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Friday, February 10, 2006

Blog Book Tour: Literary Mama

Motherhood is one of the most misunderstood professions. Or, perhaps it is one of the most falsely-advertised career paths. The mishmash of helplessness, hurt, anxiety, love, joy, and sadness is not something that is readily advertised in parenting magazines. Those promoted images portrait happy, thriving women in spotless clothing with cheerful, well-behaved and well-adjusted kids in tow. Those women are rarely hurt or depressed or alone. Occasionally you'll find the story of a women who overcomes adversity or whose child was ill. But even then, the guts of the story was removed and the end piece reflects the glossy pages it was printed on. That makes the rest of us feel like failures when we don't feel perky, totally satisfied, completely fulfilled, or in love with out kids every day.

One of the reasons I started a blog and have become addicted to reading blogs by mothers is that our personal journeys connect us and remove that layer of isolation. I read about mothers who struggle the way I struggle, who feel the way I sometimes feel: blank, unwritten, erased.

Andi Buchanan, author of Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It and Amy Hudock, PhD, coeditor of American Women Prose Writers," have edited a new book called, Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined. It's a collection of creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry that captures the many faces of motherhood. It applauds all of the roads that lead to motherhood and acknowledges that every struggle and every triumph--big and small--was not in vain because there is someone out there who can empathize with the experience.

In many of the essays, I could see myself. I could feel the pain and the joy of mothering.

In her essay, Out of the Woods, Lizbeth Finn-Arnold found a way out of a nurturing rut and ultimately rediscovered herself, her interests, and her passions. She wrote: "I had become stuck in a maternal pattern of nurturing others before myself...It has become easier to reclaim some of my former self, as my children get older, become more independent, and spend more time at school. I have also learned to take the time to nourish my soul, mind, body--without feeling guilty."

In her essay, Johnny, Heidi Raykeil learned to hurt, to heal, and to live after the death of her newborn. She wrote: "If only I could put him back, where he was safe and alive. I would go on being pregnant for a lifetime if it meant he would be healthy and happy, turning somersaults and kicking the days away inside me...(After his death) [t]hey commented on how amazing we through the whole thing, how miraculous Johnny was, how we were somehow bettered by the experience. But to me it seemed like a load of crap..."

While mothering is an individual journey, there are few paths that have not been walked on before. And reading other women's experiences is like having some kind of map; it does not tell us where to go, but rather, it allows us to feel good about how we've managed to get this far and where we're headed. Even when the destination is unclear.

Read the book introduction here.


  1. Seems like everyone who reads this book has to comment on "Johnny". I can understand; the story just ripped my heart out.

    You have a right nice blog here!

  2. Hello, again, Chief.

    You are 'right on' in your assessment of the many parenting articles that stereotype mothers into a few small categories: Stoic Mom ('Boopy has insomnia and I have not slept for the past 12 years'); Frazzled Mom ('Bippy has piano twelve times a week and Tiny doesn't like peas - I don't know what to do'); Uptight Mom ('My friend lets her kids play with the lawnmower - what should I do?'). All of the so-called issues these pseudo-Moms have are small and solveable. Indeed, Mom has usually learned her lesson and is looking forward to being an even better mother.

    What about Regular Mom? Good-enough Mom? Shitty on some days, better on others? What do the pseudo-moms, paragons of cotton and organic vegetables, do when there is a serious illness in the family? A death? Someone loses a job? Is Bosco in a bubble, protected from all of this?

    I'm not sure motherhood is misunderstood. For example, when telling a toddler "that's not okay" is considered excellent communication for us to use with our kids, something is off-center. "That's wrong" is a lot easier. Even I understand it. Why the gloss?

    Publishers oughta quit trying to market scar-mucus-whine-and- scream-free mothering and write about something compelling - like what to take for a headache when one child is yelling in your ear and the other is wailing downstairs.

    Moms need a few more baths, a little more use of the microwave.
    Boopy can go watch a little t.v., eat some chocolate, and tease her sister.