Archive for March, 2009

The World According To Mom

March 31, 2009

A few months ago, my friend David asked me if I thought that it would be possible to travel around the world via blog. “Like Around The World In 80 Days,” he said, “but on the Internet. Around the world in 80 clicks. 80 mom-blogger clicks!” “I don’t know,” I said. “But it sure sounds like a cool thing to try.” “Cool. And if you could visit, virtually, moms around the world, what would you want to talk to them about?”

This was my answer (more on our “Around The World In 80 Clicks” project after the post, below):

Once, when Emilia was 8 or 9 months old and we were socializing at a local playground, another mother asked me this question: “don’t you just love being a mom?” She meant it rhetorically: of course I loved being a mom. How could anyone not love being a mom? Becoming a mom means entering a state of existence wherein you are always, at some level, deeply fulfilled. It means being adored by tiny creatures who delight at the sound of your voice. It means love, giggles and ice cream and rainbows. It also means crouching in damp sand at playgrounds and wiping snotty noses and shitty bums and worrying constantly about whether or not you remembered to restock the diaper bag and, also, refill your Ativan prescription.

“Sort of,” I replied. “Some of the time.”

My memory on this might be fuzzy, but I think that she physically recoiled.

Of course I love being a mother. But it’s complicated. I love being a mother to my children, but there’s a very great difference between loving being a mother to one’s own children and loving motherhood generally. I mean, I love being married to my husband, because I love him, but I can’t imagine marching around saying that I love being a wife. My attachment to my married state has everything to do with him, and pretty much nothing to do with the institution of marriage itself. Motherhood is a little different, obviously: some women really do love motherhood as a practice, as a craft, as a way of life. I don’t, not so much. I’m actually kind of bad at it. I struggle with the quotidien responsibilities of motherhood: I dislike cooking, I’m constantly running out of diapers, I’m terrible at managing schedules, and I regularly send my child to preschool in mismatched socks. I hate playgroups, and my house is a mess. What I am good at, as a mother: love, and good humor. I adore my children, and they delight me to no end. We have a lot of fun; we laugh a lot. Sure, the baby sometimes ends up with paper towels shoved down his pants in lieu of a diaper, but still: he’s happy. We’re all happy. And I’m happy with that. I love that.

So if someone were to ask me that question today – don’t you just love being a mom? – I’d answer in much the same way – sort of/some of the time/some of it – but I’d also, depending upon how nervy I was feeling that day, say this: why don’t I tell you, specifically, what I do love about being a mom? And then – if, that is, my inquisitor had not gathered up her children and fled my toxic presence – I would provide her with the following list:

1) I love that there are always cookies in the cupboard, and that I can claim plausible deniability if someone asks if the cookies are mine and whether I intend to eat them all myself.

2) I love that birthdays and holidays are major events involving ridiculous amounts of sugar and gift wrap.

3) I love that, for at least some months following the births of my children, I had really epic breasts. They’re gone now, but still. For a while I had the bustline of a stripper, and that – feminist correctness be damned – was kind of cool.

4) I love seeing the world through her eyes:


5) And his:


There are, of course, a thousand and some other reasons that I could give, reasons that range from the poetic (the way that it feels when tiny hands get tangled in my hair) to the profane (there’s always somebody on whom to blame the farts), but then this list would go on forever, and that would very probably undermine my claim to be ambivalent about the condition of motherhood.

In any case, the whole point of this exercise was this: to consider a standard entre-mamans question from my own perspective, and to invite other mothers – mothers from around the world – to do the same thing and share their answers. In part because I’m looking for some affirmation that I’m not the only mother in the world who ordinarily raises her eyebrows at such questions even as she secretly begins composing answers, but also to find out what it would be like – how the conversations would run, what we would say, whether we’d exclaim in agreement or goggle over our differences – if we hung out in the sort of fantasy playground or playgroup that included mothers from all over the world and asked each other that stuff and got to compare notes. And then maybe had a drink or something.

Which – thanks to the Internet – is possible! Maybe! Except for the drink part!

David and I – in partnership with Global Voices Online – are launching an experiment to see if we get a global conversation going between moms who blog. We want to see if it’s possible to travel the world and make friends, virtually, solely on the Vernian voyage power of the momosphere. We want to see if we can pull together a global playdate in 80 clicks.

Here’s how it’s going to work: this post that you’re reading? Is the departure lounge. I’m going to link to a couple of other mom bloggers here in Canada, and to a couple of mom bloggers from other countries around the world, and they’ll write their posts, sharing 5 things that they love (or maybe what they don’t so much love – this playground doesn’t force conformity) about being a mom, and then they’ll tag a few more bloggers from their own country and from other countries, and so on. And you’re more than welcome to join: just write a post of your own (5 things that you love about being a mom) and find someone to link to and tag – someone from your own country, if you like, but definitely someone from another country (Google is a good resource if you don’t know any; google any country name and ‘mom’ in their blog search function) (be sure to let them know that you’ve tagged them!) – and link back here and leave a comment and we’ll add you to the ‘itinerary,’ which David will compile and post and update as the tour proceeds.

Are you in? I hope you’re in. This is going to be fun. No passport necessary.

So, to get started, why not see a little more of Canada by visiting Redneck Mommy in Alberta, or Sherina from Chaos Theory in Quebec. Then, travel a little further and visit Chocoholic Madness, a soon-to-be mom in the United Arab Emirates, and Fine Little Day in Sweden, and Indian Mommies (there’s a tremendous blogroll of Indian moms here!) in India, and, also, Beth, who used to live in Burkina Faso but now lives in France.

(What are you waiting for? GO!)

(Oh, and? If you don’t plan to blog it – or even if you do, and just want to run some ideas through the mill here – what do you love about being a mom?)

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Monday: Now With More Unicorn!

March 30, 2009

I promised myself that I wouldn’t start this week with another weak salute to my hatred of Mondays. I mean, what’s more banal than hating on Mondays? Seriously. Welcome to my boring.


But then I woke up this morning – and by ‘woke’ I mean, got out of bed after not having slept a wink – and my inbox was full of wondrous and terrifying things and really, how is one supposed to rally one’s creative energies to write meaningful, thought-provoking prose when one is confronted by e-mail from one’s mother with the subject heading GRANDMA AND VIBRATOR?

1) My mother’s newfound enthusiasm for blogging is starting to frighten me. Because, you know, it’s not bad enough that she reveals unflattering details about the little tyrant that I was when I was five. She also has to send me e-mails with video about grannies and vibrators (VIBRATORS) and say can I post video on my blog? Because I have a story to go along with this!

Which, upon reading, caused my inner child to curl up into a little ball and weep.

2) Sometimes, you find stuff laying on the ground in your local schoolyard and despite the fact that that stuff almost certainly has grotty, grotty teenager germs – and god knows what else – all over it you simply can’t not pick it up. And photograph it. And upload it to your Flickr account.

3) Speaking of awesome: if you want awesome for your blog, you need to check this out. SWEET.

4) Speaking of more awesome: this post? Is – alongside the Shakesville post that inspired it – BlogHer’s BlogHer Of The Week post. Which is awesome not because I am awesome (although I am that, sometimes), but because that post was the catalyst for the most community-affirming discussion about reproductive choice that I have ever seen, anywhere. Pro-choice, pro-life: it didn’t matter. Every commenter was respectful, even kind, in considering both my thoughts on the subject and the thoughts of all the other commenters. It provided indisputable proof that discussion on controversial topics needn’t be combative. It demonstrated that this community really understands civil discourse. It made a lot of the residual ill-feeling from that other controversy just melt away.

It was – what’s the word? – awesome.

5) What is not so awesome: my custodianship of the Basement. I recently discovered a batch of submissions from December that I missed and therefore didn’t post. AM SO SORRY. I need to learn how to use spreadsheets or something because, really, my lack of life skills sometimes gets in the way of being awesome (or, in the case of the Basement, providing a space for others to be awesome.) Also, I suck.

(They’re all going up this week. And next. Daily posting until we get caught up.)

6) What is always awesome: UNICORNS.

Love Thursday, Friday Edition: The Beckoning Of The Bicycle

March 27, 2009

I have trouble keeping my days of the week straight. Also, my seasons. Is it spring yet?


God, I hope so. We have some bike-ridin’ to do.

(Love Thursday. Is lovely. And is beckoning lovely. Come, lovely, come. On a little red-trimmed, sparkly-streamered bicycle, come.)

Abortion Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

March 25, 2009

“She only saw him once.

Once, from behind the window of the nursery. He was wrapped in a blue blanket, and he was oh so small. They asked her if she wanted to hold him, and she said no. Just as she had in the delivery room, right after he was born, when she had squeezed her eyes shut so that she wouldn’t see him, her heart, the heart that she was giving away. She said no.

No.

It would have killed me, she said. It would have killed me. I couldn’t have gone on. I loved him.

So she said no. She refused to hold her son.”

I was holding my own son – then just two and a half months old – on my lap when my mother told me this story. I would be stating the obvious if I said that I clutched him a little tighter as I listened to her words and watched the tears brim in her eyes, but I’ll state it anyways: I held him, tightly, and my heart ached to think of not holding him. My heart ached to bursting at the thought of not holding him, of giving away any opportunity to hold him. And then my heart ached some more, because I had, once upon time, done something that, in some respects, amounts to the same thing.

When an anonymous poster made a plea, last week, for everyone to pause and consider the emotional fallout from adoption – this within the context of debates concerning the emotional consequences of abortion – I immediately thought of my mother and the gut-wrenching turmoil she experienced as a result of giving up a child for adoption. And then I thought of myself, and of the secret inner dialogue that I conducted with myself while she and I sat discussing that boy, that child that she had given up for adoption years before I was born. The secret inner dialogue that went something like this:

Me: Oh, my god, my god, how terrible, how heartbreaking, how did her heart survive it?

Myself: How did YOUR heart survive it?

Me: Survive what?

Myself: Abortion.

Me: That’s so different.

Myself: It’s not.

Me: The heartbreak of giving up a child…

Myself: Isn’t abortion a kind of ‘giving up’? Except, you know, MORE FINAL?

Me: Yeah, but…

Myself: But what?

Me: She’s mourning a child that she lost, a child who is still out there somewhere.

Myself: Exactly.

I clutched Jasper to my chest and squeezed and thought about the child who is not out there somewhere. A little part of my heart collapsed in on itself.

My mother’s heartbreak was almost unbearable to absorb. Her guilt, her worry, her desire to both know and not know whether he’d been given a happy life, whether she’d done right by him to give him up. She insisted that there was no regret – she’d done what she had to do, she had no choice, it was the best thing to do, the only thing to do, at the time – but regret is complicated. She didn’t regret making the choice that seemed best for him, but she still hurt over that choice. She hurt over that choice because it represented a loss, for her. Because it represented the loss of an unknown and unknowable future. Because it was a choice that changed someone else’s life, someone else’s future. Because some part of her felt that she needed to explain that choice, perhaps apologize for that choice. Make it clear that the choice was made out of love.

The choice that caused her so much pain was not the same kind of choice that I made. There is no one to whom to explain my choice. There is no one to whom to apologize. No claim can be made that my choice was made out of love. There is no one to whom I might make that claim. Because that’s how abortion differs from adoption: it means that the only person you need ever – can ever – explain your choice to is yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you’re sorry or not. Abortion means never having to say you’re sorry. It means never even having to consider the question.

Which is not to say, of course, that we don’t consider the question. I’ve been considering the question – of whether or not I’m sorry, of whether or not I should be sorry, of whether or not sorry matters – since I first set foot in that abortion clinic. I have agonized over this. As I’ve explained in these virtual pages before, I can’t say that I regret having had an abortion, but I also can’t say that I don’t. It’s complicated. Its complicatedness sometimes hurts my heart. Which is precisely why people talk about the emotional consquences of abortion. Because many women find, like I did, that their hearts hurt. Because many women struggle to figure out how to reconcile the complicated tension between regret and not-regret and find that they’re unable, and because many women do so while bearing their children, their wanted children, in arms.

But that struggle – that is, my personal experience of that struggle – is one that can, most of the time, be compartmentalized, tucked away on some back shelf of the psyche and forgotten until some event – pregnancy, say, or miscarriage, or one’s own mother’s admission of having given one’s brother up for adoption – prompts one to go rummaging around on the shelves of Buried Hurts and Ambivalent Regrets and Things That I’d Rather Not Think About Unless My Sanity And/Or Moral Stability Depends Upon It. My mother’s struggle with her longstanding conflicting emotions around having given up a child for adoption is not – has never been – something that she can just tuck away on a shelf and forget about. She has never passed a day, she told me, without thinking about her lost boy – without looking at the faces of strangers who seem about his age and wondering is it him, without reading in the newspaper or hearing on the news something about any male person of his vintage and wondering is it him, without casting back to that baby in the blue blankie and wondering what became of him what became of him what became of him?

And that is so hard for her. I have seen the heartbreak on her face. Some 45 years or so after the fact, and the heartbreak is still there. I see the heartbreak on her face and I tell myself, there but for grace went I. And, thank gods for that grace, that I did not go.

But it is not so simple. It is not nearly so simple. For I know that the primary reason I am able to compartmentalize my own, quiet struggle is because it is entirely my own, and it is entirely my own because of the nature of the choice that I made. My child does not wander this earth, living another life. My child – and it is such a mental and emotional wank to even use these terms – was never born. My child never became my child. He/she/it was embryo, barely fetus, not a child. I did not have a child; I had a pregnancy. And then I didn’t.

(And yet. Even as I say that – “I did not have a child; I had a pregnancy” – I want to take it back. I’m a mother. I’ve had a very early term miscarriage. I very nearly lost Emilia to miscarriage. I know the terror of losing or fearing to lose that embryo, that not-quite-fetus, that not-child who is loved none the less for his or her unformedness. I would never have said – could never have said – of the embryo-that-became-Emilia, this is just a pregnancy, there is no child here. For even though she was not yet child, she was the cellular embodiment of my wish that she become a child, that she become my child. In the absence of that wish… is it just cells that remain? I don’t know. I do not know. I have not yet sorted this out. It is painful, trying to sort this out, this which might be, simply, unsortable. All I know is that these experiences are different, despite their similarities, and that I remain firmly committed to the rightness of having the ability – the choice – to distinguish between them. Ah, me.)

What remains: my inconstant, ambivalent hurt, and my mother’s endless heartache. Neither of these would I wish on anyone, but neither would I hold them up as justifications for tampering with our rights to choose those hurts, those aches, over others. We both chose our heartaches, out of desire to avoid greater heartache for ourselves or for others. In my mother’s case – in any birth mother’s case, I think – a more difficult choice was made, because it was a choice that opened up another future for another life, a future that she would never be able to see but would always, always feel. I, on the other hand… I chose the road that denied other lived futures, and that has made all the difference.

The right difference, the wrong difference, I don’t know. It is, ever and always and only and nevertheless, the one that I chose.

I live with that.

*Because you’re asking: yes, we are – I am – still looking for that boy, the lost boy, my brother. There has been some very limited progress recently, and I’m hoping that it yields something, but I don’t want to jinx things by speculating. Thank you all for caring so much.

Rainy Days And Mondays And, Also, Zombies, Get Me Down

March 23, 2009

I don’t have anything personal against Monday. It’s not like Monday’s ever done anything to me that she – oh, don’t give me that, you know Monday’s a she – hasn’t done to every other living being on the planet – pine beetles hate Monday too, pass it on – it’s just, you know, Monday. BLAH. I’m just never ready for it.

(I know. I work at home. In my pajamas. So what am I complaining about? I work at home in my pajamas, surrounded by chaos, with a baby chewing on my leg and a three-year old shrieking at eardrum-shattering volume and cats dragging dismembered Dora dolls under the sofa for further gutting. It’s like Resident Evil around here, but with babies instead of zombies and no Milla Jovovich coming with a team of commandos to save me. So.)

Where was I? Right. Monday.


It is Monday and I have had neither sufficient caffeine nor B12 vitamins to kick-start anything approximating energy or will or lifeforce and so all you get from me today is what you got last Monday: weak jokes and some links.

1) CNN linked to me today. But it was about breastfeeding stuff and we all know how that goes. Wee bit of a traffic spike, but also: mean e-mails! And stupid comments! Telling me to COVER UP MAH BOOBEEZ K THX!

Can I just put this out there? Could everyone out there who is skeeved, squicked or otherwise disgusted by breastfeeding (in any and all of its forms) please find a more interesting way to express your belief that your right to not be skeeved, squicked or yucked overrides my child’s right to be nourished than EW BOOBIES GROSS WHY CAN’T YOU JUS COVER THEM SELFISH BISH?!?!? Or, maybe you could, just, you know, look away?
Thanks.

2) My mother is persisting with this whole blogging thing. And now she’s threatening to be – quote – ‘a thorn in (my) side.’ Also, she wants to tell you about the ‘deep V’ tanline caused by her grandma-boobs and bitch about her bifocals and, maybe, give other grandparents advice on how to torment their children by corrupting their grandchildren. This is either going to be really terrible or really awesome. Probably both.

3) The Basement. It’s not a happy place today.

4) No, I didn’t purchase the DVD of the movie Twilight this weekend. I wanted to, though. Mostly because I’ve heard that Robert Pattinson’s commentary is bust-a-gut hysterical (Robert Pattinson, who is on record describing his character thusly: “When you read the book,” says Pattinson, looking appropriately pallid and interesting even without makeup, “it’s like, ‘Edward Cullen was so beautiful I creamed myself.’ I mean, every line is like that. He’s the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything. I think a lot of actors tried to play that aspect. I just couldn’t do that. And the more I read the script, the more I hated this guy, so that’s how I played him, as a manic-depressive who hates himself. Plus, he’s a 108-year-old virgin so he’s obviously got some issues there.” How can you not love this guy?) and I could totally get on board with having my gut figuratively busted.

Instead, I just read pretty much the entirety of Cleolinda’s commentary on everything Twilight. And busted a gut. Seriously. BETTER THAN THE BOOKS. Almost.

5) They should do a remake of Resident Evil, but with cats. They could get a Siamese to play Milla Jovovich’s role. That’d be funny.


This is the shit I think about on Mondays. It’s a kind of hell.

(Closing comments because, seriously, I am exhausted UP TO HERE with debating breastfeeding. Comments are still open at the CNN-linked post, but having responded to one stupid comment there I am already spent and have given up. Reading about Twilight is a far better use of my time today.)

Good Housekeeping: Totally Slobtastic Slackermom Edition

March 20, 2009

If you were ever to visit my neighborhood, I would love for you to drop by. I’d be thrilled to see you, and I would totally invite you onto my verandah, and I would fix us up a nice pot of coffee and we would sit outside and eat cupcakes – fresh from the bakery down the street – and drink our coffee and chat. Or maybe it would be, like, late afternoon or evening and I would bust out the wine and the cheese and we would sit outside and enjoy the sunset and it would be lovely, really, just perfectly lovely. But I’d really hope that you wouldn’t ask to use the bathroom. Because I’d really kind of rather you not come in my house.

It’s not that I have anything against you, or that I have weird bathroom issues. It’s just that, you know, if you’d just dropped by? And I hadn’t had enough notice to do a total sweep of the house in advance of your visit? I just would totally not want you to come inside. Because, really, it usually looks something like this:


That’s what it looks like, all the time. Worse even. That room at the back? That’s supposed to be the dining room. Needless to say, we don’t do a lot of dining there. We actually moved the table out so that there’d be more room for things like, say, easels and chalkboards and paints. Also, giant stuffed cows and little plastic grocery carts. The piano is there, just off to the right, and it does get played, but it also functions as a toy shelf and Dora puzzle storage unit.

Oh, we try to keep it tidy. Two or three times a day I shove toys and books and miscellaneous child crap into the various baskets that you see strewn about. Then I vacuum. And then the room looks clean for about fifteen minutes before Jasper and/or Emilia begin upturning baskets and flinging toys everywhere again.

And then it looks something like this:

And this isn’t even the worst room. If I, in a fit of transparency, let you in the front door, I still wouldn’t let you up the stairs. That’s where I hide the real mess: the piles of laundry, the unpacked suitcases (seriously), the random pieces of barely used baby equipment, the children. The bathroom is also upstairs, which is why, if you mentioned a need to use the facilities, I might suddenly suggest that we head to the cafe around the corner. For cookies! They make the best cookies! Also, their restroom doesn’t have childrens’ toothpaste smeared across the vanity mirror, and they probably actually put the toilet paper on the roll.

It’s a losing battle for me, keeping house. I just can’t do it. I have a ten-month old baby who is just starting to walk and using his newfound mobility to seek out things to scatter and destroy, and a three-year old who loves nothing more than to mark her territory by spreading toys and books as far as she can see. And I have a husband who has trouble figuring out the relationship between socks and sock drawers and two cats who have an enthusiastic affection for dragging miscellaneous crap underneath sofas and leaving it there to collect dust. It is Sisyphean, I tell you, the work of managing a household while tending to two very small children and a tidiness-challenged husband. It is impossible, and unavoidable, and necessary, and it causes me no end of stress.

Derrida and Bukowski get tossed and stomped. Not shown: destruction of the lesser post-modernists and later dirty realists.

I can look at pictures, in magazines, of skinny mom-celebs – the Gwyneths, the Angelinas – and it doesn’t bother me, because, please. I know the work of a trainer and a private chef when I see it. But I see images of tidy homes – homes that are ostensibly occupied by families, by people with children – and it makes me a little bit crazy. Because even though I know that images in magazines are set-decorated and fluffed and faked, it still worries me, the idea that somewhere out there, other parents are keeping their homes tidy. I do not, and cannot, keep my own home in a state that even approximates something that even resembles a simulation of ‘tidy.’ And I have no idea how to change that. If I really wanted to lose my muffin-top, I would join a gym or do that shred thing and I would have some reasonable expectation of having some success. But getting my house organized? And keeping it that way? Figuring out the alchemical formula for turning cat turds into gold seem seems a more attainable goal for me.

So I’m trying to come to terms with it, in the same way that I have been trying to come to terms with the muffin-top. Embrace my outer slob, as it were. And it would really, really help if somebody – anybody – out there would stand up and to admit to some slobbiness, too. You don’t have to post photographic evidence (although if you wanted to do that, I’d be really impressed. And grateful.) (Here’s a Flickr group to post to, if you’re so inclined.) Even just a show of hands? Anyone else out there losing the battle of the mess? Anybody else pretty much just ready to surrender?

If not, that’s fine. You’re still welcome to come visit me. Just make sure that you pee before you get here.

10 Things To Do Before You Become A Parent

March 18, 2009

I heard a song once – one of those songs that you hear on the radio in someone else’s car, or over the soundsystem at the grocery store – that had a refrain about some woman regretting the fact, in her middle age, that she’d never driven a sports car around Paris, or something to that effect. I can’t remember exactly; what stuck with me, mostly, was the thought that well, I’d been to Paris. So – I thought – I probably wouldn’t have that regret. Which, as it turned out, was quite right: I’m not yet in my middle age, but I can see it on the horizon, and I’m happy to report that there seem to be no travel-related regrets forthcoming.

That said, I do have some regrets, of a sort; they’re just not of the bucket-list variety. My regrets – such as they are, now that I’m a parent, with responsibilities and accountabilities and very limited ability to do as I please – are more of the man, I wish I’d appreciated that when kind of regret. (Regret is a bit strong. Let’s call these retrospective yearnings.) I was thinking about this yesterday, as I lay on the couch with a cranium-rattling headache, trying to amuse the baby by weakly nudging a rattle toward him with my foot. In that moment, the idea that I might ever regret something like not being able to take off to Paris for the weekend struck me as absurd. Paris, schmaris. What I regretted most in that moment was the fact that in my pre-motherhood life I did not appreciate the luxury of being able to take to my bed when I was sick. Which got me thinking: if I knew then what I know now, what would I have done more often or appreciated more before I became a parent?

1. Get sick, and like it: I know, being sick is supposed to be a miserable thing. But is it, really? Assuming that your symptoms are not too brutal, and/or that you’re able to medicate yourself into a happy stupor, there is much to enjoy about being sick. You stay in bed all day, drinking hot steamy drinks and slurping chicken soup and watching bad game shows and soap operas and Dr. Phil and maybe thumbing through some tabloids and napping and just generally enjoying the Vicks VapoRub-scented experience of convalescence. If you live with someone – and especially if that someone is a spouse or romantically beholden to you in anyway – you can bitch and whine at them and they will bring you more soup.

You cannot do this when you have small children. There are no sick days when you have small children. When you have small children, you cannot take to your bed and watch television and huff VapoRub. You have to parent. So what it you’re dripping snot on the head of your wailing baby? That baby isn’t going to feed/soothe/change himself. You’re on duty, bitch. Deal with it.

2. Take naps. Take lots of naps. The kind where you doze off on the couch before dinner, the kind where you nod off at your desk at work, the kind where you just say screw Monday and go back to bed for an hour. Because what I said above about being on duty? That applies 24-7. Which means, no, you can’t just take twenty minutes to “rest your eyes.” Unless the baby is having his own nap, in which case you’re welcome to try to nap, but I’m guessing that you might want to shower/bathe/eat, too, and you’ve probably only got forty minutes, so.

3. Shower/bathe. Enjoy your showers. Take lots of them, and make them long and hot. Also, baths, if you’re a bath person. Long hot baths at all hours of the day. Twice a day, even! With bubbles and oils and magazines.

Oh, sure, it’s not like you’re forced to stop bathing and showering when the kids come along, but you will find that your bathing/shower regimen is seriously curtailed. You’ll skip days – those days when eating and sleeping seem more pressing than cleanliness – and when you finally do get around to performing some ablutions? You’ll be scrambling through that shower in less than three minutes because the baby is in his crib, shrieking, or you’ll be splashing briefly in a lukewarm tub because the hot water tank got drained when the toddler’s tub needed to be refilled, twice, after she a) brought a roll of toilet paper into the tub, because b) her ‘poo-poo was coming.’

You will miss long, hot, leisurely baths and showers, I promise you. Enjoy them now.

4. Have a drink or two at lunch. You know how, sometimes, you go out for lunch on a Saturday and someone says, why don’t we order a bottle of wine/get margaritas/have a beer? and you spend the afternoon eating and talking and drinking and working up a delicious buzz? And it’s, like, totally fine, because you know that you can go home and have a nap and a bath before thinking about what your evening looks like? Yeah, you can’t do that when you have small children, because a) you’re probably not having lunch anywhere that sells a decent bottle of wine, and b) naps? baths? Ha. See above.

5. Cultivate and appreciate a hangover. Hangovers suck, right? Wrong. Hangovers only suck if you can’t take a day off to recover from them. Hangovers, properly tended to, are similar to being sick, only with a little added frisson of shame to make things interesting. When you don’t have small children, you can spend your hangover day in bed, watching television and eating potato chips and warding off that buzz of guilt with Oreos and chocolate milk. When you do have small children, you can’t do this, for reasons that I’ve already stated. But you’re probably not drinking all that much, either, so it’s kind of a moot point.

6. Stay up late/sleep in. See above re: hangovers/being sick. You just really don’t get to spend a lot of time in bed when you have small children.

7. Have sex whenever you want. Ditto.

8. Spend a rainy day watching an entire season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There’s a theme emerging here, I know: things that you do while curled up in blankets on the sofa or in bed while eating junk food. I can’t recommend these activities highly enough. I miss them desperately. If you asked me, would you like to take the family on a Caribbean vacation, or would you like to spend a week, by yourself, just laying around watching DVDs and reading books and eating cookie dough? I would really have to think about that.

Because, seriously: Paris, Barcelona, Tulum, whatever. Whenever I do get around to going back to those places, I’ll probably want to take the kids anyway, because I want to see it all through their eyes and I want them to see what I’ve seen, blah blah blah. But a day off, where I do nothing but lounge and nap and snack and just generally indulge in some lazy-assed laziness? That place, I want to go to there. ALONE.

9. Eat chocolate chip cookie dough (or guilty pleasure food of choice) without any regard for who might be watching. I love cookie dough. I think that cookie dough is better than cookies. But I would strongly prefer that my three-year old eat, say, apple slices and cheese, rather than cookie dough, and so I conceal my cookie dough habit from her as best I can, with varying degrees of success. Just yesterday I was trying to nibble a hunk of chocolate chip cookie dough, torn from the end of a Pillsbury cookie dough package, when I was confronted by my daughter, who demanded to know what I was eating. It’s cheese, I told her. Spicy cheese. The kind you don’t like.

Those look like chocolate, she said, pointing at the chocolate chips.

They’re raisins, I said. Spicy cheese raisins. Then I shoved the rest of it in my mouth and swallowed before she could get a closer look. It kind of ruined my enjoyment of the experience, quite frankly.

10. Take more naps. Seriously. I adore my children, and wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world, but really: most days, I would pay serious cash money for a nap.

Or a long hot bath. Or some uninterrupted cookie dough indulgence. Or a day off. I wish that I’d known that back in the days when I could have them all for free.

But now you know. You’re welcome.

(Parents: what would you add to this list? Would you take Paris or the Caribbean over Lounge Week? Am I the only lazy-assed layabout out here in momosphere-land? Or would you one-up me and demand two weeks? You know, enough time to watch all back-seasons of Lost and maybe also Battlestar Galactica?)

Monday, Monday

March 16, 2009

I have typed six paragraphs this afternoon. I have deleted them all. I have deleted them all because they all said the same thing, and the thing that they said was boring and stupid and self-obsessed and whiny and I couldn’t decide whether or not I was willing to indulge in any more self-obsessed whining in this space and so I kept retyping the same blah-blah-blah-tired-malaise-blah crap onto the screen and then erasing that same blah-blah-blah-tired-malaise-blah crap because, really, who wants to read about that? Who wants to write about that?

Bah.

So I decided to spare you my melancholy. Instead, I’ll just direct you to some better reading, and go take a B-complex multivitamin:

1) When grandmothers get mad: my mother, frustrated and angry with the New York Times, lets loose on her own blog. (Yeah, you heard me. She has her own blog now. She needs encouragement, so please visit.)

2) You think you’re stressed out? Marital discord and sexual abuse and frustrations about babies having babies are being discussed over at the Basement. (Remember the rules over there, people: comment nicely. You’re free to disagree with opinions, and tough-love is welcome, but it all needs to be dealt nicely. Civilly. Respectfully.)

3) What do Jim Carrey, Pam Anderson and I have in common, other than a troubling propensity for oversharing? We’re all Canadian. So are all these bloggers. Check out our new project (it’s still, like, totally in beta, but you should still visit, and cheer us on!)

4) Or, just shut your computer and take a nap. That’s what all the cool kids are doing.

Shame And The Written Mom

March 13, 2009

Husband: “So, that whole thing, earlier this week? That made you a little crazy, didn’t it?”

Me: “Yeah. Kinda.”

Husband: “Why? Why did it bother you so much?”

Me: “——-?”

Me: “——-.”

I tell stories for a living. Mostly, I tell my own stories, the stories of my motherhood, and reflections on same. I do it because I love to do it. I do it because it has become, in some ways, almost like breathing: automatic, unavoidable, necessary. I do it because I believe in it: making public the lived experience of motherhood is, I think, crucial to empowering mothers, because it allows us to share, out in the open, where everyone can see, what motherhood is really like, once we’ve stripped away the glossy magazine covers and the laundry detergent commercials and the longstanding cultural insistence that family be private, that mothering be private, that we just hush, and not talk about how hard and how terrifying and how utterly, confoundingly, gloriously complicated this whole experience is.

I also do it because I’m vain, and because I crave approval.

Someone (actually, more than one someone) commented on the post of the other day that if I’m committed to telling my stories publicly, to mothering publicly, then I should just accept that I will face criticism and judgment. Moreover – some commenters added, here and elsewhere – since I am semi-well-known for what I do (I never know how to talk about this semi-sort-of-little-bit well-knownness. Being well known in any capacity on the Internet is, I think, kind of like being well-known in Korea for that one karaoke video that you “acted” in that one time: meaningless to anybody outside of a micro-specialized niche of aficionados, and so very probably meaningless in any broader socio-cultural context. Which is to say, nothing to brag about) it is disingenuous and/or hypocritical for me to claim to be bothered by criticism or judgment or whatever slings and arrows get hurled my way. I blog because I’m shameless, right? And I’ve earned some recognition for being shameless, right? So what’s the problem?

The problem is that I’m not shameless. I sometimes wish that I were: Socrates described himself as shameless, and argued that any true philosopher is by definition shameless, because the true philosopher loves wisdom/truth above all else, and certainly above any concern for social approval. If you’re going to interrogate social mores to the fullest extent possible, you need to be above them, at least intellectually. Shame (understood classically) is what we feel when we cower under some disapproving social gaze. It is not – contrary to what someone asserted in comments the other day – what we feel when we know that we’ve done something wrong (although we might feel shame under those circumstances); it is not necessarily associated with guilt. One can believe whole-heartedly that one is entirely in the right with a given action or behaviour, but still feel shamed by the disapproving reaction of some portion of one’s community. We can feel shame for living in poverty, for loving a member of the same sex, for breastfeeding publicly, if any measure of social disapproval is directed at those things. It doesn’t mean that we feel guilty for those things, that we feel in any way blameworthy – it means that social approval matters to us, and that social disapproval stings.

I am vulnerable to being hurt by social disapproval. It doesn’t matter whether that disapproval comes from one person, or a hundred, or a thousand, or more. I’m vulnerable to it. I fell vulnerable to it earlier this week. (All please note: what follows is not an invitation to direct further opprobrium against anyone who expressed such disapproval. These are my feelings, I am owning them and trying to make sense of them, nothing else.)

As it goes, the shame that I experienced earlier this week had – at least at first – little to do with my writing or my public persona. I felt shamed (note the distinction here: I did not feel ashamed of myself – I felt that I had been shamed, effectively, by the exercise of social disapproval toward some action on my part) for an action that I took in real life, that took place in the arena of lived space as opposed to written space. I did something and was observed and my actions were held up (in a misleading manner, which, as everyone knows by now, bothered me to no end) for interrogation and judged. Which, if that interrogation and judgment had occurred in some private space, or had remained unknown to me, might have been no big deal, but it occurred in a public space and was made known to me and so I felt – in a way that was different from how I would feel, have felt, about being judged for my writing or my online persona (I usually take that in stride. I’ve had lots of practice) – shamed. My real-life self had been observed doing some real-life thing and that real-life self was judged, publicly, and so that real-life self felt shamed.

My online self, my written self, was, of course, not completely detached from this experience. I made public my act, by Tweeting about it. I fully intended to blog about it. I had most of that post already scripted in my head. I was a little bit in love with it, to be frank: it was going to sort through all of my complicated feelings and ambivalences and reflections about what had transpired. I was going to tell the story as I wanted to tell it. It was not going to be a story about whether nursing another woman’s child was the right or wrong thing to do – there was no doubt in my mind that there was nothing wrong with it, even though I knew that it was not something that everybody would do, and even though I knew that some people, even people that I love and respect, would find it off-putting – it was going to be a story about what the experience was like, and about my complicated feelings surrounding it (for example, that it was an act that was both intimate and not intimate, that it felt both ordinary and extraordinary, that I initially felt a little afraid to do it, etc). But I was not able to tell that story, because sometime in the late hours of Monday I heard word that I had already been judged for my actions and I made the mistake of seeking out that judgment and reading it for myself and becoming upset by it and the rest, as they say, is history.

Part of my upset, in other words, was that I felt robbed of my story. It had become someone else’s story, told in a different way and with different and misleading details and I no longer had any control over it. It took on a life of its own and my feelings about it changed and I felt that, in addition to having been shamed, I had been robbed of my experience and my ability to define the terms of expressing and sharing that experience. I don’t necessarily have any rights to those things, but still: the deprivation of them hurt. Had I written about the experience myself and received shaming comments (by which I do not mean comments that expressed disagreement, but which attached moral judgment to that disagreement, i.e. it is wrong to do that, you were wrong to do that, women who do that are disgusting, etc.) I could have addressed them directly, on my own terms (or, yes, deleted them). I could have incorporated them into the larger story – which was not, as I originally imagined it, about mothers being shamed, but about trust and intimacy and support and community in motherhood, and also, maybe, about eros in motherhood (not in the sexual sense, but, rather, the classical sense. What of our profound physical and emotional connections to our children? How are these disrupted or affirmed by something like nursing another child?) – and controlled the impact of that shaming upon, and its place within, the story that I was telling.

That, obviously, was not to be. And so the story became something else entirely, and I struggled with and against the experience of feeling shamed and with and against the feeling of having lost control of my story, and it made me, yes, a little crazy. A little crazy and a lot exhausted. But beyond that crazy there was reflection, and reflection is good, right? I know now that I’m not as thick-skinned as I thought; I know, too, that I am – rightly or wrongly – possessive of my stories – told or untold – in a way that is much more intense than I understood. I learned more than I wanted to of the personal experience of shame, and I know that I have no desire to revisit it. But I am a writer and a woman who remains committed to sharing, publicly, the experience of her motherhood and of her life, generally, and so I know that critique is inevitable and judgment is inevitable and, probably, some further experience of shame is inevitable. The first I will embrace, as best I can; the second I will tolerate, as best I can. The third, I hope to continue to fight, however weakly, however awkwardly, however ineffectually, because although criticism is good, and judgment to some extent inevitable, shaming – when it is directed at any action or behaviour that is (and I realize that these are fluid concepts) well-intentioned and/or harmless and/or necessary and/or none of anyone else’s damn business regardless of how public the action is or how well-known the actor is (Salma Hayek, call me!) – is neither of those things. And the only way that I know how to fight that kind of shame is by continuing to tell my stories as if shaming didn’t matter. As if I was, in fact, shameless, in the best sense of that word.

That, and I’m going to make sure that the next time I go traipsing down the Internet rabbit hole in pursuit of stories being told about me? That I just don’t.

And With This, We Shall All Move On (Also, Unicorns!)

March 12, 2009

I’ve said my piece, and then some. Am talked out. Have been living too intensely in mah feelings for the last two days. (Oh, hey, guess what? I has feelings! Which, I know: shocking, seeing as I put my life on full display and so must be assumed to have skin thicker than a dinosaur’s, but there it is. If you prick me, I bleed. And then I blog about it, and angels weep and bunnies burst into flame and it all, you know, goes kinda badly.)

(I promise to wield my feelings more carefully in the future. Or maybe make sure that they’re not loaded before I start waving them around.)

(Anyway.)

I am done with hurt and defensive. Am moving on to happy! Let’s all be happy, ‘kay? Also: NICE.


I declare it International Nice Day Of Awesomeness And Unicorns. Go eat cake. Maybe say something nice to someone, tell them that they have nice shoes, that they’re a good mom or dad, that they have great taste in unicorns. Spread sparkles and rainbows. But mostly, eat cake.