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Ceridwen + Rebecca
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the fed factor: parenting lessons from the court
I am obsessed with Roger Federer. I sit in front of the TV talking about the many, many ways in which the man just gets it right. Look at those other players, grunting, cursing, futzing with their shirts, grabbing towels every five seconds, adjusting what seem to be costume pirate bandanas on their heads. And over on the other side is Federer, calmly and sweatlessly crushing in his elegantly tailored black togs. He doesn't have a coach. He doesn't need to discuss an opponent's game “for an hour,” he says he can size it up in "15 seconds." Then at the end of the match he’s charming, gracious and humble. What does this have to do with motherhood? More than you might think.
We’re a generation of over-coached parents. How can we trust our instincts when we are bombarded with so many opinions and conflicting data? Getting just the right amount of information in the age of information might just be the key to success. Federer is not without coaching. He has had the best training. But then at a certain point he walked away. And let himself be the authority. When you trust yourself you’re less likely to screw up. Or second guess. And you’re more likely to feel great about what you’ve accomplished. So if we are to apply to the Fed Factor to parenting it would go like this:
• Information and opinions should be in service of your instincts. Read the basic spread of info and walk away. Your ability to adapt and think on your feet will be undermined if there are too many voices in your head.
• Never be smug about success. Accept that as a mother you are never “done.”
You won the Grand Slam today (the baby slept through the night), but there are other Grand Slams (nights) to come.
• Acknowledge your work. Fed is not afraid to say “I played really well.” There’s no false modesty. There’s no, gee wiz. You are working hard. Own it!
• Wear clothes that fit. You are busy (playing the US Open/raising kids), you should not have to deal with a wedgie.
Care Bears on Fire (this is not a recall)
Fresh off the family Mac and onto YOUTUBE, Brooklyn pre-teen band, The Care Bears on Fire have released their new video !
Ahh... the skateboarding, the hipster kids, the basement in the 3 million dollar brownstone are all so easy to mock and, well, envy. But come on! I listened to "Kids in America" as a pre-teen and wore new wave boatnecks. And I performed. It was Annie Get Your Gun rather than the Gun Club, but still the 8th graders I partied with were all about putting on a show. Aw shucks, it's such an innocent time- right before the other (adolescent and crushingly self-conscious) shoe drops! Makes perfect sense and frankly the Care Bears are WAY sweeter to these ears than The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow. AND music is marketed to kids! Why not let them in on the action? OK,that's my defense. Somehow I felt I needed to mount it even though the kid rock trend is doing just fine without me.
taking drugs to make art for other people to not take drugs to
The other day, I took my four year old and nine month old to the big summer show at the Whitney: Summer of Love: The Art of Psychedelia. My son went nuts in the room with the strobe lights and the dayglo tiled floor. The baby was Oh!ing with excitement at every turn. And you should have seen her rocking to the fuzz-wah riff in "Defecting Grey", silhouetted against an oil and water film backdrop. There were a few other kids at the show, and they were all really into it. Now and again a passerby would complain to their cohorts about it being inappropriate; drugs and sex and all. While I did stop short of the explicit Yayoi Kusama film (annoyingly enough, for me) there was nothing else in the show that felt wrong for my son to see. In fact, it seemed to be right up a kid's alley. Bright colors, great music, fun shapes… what's not to like? I've often thought that the Baby Einstein videos were oddly similar to psychedelia. I curled into a half-womb segment of Panton's Phantasy Landscape Visiona II , switched the audio tour to the Velvets and watched my kid climb crazy over the art.
It was strange to return home from this groovy wonderworld to the (very minor and possibly contrived) controversy of Babble's pot mom story . The Three Martini Playdate is a well-marketed parenting ethos, complete with a sequel. But one toke, and the pot mom gets, gotta say it, stoned by the villagers. I'm not suggesting that piece would have been any better received had she said she was taking swigs of vodka out of a flask…or maybe I am. Cocktails are the acceptable freedom of autonomous adults. Pot is for the young and irresponsible. A glass of wine or two? Of course, mommy's gotta unwind. But no one's going to say that being high around your kids is ok. We just don't live in that kind of world. But we don't live in the kind of world that people who chastise mothers who smoke talk about either, where everyone sits in lifeguard chairs waiting at the ready for a threat.
In this world, parents wouldn't be impaired or distracted in any way. No phone calls, no checking email, no cooking dinner. True, these things don't affect your nervous system. but they certainly affect your attention. And don't they affect your response time? Many of the angry mobsters railed at the idea that as a parent, you need to be ready to act at any instant. What if that instant happens while you're finally on the phone with the insurance company after twenty minutes on hold? Or while the UPS guy's buzzing, or your office suddenly needs a file that you swear was right here on your desktop yesterday? Pot may impair your reflexes, but from what I can remember from my own wild oats, whenever something scary happened while I was impaired, the buzz vanished instantly.
Although my parents were less hippies than "hippie style", there was some passing of joints around the Passover seder. Oral history has me arbitrating the order of smokers at a Tanglewood concert circa 1973.* I have not repurposed my son's preschool bossiness in such a manner and have no intention of making pot smoking part of his family experience...especially not after my just-say-no-fueled confrontation of my mom, at the aforementioned seder table.) Using drugs of any kind to "get through" something (parenting or otherwise) is a semi-questionable situation. While neither of us here at thenewmom has personally smoked pot in quite awhile, we do have a deep respect for its benefits (from a purely hypothetical/historical standpoint). There must be a reason that stoned people and children have a shared appreciation of things. Could shared appreciation lead to more attention, rather than less? They recently discovered that driving while talking on the phone is actually more dangerous than driving drunk.
So who knows?
*my mother would like you to know that she "hardly ever smoked pot". Also, she says, it was the time.
rich people can afford more things!
I just listened to this NPR report about how wealthier families are having tons of kids: "In the world of the wealthy, 4 has become the new 2." Women interviewed in Darien, Connecticut claim that jealousy and baby lust are part of what drive them to get knocked up again and again. One mom says she feels the otherwise thankless job of raising kids is "validated" when there are four to handle. And Jill Kargman, author of Momzillas, suggests this is rerouted "career ambition"; that these moms are engaging in "competitive birthing." On some level it's happening just because it can: money does make a difference. And it's not just childcare (poor people use childcare all the time; they have to work). It's being able to hire someone to come over and put training wheels on all the bikes. It's being able to afford 100K for school tuition each year. Little things like that.
These things have been floating around the baby product blogosphere for the past few days and I have to say, I find them pretty cute. I love the nod to the actual efforts of mothering. Plus I'm a sucker for an embroidered nipple.
Good presents after various insane accomplishments (that 11 hour plane trip with a screaming baby?) Or buy them yourself to trick out your sling/stroller/bra.
playing with kids, it's just NOT NATURAL
Rebecca and I were just talking about how hard it is to get down and play with cars and trucks and knights and "guys" with our sons. I was somewhat pathetically pitching the idea that building things (with blocks) can alleviate some of the boredom- you can channel energy into an awesome fire house instead of fighting fake fires all morning. But the truth is we both find it weird, boring, awkward... It's not coming to us in some organic, natural way: should we really be pretending to be three-year-olds? When my kid first started saying, "Moooooommmmmy, come and play!" I regretted not having conceived a playmate sooner. Only MINUTES after our conversation, I read this. And learned that maybe playing with preschoolers is, indeed, not the most natural thing in the world. But yet another trapping of my abysmally thoughtful middle-class life. Not sure what my options are though. Really, he gets plenty of TV and is ignored as much as human(e)ly possible. And, on that note, there's a fire in the hallway I need to go put out.
coming out about co-sleeping
A nicely argued case for co-sleeping.
the family that orders together stays together
Last week in the New York Times, Leslie Kaufman wrote all about how she manages to actually cook for her family. It was somewhat of a throw-back article from a career woman, but I was truly inspired to follow her lead and get back to the cooking I once loved. I actually planned the week's meals on Sunday- I really did! We made it through two nutritious nights of home-cooked food (granted both involved cous-cous, but the idea is this is supposed to be doable). Day Three we were slotted for veggie burgers but after a long, late afternoon romp in the park involving me and another mother shouting, "Who's the dirtiest?" as our kids competed for how disgusting they could get (mine figured out he could mat his hair with dirt and may have won the prize), I gave into to two jumbo slices of pizza on the way home. Sorry. It's New York. I am pregnant and have a three-year-old and when he called out, "PIZZA!!" I was right there with him. So, I couldn't make it to Day Three without take-out. But hey, I read an extra book to my son with the 5 minutes I'd saved by not having to steam the cous-cous! And the veggie burgers haven't spoiled.
grown women don't hate their mothers. weird.
Stephanie Rosenbloom of the NY Times reports that some women in their 20s and 30s are actually close with their mothers. Maybe too close. Maybe weirdly close. I guess this trend could be seen as remarkable or even shocking, but unhealthy? Only at the very end of the piece does Rosenbloom come around to the idea that these relationships might be a good thing. The bulk of the article struck me as very odd:
One would think that after giving birth to, nursing, teaching and disciplining a daughter for 18 years, a mother might want some distance.
Are mothers really just begrudgingly logging time until the gig is up and they can book a cruise? I mean we all need distance, but is it good for us or normal to cut ties at 18? Isn't that an invented idea? (That maybe came about at the same time as the concept of the "teen.")
I think we live in a culture where there is too much isolation between generations. If this is indeed a trend-- and it seems a fairly understudied area--I think it sounds like a cause for celebration.
one very crabby mommy
If you've been looking for the AbFab of rural mommy blogs, look no further: Here's Crabmommy, a former Brooklyn mom decamped to Wyoming where she crab-parents her crabtot with serious rural panache. Just to give you a sense of it, here's the start of entry called "The Cure for Whining."
I cannot tolerate whining. From children. In my opinion only mothers should be allowed to whine. Our voices are (generally) deeper and our reasons for whining (always) more compelling. And as you know, I love a good whine. I try to whine about something at least twice a day, and indeed, I think mothers should be encouraged to whine whether it comes naturally to them or not. But children can and should be trained not to. Especially if they live in Wyoming and have rural western accents at age two. Rural western accent+carping/whinnying =appalling din.
She goes on to give actual, useful tips for shutting up your whining kid.
What she has to say about spanking is honest and interesting and certainly something people should talk more about. It's so easy to condemn spanking. Obviously, it's BAD bad. And ineffective. And not a good example. And reflective of a mother who is not ON TOP of her emotions. Etc. Etc. But Crabmommy gives her daughter the occasional whack on the leg-- when, for example, she lurches into the street, when she has, obviously, been told not to! If you're a loving mother and a guilty spanker, or you just want to read a very funny rant-- by a mother who takes the idea of "good enough" mothering very seriously--check it out. Here's a taste:
Do I “believe” in spanking? I don’t. I also don’t believe in wearing purple robes (or purple anything); nor do I believe in being mean to one’s really fantastic breadwinner husband; nor do I believe in eating lunch standing up, but these are all things that I do. And there are moments when I have and do spank Astrid, albeit not very effectively, with light taps on inward-arcing diapered bottom –the sort of weak hand-flaps that don’t do much of anything. But occasionally I slap a bare leg to sting. Occasionally I slap and mean it.
striving for imperfection day after day after ....
We're all about striving for imperfection over here at thenewmom. (In fact, "strive for imperfection" is one of the "anti-rules" we lay out in From the Hips.) And we're so happy to know that Judith Warner is there every week to help remind us exactly why it's so important! Today in her Domestic Disturbances column, she considers the positive influence a little early rejection may have for the kinds of super high-acheiveing, "amazing" girls profiled last weekend in the Times.
Many, I think, never figure out how to handle the emptiness that comes when the rush of achievement fades away, or the loneliness — the sense of invisibility — when no one is there to hand out yet another “A.” The fact is: when you are narrowly programmed to achieve, you are like a windup toy with only one movement in its repertoire. You’re fine when you’re wound up; but wind you down, and you grind to a halt. I think this is partly why so many grown-up amazing girls with high-earning husbands find themselves having to quit work when they have kids. They simply can’t perform at work and at home at the high level that they demand of themselves.
When I was pregnant I overheard a new mother answer that question about 'how she does it all' and she said, quickly, and with a smile, "Oh, it's easy: I suck at my job and I'm a terrible mom." It gave me great hope.
a completed task of one's own
This is literally late-breaking news (as in, it's late, it was broken on March 27th) but I have to blog about it because it applies to parenting and to women especially. The NY Times reported that multitasking is actually inefficient. When I read this I started waving my arms around and ranting at my husband, "See, there's proof!" I've always been cranky about multitasking but I've been even more cranky about the idea that women are *natural* multitaskers. I think it's been used as a tool of oppression. And I don't think it's true.
As a young woman it meant that I would be well-suited for an assistant/admin/"great organizational skills"/secretarial job or hosting/taking care of the house and career, etc. As a mother, it means I should have no problem shuttling from a toddler breakdown over a "crumped" cowboy hat, to writing a paragraph on the complicated issues raised by elective c-sections, to a call from UPS about a lost package. I hate this. And as the article points out, you screw up when you're juggling. Don't get me wrong: I'm not raging against multitasking mothers as individuals-- I'm one of them. Multitasking is quite simply the way my life is arranged. I cannot comprehend how parents/mothers survived without wireless 12" powerbooks for ordering groceries/conducting work from home/googling "red rash three year old". How could those moms have made it happen in Colonial Williamsburg??? (I guess they were shuttling between candle-dipping, fire-stoking and scarlett fever-tending.) I just object to the idea that us mothers are meant to be so divided. And that we don't crave a neatly compartmentalized (male) life where we can actually get things done (one at a time). Didn't Virginia Woolf once write an essay about all this?
the happy homemaker
Ladies, start your engines. In reverse. Caitlin Flanagan is here to tell you how much you are screwing up your lives, your kids and your marriages by not being a good housewife, old school style. Here's a long, remarkably evenhanded profile from Elle, and a short, suitably scathing quip from Gawker to tell you what it's all about.
Perhaps the most offensive nugget presented in the Elle piece is Flanagan's assertion that her husband's kindness after her chemo was payback for all those years of domestic servitude. "If marriage is like a bank account, filled not only with affection but also with a commitment to the other person's well-being as much as to one's own, I suppose my balance was high. I suppose that all the days I had made a home for my husband, and all the times I had ended my writing days early so that he could work late or come home to a hot dinner and not a scene of domestic chaos—all that, as much as the desire and intensity that originally brought us together, were stores in my account.”
First, there's the horrifying fact that she's implying those who don't similarly subvert themselves are less deserving of care. Then, there's the fact that a woman's "well-being" might actually benefit from being able to work late herself, or from just having a career at all. C.Flanagan simply doesn't seem to think this is so. The problem, for us, with her as so many of the other mommy reactionaries, is the homogeneity. How is it possible to steamroll details like financial need and personality and ambition and fulfillment out of the picture? Are we hoping that our ever-growing drug industry will smooth out the edges for anyone who isn't happy doing what Flanagan suggests? Little yellow pill style? Her technique seems to be to boldly deny difference, or to scare the dissenters into submission. Either way, yuck.
Ferber and Sears stepping off?
This article talks about how new books from both authors show slightly modified, softened versions of their former adamant positions: Ferber concedes that crying isn't always the solution, Sears offers that sometimes it is. It's a good politcal move for these best selling authors to show some veneer of acceptance. It's become too nasty and damning for parents and we're all beyond sick of it (even if the debates are slightly fun.)
But are they really making us feel better? In Sears' new book there's still a huge push for super attention (co-sleeping, all night breastfeeding) even if he eventually *allows* parents to let the kid cry but only if it's just gotten so bad you feel like throwing the kid out the window. Also, sounds like--we haven't yet read this one--Ferber isn't exactly making the parents of demanding sleepers feel all that good when he says, "some children such as those suffering from anxiety will not be helped by the crying method." Now he's saying my baby has an anxiety disorder? Harsh toke.
Seems like a lot of parents out there are quietly resisting the tyranny of the study. The New York Times reported yesterday that many parents are letting their babies sleep on their stomachs despite strong evidence that back sleep can prevent SIDS. Also, the breastfeeding advocates LLLI, have chimed in on the latest pro-pacifier/anti-co-sleeping recommendations from the AAP. They are not impressed (and even cite some studies to help explain why). These two organizations have more recently been very much in cahoots, especially with regards to the importance of breastfeeding. Maybe the warring officials are helping make way for more confident parental improvisation?
baby Kim Gordons
I just got my first "Mini Boden" catalog in the mail and flipped. The clothes are beautiful and the suntanned, surfer children wearing them are very sexy. I'm just going to have to have a girl and spend all our money on seductive Velour Bootlegs. Thing is, a funny feeling came over me as I perved the flowery tights... I made it go away by deciding that it's not that weird to dress your kid in the same clothes you wore when you were 22, fucked up, and trying to get laid.
another Modern Love mommy moment
What is it with this column? Are they actually looking for writers their audience will find irritating? Ever since Ayelet Waldman's "What's wrong with me for wanting to blow my husband more than I want to hug my children?" piece , which riled people up so much that it actually inspired an Oprah episode, I haven't met a Modern Love column I didn't hate. Or at the very least, Love/Hate.
Today's confessional comes from a Brooklyn mom who feels really really nostalgic for her messy youth...and who found reading her nanny's blog really really disturbing. I'm guessing most parents/employers would not be thrilled to hear the semi-sordid details this girl was disclosing, but I think the mom's response was equally creepy. Mostly I think this brings up some interesting issues about the deeply underappreciated value of childcare... what we expect from the people who care from our children, and how we deal with them when they don't meet our expectations. Here's the mom's side of the story, and the nanny's.
Some Father’s Day Observations from a Relatively New Father
I realize that Father's Day is just a marketing ploy, like Valentine's Day, or Yom Kippur, but I thought it might be nice to jot down a few thoughts I've had since the birth of my nearly one-year-old son.
I once joked that fatherhood is the hardest, least-rewarding thing I've ever done. It was just a joke, although for while there it was also true. But things really do change once your child starts to develop a personality and an ear-shattering shriek.
I've learned not to be disappointed that my eleven-month-old doesn’t “get” Motorhead. There’s time for everything. I have much to share.
It’s a cliché, but after witnessing my wife’s labor I really did understand how much stronger women are than men. And when I saw my son’s pinched face pop out, his mouth already twisted in a scream, I understood why we’re wired to forget the first few years of life. But, of course, there’s always a video camera to negate nature’s decision to delete.
Baby time is a very different reality. If I’m the one with our son I need to stay in baby time. Anything that needs to get done must get done in baby time, and most things will not get done. It can be magical, too, though hard to explain. It’s like taking mushrooms that way. I can spend a whole day with him and go through so many feelings and discoveries alongside him, but if you ask me what we did all I can say, is, “We went to the park.”
There are so many books about sleeping, about feeding, about almost everything to do with birth and early childhood. I’m glad my wife read them.
But, really, there are all these theories and experts and it can be somewhat paralyzing, but we’ve really come to terms with our approach. When somebody asks me our parenting philosophy, I reply confidently: “It’s parent-led but child-directed. We place a heavy emphasis on a strictly enforced schedule that changes daily. We are fierce proponents of breast-feeding, but not human breasts.” I guess we don’t really have a philosophy. We have a child.
When my wife and I were contemplating having a baby I asked my father how he and my mother came to the decision. His reply was, “What decision?” He didn’t mean I was an accident so much that couples of his generation didn’t agonize over the question. They just had the kids. It’s what you did. At the time, I envied the clarity, but now I’m grateful for all the hemming and hawing. When I look at my son, I see somebody with a lot of thought put into him. He was years in the making.
There is something beautiful, if a little disturbing, about waking in the middle of the night to find your wife sniffing your underwear. Some people walk in their sleep, others, often new mothers, mistake their husbands for their infant sons and check to see if they need a new diaper. It’s all part of the miracle of life. My job is to make sure I don’t, in fact, need a new diaper.
Getting around New York City with a baby via means other than feet is, quite frankly, kind of a pain in the ass. The initial shock I felt upon realizing that I could no longer just hail a cab and stuff baby and self in there continues to reverberate almost two years later. Now, plenty of people do just hoist kids of all ages into the back seat and pray...maybe this works better if you're a Hope For The Best type, but Imagine The Worst types (like me) may not find this solution feasible. In fact, if you happen to be both anxious and lazy, you may find that there are few options available to you in the world of public city baby transport that don't serve to discourage your escape from the house altogether.
Here's my breakdown of the major options and what sucks about them, just because that's the kind of mood I'm in.
TAXI: Cabs are exempt from the NY State law requiring all kids up to seven to ride in a carseat. But it is often pointed out that cabs, although yellow, are still cars, and cab drivers are not famous for their careful driving techniques. There is a periodic raging debate on Urban Baby about whether or it's ok to take a baby in a taxi. Some people schelp carseats on cab rides. This is no big deal in the infant seat phase, but far less convenient when you're talking about that behemoth of a toddler seat. We went so far as to have someone import a European baby carseat and kept stuffing our son in there when he was way too big in hopes that it would provide some protection...but we eventually had to let it go. There are also a couple of travel carset options, both of which I own, and both of which seem to be fairly flawed products: the Sit N Stroll (a carseat/stroller combo) and the Tote N Go (a portable carseat). With these options, it's easy to see why people might not even bother.
CAR SERVICE: I hear that there are car services which will come to your house with a pre-installed carseat. But I have had little luck with them: carseats have been the wrong size (like a toddler seat for an infant, and vice versa) or installed totally wrong. And since many people travel without carseats in car services (because they can) drivers tend to be cranky about complaints. Or maybe car service drivers tend to be cranky about complaints altogether. Hard to say.
SUBWAY: The umbrella stroller should make traveling by subway easy enough, except for one major aggravation. The MTA's elimination of token booth personnel has also eliminated the ability to exit most subway stations through the service gate. Leaving the station requires taking the baby out of the stroller, folding it up, carrying both, and squishing adult, baby, stroller, and any accompanying children into an obscenely small wedge of space on the way through the egress turnstile. I'm always afraid we'll get stuck somehow. And although I know that's my four year old self talking, I still worry about it.
BUS: That leaves the bus, transportation method of choice for New Yorkers too poor for cabs, and too old, scared, or otherwise unable to venture underground into the subway system. Contrary to my pre-birth fantasies, stroller-pushers cannot, like people in wheelchairs, simply wheel themselves onto the hydraulicly lowered bus. Strollers must be folded up and babies must be held. Why people think the bus is safe when a cab is not is a bit murky to me—something about less statistical chance of an accident. The bus works. But the bus, of course, is slow as snails.
So the situation leaves a lot to be desired...including, say, your own car. I see a business opportunity here. There's a doggie taxi, why not a baby transport service? Hmm. Let me know if you want to invest.
a new phase of parenting?
This morning Catherine Walsh writes in the Sydney Morning Herald about moms trying too hard to please their kids. It's another agood article about the need for a new "phase of parenting."
" ... Motherhood has probably never been more difficult. We do it in isolation, without preparation, without support. We do it in a world that values the economy over care. The expert advice keeps changing and we're constantly being told that we're wrong. No wonder mothers are crying.
But the present phase of parenting is taking a lot from mothers, without any benefit. We need a new parenting phase which empowers mothers. We give up enough to become mothers; to some extent our bodies, our sleep, earnings, friendships, hobbies. We don't need to sacrifice our self-respect..."
Judith Warner's Call to Arms
Whew. Just read PERFECT MADNESS: MOTHERHOOD IN THE AGE OF ANXIETY by Judith Warner. Ate it up. And now, as a card-carrying member of the bulimic generation, I feel the need to purge. How convenient that Rebecca and I just started a newmom blog. Here goes.
Warner describes a history of American ideas about mothering that is straight-up riveting (I read the book in about two days -- and felt pretty good about tossing my nine-month-old baby the remote control as I read, since Warner is sall about taking the edge off perfect parenting). Here’s the breakdown: Motherhood was meant to be an all-encompassing, total immersion style gig for women in 19th century (Saintly “good”) and in the first half of 20th century (promoted by experts to be scientifically “good”). Then, soon after those Beaver days of Spock and Valium, women started to make real progress. By the 70s moms were chilling out, feeling good about work, about motherhood, no drama, gleefully imperfect. It would have been considered fairly insane, for example, if a 70s mom had devoted all her time to researching brain-power activities or if her kid showed up with some insanely crafty Halloween costume. No, in those days moms were proud of their laid-back mothering and felt guilt-free in the work place. However, the 80s turned this hopeful working mom reality into a kind of power mom "you can have it all" movement. And the increasing “winner-takes-it all” reality of our economy was starting to make a decent life very hard to achieve. Meanwhile, all of us young moms-to-be were still in college learning that we had “it all” in addition to a kind of watered down feminism (politics of victimization, deconstructing Madonna). We started to wonder why we felt so crappy even though we had won the "choice" to do with our bodies what we wanted to do. So, we all started micromanaging our angst with a whole array of eating disorders. We learned that “control” was everything. Which has lead to some serious “control freakishness” in our grown-up mom lives. Perfection! I can do it all! If I get organized…
PART TWO: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Motherhood
According to Warner, we’re so busy wigging about whether we SUCK that we never stop to ask, why oh why isn't there any god damn support for us!? Is Warner blaming us (and our neurotic “dressing-on-the-side” narcissistic search for perfection) for dropping the ball on women’s rights? Not really. (You can tell she gets annoyed when yet another perky upper middle class friend of hers shows up for a dinner party with lactose intolerance, but…) In fact, in many wonderful ways this book is a call to arms. She points to how we have been systematically shafted. And paints a damn good picture of our lives and the big myth of all of our "choices."
Her point, in short, is that we DO NOT HAVE CHOICES. She argues rightly, for example, that women are basically meant to work (have sense of agency, and ability to provide) AND raise children. (She even uses one primate study to help with this claim.) She argues that we need to stop blaming ourselves and start demanding things like more support for daycare, less slanted studies about how important maternal bonding is, a better work reality (ie: not a 90 hour work week, etc). We need to banish this “Mommy War” idea. It is a lose-lose situation: We either live a somewhat mind-numbing Baby Einstein sing-a-long life all day, or we grind our asses in the workplace and feel like crap for missing our baby's first steps (not to mention wonder if our career is really *that* important when our whole salary is going to the nanny or daycare).
Despite all this drama and horror, this book made me feel great. It made me feel secure in my decision to send my infant to daycare and confident to back off from that feeling that mommy is "the only one" who can do this or that (the control freakishness). It made me feel like my desire to work was not in competition with my desire to nurture my baby. My feelings about the standards of public education and healthcare remained unshaken: As Warner explains, these are our real enemies.
What sucks about the book, however, is that for all her on-the-money descriptions (sometimes I felt like she had been spying on me for about 25 years), she keeps quoting women who say they want to be "PERFECT” moms. Who are these women? To give us credit, us bulimic daughters of the Reagan era are also the slacker, “grunge” generation of women who spent a fair amount of time rejecting notions of perfection (even as we spent good money "perfecting" our Courtney-Love-circa-Malibu hair-cuts in the late “boom" nineties). Maybe we do have a weakness for turning on ourselves when it gets rough (it's all *MY* fault things are not working out) but we are also a demanding new generation of moms, and I have some faith that we can start to turn the dial back to a more accommodating 70s-style momming (pass the Indian skirt and Molson Golden). Reading this book can help us see the light.
I just wish Warner could have peppered those quotes from high-achieving, super-perked NW Washington, DC moms with a few down-home quotes from some of the sisters I know who, when asked "How do you do it all?" say, with a smile, "That's easy, I suck at my job and I'm a lousy mom!"