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Archive for the ‘mothering’ Category

He’s here, and it seems like he’s been here forever already. (In a good way.)

In two weeks, we moved out of one house, into another, and then had the baby. And it all worked out pretty well. Now we’ll see when I get around to writing about any of it….

(Like writing about why I was hissing threats at certain maternity ward nurses as soon as they shut the door. Mean threats, too, about slapping them.)

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I can feel you watching me, hear the stifled giggle, and am fully aware of just how pathetic you think I am that I get this thrill from leaving my house in the evening to go by myself to a coffee shop to write on a laptop for an hour or two… Pretty exciting, right?

How do you like this, then: When I see a little toddler run by, I kind of miss my kids already, who are sprinting, wildly laughing, around their father’s legs in the kitchen while he tries to make them dinner.

(Don’t miss them enough to leave yet, though.)

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As soon as she sat her baby, who looked to be almost a year old, in the little firetruck, he screamed, twisted, turned red, and tried to claw his way out. So the mother picked him up, and she made her way through the overpriced, cutesy kid haircut place to a chair she could sit in while holding the child on her lap. He was just as furious. More kicking, clawing, and screaming.

In a packed waiting area, two compassionate souls stared at her and discussed:

“Why is she putting him through this?”

“Why doesn’t she just go?”

“The kid doesn’t even have any hair.”

“Why is she getting her picture taken?”

“What a waste of money.”

“Obviously her first kid.”

Perhaps these two have never had a difficult moment with their children, or have had them only in the privacy of their living rooms. What a dangerous game to gloat while another parent is having trouble; one stuck in the middle of a group of impatient people, no less, with nothing else to do but stare at her.

Really, how dare they.

Maybe she did just pay half her grocery bill for the “First Haircut Package”: We’ll take your picture with this crappy old camera that won’t even turn out well! We’ll let you take a lock of hair! We’ll charge you almost $30 for this! Maybe she’ll kick herself for it–or maybe she’ll treasure that picture.

Maybe she planned her whole weekend–all the naps, meals, snacks, car time–for this First Haircut, only to fall victim to the always fascinating unpredictability of babies.

Maybe this afternoon will roll right off her back–be nothing more than a funny story to tell her friends. You know how little Parker never cries, right? Well, you wouldn’t have believed the screams! I swear!

Maybe she was fighting back tears until she got to the car.

What does it matter? Since when do the parents whose children are impeccably behaved at one particular moment in time and space get to revel in another parent’s struggle and decide they know better?

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ultrababy.jpg

That blob is, so they tell me, not a seahorse attempting to grow limbs, but a little tiny baby-to-be. 8 weeks down, 32 million weeks to go.

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If you know me, or read this blog, you probably know that I have always valued myself above all else–I don’t really care much for my family and friends or strangers as long as I get my way. I’m also very uncomfortable about being a mother at home, mostly because of things I don’t understand, and I’ve only a residual feminism left–sort of like the flour that I’m trying to brush off my shirt after making pizza dough with toddlers this morning.

Wait a second. Actually, that’s not right at all. Although, if one reads my responses to bluemilk’s ten questions about feminist motherhood, and takes bits out, and twists and turns them to suit, I suppose that this is the impression one could create. At least, this person did on his self-proclaimed conservative web site. The post has the feel of a jigsaw puzzle completed with no attempt to actually make the pieces fit together. He read responses from several mothers, and slipped some impressively condescending language into his analysis–if “an analysis” means “a mis-understanding and mis-reading.”

This person, or anyone else, is welcome to anything I read or say, and welcome to use it or abuse it. No problem at all.

A word of advice, however.  Better evidence and more convincing data for the conservative and/or anti-feminism stance must exist than, say, my life, or it is an even less credible viewpoint than I thought. Manipulating a few details of these feminist mothers’ lives into an erroneous portrait of who they are will not further any anti-feminist crusade because, very simply, the conclusions are incorrect.

I don’t want to speak for the other mothers mentioned, but in the little section devoted to me, I found such ludicrous conclusions made about my life that it amused me. The section I’m referring to is tacked onto the end of this post, but it would be too tiresome to go through and explain how wrong it all is sentence by sentence. Instead, I can sum it all up pretty easily like this:

1. The most amusing conclusion, perhaps, is that I’ve valued autonomy and independence above all else. That seems lonely. I’m glad it’s not me. (The “Me do it myself,” anecdote was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that I have not needed or valued assistance in carrying out my responsibilities successfully so much until now. There’s no lunch break or sick day when you’re taking care of children, and I’m very lucky to have the support that I do. Parents who do not have reliable support, and can still do this, are remarkable in their strength and capabilities.)

2. There’s nothing residual about my feminism. Having children was, for me, one of the life experiences that made me more feminist than ever, and more aware of oppressive gender constructs–for boys as well as girls–than ever.

3. I’m not conflicted or confused about my own decision to follow
“a traditional gender pattern of stay at home motherhood.” (Although . . . is it awfully traditional in a conservative definition of “stay-at-home motherhood” to be spending all this time writing and reading about feminist motherhood? To have feminist principles central to our childrearing practices?) It is, instead, the stereotypes and the mistaken conclusions about mothers and parents at home with children that piss me off and leave me without a whole lot to identify with out there–thank goodness again for the mothers I can communicate with through blogs . . . and the rare alone and relaxed conversation time with mother friends in real life.

An excerpt from the post to which I was referring:

Marjorie was the second feminist mother interviewed. She too is a woman who followed an autonomist culture by valuing independence above all else, by intending to remain childless and by intending to return to work once she had children. Again, though, after she had children she began to value family more highly than these forms of autonomy:

I am shocked and bewildered by how much I love my kids and love mothering them. I have a vague recollection of swearing I would never have children (and double- and triple-swearing that I would never have children), but I can’t remember why now …

I have also been surprised that I absolutely need my husband and family and friends to get through it all. I think I first said, “Me do it myself,” at two years of age and said it until the moment before Martin was born. I absolutely need them to help me.

I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed my career in a negative way because the alternative was sacrificing this time with my children, which, to me, would have been the worse option. I thought I was going back to work, but I didn’t even consider it once I had the baby.

The one aspect of patriarchy theory Marjorie still clings to is that of gender being an unnatural, oppressive construct. Yet, given that she herself is following a traditional gender pattern of stay at home motherhood, she feels conflicted:

I sometimes feel compromised and have trouble identifying as a feminist mother since I get so bogged down by the stay at home mother/housewife stereotype.

It’s a pity she doesn’t realise that once you no longer hold autonomy to be the one, overriding value, there is no reason to judge the traditional female role as inferior and therefore no need to attack gender as an oppressive construct. Her residual feminism is making her feel unnecessarily uncomfortable in what she is doing.

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1.  I saw a mother pushing a stroller down the street this morning. She had bright pink hair that stuck up all over her head, and she was covered with tattoos, most of which were red. She wore an orange dress with very big black boots.

2.  This afternoon, at a play place with a big bouncy thing, I watched a mother with two elementary-aged children. She was jumping higher and laughing harder than any child. Other parents sat in the convenient laptop and coffee section.

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Mothers:

Today my sister and I brought dinner to a woman who just had a baby. She lives in a giant house, brand new. The problems she speaks of the most, publicly at least, revolve around the new stove acting up and an incorrectly laid teak floor. On the way home, we stopped at the drugstore, and while waiting in the parking lot, I saw another mother, still in her fast-food restaurant apron, rushing into the store while clutching a two year old in her arms. Her hair flying, her face splotchy, her car dented and rusted.

Jackasses:

On the way home from the drugstore, we waited at a red light and watched two men in a truck try to get the attention of a woman in a convertible next to them. She glanced over at them as they leaned out the window and shouted to her, then she quickly looked straight ahead. They continued to yell to her, laughing and hanging out their windows over her car. She kept pulling up, trying to get away without escaping into a crush of speeding traffic.

Predator:

That evening, I went to the grocery store, the fanciest one in my little suburban bubble. But it was dark, and when I pulled into the parking spot in a distant part of the lot, I noticed a man sitting alone in the car next to me. I thought, ‘No way. Park somewhere else.’ Then, ‘Grow up. He’s just a man in a car.’ But he was a man sitting alone in a car in a dark parking lot, and when I made eye contact with him . . . he seemed creepy. I moved. (He was probably a saint–waiting to pick up a friend or partner so she wouldn’t have to walk through that same dark parking lot.) Why did I assume predator?

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