Monday, February 22, 2010

I Love Books. And Moms. And the Lead Singer from Ok Go.

February is the month of love.
And I love books.

Lots and lots of books.  Lately I've been fantasizing about going to a hotel about 1 mile from my house and spending the weekend.  The kids and CH can visit the first night and use the pool, but I'll just sit in the hotel room and read and eat Chinese takeout.  There is a Starbucks conveniently located across the street.  It would be a slice of heaven.

Since we bought George the Superpet, I've been spending time teaching him tricks.  He can sit, lay, speak, and read.  George pre-reads all of my books and tells me if they are worth the time and aggravation of me reading it and telling my kids to quit interrupting and ultimately making me feel like a neglectful and verbally abusive parent while not comprehending anything I'm reading because I am anticipating when the next small person will approach and say "Can I have a bagel?" or "Where is my iPod?" or "My snake has mites". 

Don't believe me?  Here is George reading in his chair:

He really loved "The Girls From Ames"
This week, George the Superpet is reading "To Hell With All That - Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife" by Caitlin Flanagan.  He loves it, and so I started reading it too, and now I am wondering why the hell Caitlin Flanagan felt it necessary to track my life and record it in her absurd yellow book like she's my own personal Jane Goodall, watching me make coffee and observe my developing turkey gobbler chin and packing lunches.  Because the book is pretty much everything I think about wifery, and I'm beginning to consider suing her for taking every idea I've ever had on the subject.  Was it necessary for her to be THAT good?  Couldn't she have saved something for me to write about?  Sheesh.

Caitlin (Ms. Flanagan if you're nasty) writes about the dichotomy between the working mother and the at-home mom, and how we, as women, are always willing to vilify the other side as "the wrong choice".  As soon as you have children in school, you are expected to take sides in the Mommy Wars, with one side saying Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem worked so you could have that job and free yourself, and Martha Stewart and PTA's across the country saying that the real freedom is being home with your kids and making a perfect souffle or running the talent show.  

Caitlin is funny and witty and I can relate to so much of what she says.  She had me at hello.  I've always struggled with the issue of what kind of mother I am, and I've done it all:  I've worked full time.  I've worked part-time.  I've job shared.  I've been home full time.  I've owned my own store and brought the kids in with me.  I've started my own business from home.  And since I've done it all, I am here to tell mothers across the world what I have learned:  


What feminism really brought us was the choice to do what we need to do in our individual lives, and how feminism failed us is in not bringing the men up to speed in their half of the bargain.  I see homeschooling moms ripping on the public school moms, who rip on the private school moms, who rip on the homeschooling moms.  I see moms criticize other moms for not volunteering enough at school, and then for volunteering too much, and then for not doing a good enough job at their UNPAID volunteer work.  I see working moms criticize at-home moms who turn around and criticize working moms.  By tearing each other down, we don't make our particular method look better, it makes us all look equally bad.

How many dads do you hear saying "Has he ever been room parent?" or "He is ruining that kid's self-esteem."?  Probably not many.  And this is because most dads don't judge each other by their parenting skills, and they've managed to absolve themselves from the responsibilities of room parenting and intensive self-esteem instruction.  Hero time!

Both of my grandmothers were bona fide farm wives.  They were home with the kids and worked their asses off (sorry Grandmas, I said a bad word, but I feel it was necessary.)  My mom, on the other hand, was a full-time nurse in management and also worked (still works) extremely hard, and my sister and I were latchkey kids.  So I became an at-home mom for the most part to "be there" for my kids, as though somehow my mom wasn't there for us, when she was there if we needed her.  So what did Oldest Daughter tell me yesterday?  That IF she has kids, she is planning on being an attorney who makes partner, and she'll hire a good nanny.  It is the cycle of post-feminist motherhood.  Erma Bombeck said it best when she said 'The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank'.  You're going to want what you didn't have as a kid, but no matter how green the grass looks, there is a vat of shit underneath through which you will inevitably have to wade.

I was in blissful Gavin Rossdale/Edge-type love with the book, and then Caitlin went and took a side.  And I had to disagree with her.  And it was like I found the perfect husband - he was hot, he took out garbage and fixed things and scraped my windshield and brought me coffee and was great with my friends, and then he was gay.  We could be great friends and go to movies and terrific restaurants and think Robert Pattinson or the lead singer from Ok Go was hot even if he was too young, but we couldn't be married.  And I was sad. 

She said the at-home moms are the way to go, and the kids really need you at home.  Maybe I could go along with Caitlin to some extent if she recognized that she's an at-home mom who had a nanny waiting on the front steps when she brought her babies home, and has a housekeeper and a gardener, and is a published writer with regular work.  She has the best of all worlds, I don't doubt most of us would jump at the chance for our own version of her scenario.  I don't judge her for her choices - Yay for her!  I want her life!  But I take issue with her judging others' choices.

For the most part, we're all good moms.  I think most of us yell and lose our cool.  I think most of us wish we were better cooks/organized/housekeepers/moms/wives to some extent.  And there are times when I certainly think To Hell With All This...but when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter what the other moms think about how I parent.  I love my kids, and they love me.  We laugh, and we hug, and we cry, and we stomp, and while we have our ups and downs, I think we're all going to come out of this relatively unscathed with lots of great stories to tell the daughter- and sons-in-law who will join us.  And so will you.

Congratulations.  I just named you Mother of the Year.  February is the month of love, so take a minute to love yourself and the choices you make.  Feel better?  Good.  Let's go get some coffee and eat some brownies and tell those kids to shut the hell up.



Brenda said...

Brilliant post, Julie! Absolutely agree with you, we are all on the same team trying to deal with our own shit. So best not to throw more shit at each other. Yes?!

PS. Thanks for the award. No cash vouchers attached with it, no? Just thought I'd ask.; )

Wendy Ramer said...

I would LOVE to have a coffee with you some day. You and I are so on the same page (which we apparently don't share with Caitlin Flanagan). And thanks for making me feel good about myself. Not only are you a great mom, but I suspect you are also a true friend.

GrandeMocha said...

I would LOVE to have a coffee with you too! Let's declare a To Hell With All This Day.

Julie, The Wife said...

Oooh! Oooh! Let it be today! Let's all meet at the Starbucks in Duck Creek in The Quad Cities! Wendy? Grande? Brenda, I know you are Down Under, but your oversized check is in the mail.

SueWags said...

That was FABULOUS Julie! I telecommute and try to be there for my kids as much as possible, but you never please the little whiners....(smile). My kids (like your oldest) now tell me that they want to be teachers in their kids' schools so they can be with them more. Well, howdy-doody kids....have it....if I were a teacher, I would be in jail because I would have inflicted some harm on one of my students, I'm sure, by now.

We all struggle, we all try our very best and I'm guessing that it will be good enough in the end. As long as we are good to ourselves once in a while.

Oh and I have a kitchen magnet that says "Ever realize that 'What the Hell' is always an appropriate answer?"

Anita said...

I'm with you. Work full-time, feel guilty, pay babysitter alot. Have money to buy nice clothes to make self feel better, in larger size since I eat to hide emotions. Work part-time, still feel guilty, not enough money for new clothes, fat. Open business and take kids with- they are bored on day 3 so you leave them at home and moms across the hwy gossip that you leave a 5th grader home after school ( you know who you are, karaoke queen)Stay home- kids are bitchy cause you are flat broke, must learn to cook because it is cheaper, and one kid tells her friend- my Mom does NOTHING. You can't win for losing so just pick a straw and go with it.

Anonymous said...

I've struggled with this idea and I'm not even a mom yet. Actually, the idea of having to choose between working and staying at home scares the crap out of me. It's one of the reasons why I've waited to have kiddies. Then, I won't have to deal with it!

It's true, it seems that women will tear each other up over this idea. My cousin was telling me about an Oprah episode she watched a couple of years ago about this issue and it was like the at-home moms were at war with the working moms. Not cool. Aren't they all just trying to do their best to raise independent adults?

Thanks for posting this. It's nice to hear your perspective from both sides.

Emilie said...

I am currently thirteen weeks pregnant with my second child. My first one is 4 (drama queen), my step-son is 8 and our foster daughter (some days I need someone to explain to me why I thought climbing this mountain was a great idea~ though I love her and her resilience~) is 16... Now with technically our fourth child in utero, I am struggling with this exact issue.

I was a single working mother from newborn to three years old with my daughter and, may I say, worked my ass off to provide a roof over our heads and food on our proverbial plates. I did this all while struggling to provide nurturing and quality mommy/baby time while balancing much needed "me time" to keep myself sane (the irony of which, is that I am an administrator for a psychiatric medical practice) HA!

Flash forward to now: my husband and I own a four bedroom house and he makes enough money for us to get by economically with little extravagance if need be, and my salary buys groceries and pays for daycare and any above and beyond WANTS that may come along.

Not having never been in the position to choose to stay home with my newborn for more than six weeks and also being the kind of person that needs structure to my days, both prospects look intriguing, yet scary! Will I be bored? Will I be able to get a job when the time is right to go back to work when the wee one is in school? Will the time be right to ever go back to work? Will it make a difference in my children's lives?

All I can say is that I wish I had a crystal ball! Such good food for thought today Julie!

GrandeMocha said...

This is the Starbucks by my house.

Julie, The Wife said...

Ah, GrandeMocha. That's why you weren't there. This is your Starbucks to my Starbucks - only 7 hours and 1 very important minute:

GrandeMocha said...

Anything west of Chicago requires a plane from my house. I'm not a car trip girl.

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