I sit here, in the blessed quiet of the post-kids-bedtime limbo — time guiltily stolen from household chores (got 5 minutes? you could shine your sink a là FlyLady) and church duties (Sunday’s just three days away — is your Sunday School lesson ready?). Stolen because really I should just go to bed so there’d be more than a 50 percent chance of getting through the morning without yelling at my kids.
And I ask myself, why don’t I do anything with my life? After even just an hour of quiet, I have forgotten how time- and energy- consuming the three hooligans are. It’s frustrating, because I don’t know how much of my continued sklunklishness is due to the fact that I had to listen to high-pitched whining for ten hours today, and how much is just evidence of the good doctor’s wisdom when he said, “when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”
I should probably read one of those motherhood-motivational books that I see advertised in the pseudo-church press circulars. But, barf.
Or I should woman-up and get me some discipline. Nah — using all my discipline to stick to a mere five brownies tonight.
Here’s some irony. I have this great idea for a motherhood book of my own. The basic concept is that it would be a mother book by an actual stay-at-home mother, not a stay-at-home mother with an impressive journalistic career temporarily on hold while she freelances in between diaper changes (although someone like that would probably be pretty inspiring).
Because, and this is my original idea, mothering and writing about mothering is kind of like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: the more you step away from it (mothering) by getting book contracts and ignoring (blissfully, I imagine) your kids to research the book (by reading similar books, naturally), write the book, and promote the book, the less experience you have of actually being JUST a mother.
Or, to be more analogic — the closer you look, the harder it is to know what exactly a mother is, because instead of being, you’re seeing.
Some women have the energy and intelligence to be a mother and a lawyer, painter, doctor, plumber. And others got married even younger than the average age for Mormon girls and have spent 90 percent of their adults lives as . . . mothers.
The ironic thing is that, after having this great idea, and getting hyped about it with my kindred (mom) spirit Tara, we’ve (I’ve — it was my idea after all) done exactly nothing about it. Oh, except, she’s about to have her third kid, and I moved across the country with my family and established a new household and supported my husband through a couple of (very rewarding) job changes. And today I took Sally and Susan to dance class.
At the risk (too late) of making this a very long post, here’s what’s motivating me (or trying to) out of my slump:
Four takes on What Is A Mother?:
Watts: It’s 1987 Ray. Did you know a woman can be anything she wants to be?
Ray: I know; my mom’s a plumber. And I have an enormous amount of respect for her.
Watts: That explains a lot about you Ray.
Some Kind of Wonderful
Am not inspired to become a plumber. Movie as a whole makes you want to go out and marry your best friend. Oh wait. We can check that off the To-Do list. Check.
I love being in my mother’s kitchen. It is always warm and steamy and filled with activity. In my mind, I have a kitchen like this. The cabinets are filled with dishes that actually get used. The pots sit out on the stove, waiting for the day’s sauces and soups and stew. The cookbook on the counter is dog-eared and splattered with grease and gravy and icing smudges.
Sometimes, I wanted to marry Morelli so I’d have a kitchen like my mom’s. Then, other times, I worried that I couldn’t pull it off, and I’d have a husband and three kids, and we’d all be eating take-out standing over the sink. I guess there are worse things in the world than take-out, but in my mother’s kitchen, take-out feels a little like failure.
Lean Mean Thirteen, p. 262
I wish I could recommend Janet Evanovich’s books to my mom and sister, but they wouldn’t like the bad language and sketchy relationship entanglements. And I could use a little less formula and a little more emotional /intellectual growth on the part of the heroine. But, dang. She’s a fantastic storyteller. Makes you want to learn how to shoot a gun, or not. I actually prefer my own kitchen to my mom’s; only because I know where everything is in my cupboards.
Although she volunteered, served on various committees, or stuck her oar in countless organizations, she’d never worked outside the home. He’d gone through a period in his late teens and early twenties where he’d imagined her (pitied her) as an unfulfilled, semidesperate housewife.
… [after he’d taken her aside to encourage her to break out of this repression]
“I get to use this house as my studio, my science project, my laboratory and my showroom. I get to be the director, the designer, the set builder, and the star of the whole show. Now, why would I want to go out and get a job or a career — since we don’t need the money — and have somebody else tell me what to do and when to do it?”
She’d crooked her finger so he leaned down to her. And she’d laid a hand on his cheek. “You’re such a sweetheart, Caleb. You’re going to find out that not everybody wants what society — in whatever its current mood or mode might be — tells them they should want. I consider myself lucky, even privileged, that I was able to make the choice to stay home and raise my children. And I’m lucky to be able to be married to a man who doesn’t mind if I use my talents . . . I’m happy. And I love knowing that you worried I might not be.
Blood Brothers, p. 141
I’ve liked Nora Roberts for a long time. Double plus on the not being able to recommend due to language and sexual situations. Too bad. And double double plus on being very formulaic, which is good and bad. It’s like going to Olive Garden or Outback to eat. Might not be exciting and new (at least after the first few times), but reliable and satisfying. And I love how she describes this woman’s outlook. I’m kind of conflicted — wanting different things moment to moment. Tara says mothering is great–like the ups and downs of PMS, only multiplied. (no pun there).
Dear Baby, I hope someday somebody wants to hold you for 20 minutes straight and that’s all they do. They don’t pull away. They don’t look at your face. They don’t try to kiss you. All they do is wrap you up in their arms without an ounce of selfishness in it.
Waitress, Jenna writing in journal while pregnant
I’m seeing a definite pattern here. All considerations of talent and temperament aside (they aren’t that important, right?), perhaps part of my writer’s block is due to the fact that what I like to read and, often, watch, contains thematic elements I can’t recommend to my nearest and dearest. hmmmm.
Dick and I really liked Waitress. It’s got adultery in it, which is usually a big turn-off for me, but it was very realistic and understandable, and most importantly, not glamorized/rewarded. More depressing were the two very unadmirable main male characters. I don’t think I see the male of the species through a rosy haze, but this was pretty brutal.
But at least Jenna isn’t some angelically boring earth-mother-pregnancy–is-glorious type. When she invents a pie in honor of the baby-to-be, she calls it “Pregnant Miserable Self-Pitying Loser Pie… Lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in. Flambé of course.” It’s probably pretty unrealistic that her whole life changes the second her baby is placed in her arms, but it’s a nice fairytale. I am mother: I have purpose.