’s new mission was winning a sleepover with (and then leaving our family and simply moving in with) her first-grade teacher, Heather. And—yikes—it makes sense that kids bond so tightly with their teachers, as these are the women they spend their quality time with. I pick them up after four, when they’re collapsing into crankiness, and ferry them home—because what mothers do nowadays, most of all, is drive their children.
And for what? Why do we agonize? David Sedaris is one of the most successful writers of his generation, and his chain-smoking mother is known for drinking herself into a glaze and locking her five children out of the house on a snow day.
Which causes me to wonder gloomily: except as consumers and chauffeurs and anxious guardians of the middle class, why are mothers, today, needed at all?
From Sandra Tsing Loh’s “On being a bad mother” in The Atlantic.