Sunday, January 13, 2008
Sunday Morning or Go To the Neighbors' House and Play While Mommy Has a Beer
I have gotten into the habit of reading a few books at a time. I did it in highschool with fiction. Now I tend to be reading/ dabbling through a reference book while reading a nonfiction book and a novel. I am really enjoying the Mill on the Floss but the reading is somewhat dense and although I am loving the story it is certainly not a page turner. I have been wanting to read Middlemarch for years and am glad that I am reading The MIll...first since Talaya told me she couldn't finish it after reading Middlemarch, which she enjoyed immensely. A month ago I began reading the second book in my informal study of the culture of motherhood. Our good friend Dawn is getting a Phd. in Comm. Her main focus is Women in Academia. Dawn is amazing. She has two fabulous kids, and a husband who manages a small antique business on the side while helping to raise the kids. Life for them is full and tough, like life for all of us families in Academia! There is a double standard because she is a mother. I think she does a lot more family stuff while being a student and teacher, than she would do if she was a dad. Dawn lent me a book similar to Judith Warner's but instead focuses on the media's portrayal of Motherhood. The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women, The Mommy Myth - Susan J.Douglas and Meridith Micheals. In the first chapter of this book, Douglas quotes Adrienne Rich from Riches' Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, a book I plan to read soon and a quote I have read many times. I think that this quote, which I first read in The Mother Reader - Essential Readings by Moyra Davey, is the most eloquent summary of what it is like for me to be a mother.
"My children cause me the most exquisite suffering of which I have any experience. It is the suffering of ambivalence: the murderous alternation between bitter resentment and raw-edged nerves, and blissful gratification and tenderness. Sometimes I seem to myself, in my feelings toward these tiny guiltless beings, a monster of selfishness and intolerance...I love them. But it is in the enormity and inevitibility of this love that the sufferings lie."
It is a description of ambivalence that is seriously taboo. Can it be natural to feel this way? All of the media images we see of mothers, esp. those celebrities with their perfect pre-maternity bodies, clan of Internationally adopted and/or biologically born babies in their 100$ slings or trendy strollers, are of happy "natural" moms.
Douglas describes how Rich was not launching a critique of motherhood itself "... but of the institution it had become.
"Motherhood has been penal servitude, it need not be." -Adrienne Rich
To end on a positive note ...
"We need to imagine a world in which every woman is the presiding genius of her own body. In such a world women will truly create new life, bringing forth not only children (if and as we choose) but the visions, and the thinking, necessary to sustain, console and alter human existence-a new relationship to the universe...This is where we have to begin." - Rich
This morning there is coffee, loud boys playing with cars and almost peeing on the floor and lovely Auntie/cousin Sara.