Her Bad Mother

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Motherhood is Boring - Globe and Mail article, by popular demand

(Disregard the date of this post - I needed a page for this piece for linkage purposes and there was this handy draft space in my archives...)

What follows is Rebecca Eckler's Globe and Mail article - the article that spurred a few blog posts 'round the blogosphere and was cause for my very first live media appearance as Her Bad Mother. (Woops - second media appearance, second to my AlphaMom interview, which has not yet appeared, which perhaps does make the CH-TV appearance the first...)

ANYWAY. Here it is. Again, I am not the author; I'm just quoted. I discussed it here.


Motherhood is Boring...

Or at least that's what a new wave of outspoken mothers think. As REBECCA ECKLER reports, these women find kid's birthday parties deadly, watching Barney tedious. And they aren't afraid to share the dirty secret of parenting -- Mother Love doesn't always conquer all.

(By Rebecca Eckler. This article originally appeared in the Focus section of The Globe and Mail, Saturday, August 19, 2005.)

I would do anything to not go to the playground," Cara says. "I am bored to tears in playgrounds."

The mother of two children under the age of 10, the 39-year-old Calgary lawyer also hates kids' birthday parties and took only three months of maternity leave -- both times. She now has a live-in nanny who she says "basically raises my kids."

Cara is not alone. American expatriate Helen Kirwan-Taylor recently admitted in Britain's Daily Mail that her children "bore her to death." In her new book, Mommies Who Drink, U.S. actress Brett Paesel confesses she would rather hit happy hour with her friends than have "fun with felt." And the blogosphere is exploding with posts from mothers telling the dirty truth that motherhood is, well, mind-numbing.

Dubbed SMUMs -- smart, middle-class, uninvolved mothers -- these women are no longer willing to feign interest in watching Barney for the 538th time. They've lived and learned before having children. They've travelled. They've worked. They are adamant that Mother Love does not (and should not) conquer all. You could even call them a new wave of straight-talking feminists.

Take Amalia Jimenez. The Torontonian says bluntly, "We would be in complete denial to say that every element of child rearing is interesting. In one of my postpartum moments, with three sons, I looked at my mother in terror and said, 'When does it ever stop?' She said, 'Never!' I started to sob."

Ali Martell, a children's book editor and the mother of two young children, is equally frank. Her version of freedom is leaving her kids behind (at least sometimes): "You envy your single friends, the ones who can just go out at a moment's notice for dinner, or a movie, or even to the supermarket without having to think about the kids first."

Or, as journalist Ms. Kirwan-Taylor put it so candidly, she finds taking her kids to the park 'tedious" and can't bear a family film outing without "texting friends."

"Research tells us that mothers drink the most when they have young children," she wrote. "Is that because talking to anyone under the age of 10 requires some sort of lobotomy?"
Of course, as Ms. Paesel points out, mothers have been complaining subtly about the monotony of parenting for years.

But she says, "In the past, the complaining has been accompanied by equivocation. A mother might say, 'I adore my children, but sometimes I think it might be fun to have a few minutes to myself.' When said that way, no one hears it. Everyone hears it when you say, 'My children bore me to death.' "

Catherine Connors is one mother who avoids equivocation. A former university instructor, she now writes a weblog called Her Bad Mother that pulls no punches about the downside to breeding. "Mommy bloggers remind each other all the time that bitching and moaning does not equal bad mother," she says. "Those who complain about motherhood, especially if they do so intelligently, let other women and mothers know that it's okay to be honest about what motherhood is really like."

Joanne Snider goes one step further. "People who admit it's boring are heroes," says the 37-year-old single mother of a 17-year-old son. "Some parts of parenting, no matter what age your children are, are dull as dishwater. That's okay. For people to pretend all of it's exciting is a big lie, and doesn't serve anyone."

Which raises the question: Why the backlash, more painful than natural childbirth, against women like Ms. Kirwan-Taylor? In the aftermath of her article, the 42-year-old has said she's the most "vilified" woman in England because she doesn't find changing diapers "interesting."

Are modern mothers, who have grown up in wealthy and democratic countries, believing the world is their oyster, simply spoiled? Or selfish?

Sarah Bingham, a mother of two and the founder of an on-line directory for new and expecting parents called Canadianbabies.ca, thinks spending time with your kids is part of a mother's job description. She says parenting is about balancing and that "uninvolved" mothers are really "unattached" mothers.

"Parents bored of their children? Come on! . . . Find a way to get involved with your children and spend time with them," she says, listing off mother-child activities such as movies for mommies, sign-language classes and infant massage.

But Ms. Paesel suggests that the hostility of what some call Martyr Mommies or sanctimommies against SMUMs isn't totally selfless. "We all were children once. And we find it hard to accept that possibly we weren't endlessly fascinating to our parents," she says.

"I remember being hurt when my mother revealed to me that the happiest time of her life was the period when she went back to work after I was in high school. Now, I think it's wonderful she didn't build her existence around me. But at the time, I thought, 'How can raising me not have been the most fulfilling thing on the planet?' "

(Interestingly, although Ms. Kirwan-Taylor's son defended her in an interview, saying he would be driven to drink if he were a mother, one reader wrote in response to her piece: "There's nothing more calculated to demolish your sense of self-worth than a parent who doesn't think you're the centre of their universe.")

Devra Renner and Aviva Pflock, authors of Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters, and Raise Happier Kids, on the other hand, see wider social pressures at work in the outrage against bored mothers. When women admit that mothering isn't always as fulfilling or exciting as getting a new haircut, they rebel against notions that women have some sort of inborn, single-minded maternal instinct. (Where these women's husbands are in the child-centric debate is another issue.)

"Women are not supposed to feel negative about mothering," Ms. Renner says. "We define 'mommy guilt' as all the negative emotions associated with parenting: anger, frustration, lack of control, fear, sadness, boredom. These are things that society does not support women feeling when it comes to taking care of our own children."

Dare we ask Ms. Pflock, a child-development specialist and mother of three, if she finds motherhood boring herself?

"Of course it is. As is our work, as is our favourite hobby -- even a marriage or other relationships can be, at times, boring. Not everything in life is going to entertain us all the time. There may even be entire segments of parenting you find boring, not just a day or a time of day. One mother may love thinking up activities to entertain her preschooler all day long, while another can't wait for all-day kindergarten to start. As long as we love and care for our children in a way that is fulfilling to everyone over the course of time, we are doing just fine."

So live dangerously -- it's okay to give Barney a pass.

Rebecca Eckler writes for The Globe and Mail's Style section and is the author of two memoirs: Knocked Up and the upcoming Wiped!, about her first two years of motherhood.

A roller skating jam called Saturday

*Edit - because, in addition to being a scatterbrain, I have far too many things to say (such that my part-Irish mother likes to say, as her uncle said of her, that I not only kissed the Blarney Stone, I swallowed it) and can never remember everything that I need, er, want, to say... a note has been added below.

From the look of my blogging to-do list, there is going to be some Very Heavy Blogging going on over the coming week or two. And we kicked things off good the other day with the morose reflection on death and the human tendency to accidental cruelty that was this post. So before we go wandering any further in the Forests of Deep Thoughts and dipping our toes in the Swamps of Despair and trying our hand in the Boxing Ring of 21st Century Feminism (where I will take on both Caitlin Flanagan and Linda Hirshman at the same time, in a frenzied smackdown that will involve pinching, name-calling and the bashing together of feminist heads. Are you ready to rrrruuuuummmble?!?!?), we need a little ephemera. To lighten things up...

1) Why the It's Not Easy Being Green Dancers will not appear on America's Got Talent.

Because - need I actually spell this out for you? - it is beneath them. What greater insult to their art than to be placed alongside Bobby Badfingers (um, eww) and a dancing, milk-spraying cow and judged by the Dark Lord of the Dregs of Inexplicably Popular Culture?

And, because Kermie lost a leg in a crawl-by gumming.

It was entirely coincidental that, instead of Gerber's Gourmet, WonderBaby dined on cuisses de grenouilles en bechamel that evening.

2) Zanta strikes again:

Dateline: Bloor West Village, 3:45 pm Tuesday June 20, 2006

Yep, that's WonderBaby in the foreground. Completely non-plussed, intent as she was on gumming that bicky into submission while fighting sleep. And that woman behind him, in the polyester slacks, with the home perm and the shades? No idea who she is. But moments after this picture was taken, she dropped to the ground and did a rolling side-kick to the back of Zanta's knees and took him down. It was beautiful.

3) You tell me. Lance Armstrong or Steve Zissou?

The Life Aquatic, Tour de France style.

4) Toronto Mama real life liquor-soaked playgroup bloggin' has gone off-site, to another blogspot location. (No, I am not trying to turn the blogosphere into my own little SimCity. And no, I am not making a run at world domination. I prefer to think of my efforts as falling somewhere between those of Pericles and Mr. Rogers. More Sesame-Street-gone-Socratic than SimCity or world-historical empire-building.)

And this little project is, for the moment, largely functioning in a blog-decluttering capacity. My last handful of posts have all had Toronto Activity Announcements tacked onto them and, you know, that kind of stuff can really interfere with the clean poetic lines (cough) of an otherwise tidy (cough) post. So. All discussion of mama-blogger things Torontonian (that is, at least, those things coming from this corner) will now occur over here, a place that I was so tempted to call Her Bad Mother's Backyard, or Her Bad Mother's 'Hood, but that I don't want it to be entirely mine. (This isn't BadMotherVille. If anything, it's WonderBabyLandia, but we're trying to discourage imperial impulses 'round here these days.) Check it out, and check back for latest news about the upcoming get-together.

Deep Reflection Bloggin' and Feminist Smackdown Bloggin' to commence shortly...


Please visit the Basement for a cookie and chat with our current visitor. While you're there, you might also check the back corner, where there is a Dad - yes, a DAD - venting over a beer. Give him your support, 'cause Dads need love, too...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sticks and Stones

There are about six thousand things that I'm sitting on posting about.

Okay, maybe just ten:

1) The fate of Kermit, and why the It's Not Easy Being Green Dancers will never end up on America's Got Talent.
2) What America's Got Talent, and the presence of David Hasselhoff thereon, reveals about America's Capacity for Irony. And the decline of Western Civilization.
3) My further thoughts (which, I know, you all BURN to hear) on Caitlin Flanagan, provoked by this.
4) My confusion around when the right time might be to beg the storks to bring a little sister or brother for WonderBaby to tyrannize, thereby redirecting her tyrannical energies away from me. (For the record, I'm pretty much feeling exactly what Amy is.)
5) My confusion around whether or not to begin weaning WonderBaby.
6) Why I have to break up with my playgroup/mom's group.
7) The painful and confusing experience this week of being broken up with by a old friend for not rising above the pressures of new motherhood to be more social when I am clearly capable of being social because I BLOG. (Which would be the most hurtful and confusing thing in my week so far, were it not for a) the head-piercing ear-ache that I am currently suffering, b) terrible family crap, and c) what I've written about below.)
8) Relatedly, why it is really, really hard, as a new mother, to not only 'be social' beyond the playground, but to be ANYTHING BUT A MOTHER, and why that can really interfere with what other people consider to be normal everyday life as an adult with adult relationships.
9) More details on the effort that I am making to be social with real-life moms - because contact with other moms is vital to survival - who also happen to be bloggers (TO Mama-Bloggers-Get-Together Inaugural Event!) and a notice that there is a Dad - yes, a DAD - in the Basement, venting.
10) My second run-in with Zanta.

I have spewed out this list of posts because they are pounding on my brain and hurting my head. They'll all get posted. But not today. Today, I am sick. And overwhelmed by some family issues. And run to the ground by WonderBaby-Gone-Turbo. So I was not going to post. I've been resisting posting since yesterday.

But something is really, really bothering me.

The other night, I received an e-mail from my sister. Among other things, she said this:

"I have to plan for the talk I am giving Tanner's class about Muscular Dystrophy. It came out last week that some kids are telling Tanner he is going to die soon..."

Children in my nephew's kindergarten class are telling him that he is going to die. Which is especially disturbing - for those of you who do not know the full story about my nephew - because it is true. He has Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy. His muscles are wasting away. When the muscles that are his heart and lungs give out - most likely while he is still very young - he will die.

Which is something that, as you can imagine, is handled with the utmost delicacy by his family. Tanner knows that there is a problem with his muscles. He knows that he has to see doctors all the time. He knows that he has to use leg braces, and that there is a wheelchair waiting for him. He knows that he has a very special wish because of these things. But he has not fully understood that this all means that he is going to die, and what it means that he is going to die.

Death is pretty abstract for young children. But even in kindergarten, they know that it has something to do with going away forever. They know - they worry - that it might hurt. Tanner worries. He knows that death has something to do with him. He just can't yet understand what or why that is.

Which is why it is that these children taunting him about death is so hurtful. His proximity to death isolates him. It's what makes him different. But unlike having red hair or an accent, it's not something that he can embrace. The fact of death being in his future in a way that it is not for other children is a painful thing. And so, by calling him out for it, these children are hurting him. Badly.

I'm not angry at the children. They're confused by death, and by Tanner. But they're confused because they don't understand, and they have not been encouraged to understand. Tanner has been excluded from the social world of children since he was diagnosed with DMD. He has never been invited to a playgroup, or to a birthday party (and in the latter case, he is always the only child in the class that is excluded.) When his mother approaches other mothers about playdates, excuses are made. The other children do not play with him. He is isolated among them because they have been taught, however unintentionally, that it is okay to isolate him.

And it's this, I think, that has created the conditions wherein these children think that's okay to tease him about dying. And I'm angry about that.

Maybe I'm not being fair. Kids are kids, right? But Kristen's post today reminded me that WE shape our children. We are responsible for whether or not they are considerate and kind. For whether they pinch or punch or pull or tease. For whether they hurt other children. For whether they understand that ignoring or isolating others can be as hurtful - can be more hurtful - than any pinch.

Please, fellow parents, take the time to find out whether there is a child in your childrens' class or group who is seen as different. Ask your child why. Ask your child whether that child is teased or bullied or just ignored. And then encourage your child to not participate.

And ask yourselves whether you do anything - however unintentionally - that teaches your child that it's okay or acceptable to shun those who are different. Have you ever turned away from, or refused to make eye contact with, someone in a wheelchair? Someone who looks funny, or walks funny? I realize that this is a tough one: we don't want to teach our children to embrace absolutely everybody (this is not safe), especially people that make them uncomfortable. But we should be able to teach them how to discriminate considerately. They don't have to be friends with everybody. They can and should ignore other children who are mean to them. But shouldn't we teach them that it is never okay to single out one child for exclusion? That difference in and of itself shouldn't be a basis for discrimination? That being hurtful is never okay?

Maybe I'm wrong. (Am I wrong? Am I being too judgmental here?) But if I could say one thing to the parents of the children in Tanner's class (who, I think, need the talk that my sister is going to give more than the children do) it would be this: ask yourselves what you would want and expect from other children and parents if your child were in Tanner's shoes. And then conduct yourselves accordingly.

Golden Rule, Categorical Imperative, whatever. Do unto others. Play nice, be nice.

And teach your children to do the same.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Feels and Squeezes...

...'Cause you know that's what they really want, right?

Yep, it's time for the Dad-Blogger Totally Manly Handshake/Laddish Back-Pat/Hey Buddy Shout-Out.

Featuring the It's Not Easy Being Green Dancers!

Are we on yet?

But first, by way of introduction, a reflection on the Mommy-Blogger Love-In (thereby allowing HBM to jam last week's forgotten Weekly Squeeze in here)...

When I put the call out for posts celebrating mama-bloggers, I was hoping that it would provoke reflection about what makes this community (YES) and its members so great. That it would give us all pause to consider why we blog, in the fullest sense of participating in this community as both writers and readers. That it would cause us to look around and recognize the tremendous awesomeness surrounding us. That it would make us feel good.

And, that it would allow us all to indulge in some shameless link-whoring. 'Cause in my view, there ain't nuttin' wrong with that. We all got a little blog slut in us - let's embrace it. Sluts are fun.

So while all us blog-sluts were frolicking with our links, I noticed two things. First, that there were very few - until recently, NO - male participants. I realize that this was a Mommy-Blogger Love-In, but that didn't preclude guys from shouting out to the moms that they read. I know that they're reading, and I know that they like us. And doesn't every guy like parties where the girls all hug and tickle and get drunk and all kissy-faced? Still, I understand if this whole Love-In thing seemed to involve too much estrogen. It might have felt too much like putting on a dress. I get that.

But this lead me to the second thing: despite the hormone-gassing estrogen levels surging throughout the posts, there was still the occasional pause to consider the men. Mostly Dutch from Sweet Juniper, who is, according to some, a Mommy-Blogger in Dad's clothing. This, in any case, was the assertion of Mo-Wo, in her post 'Eclectic Kool-Aid Acid Test [Pattern]' (this would get prize for best title, if I was awarding such prizes), and Melanie in Orygun said much the same thing.* (As it happens, I also talked about Sweet Juniper in my own shout-out post. But I was shouting-out to Wood, not Dutch.)

(Hey. If Dutch is the Mommy-Blogger at Sweet Juniper, does that make Wood the Daddy-Blogger? Does that sort of thing go over in Detroit?)

I think that Dutch's possible status as a Drag Mom raises some important, or at least interesting, questions about what constitutes manliness in the blogosphere. (Is it possible to be manly while waxing poetic about your family in a public forum? Would one have to include stories about bullfighting and deep sea fishing to really man a blog up? In my opinion, no, but I tend to to be too literal about these things. I'd begin from the ancient Roman ideal of manliness - which is the root of our term virtue [vir is Latin for man] - and work up through the weakening of that ideal of manliness by Christianity, and on towards Rousseau's bourgeois man before turning to Hemingway and such figures as Michael Landon as Pa Ingalls [here I would be indebted to Dutch.] Finally, I would consider whether Dave Eggers can be considered to be manly, especially in comparison to Dog the Bounty Hunter, who may or may not be manly, depending upon where one stands on the issue of overcompensation with regards to manliness. After all of this, we might have an operating definition of manliness to work with.)

(Loves me this subject. Takes up a goodly amount of space in my dissertation.)

But, as always, I digress. Considerations of manliness in the blogosphere will have to be left for another day. (Men? Care to take me up on these questions?)

For the moment, our business is celebrating Dad-Bloggers, regardless of whether they are manly or only sorta manly or metrosexual (can one be manly and metrosexual?) or totally girly. And so we have...

The Great Dad-Blogger Shout-Out

There were a handful of posts composed for the express purpose of celebrating Dad-Bloggers. Wordgirl did hers before I even got the call for posts out. For her, there is no question that Dad-Bloggers are manly. The measure of a man, she say, is the depth of his love for his children. And a man that wears that love on his sleeve? HOT. A man that writes that love for all the world to read? Ovary-percolating hot. Her hotties: Chris at Rude Cactus, Chag at Cynical Dad and Nilbo. Reading them, apparently, will make you pant.

Mo-Wo carries the hot theme forward with "Red Hot Chili Papas," in which she proclaims her love for Dad-Bloggers and her indebtedness to them for drawing her into the blog world. It was sweet-talkin' Daddytypes, she says, that first lured her in; then came 'all good things t-shirt' on Sweet Juniper, and then MetroDad, and Dadcentric and Cheeky's Hideaway, and Jason et al. Melinor, in her post, grumbles that she already did a shout out dammit when she included Dutch in her Mommy Blogger Ode, but then goes all gushy fangirl all over again and repeats her Sweet Juniper praise before gushing all over Kevin, Matthew of Defective Yeti, DJ Blurb (Mr. Dooce), and her friends Axe, George and Fern.

And then just when you're thinking that Wordgirl, Mo-Wo and Melinor read a LOT of Dad-Blogs, Sarah of Sarah and the Goon Squad, from this day forward to be known as Totally Awesome Ultimate Tomboy Sarah (she sports blogs with the guys. Sports blogs.), says this: 'I read more Daddy Blogs than Mommy Blogs' and offers up the list to prove it: Crouton Boy, The Blogfathers, Dadcentric, Cheeky's Hideaway, Child's Play X 2, Cynical Dad, Dad Gone Mad, Dad2Twins, Genuine, Kemp, Lim Babies, MetroDad, Mr. Big Dubya, The Odd Mix and Rude Cactus. And Bump, Dutch, P-Man, Gene and Miles Etc. Aaaand Because I'm Your Father, Two Okapis, Poop and Boogies, Chocolate Makes it Better, The Hygiene Chronicles, Scott Rant Spot, Daddy in A Strange Land, The Jasper Chronicles, Not-For-Profit-Dad , Mr. Nice Guy, IFLYG, Pet Cobra and some sports blogs that are written by men who may or may not have children. And The Kaiser who contributes at Draft Day Suit.
Got all that?

So the blog-girls loves them their bloggy men and aren't afraid to say it. But MetroDad totally represented for the boy side of the gym and proclaimed loudly (and not for the first time) his appreciation for other Dad-Bloggers. And nobody called him a big ole girl for doing it.

Some that are on his current reading list: The Bradstein Household, And then there was a pickle..., Zygote Daddy, The Hygiene Chronicles, Denver Dad, VampDaddy, and Mo-Wo's fella, p-man.

Check all of these guys out. And check these guys too (mama bloggers shouted all over my comments about these guys, as well as those mentioned above, who I have not yet included below):

(In no particular order, because I am TIRED AS HELL and attempting alphabetic order would probably cause my head to pop clean off. And it is for this very reason that I cannot - CANNOT - sort through the multiple links above to figure out who was mentioned and how many times in comments and add them to the list below. I'll get to it eventually, though, and then we will have a big-ass Dad-Blogger list that I'll put up with the Mommy Blogger List. 'Kay?)

Tony from Creative Types
Cocktails with Kevin
Jeff (ViewFromTheCloud)

Have I missed anybody? Anyone that you want to add? Let me know!

Are we done? Can I break his legs now?


TO Momma's get-together!

So it looks like Friday, June 30th is our day. (Not everybody can make these date, I know, but no fear - this will only be the first of many!) The plan so far is this: a daytime gathering in the park with the babes, and reconvening for an evening drink after babes have been put to bed/to sitters/to husbands. Parks have been narrowed down to Dufferin Grove (central) and Withrow (east side). Cast your votes now (leave a comment here or e-mail me), and let me know if you plan to join us for one or the other or both gatherings (day and/or evening). Precise details will be posted once settled, in a few days.

All are welcome (and no - since some of you have asked - you don't absolutely need to have a baby.) Looking forward to meeting you!