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guilt is the trip mothers take often

Motherhood in the beginning is sickeningly isolating, especially if La Leche League gets their hold on your conscience. Your partner may be super duper awesome and really do the concept of 50/50 co-parenting justice. BUT. When you are up at night alone (because someone has to get up to go to work so you can pay for the diapers and shit) with a crying baby that simply will not go to sleep without putting up a fierce fight, yeah, it really sucks. You (ok, I) feel so helpless, abandoned even. Day after day. Night after night. Waiting for that tyrant who took over your existence to relent and show you some mercy.

I don’t think I’ve ever properly recovered from that trauma of isolation and abandonment. And I believe this psychological scar greatly contributes to my loss of faith in the myth of motherhood and my subsequent cynicism. Paying lip service to what a great sacrifice it is to be a mother is the society’s way of keeping our mouths shut: Yes you are all awesome superwomen. Without you, the civilization will end. Now STFU and make me a sandwich. Nobody in power (yes, balding white male I am talking about you) gives a shit about making it easier for women who maybe want to be mothers and something more.

 

By now you probably have heard of /read the article on The Atlantic penned by Anne Marie Slaughter, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All: The Myth of Work-Life Balance”. Dr. Slaughter is a professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. She served as Director of Policy Planning under Hilary Clinton from 2009 to 2011. Eventually she did quit the high-demanding job that frequently kept her away from her children, a fact that spurred the authoring of this article.

The premise of this article that has been shared and re-shared, lauded, debated, and of course, critiqued, thousands of times could be summed up in this:

Women of my generation have clung to the feminist credo we were raised with, even as our ranks have been steadily thinned by unresolvable tensions between family and career, because we are determined not to drop the flag for the next generation. But when many members of the younger generation have stopped listening, on the grounds that glibly repeating “you can have it all” is simply airbrushing reality, it is time to talk.

I still strongly believe that women can “have it all” (and that men can too). I believe that we can “have it all at the same time.” But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured. My experiences over the past three years have forced me to confront a number of uncomfortable facts that need to be widely acknowledged—and quickly changed.

 

Although the article does not end in a despairing note, the hope it provides, the solutions suggested — necessary changes in policies, laws, representations, and cultures, simply seems too far to be within imaginable reach. Nevertheless, I actually felt relieved after I read this, that I have not simply been a whiner, or been less fortunate in terms of my choice of a spouse, or timed having children incorrectly, or not been committed enough. It is also good to know that “wanting to have it all” has been grossly exaggerated into “becoming a super human”

I’d been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).

When in fact all we are asking for is to NOT to have to make compromises that our male counterparts in marriage/relationship (i.e. fathers of our children) are less likely to be asked to make, and when they do make those compromises, are less likely to be judged or criticized for it.

I have no wisdom to part with nor intelligent comments on the debate that has been raging on somewhere out there.

One minute I am all Let’s take over the world mother-f-ers. The next minute I wish I had never got into my head to be somebody when I grew up. [Please don’t leave angry comments about how being a mother IS somebody. You know that’s not what I meant. Take your mommy war and agenda somewhere else please.]

Why do we tell our girls to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, mathematicians, that they can be all that they want to be, if in the end, should they get married, they are expected to bear children, and should they become mothers, they are expected to become perfect mothers?

There are regrets that I would never dare to have, What-if questions that I would never dare to ask. If I get to stand at the crossroads of life, which would I choose, hypothetically? And which hypothetical answers will hurt whom and how much?

 

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Yes, I am the Grinch, Mother’s Day version. I wrote a whiny, bitchy, grouchy post on/near Mother’s Day every year. I thought about restraining myself this year because as we all know, bitterness is extremely unattractive. The problem with bitterness is that it easily borders on envy, and as we also know, envy is one of the seven deadly sins. (That being said, I still call bullshit on the killer’s motive in Seven…)

Unlike the optional Father’s Day that celebrates the underprivileged, undercelebrated fathers of the world, Mother’s Day is an internationally recognized holiday. My memory of Mother’s Day was forever ruined when I was a kid back in Taipei. In grade school, for Mother’s Day every year, a period would be scheduled for making carnations out of tissue papers and wires. Sounds fun, right? Now consider this: There is a suggested “rule” for the use of carnation: wear a red carnation if your mother is still alive; wear a white one if your mother has passed away. And imagine this: someone in your classroom had just lost his mother… Picture this: on every desk was laid out pieces of red tissue papers, except one.

I cannot recall whether the boy cried or not. But whenever I think of Mother’s Day from that day on, I see the white tissue papers on his desk.

And then I want to go back in time and punch those stupid teachers.

 

As I said, I was going to shut up about Mother’s Day and join in the festivities at least online. (IRL, I am working, and nothing has been planned to mark today any different from any other Sunday. In fact, I completely forgot about it for myself, and therefore I forgot to get anything for my MIL and my own mother. Yes, I can be a heartless bitch. I am very sorry, Mom. I really really am… One more thing, if I may ask, why is it MY job to remember Mother’s Day for MIL and Father’s Day for FIL? I love them dearly but still.)  That is, until I saw this Forbes article about the founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Marie Jarvis. I knew that Jarvis campaigned to have a day established to commemorate mothers all over the world per her own mother’s wish. She asked people to wear carnations on this day in memory of her mother because carnations were her favorite. What surprises me, and should everybody else, is that Jarvis was outraged by the gross commercialization of Mother’s Day soon afterwards. “Jarvis detested the commercialism of what the day had become. With her sister Ellsinore, they spent their family inheritance fighting the day’s designation.” She dedicated the rest of her life to campaign against Mother’s Day, or probably more accurately, the gross commercialization of Mother’s Day.

A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.

So there you have it.

Jarvis would have been an awesome blogger, imo.

Did I ever mention that I have a pathological need to be liked? Ok, it may not be obvious considering how paradoxically I cannot help being a sarcastic bitch. Anyway, that need extends to my children as well. I don’t doubt that they love me, but LIKE is something else. You need to earn it. (Except on Facebook, I guess.)  My decidedly unsentimental sentiment towards Mother’s Day aside, every year on this day, instead of expecting some obligatory adoration from my family, I become even more paranoid about how I have been performing as a mother. The self doubt becomes overwhelming as the day progresses and I just want it to end so we can all get back to our regularly scheduled programs. I was rescued from myself when Mr. Monk handed me a hand-made card with a twenty dollar bill inside. I burst into tears as I read the words. Maybe Mother’s Day does not suck that much after all.

 

 

p.s. But wait. What does he mean by “inside every dark world”? Is he saying that his world is dark? That he is unhappy? He’s not even 10 years old yet. What have I done to my child??!! Oh lord… The saga of my guilt trip continues…

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I’m sitting in the train station with the only Starbucks in this town. This has been a routine of mine for Saturday mornings when the kids are at religious class. I like to think it’s free babysitting service provided by the Catholic church for me.

“Awwwww. How cute!” I exclaimed to myself when I saw the father sitting at the table in front of me trying to put up a ponytail for his little girl. The grandmothers from the table next obviously thought the same as they commented on how adorable the scene was.

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I immediately caught myself, wondering WHY, why is it deemed universally adorable whenever we see fathers (attempting to) take care of their OWN children, and whether I ever go “Awww” when I see a woman taking care of hers.

Sometimes, the more clumsy the attempt, the more adorable it appears. The man clearly is trying his best. He gets points for the effort. Do we ever give mothers credits for simply trying without passing judgment?

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Conversation with my mother, or, why I dread it

December 21, 2011 therapy in session

The phone rang. At this hour I knew it has got to be from my mother. What does she want this time? Is always my first thought. Then I feel guilty about it. More often than not, however, I get to stop feeling guilty because she is calling to add to my shopping list called […]

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How to Care For Introverts

October 16, 2011 no manual for parenting

  I first discovered this instruction and posted it in 2009. I just recently found the original article where this set of “rules” came from: The American dream is to be extraverted. We want our children to be “people who need people.” We want them to have lots of friends, to like parties, to prefer to […]

21 comments

Fall

September 17, 2011 random

Pumpkin spice latte is back! I am not ashamed to admit that every year I look forward to the arrival of fall because of this. You have heard this a million and one times, I am sure. But fall really is my favorite season. Despite the annoying process of reorganizing my clothes and shoes according […]

16 comments

If I could tell you one thing about parenting

August 2, 2011 no manual for parenting

My 8-year-old, known as Mr. Monk here, is singing a song that he improvises right now. In the middle of the Kaleidoscopic of lyrics, I heard,   Thank you for being our mother.   I chuckled. “I honestly do not know how to take that.” “Well, don’t take it as an insult. I am not being sarcastic.” […]

29 comments

Guilt is the trip

May 20, 2011 therapy in session

Dear Blog, I am very sorry for ignoring you for so long. I have not logged in for at least three days. I am so happy that you are still here. Let’s see… It is 1:40 am right now. I am sad to say that I can at most spend 15 minutes with you. A […]

27 comments

Running Away

May 6, 2011 therapy in session

Did you ever consider running away when you were a child? I thought I was the only one until I read this post by Matt Posky, talking about his failed attempts at running away (often thwarted by his mother’s playing along). Running away. When I was in kindergarten, I often wished I were adopted. (Let’s […]

20 comments

Thirteen

March 9, 2011 no manual for parenting

My firstborn is thirteen today. It’s official: I now have a bona fide teenager on my hand. I am still wavering about whether I should have made this birthday into a big deal or not. I hope he was not expecting a big to-do. I hope he was not expecting a PlayStation 3 this morning as he […]

24 comments