My Bad Mother, Keeping Me On My Toes
(From my inbox, yesterday...)
I am e-mailing rather than using comments because I can’t figure out how to post a comment. You know I read your blog faithfully. I'm not always touched by it because, while I am awed by your writing talent, I think that it's sometimes something of an exercise in self-absorption, and that it panders to an audience of mostly privileged women who have the luxury of philosophizing about motherhood. I hope that your experience on the subway brings you (and your readers) to a heightened awareness of those mothers who do not have the means of indulging their beloved children (or in a lot of cases, not even being able to provide what we would consider necessities). Can you imagine how your heart would hurt if you couldn’t give WonderBaby the world? I deeply felt your feelings as you described the young mother. As we have discussed many times, those very same feelings were the motivating factor in my chosen career.
I hope that you don’t think my comments are harsh, but your post stirred up twenty years of passionate feelings.
Love you and eternally grateful that you are my daughter.
That was only a little bit harsh (Not always touched? Pandering? Ouch) ;)
I agree that bloggers are, for the most part, a bunch of privileged narcissists. All writers are, I think. I certainly am. But most of us are aware of that. Most of the bloggers that I gravitate toward are fully self-reflective about their privilege (whether it be absolute or relative privilege - certainly any person who has the time and skill and access to technology to blog enjoys a certain amount of privilege). I try to be self-reflective. I may not always succeed, but I try. But here's the thing about motherhood and privilege that astounds me: motherhood is humbling, and many of its trials don't discriminate on the basis of privilege. We all of us, rich and poor and everywhere in between, experience a new, gut-wrenching kind of fear; we feel a new, soul-shaking kind of vulnerability. It is tough work, and sometimes really disempowering - and for many women, for ME, it is the first taste of being afraid, helpless, confused, dependent, and disempowered. And, because of my (relative) privilege, some amount of guilt and shame that I am sometimes brought to my knees by these things, when so many other women with so much less manage to stay standing.
If I write about dropping my kid or posting pictures of my kid or messing up or failing, maybe, in some critical moment to do the right thing that is, yes, an exercise in self-absorption, but it's also an exercise in self-reflectivity. And I hope that it demonstrates that privilege, or any measure of it, doesn't necessarily make any of us any better mothers. I'm a terrible fuck-up much of the time, at this motherhood thing - and I think that that has given me a better appreciation of what a mother with less has to struggle with, and a better understanding of how great her victories are. The example of those mothers humbles me. Really.
It all humbles me.
Thanks for making me think, always.
Love you tons and more,
Your Bad Daughter