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.

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Blogger Heather said...

You are such a great writer. I am getting all weepy for you reading this. (((hugs)))

11:50 AM  
Blogger CaraBee said...

As always, that was so beautiful and moving.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Backpacking Dad said...

I have seen all kinds of love for you this weekend. From friends holding Jasper for you, to friends dropping whatever they were doing to comfort you in pain.

You are bulletproof in their company.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sending you a big hug catherine.sometimes tears are needed.and its such a great way to release stress.and we all have so many selves that its hard to fulfill all of those dreams and feelings and needs without the occasional emotional outburst of tears.and you are still getting post baby hormones to settle back down.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad that you were brave enough to come with Jasper. It has been so great to see you in person as you are one of my writing idols.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that." -George Carlin

12:50 PM  
Blogger josetteplank.com said...

Aw, my dear writer-mommy-wifey-girly friend...

You are you are you are you are you.

No expectations to try hard to be all of you at anyone moment. It just will be without trying.


That's the only thing.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Lin said...

Times like this, when being a woman is so very, very hard, prove to you just how very lucky you are to be such a woman.

1:18 PM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

You are amongst friends... I just wish I was there, too, to offer up a hug.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

It is hard, so hard, to have our hearts on the outside of our bodies. Beautiful and hard. Sometimes the best thing to do is cry.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes, the only thing...the cleansing, comforting thing to do is cry.

So poignant and beautiful, with such emotion and often times pain, but then coupled with joy and elation are the blessings and curses of being a woman and a mother. Never had I read anyone articulate all of those things as eloquently as you just did.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Marty, a.k.a. canape said...

I had not read this when I asked how you were doing earlier.

However, it was a sincere question, and from an outsider's point of view, you are holding up quite well indeed.

And Jasper is simply beautiful.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

i love you in an incredibly powerful (yet hopefully non-creepy) way. always have, ever since i read "elegy." probably always will. even if you said something mean about me on the internets. even then i'd love you.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Flinger said...

Catherine, I feel like I've been one of THOSE people that I hated most during my postpartum time. ALl like, "OHHH, AHHH It's all so WONDERFUL" And you know that I know that it's not. I know it's hard. And we're all here for you in a real way.

Be nothing but who you are.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Redsy said...

hi catherine,
i saw you at guy's party struggling with jasper and i was close to offering to help but then how can i help? i don't know.. just know i saw you, felt you, and was/am rooting for you. bringing a bebe to this setting isn't easy.


4:45 PM  
Blogger Mojavi said...

sounds like you need a good Xanex! lol baby hormones are a bitch...


5:58 PM  
Blogger Niksmom said...

I'm not there to see you in person but I *felt* you in this post —in a way that I haven't before. Thank you for the courage to share your vulnerability both in your words and your actions. THAT (to me) is the essence of being all the woman you are; it's not about the roles you perform or the hats you wear ina given moment. It is the courage to be exactly as you are in any given moment.

6:14 PM  
Blogger tracey.becker1@gmail.com said...

Muwah and hugs.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Kimberly said...

My God, this is beautiful. You are an amazing mother-writer, writer-mother. Amazing.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you realize in just trying to express you, you have expressed how almost every mother in the world has felt at some point. Too good, too much, too overwhelming...not that you'd change it, but it's a lot to take in and give back out again.

You said it beautifully and honestly.

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so lovely. I would hold your kid if I was at Blogher. Hell, I'd even wipe his ass. I am a giving person. And I love your posts.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Rachael said...

What a beautiful post. You are an amazing writer. I hope you're enjoying BlogHer despite the stress!

2:45 AM  
Blogger Miscellaneous-Mum said...

It's part of the fragmentary composition of our lives; these things you describe. They can be all aligned, not perfectly - true - but close enough, for a given point of time and then they drop to the ground like marbles and scatter all to sundry. It happens to me, often.

I'm sorry you feel like this :( I can only hope - and I'm sure its so - that you've been buttressed by some great people this weekend.

Take Care x

3:55 AM  
Blogger Carolyn...Online said...

Without the vast amounts of fear and anxiety and hope and dread and love and stress we could never be the same kind of mom/friend/writer/everything.

Just breath through it.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I battle this daily. I tell myself that I CAN do it all, that I can STILL be whatever it is I dream of being...just not NOW. Not all at once.
We have such a strong need to define who we are: writer, baker, musician, whatever...and yes, mother. Always mother. And sometimes I cry over the guilt that I feel: the guilt that stems from me feeling like being "just a mother" is not good enough. I grow impatient, and scream, "Why not? Why can't I do it all at once???"

I cry daily. Seriously. Sometimes, I have no idea why I am crying. But the tears just flow. But it is all good, really, isn't it? Tears make us real. And honest. And thank the Lord up above for you, your babies, your writing, and your honesty.

You are a writer, and no doubt, motherhood has made you an even better writer. The two go hand in hand.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Beck said...

I had post-partum depression - of varying intensities and degrees - after the birth of each of my three children. It is certainly not an EASY time.
Beautfully written, though. Of course.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Jenifer said...

This was so raw and real it made me stop and read it again.

I truly hope the rest of the weekend passes by easily.

1:04 PM  
Blogger sam {temptingmama} said...

*hugs* I love you!

I'm sorry you were struggling. I too had some of my very own struggles this weekend in Niagara so I completely and wholeheartedly understand!

Your in my thoughts! I hope you have an uneventful trip home!

3:13 PM  
Blogger Candygirlflies said...

You will find your "groove" again... I promise. Give it time, my friend-- these are early days, yet!

I can't tell you how impressed I am that you made that long trip with your wee boy. You are stronger and braver than you realize, and even if there were some "wobbly" moments, know that you achieved something wonderful this weekend.

Wish I had been there, too-- I'd have loved to have met you, and been able to lend a hand.

Safe journey home--

Much love, CGF xoxo

7:30 PM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

I know.



...Whose favorite image was that polka dot sling.

12:05 AM  
Blogger Lori said...

Powerful post...thank you for sharing...these could of been my words and if we are all honest, most of us have felt these things at some point in our lives. Crying is good for the soul...I hope you can just "be" in this moment, breath through it and let go of anything you need to just let go of and embrace whatever is yours right now.

1:01 AM  
Blogger Cynthia Samuels said...

Oh Catherine! Once again your words have a power exceeded only by the depth and pain of your feelings. And it just kills me to have walked past you blithely telling you how great you look: not-fat post-partum body, not-too-tired looking face and beautiful, warm, delicious baby boy - and not seen what was going on underneath. Those feelings, so familiar, so wrenching, have haunted us all - our limitless love crashing into those other selves and sending sparks and lightning up into the stratosphere.
Thank you, as always, for reminding us who we really are. And I'm so - personally - so sorry not to have just come up to you and given you - and Jasper - a hug. I send dozens, right now. And deep, abiding regard and thanks.

2:00 AM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Your writing is beautiful, as are you and Jasper. I'm glad we got to see each other yesterday, if only briefly before I hustled home to nurse my baby (breast pump catastrophe). I was sorry to miss bloggy events, but holding him, snuggled up in the dim light - heart in my arms indeed.

Wishing you well!

3:36 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

I'll tell you one thing - I know I won't have it in me to go anywhere far or busy with a babe so young, so I am impressed at the part of you that is that adventuresome. Brave or stupid? Are they always different? Does it have to be named anyhow, or can you just be someone who wants to keep striving and keep being? I spent this weekend glad mine was still in utero so I could enjoy the company of friends without the distractions. Next year? Who knows.

4:11 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

As my heart squirmed in my arms and my soul ached in my gut, I cried

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very moving..great post.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the late great Wendy Wasserstein tried to sell her play The Heidi Chronicles, her agent told her that it was about too many things. "So are women's lives," she told him.

You are in good company.

12:23 PM  
Blogger heels said...

You were gorgeous and poised and it was so good to meet you. Thanks for not thinking I was insane for asking to smell Jasper's head. Or maybe you did, but you hid it really well.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Kyla said...

That baby boy of yours is gorgeous. It was so good to see you again, Catherine.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Tootsie Farklepants said...

Would it be to forward of me to give you a hug? Cuz I wanna.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Karen MEG said...

Catherine, your writing is powerful, even through your tears. Raw, emotional, and wonderful.
Don't ever forget that.
Hugs to you...

2:34 PM  
Blogger scarbie doll said...

You rocked it lady. I know it was hard, but you did it and survived. Now I need to design you that t-shirt.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I swear had I been there I would have hugged you both and sat with you while you cried. I would have given you a shoulder to cry on or just a friend to keep the masses at bay long enough for you to breathe. I can only tell you that I struggle daily with these feelings too and my boys are almost 16 months old. I promise it'll get better. Or at least easier to be a few things at once instead of all things at once. You are only one person, no matter how many roles you play.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So very very glad you're not invisible. We, all of us--friends, writers, mothers, peers--need you.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Having watched you, talked with you and, on some level, suffered through the same back, heart and mind strain, I found your "wholeness" incredibly radiant.

It is just never easy, but how rich to have all these sides. You and your babe were loved, at home and in your away place, that's pretty incredible.

Take care almost friend.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This really spoke to me. Thank you for sharing so much. I am a new mother to a seven month old boy who makes my heart grow larger each day. I cannot go to bed in the next room without missing him but I also yearn for a few moments to feel like a child-less self, me. It's a balance that leaves me dumbfounded sometimes. The tears? They flow often. It is a lot to bear.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Mom O Matic said...

Thought you were a force. Was most impressed.

2:22 AM  
Blogger therapydoc said...

Isn't crying great?

8:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aww, Catherine. I witnessed your tears and asked you if you were O (duh) and felt so awkward and helpless. A day later I was awed by your succinct, intelligent questions in a panel, and was relieved you were OK. Will be OK.

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought it was awesome that you nursed him during the panel.

Truly freakin' awesome.

It's so important that we see this balance, this writer-mother, mother-writer balance, and see the passion for both shine through like they did in you this weekend.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Dondi Tiples said...

I've become more aware of the great deal of information that's been cropping up about this mother-writer conundrum, and about how "neither the twain shall meet". I never realized it had become such a big deal these days. I noticed it only started gaining ground when mom-blogging became popular.

6:55 AM  
Blogger jen said...

You are so brave to even try to be all the "selves". Most people never even try and then live a life full of regrets. It is hard to feel like we are having to choose between ourselves. We feel torn and in a loose-loose situation. Congratulations on choosing to try and figure out how to make it work. It might be hard today but some day you will give courage to that little bundle in your arms as you share this experience with them. You will be able to say that it was hard but you tried and you were successful. They will find strength and courage from having you as their mother. Congratulations!

8:08 PM  
Blogger Michelle W said...

Sadly, we can not always be all things to all people. You do more than most people ever do. You try. And even though you may feel like a personal failure at times (we all do) because you are not able to keep all those balls in the air at once, it is okay. You are a writer when you need to be one. A friend when you need to be one. A drinker when you need to be one. (is there ever a time not to be one?) And so on.... I have never posted a comment on here before. Truthfully, I never felt like I had anything to connect to you with. I've liked a lot of things that you've written, but never felt that emotional component that might make me comment on someone's blog. But this is something that I go through all the time. You rock as a writer. I am sure you rock as a mother. And it seems to me that you rock as a person too.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"..yearning to be seen, and yearning to be invisible."

Yep. That sums up in one well-written phrase my entire BlogHer experience.

And I had NO ONE latched onto my boobs, baby or otherwise. Sadly.

(I loved it, I'm going next year, thank you for saying it all so beautifully.)

5:56 PM  
Blogger Jenny, the Bloggess said...

If I'd been there I would have so hugged you and told you how truly visible you are. You are a spotlight in the room and you have no idea how bright you shine.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Joy! said...

So eloquently honest.
I love this!

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What Michelle 2:43 said. Gosh she said that well.

And, "The Three Questions" based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, Written and Illustrated by Jon J Muth.

You cannot be all things to all people all the time...even trying will exhaust you. Prioritize, one thing at a time. Adults can understand, (true) friends will understand, children can learn and isn't this one of the many important things we need to role model to them. That said, I don't think you can really teach something to a person without telling them that you are teaching it to them, so some education/information on the topic in manageable age appropriate amounts is also needed.

Read the book. Know you are doing your best. Ask for help when you need it (from those around you and the professionals). And lighten up on yourself. Why are we always our own worst enemies.

12:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are such a lovely person and I'm glad to have met you in person this year. What an overwhelming experience this world of writer/mothers, mother/writers can be. You are such a big part of it and we appreciate that. Very inspirational, indeed. Until next time...hold your babies close and keep typing...because we'll keep reading.

12:58 AM  
Blogger feather nester said...

That was beautiful and moving. And thank you.

3:53 PM  

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