Her Bad Mother

Friday, September 8, 2006

Ordinary People

I’m not easy to impress.

That sounds pissy and arrogant, I know. But it’s true. Celebrities don’t impress me (which is not to say that I wouldn’t shriek a little bit if I brushed sleeves with Josh Holloway, but that would be more because of his lickability than his impressive acting ability). I’ve encountered enough of them to know that they are usually shorter and uglier and far less pleasant in person than they appear onscreen. And in any case, the ability to stand in front of a camera and look surprised/scared/vague has never struck me as particularly impressive.

Sure, there are many talented and accomplished actors out there, as there are talented and accomplished musicians and athletes and comedians (um, Jon Stewart? Dave Chapelle?) and astrophysicists. Indeed, there are talented men and women in every field imaginable. But they are, still, just ordinary men and women and I’d need a bit more information about them before I could count myself well and truly impressed. Are they thoughtful? Intelligent? Passionate? Do they care about things other than themselves? Do they try to make a meaningful, considered difference in the world? (And no, driving a Prius doesn’t count here.) Are they good people, in the most nuanced and comprehensive sense of that word?

(I should note that I make special exceptions for people who make extraordinary contributions to their field or to world history. Picasso was an ass, Nietzsche was a clapped-out weirdo and Mother Teresa tended to excessive dogmatism – but to say that these individuals were merely impressive would be gross understatement.)

My sense is that the stock of impressiveness of most of the more famous people in the world wouldn’t hold up under such interrogation. But (and I assure you that this is not shameless ass-kissing) many of you ­– my bloggy friends – would. Which is one of the reasons why I’ve become so committed to our little corner of the blogosphere: it’s a space full of intelligent, literate people who love their children deeply and who are passionately committed to doing the best possible job raising those children and to doing what they can to make the world a better place for those children.

It’s revolutionary, as some have already said. And it’s impressive. You are impressive. Really impressive.

And you know what? Gloria Steinem thinks so, too.

She said so. On the telephone.

(I’ll wait while you pick yourselves up off the floor.)

(Oh. Wait. That’s me on the floor. S’cuse me…)

As part of an effort to promote a new media project (Greenstone Media: radio for women by women) that she is involved with, I was invited to participate in a conference call with Ms. Steinem and a handful of other bloggers. She said a number of amazing, insightful, and inspirational things (as one would expect from one of the founders of the contemporary feminist movement) – some of which I’ll try to address in posts over the coming week or two – and she totally knocked my socks off and made me want to be a better feminist.
And by far the coolest thing that she said was this: that she saw the women (and many of the men) of the blogosphere as being at the forefront of a new kind of revolutionary movement. A movement wherein we really talk to one another, and listen to one another. A movement wherein the highest premium is placed on telling the truth, and deriving inspiration and power from the truth. A movement that we further with every post that we write, with every supportive comment that we leave, with every empowering conversation that we spark and fuel and fan to a blaze. A movement that a big cool enterprise like Greenstone Media is committed to promoting. Our movement.

But she also said this: never forget that such a movement, based as it is on dialogue and debate, can only ever be a support for action. It cannot replace action. Don’t cocoon in your blogosphere, she said. Don’t mistake speaking or writing for acting. Don't just talk: do.

So with that in mind, I have another (yes!) assignment for you: sometime this week, write a post about a cause that you are passionate about. Provide links and information and guidance for people to actually follow up on your post and take some sort of action: where can they make a donation? Sign a petition? Volunteer? How can they help promote your cause? Use this post as a catalyst for action – make it your mission to show, in whatever small way, how the blogosphere can support real action in support of real causes. It doesn’t have to be big – you don’t have a start a fundraising drive from your blog (although that would be cool), you just need to make a stab at showing how writing/speaking/blogging can support action. If you have already promoted a cause through your blog, or do so on an ongoing basis (as I know may of you do), simply provide me with some relevant links and a description of what you've been up to in the comments. Ditto if you know of someone else with a cause: do a post or post a comment with links and info. Then, as always, I’ll compile the posts, etc. etc. and we shall be a beacon of light, a chorus of voices – cue choir – and we will have Done Something and will be Doing Something in addition to All This Talk. And we'll be even more impressive.

And Gloria will be proud.
So will WonderBaby. And she's tougher to impress.

But wait! There's more!

Gloria (yes, I call her Gloria now, ahem) has offered to answer one more question from me. In writing. And I, magnanimous lady that I am, have decided to give the question-asking opportunity to YOU. Post your question to Gloria – it can be on any topic – in my comments sometime today or tonight, and I’ll select one (am magnanimous dictator) to forward to her in the morning. I’ll post the question (with credit to person who provides it) and her response and an update on Assignment Take Action (above) early next week.

And you will be forever able to brag that You Asked Gloria Steinem a Question and She Answered You.

(I did it yesterday, and believe me, it's worth the full caps.)

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Monday Miscellany - Wednesday Style!

Because Monday was a holiday and yesterday I had a bad case of the existential fuzzies.

1) Suri appears!

So, back in July, I (despite my best efforts to the contrary) was pondering the whereabouts of Baby Suri...

The obvious answer is (I said) that there is no baby. They may still be awaiting delivery of the black-market baby that will be passed off as the natural product of Mission Impossible Sperm...

However, it is equally likely that the TomKitten is the human vessel of a rare bloodline that can be traced back to Jesus Christ. Scientologists, then, are latter-day Templars charged with protecting this extraordinary legacy and that they are currently battling a vast Roman Catholic conspiracy to destroy all evidence of this legacy. This theory does not presuppose that Tom Cruise or Katie Holmes share such divine lineage (heavens forbid); rather, that Tom Cruise beat Bill Gates in a secret auction for genetic material stolen from the last of the Merovingians, and consulted with Michael Crichton and various genetic scientists on the best methods of creating a human child out of this material. The result of these efforts is Suri, the Holy Grail test-tube miracle baby, who is now being held in a top secret bunker near Rennes-le-Chateau in France, the better to protect her against Opus Dei-funded bounty hunters.

Well, the truth can now be told. It turns out that Graydon Carter has had Suri all this time, hidden away in a secret nursery in the New York offices of Vanity Fair.

Which means, of course, that the reason for her sequester likely has less to do with genetic experiments and religious conspiracies and more with such high-stakes projects as Humanizing Insane Celebrity Cultists for the Masses (or, HICC'M: aka Operation TomDad.)

I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed.

(She's cute, though. And clearly the product of two very hairy people, which leads me to believe that whatever Mr. Cruise might say about his heterosexuality, he's certainly been making heavy use of the body wax. I won't speculate about Mrs. Cruise.)

(Full disclosure: I am suspicious of babies with great quantities of hair. Where do these babies get this hair? Why does my baby have so little hair? I may be a little bitter about this. But I'm a wee bit tired of being asked whether I shave WonderBaby's head.)

(OK, I've only been asked that twice. But still. Please.)

WonderBaby Beauty Tip #73: Mohawks give the illusion of more hair.

(Mullets do not. Do not be sucked in by this evil myth.)

2) Actually, there is no #2. Nor is there a real #3, #4, or #5, but you probably guessed that seconds ago. Which means that today's post shouldn't really be referred to as a Miscellany. What this post is, in point of fact, is a post about Tom Cruise and Baby Suri, but I was trying to avoid admitting to myself that I have devoted the greater part of a post (when I am so backed up on my to-do list, for shame) to Tom Cruise.

3) I haven't devoted this post to Tom Cruise and his offspring because Tom Cruise interests me. Hell, no. I did it for the Google hits.

(collective gasp!)

OK, not really.

(collective sigh of relief!)

4) Actually, I did it because I am procrastinating on posting my piece on babies and eros. My two pieces on babies and eros (because although I claimed that I believed this topic to be unbloggable, I have actually found it difficult - nay, impossible - to stop writing about it) which are still messy in form and a touch on the raw side and I haven't quite come to terms with posting them as-is. Which means - yay! - more editing.

5) I also did it because I am completely preoccupied by three things: that I begin teaching again next week, that I will be heading to New York immediately after my first lecture next week, and that tomorrow I will be SPEAKING ON THE PHONE WITH GLORIA STEINEM.

And now I will leave you hanging for the details.

Because I'm bad that way, and because you all need to be punished for being so attentive to a post on Tom Cruise.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Mommy

So, here’s a little secret about me:

I’m a CompetiMommy.

That’s right. You heard me. CompetiMommy.

Before you recoil in horror, let me explain myself. I’m not a CompetiMommy of the my-child-is-better-than-yours variety. I don’t view myself as a competitor in the Tour de Mommy or the Momolympics or anything of the sort. I’m not comparing my child to yours. I’m not competing against you.

I’m competing against me.

This probably sounds like a lot of bullshit hair-splitting: if I view myself as competitive in the arena of motherhood, I must be competing against other moms, no? Well… no. I’m not interested in comparing strollers or diaper bags or how many months we breastfed our respective children. I don’t care how our children compare on growth charts or development charts or any chart that can be found through BabyCenter. I don’t care if your child walks or talks or masters algebra before mine. I really don’t.

What I do care about: whether I measure up to my own benchmarks of success as a mother. Whether I can compete with the ideal mother that I always imagined that I would be: the devoted, imaginative, stimulating, hand-pureeing-organic-veggies-for-dinner-while-wearing-sample-sale-Jimmy-Choos-and-reciting-Suess-in-Latin-before-putting-baby-to-bed-and-dashing-out-for-martinis-with-hubby kind of mother. The kind of mother who balances being a wonderful mother with being a good spouse and an interesting woman in her own right. The kind of mother who takes advantage of every opportunity to enrich the lives of her children and her life with her partner and - and, and - the life that is her own. I care about whether I can hold my own against that kind of do-it-all-have-it-all mother.

The kind of mother who only exists in my imagination.

Because, yes, I do recognize that this is a fictive mother, a mother who does not exist. A mother who, even if she did exist, wouldn’t necessarily be the best kind of mother. But she is still the mother that informed my maternal ambitions (once I realized that I had such ambitions) and the mother that now looms in the background of my evaluations of myself as a mother.

And, oh, how she looms.

Against this accomplished, attentive, well-groomed mother, I reveal myself, to myself, to be sorely lacking. I can barely keep our house clean. There are Fisher-Price toys littered across our living room floor. I do not take WonderBaby to lessons of any kind; I have not taught her to swim or Salsa-Baby or sign. The organic food that she eats usually comes from a jar. The last time I wore heels was at BlogHer and a) they were closed-toe to hide my desperately pedicure-deficient feet, and b) had to be ditched after an hour because my post-partum body has lost the ability to hold itself upright in anything other than Converse sneakers.

(I do recite Suess in Latin, but only to myself, late at night, to overcome insomnia. Cattus Petasatus. A classic.)

I know that I am a good mother. I know that loving WonderBaby and playing with WonderBaby and exulting in life with Wonderbaby is being the best kind of mother that I can be. I know that motherhood is not about the laundry and the shoes and the appearance of things. And I know that I do not want to be one of those mothers who overfunctions and overanalyzes and turns herself and her children into a perfect little robo-family.

But still… I thought that I’d be better at this. I thought that I could be a good mother AND a good partner AND keep a tidy house AND look good AND make time for other interests AND not get overwhelmed. I thought that I would finish each day with a long bath and a cuddle with my husband and a martini and that I would bask in the glow of my maternal accomplishment.

I thought that I would get more laundry done.

I thought that I would be able to do it all. But I can’t. And sometimes I find that fact overwhelming. There’s not enough time, there are not enough hours in the day, there are not enough eyes and arms and hands to stay on top of all of the things that I want to stay on top of.

And so I get frustrated, running this race against myself. Frustrated when I have to stop in the middle of this road, alone, to catch my breath. Frustrated at the cramps in my legs, at the aching in my chest, at my body's inability to go as fast and as gracefully as I thought I could go. Frustrated that I can't let go of this silly mom-o-meter that I measure myself with.

Frustrated that I can't let go and just run freely. Just enjoy the wind in my hair as I go forward as a mother.

Frustrated that I'm finding it hard to just be.

Trying to be the best that I can be. For her.


Devra and Aviva over at Parentopia will be addressing this post over at their place sometime in the near future - they'll go through it and give me feedback on how I might CHILL THE EFF OUT and stop treating motherhood like a race against myself that I'm going to win or lose. I'll post a link once they've done this. In the meantime, you can go check out what they did with Christina's post about learning to let some things go.


Oh, and in the category of I've Got Far Too Many Things To Do But This Was Just Too Good To Pass Up? You can now find me over at urbanmoms.ca, promoting the Canadian mommy-blogger community... Click here, or check the link on my sidebar.)


One laaaaast thing... why not poke your head down in the Basement? We've had a good run of visitors down there, and they'd all love to hear from you...