Tag Archives: feminist

Are moms crazy?

I just finished a great read: Bye, Bye Black Sheep by Ayelet Waldman (2006, Berkeley Publishing Group). She writes “Mommy Track” murder mysteries where the main character solves mysteries in between diaper changes and carpool rides. Somehow I identify.

Read it, because it’s great. But I’m going to use it as a springboard to talk about something else: parental craziness.¬†Here’s a little excerpt.

“Juliet, now you’re talking like one of those neurotic, crazy mothers. Like that one who wanted to LoJack her kid. That’s not you.”

“But it is. It is me. I’m just like that LoJack nut. I am a LoJack nut! I’m just as worried that something terrible will happen to one of them as she is. I’m just as worried that Isaac will drink bleach, or get hit by a car, or that Ruby will get leukemia, or that they’ll become retarded from mercury poisoning because they eat canned tuna. I’m terrified that Sadie will fall off her changing table for the rest of her life. I’m just as crazy as the rest of the moms — the only difference is that I do a better job of faking it.” ¬†(p. 113)

Freaking out over everyday dangers – that is me and every single other mom I know.

Why does it happen? Maybe because everybody is telling us things like, “You LEFT your child in the CAR when you went into the gas station? Don’t you know what MIGHT HAPPEN if you leave your child IN THE CAR????” If we’re crazy it’s because the world is telling us to be. But wait, there’s more. This is the part that I love.

(Although the plot deals with women from many walks of life, here she’s talking specifically about women trained for professional careers who have left those careers for kids – something else I really identify with.)

“Add to these factors educated and competent mothers trained for professions they no longer practice, who have turned aside from the futures they once expected for themselves to focus their attention and ambition solely on their children. These children are valuable beyond measure, because we’ve sacrificed ourselves for them and to them. We now understand that we are as able and skilled as men, that we can do the work of the marketplace as well as they can, but we have left that work to raise these children, not because we have to–most of us–but because we want to. These children must be worth our sacrifice, they must be extraordinary, and they must be safe. We cannot risk the possibility of anything happening to the precious focus of our lives.

“For those mothers who have not willingly paid the professional price, guilt provides the same motivating force. It ratchets up the value of their children so that harm to them is intolerable, and all too easily imagined.” (pp 189-190)

I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, but that’s it exactly.

Of course I don’t love my kids any more because I left a career to care for them. But I get what she’s saying about the price thing. My self-worth, sense of confidence, when most of my work is either childcare or some other unpaid pursuit, in a culture that expects success in the marketplace, is, well, complicated.

To put it another way, we went to school for twelve or sixteen or twenty years and worked our butts off to be good at some pursuit. We were told to give it one hundred percent and then we went in to jobs and were asked to work overtime. And then we left the workforce and are expected to raise kids. (Or didn’t leave the workplace but are expected to do the same things for their kids.) What are we going to do? Give it one hundred percent, work overtime.

And worry overtime.

Not only about our children’s safety, but about their physical, mental, and emotional health, their intellectual growth, their academics, and so on.

So the next time you see a parent with unrealistic expectations for their child or concerns that seem blown way out of proportion, try not to be too judgmental. We’re that way for a reason.

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The freedom of free time

This week I’m thinking about free time – mine, my kids’, my husbands. We all seem to have precious little of it. All summer I’ve been looking forward to the time when my kids would go back to school and I would have “six hours” a day. What I forgot is how much of that “six hours” goes to necessary work like housecleaning, grocery shopping, making food, setting up various doctors’ appointments, filling out paperwork for the kids’ school and teachers, and so forth. That’s just the basics. There’s always something more, like camping, a remodel, activism, keeping up on the Chicago teachers’ strike . . .

Anyway, six hours goes fast when you nibble away at it like that.

Meanwhile, my kids . . . when I was in second and third grade, I don’t think I had homework. Well, they have homework. It’s my job to be the big bad boss lady and stop them from having fun so they can do it. I was on board with the concept last year, but this year I’m feeling rather grouchy and rebellious. Somehow, what with the time it takes for dinner, bedtime routines, and homework, they really only get one or two hours to play after school, and it shows. In particular, my son totally zones out. All he had to do last night was fill out a reading log with what he’d read . . . and what with one thing and another, it took him a half hour. He wasn’t like that over the summer. He could manage his routines when there weren’t so very many of them.

My younger daughter, meanwhile, has begun to verbally articulate her need for play. This started over the summer, when she suddenly started noticing it and complaining when we overscheduled our days. It’s a good thing, because otherwise, I honestly wouldn’t have noticed. Now when she throws fits over having to stop an activity, and says, “I NEVER get any time to play!” I get it.

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Play is important, both for grownups and for kids. It teaches you to learn for fun, not because you have to. It’s how you learn to be creative. It’s also how you learn who you are as a person – when there’s nothing particular you absolutely have to do, what do you choose?

My mom was one of the rebellious few who, during the feminist movement, chose to stay at home with me and my brother, and that’s one of the best things she could ever have done for me. It gave me hours and hours of freedom, and it gave me a role model who worked hard but also wasn’t afraid to laze around the house. So I have some expectations for me-time that maybe other people don’t. My expectations may often be thwarted, but on the other hand, maybe that’s why, when I say I’ve written a story or done this or that, people say, “But how did you find the time?”

How do you find the time for ANYTHING? is my response.

Information Overload

Tunisia, Egypt, Wisconsin, Libya.

Governments taking up arms against their citizenry.

We’re in the midst of social change, and the reports are coming instantly.
One Facebook, three blogs, one set of forums, two email accounts, one wiki, one blog reader.

Ten books about Sumer.

Kids off school for the week and myself not writing, to say any of what I am thinking about any of this.
Information overload, and I am not alone in that. It’s hard to write online thoughtfully and especially hard to give the online written word the sustained attention it needs.

On top of this, I have commenced my second weight loss attempt through Weight-Watchers, which I expect to be successful, but which I bitterly resent, especially having recently read somewhere that at any given moment, thirty percent of women are dieting.

For most of human history, though, and in most places in the world, the main struggle for humanity has been to get enough food in our bellies.

Which brings us back to Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Full circle.