Her Bad Mother

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Gone Fishin'

We're off to da farm for the weekend. WonderBaby would love to bring you with us, but as much as we love your company, we're going to go it alone. Plus, you would get muddy, and Internets don't wash well, or so I've heard.

In the meantime, you can keep up with all of the blog-on-blog navel-gazey action by checking in at BlogRhet (and, then - maybe? - write your own post about writing posts and then post that post. Trust me, it's FUN.) (Questions for discussion HERE.)

Or, if you're tired of all the meta-talk, you could go read about How WonderBaby Learned To Read (Sorta).

Or, if you're tired of me, you could go read Bossy. She funny.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

My Bad Mother, Keeping Me On My Toes

(From my inbox, yesterday...)

Hi Sweetie,

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.



Hi Mom,

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Mom in the Mirror

She couldn't have been more than nineteen, maybe twenty, years old. She could have been much younger. She wore jeans and running shoes and a light winter jacket and no makeup. There were half-moon circles under her eyes, deep and dark, and she clutched a Mcdonalds take-out bag in one hand.

The other hand rested lightly on a small fold-out umbrella stroller. I would have known that she was a mother from the circles under her eyes, but it was the stroller made me smile at her when I sat down next to her on the subway. It was facing away from me, and covered in blankets, such that I couldn't see the very small child within it, but still. A child. I have one, too. I was going to smile at the child, ask its age, make conversation. I'm a mother too!" I would say. Mine's at home, a toddler. There were, no doubt, many years between we two mothers, she and I, but still. Mothers. We're of a kind, we are. There is always something to say to another mother.

And then, as she pulled the stroller back slightly to adjust the crush of blankets, I noticed: the child was a baby, a very small baby, newborn. Cradled awkwardly, so awkwardly, in the steadfastly upright seat of the umbrella stroller. The young mother adjusted the blankets, cooing softly; the infant slept, slumped, its heavy, fragile head bent over tiny shoulders, twisting tiny neck.

If the smile froze on my face, she didn't see it, so intent she was on adjusting her baby, whose tiny, delicate shape was not made for the unforgiving upright seat of her vehicle. But it did, my smile, tired metaphors be damned, it froze on my face and the cheerful words of commiseration died on my lips as new, shriller ones burbled up in their place.

I didn't speak these words, of course. 'Oh, but you mustn't put newborns in umbrella strollers! Do you know that? They mustn't be kept upright for too long, they mustn't be pushed along bumpy streets with their backs unsupported, their tiny backs, their fragile spines, their delicate, delicate necks...' I didn't want to speak them, and I didn't. I couldn't. I couldn't, because she would look at me - older, smarter, richer, maybe, presuming to know better - and say, or think, bitch. She would ask me, with or without words, who I was to judge her.

And I wouldn't have an answer.

I sat there, beside her, for what seemed a very long time, sick with uncertainty. Surely I must say something. What if she doesn't know? She must know. She must know. She does know. She knows but she can't afford a proper stroller. I resolved to offer her a stroller - I would offer her our second stroller, the lightweight stroller that we use for buses and subways, one that reclines. I would say that we no longer need it, that we're looking to get rid of it. I would give her my phone number. I would turn to her and I would say... what? 'Hello, I notice that you've put your newborn in an umbrella stroller and wanted to tell you that that is very, very bad for their necks and spines but I'm sure that you know that, you must know that, and so it must be the case that you simply could not afford a proper stroller, poor thing, (cluck cluck), and so I would be happy to offer you one, because I have two.'

Because I have two, one for the snow and the parks and one for the shops and the subway, both of them fine strollers, both of them costing far more than anyone would expect to pay for bits of fabric wrapped around a small fibreglass chassis but costing far, far less than what I would pay to ensure my child's well-being, than what I would pay to keep us happy and comfortable. What I can pay. What I can pay, and she, perhaps (and only perhaps, for who am I to judge?), cannot.

I never did speak to that young woman; I still feel guilty about this. I couldn't, at the time, because the right words wouldn't come; I would have said the wrong thing, I know, I think, I would have given the wrong look; I would have been one of those women. Pinched, critical, judgmental. And I would have had no words to explain to her that I meant well, that I wanted to help, that I understood.

She mightn't have believed me, anyway. Rightly, too. Because I don't understand. I can't, not entirely. I can only imagine that I can.

I need to remember that.

What would you have done?


The above isn't my meta-post. It was going to be. I've been struggling to figure out where judgment, or ideas about judgment, figure into our happy blogospheric/momospheric community. To what extent might our like-mindedness blind us to certain issues/ideas/perspectives? And does that matter? Can we really be radical - can this whole writing-through-our-lives thing be meaningful beyond our own little personal emancipations - if that 'we' is a collectivity that is defined by privilege? I think that the answer is yes - not least because the experience of motherhood/parenthood is, to some degree equalizing in that it gives all of us something of the taste of disempowerment, and the more that we speak about that the more that we can dispel myths and misunderstandings about our relative experiences as women, as people. But I still haven't worked out my thoughts on that.

In the meantime, as I said last day, I'd (we'd) love to hear your thoughts.

Oh, and I'd also love for you to visit the Basement, and my reviews page. Because you don't have enough to do already.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

You Are The Cheese

We're, what, only two and a half weeks into Lent? And WonderBaby has already broken her vow to abstain from imitating the Pope.

In the hungover fog that was yesterday, I completely forgot to acknowledge the wonderfulness that is this whole Thinking Blogger Award thingie. I mentioned it the other week, when I thanked OTJ, Mom-NOS and Kyla for their awesometasticness in naming me a Thinking Blogger. But then came the ever-fabulous Punditmom and my good friend Mad Momma with more thinky-linky love, and I realized that I have been woefully, unforgivably remiss in not paying this forward.

For this, I apologize. To the entire parent blogosphere, and beyond, because the whole damn thing - the whole damn lot of you - make me think. Which is saying something, because after more than a decade of studying philosophy, a few years teaching philosophy, and two and half years practicing the mostly (mostly) unphilosophic art of wrangling a WonderBaby, you'd think that I'd be pretty much mind-numbed. But no, far from it: every evening, after the nightly post-structuralist deconstruction of the works of Margaret Wise Brown, and after setting aside my dog-eared copies of Machiavelli's la Mandragola, Rousseau's Emile and Vanity Fair (Graydon Carter, not Thackeray), I turn not to the sweet oblivion of reality television - I turn to you. (Okay, most nights I turn to you.) And you always, unfailingly, make me think.

I've lost track of who has or hasn't been tagged with one of these awards. You all deserve one, and so I hate narrowing it down. But it seems to me that the men of the mom'n'poposphere have been seriously under-represented in these awards, and so I'm going to direct my attentions to them: AdventureDad, MetroDad, DadGoneMad (whose original post at the Blogfathers about his daughter's turbo-shit started me thinking early and often about the joy that is the shit of our offspring and remains, for me, the gold standard of potty philosophy), Laid-Off Dad and, of course, Dutch of Sweet Juniper. These were the first dad-bloggers on my bloggy reading list, and they remain on that (ever-growing, ever-crowded) reading list, because they never fail to make me laugh or think or - best - both.

Thanks, guys. WonderBaby salutes you:

You are the cheese.
(Don't think too long about that.)

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