Her Bad Mother

Saturday, July 19, 2008

By Guy Kawasaki's Swimming Pool I Sat Down And Wept

Dear Internets: my name is Catherine Connors and I am a writer. I am also a mother.

Maybe it's the other way around: mother, writer. This weekend, I'm not sure. This weekend, I am trying to be both, and more: mother, writer, friend, acquaintance, business woman, community advocate, self-promoter, thinker, drinker, writer-mother, mother-writer, woman, self. I am trying to be all things, and I am struggling.

I've struggled before. I struggle everyday. Everyday I wake up and immediately put tit to the mouth of a tiny human being whose survival, whose well-being, whose flourishing depends entirely upon me, and I throw my arms around a slightly larger human being whose heart is my own, and as I nurse and hug and love I gaze at my laptop and wonder when the moment will come that I will open it and record this love, this work, this love and craft it into words. And my heart strains in those moments because I know that I cannot have both immediately at once, my motherhood and my writerhood, just as I know in those moments when I share love with my husband or sisterhood with my friends or writerly solidarity with my peers (who are also, so many of them, my friends) that I am doing so as my self but not practicing my whole self - I am not being a mother in those moments, or a writer, or what-have-you - and that's fine, that's totally fine and that's good because that's life, even if it sometimes feels hard because you so often want to be or feel you need to be all your selves at once. You can't be everything at once.

But ordinarily, the moments that I struggle with wanting to be all or some my selves at once are private ones. This weekend, they are public - they are public because they are exposed, because I am exposed, because I am wearing my heart on my sleeve, because I am carrying my heart around in a red-and-white polka dot sling and sometimes he cries and sometimes he shits and always I want, I need, to protect him, and that want, that need, that him makes me vulnerable because it puts my fears, my love, my anxiety, my hope all on full display and demands that I deal with those here, now, NOW, while I am surrounded by people, my people, my peers and role models and friends and sisters, while I am trying to be so many parts of myself all at once, and that. leaves. me. raw. It leaves me feeling exposed, it leaves me feeling vulnerable to every flutter of emotion that moves through the room - the triumphs of others, the hurts of others, the vulnerabilities of others, the love of others - because I am carrying all those things of my own, in my arms, and I am doing so in a three-day long moment that demands many other things of me - things that I want to give, want to share - and so I am tired, vulnerable.

And so the other night, I sat down by Guy Kawasaki's swimming pool, heart in my arms, and I wept, and as the crowd - my peers, my idols, my friends - buzzed around me I tried to close in on myself and shield myself - my mother self, my weepy self, my stressed-and-scared self - from exposure so that I could keep these selves detached, keep these selves from muddying the water of my other selves - my writer-self, my friend-self, my woman-selves, the selves with hopes and ambitions that have nothing or very little to do with the little heart cradled in my arms, head damp with my tears. Those selves, my public selves, the selves through I distill and present my messier selves in my craft as a writer/blogger, those selves fell away and I was left with all the messiness - no words, no screen to hide behind - and I cried. As my heart squirmed in my arms and my soul ached in my gut, I cried.

I have cried, again, many times since then, in moments of inspiration and love (so many of these, here) and anxiety (can I cope, here? should I even be here? am I brave to be here, or am I stupid?) and fear (oh the fear). I will cry many times more. I will be the girl - the woman, the writer, the mother - in the corner, crying, yearning to be seen, and yearning to be invisible. Yearning to feel comfortable in my wholeness, in my love and hope and ambition and fear and tears and baby-shits and all.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bad Mother Lost

Yesterday, I got lost. Badly lost.

Like, lost as in take the wrong train and end up a station with a name similar to the one that you were aiming for but not exactly the same which is to say the wrong station located in the middle of oh my god butt-freaking nowhere such that when you finally realize that you've made a terrible terrible mistake but you're already like an hour and a half into your journey and you can't turn back because there are two things that you absolutely must accomplish within a limited time frame - pick up baby's passport at passport office and pick up baby's grandmother at airport - and so starting over is not an option and in any case that train station that you just left is at the top of a nasty flight of stairs that took you twenty minutes and the assistance of a blind man to get down, what with the infant in the fucking stroller and all - and, since we're on the subject, why did that same man wait until the stroller had been wrestled down to the bottom of the stairs before informing you that you were, actually, about an hour away from the place that you were trying to get to? - which is how you found yourself standing at a desolate bus stop in front of some sinister industrial buildings with tumbleweed rolling past your feet and the shrill of vultures circling overhead.

That kind of lost.

I do not, however, have the mental or emotional energy to try to work that story into anecdote. After days and days of barely being able to meet the demands of everyday life, that one day sucker-punched me and now I feel entirely incoherent. So the story of getting lost in the dark territory that is Toronto's near-suburbs must deferred - which is to say, given the reality of blog-writing, lost - as must any account of my bus ride out of the land of the lost, during which I sat across from a gentleman clad in a t-shirt that read Screw Me If I'm Wrong But Haven't We Met Before?, as well as any recounting of the oddly touching half-hour that I spent in a nursing room at the mall adjoining the passport offices with an on-duty Jamaican cleaning lady and a half-dozen teenage goth girls, one of whom was nursing a beautiful, blond 13-month old who wore a cheery onesie that read Mama's Boy. Nor am I able to muster the will to rant about the absurdity of infant passports, or the bizarre complexities of the Canadian foreign affairs bureaucracy.

So I will just let the Girl Formerly Known As Wonderbaby have the stage today, and she will use her words* to introduce her newly passported brother to everyone who will meet him this weekend in San Francisco:


His name is JASPER!



(*As proclaimed to a waiter at Boston Pizza Sunday night)

(If no-one sees this baby in San Francisco this weekend, it is because his mother has gotten lost. SEND HELP.)

Monday, July 14, 2008


The other night I did something that I had never done before: I Googled myself.

(No, seriously, I'd never done it, not once. Seriously. Because, you know, I'd heard you could go blind from it.)

Here's the thing about Googling yourself: once you start, you can't stop. Even when you go through a page of Google listings that have nothing to do you - I share my name, apparently, with numerous Irish women of the 19th century, and at least one high school sophomore in Chicago with a distinguished record in middle-distance running - it's fascinating. And it's all the more fascinating when you hit pages upon pages of links to references to yourself. Look - there's me mentioned in the Globe And Mail! There's my AlphaMom interview! There's my first peer-reviewed academic article! There's that cheesy essay about being Prime Minister that I wrote as an undergrad! Look, everyone: my 15 (fractions of) gigabytes of fame!

It is, in some respects, I suppose, the 21st century equivalent of rifling through a shoebox of mementos - the newspaper clippings that your mom collected and kept in a ragged file folder, the tattered certificates of achievement, that undergraduate essay that got published, somewhere, the picture of your graduating class - except that the things you find aren't things that you've saved - they're things that the Internet has saved. The virtual detritus of an unfamous but not entirely obscure life. Which makes it a little surreal. I came across that aforementioned undergraduate essay, along with a handful of professional academic articles, a lot of blog-related miscellany and an assortment of virtual newspaper clippings about awards and speeches and the various whatnots of an overfunctioning young woman trying to prove herself in a world that records bits and pieces of that life in code, and holds it out for anyone to see.

That Google search revealed, in some small and completely messed up way, an index of my life (and, of course, my blog life, which may or may not be the same thing) as it has been captured on the virtual screen. It is, for better or for worse, my biography as it appears to the virtual world. So I thought, why not use it to introduce myself? It is, after all, BlogHer week, and we should really be trying to get to know each other, better, no? And what better way to get to know a blogger than through her online profile? Herewith, then - Five Things That You Can Learn About Me Through Google:

1) Despite my protestations to the contrary, I am Tracy Flick. Rather, I was Tracy Flick, once upon a time. I am so not kidding. My career as an undergraduate was one long exercise in look how good I am! I am smart! And a good person! OMG I can totally save the world!

2) It was kind of sweet, though. I meant well. Also, I figured that if I played my cards right, I could be Prime Minister.

3) But then I decided that I hated politics, and committed myself to the pursuit of the philosophic life. In the pursuit of which, I embraced misanthropy, and publicly (academically) defended Hannibal Lector as a tragic Rousseauan figure. I'm still proud of that, as I am for having, in my first peer-reviewed book review, called out Erich Segal for writing what is possibly the worst book on comedy (v.v. the history of classical thought) ever written in the history of the world, ever.

4) Misanthropy gets old fast, though, so I turned my professional interests to love, sex and virtue in the history of political philosophy. Because, you know, love and sex are much more fun to think and write about than are grumpy, bourgeois-hating old men who may or may not indulge in a little cannibalism. Which brought me around to the field of academic research that I stuck with, which was women - and specifically motherhood - in the history of political philosophy. How did I get from misanthropic critiques of bourgeois liberalism to motherhood? Basically, this: they are, if done properly, the same thing.

5) Which brought me here, to the state of being and creating that is Her Bad Mother. Here - the domain of my Bad Motherness, Badtopia, Badmotherlandia, the Badlands - speaks for itself, I think. But if you're new to HBM, and don't feel like spending hours reading the archives, or if you just want a refresher on what I look and sound like (I am so much more, after all, than just words on a screen) Google offers you this HBM Live With LeahPeah On AlphaMom TV moment:

It's two years old, but I haven't really changed all that much. At all, really. So there you go. Just look for the blond bobbed, recovering-Tracy-Flick-with-babe-in-arms in San Francisco. That'll be me.

(Um, hey? You should totally do this too! GoogleHer yourself! You know, for fun and edification.)

Labels: , , , ,