Her Bad Mother
Friday, May 4, 2007
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
I'm Not Bad, I Just Blog That Way
True Confession: I'm not a bad mother.
In fact, I'm a very good mother. Probably as good a mother as it is possible for me to be, which is, I think, pretty good. I just don't say so very often. In fact, I probably give the impression - and the title of this blog has very little to do with this, I'm sure - that I do not consider myself to be a good mother.
If one were to do a statistical analysis of this blog - and I don't recommend doing this - I'm sure that one would find an inverse relationship between length of posts per word count and frequency of the word 'good' used in conjuction with the words 'mother,' 'parenting' or 'at this' (excluding, of course, all instances wherein 'good' is preceded by 'not.') I post most frequently, and at greatest length, about my anxieties as a mother. I am most inspired as a writer - yes, inspired - by my moments of fear and confusion, my weaknesses, my mistakes. So most of my writing - as it appears on this blog - addresses itself, or seems to address itself, to my consideration of myself as a bad mother. As Her Bad Mother. Not Her Bad-ASS Mother - Her Bad Mother
But Her Bad Mother is not me. That is, she is not entirely me. She's a voice inside my head; she's one of the many reflections that I see when I look in the mirror. She's the me who worries about being a bad mother (the kind of mother who lets her toddler fall out of shopping cart), and the me who takes pleasure in thinking of herself as a bad mother (the kind of mother who lets her toddler use a shopping cart as gymnastics equipment. Montessori bad.) She is anxious me - the me that my own mother refers to as a worrier - and she is self-deprecating me.
But she is not Me-In-My-Entirety. She is not even Me-In-My-Maternal-Entirety. She's just one part of that whole. She's the part that I write about. She's my blog muse. She's a character. A true character, but still: a character, of a sort.
The real, whole me? You don't know her. Not really, not fully. You know some very, very important parts of her - parts that had probably never really been fully exposed before she began exposing herself on this blog. You would recognize her if you ever met her in real life. You would recognize the self-deprecating humour, the over-functioning vocabulary, the hand-wringing, the bob. You would see Her Bad Mother in the whole me. But you would see so much more than Her Bad Mother.
Because you would also see this: someone who is supremely confident about her parenting skills, and about her lack thereof. Someone who laughs at her mistakes. Someone who knows that she's doing the best that she can, and that that's pretty damn good. Someone who is by turns silly and sloppy and sucky and selfish and snobby and stupid. But, also, someone who is smart, very smart, and who never, ever apologizes for that fact. Someone who laughs, a lot. Someone who talks about her husband, a lot. Somebody who boasts about her daughter, a lot. Someone who is really pretty pleased with how this whole parenting/family/motherhood thing is going, even when it's kicking her ass.
You see this someone, in bits and turns, in Her Bad Mother, of course. Because she and Her Bad Mother are the same person; Her Bad Mother is she and she is Her Bad Mother. Her Bad Mother is, absolutely, an honest, heart-felt representation of who she is. But it is not all of who she is. It is not all of who I am.
I'm a writer (oooh, let that roll off the tongue). Her Bad Mother is a writerly persona. Perhaps that makes her - me - inauthentic. I don't think so: this blog may not be a diary, but it is written truthfully. These are stories, and I am a storyteller, but the stories are true and I am truthful in my telling of them. But I am selective with the content of these stories, and I choose my words carefully. These stories - and their protagonist (who is me, and not, as some might think, WonderBaby) - are poetic representations of a life and a person. They are a life and a person, written down, and as such they are shaped and molded and - yes - manipulated to best effect. They are performative; they are - as some have accused - performance art.
I perform as Her Bad Mother. I interrogate myself as Her Bad Mother. Her Bad Mother is me, splashed on canvas, edited on film, choreographed on the stage, plotted on paper, spread out on the analyst's couch, telling my tale, the True and Amazing Adventures of Me As I Choose To See Me, Much Of The Time, And How I Want You To See Me, All Of The Time.
And how I choose to see me here - and how I want you to see me here - in these pages, is as Bad. Not thoroughly bad, nor conventionally bad, and certainly not Call In Child Protective Services Bad. Self-Reflectively Bad, Happily Bad. Bad as in, Bad-Ass. Bad as in, Bad Is The New Good. Bad Because It Suits Me. Lapsed-Catholic-Shame Bad. Bad Because I Look Better In A Devil's Unitard Than In Some Silly Angel Bathrobe Thingy And Because Halos Squash My Hair.
Bad Because - let's face it - Good Is Boring. You don't want to read about good. If you wanted to read about good, you'd be reading profiles of SuperMoms in Parenting Magazine. Which you're not. You're reading this. Because - as Nietzsche and Machiavelli and Choderlos de Laclos and Madonna (pre-anglophilia and all that English Roses crap) have always said - bad is much, much more interesting than good.
But here's the thing: if you met me, you'd know that I'm a good mother. If you pay attention to the details of this blog, and to the tongue-in-cheekness of its title, you'll know that I'm a good mother. Hell, the fact that I even keep a blog - the fact that I view motherhood as a creative project, that motherhood inspires me to write, that my child inspires me to write - should demonstrate to you that I'm good mother. And I agree with my friend Rebecca that we should be much more open in our celebration of ourselves as good mothers - that I should celebrate myself more openly as a good mother.
But that, still, would only be celebrating one part of me. And, possibly, not the most interesting part of me. Yes, I am a good mother: I love my daughter and I make sure that she's always surrounded by much, much love and joy and laughter. And, most of the time, I change her diaper in a timely manner and I almost never give her french fries and I try to make sure that the television isn't on all of the time. Which is great, but, but... not all that interesting. What's interesting about me is that I'm all these things and I'm Bad - in all the greatest and most dubious meanings of the word - and that I'm very good at being Bad.
Which is why you like me, right? Or, rather: which is why you like this person who calls herself Her Bad Mother and who tosses big words and big anxieties and big love and Gratuitous WonderBaby photos at you. Right?
It's why I like her. It's why I like me.
Spawn of Bad.
Are you as good or as bad or as in-between in real life as you portray yourself on your blog? How much of your 'self' IS portrayed - revealed? exposed? - on your blog? Do you lay it all bare, and if not - what aren't you telling us?
To all of you good, good people who, over the last day or two, have left extraordinarily supportive and helpful comments at the last Basement post - thank you. I have no update from our writer yet, but I hope that one comes soon, and when it does, I will share it with you. Again, thank you.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Hearts and Darkness
I started the Basement just over one year ago. I started the Basement - my secret space, my hidden lair - so that I could write about the stuff that I didn't feel comfortable discussing in the bright light of blog. But I realized very quickly that a publicly listed blog with my primary blog name in the url wasn't all that private, and so my foray into semi-private confessional blogging ended before it even began. Then a friend e-mailed me, and asked if she could 'borrow' the space, so that she could write about something that she didn't feel comfortable discussing on her own blog. And then someone else asked, and someone else, and The Basement - as a collective safe bloggy space for rants and confessions and cries for help - was born.
I've received and posted some heartwrenching posts. Some that have had happy endings, some that have not. All lot of fear and anger and anxiety and pain have been spilled across its page, and a lot of warmth and love and friendship and support have flooded back. The voices in the Basement have kept me up at night, but the chorus that always responds - so warmly, so generously - has always soothed me. The Basement constantly reminds me that we are all so fragile - that there is so much that causes pain in our worlds - but also that we all have such big hearts - generous hearts that we open to each other and with each other and which can (can, if we will them to do so) keep us from breaking.
Someone, right now, is breaking over in the Basement. Someone is breaking, hard. Harder than I've seen in a very, very long while.
This has shaken me to my very core. This breaking has so many cracks, there are so many splinters, they run so deep - I fear that the Basement isn't enough. I know that the Basement isn't enough. My anonymous poster, locked in her darkness, needs much more help than the Basement can provide. But it is all that I can provide.
I'm shaken by the insufficiency of this. Which is why I'm writing about it, here. Because this is my confessional space, and this is my confession: at the moment, writing feels insufficient in the face of all that is horrible in the world. Writing - or, in this case, providing a space for writing - is all that I have to offer. I have no other resources; I have only my keyboard, my words, and this space. And it feels horribly insufficient. And the insufficiency of it makes my heart hurt.
But however insufficient, it is something. And sometimes, something is everything. That's what is going to help me sleep tonight, however fitfully.
Your voices, your warmth, your support - those will help, too. Please, if you have anything to offer - advice, resources, sympathy, empathy, love - do so. I need your hearts in this - she needs your hearts.
Please, and thank you.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
In Just Spring
Sometimes, all you can do is take a picture, knowing that you'll forget the feel of the sun on your shoulders, the smell of the lake and the ice cream and the hot dog stand nearby, the sound of her giggle, the delighted squeal - eye ceem eye ceem eye ceem! - and the feeling of the whole of your being expanding, your heart rising up out of your chest, your lungs bursting with cheers as you watch your baby greet spring with all of her joy. You take a picture, and you store it in your heart.
Sometimes, that's enough.
Recommended reading (extra credit): Habla espanol at Mama Said Check This Out. Get in a Toronto state of mind at MommyBlogsToronto. Re-live the mother of all showers at Shower Me, Baby! (Round-up post going up later today! Prize-winners announced! World peace achieved!)