So - I was perusing Amazon today... a little book porn, if you will. Believe it or not, it was actually 'homework.' Because I don't get enough mothering at home, you know, while I'm mothering, I feel I also need to study it at school, too. (Like, GAWD, can't she talk about anything else?!) I can't, apparently. I'm mutated and it seems to be a permanent state of affair. I have mama-brain. Anyhoo. Where was I? Oh yes. Books. I like to talk about those, too. So - trolling Amazon for mother-theory-ish books.
Has anyone ever noticed how absolutely vomitous some of the titles are? Take, for example. Deliberate Motherhood: 12 Key Powers of Peace, Order & Joy. Now - this makes me want to slap someone. (I know, I'm not a nice person - this is part of my spectacular charm). But Peace, Order & Joy? Does this person *have* children? There is no order. Ever. There's a little peace (but it's always post-bedtime). And hey, I like joy as much as the next girl - but I'm not bathing in it 24/7. And what's with the "deliberate" business? Pretty much everyone becomes a mother deliberately. Giving birth shouldn't come as a surprise. You get pregnant. You figure out what your choice is about being pregnant, and if you continue the pregnancy, you can pretty safely call yourself a deliberate mother, it seems to me. Or you choose to adopt of foster. Also, necessarily, very, very deliberate. It's a rarity, I think, for someone to be caught 'accidentally mothering.'
Or how about this one? Swan Mothers: Discovering Our True Selves by Parenting Uniquely Magnificent Children. Swan Mothers? Discovering our true selves by parenting? Our Uniquely Magnificent Children? I don't think anything more needs to be said about that one. Then we have A Girly-Girl's Guide to Raising Boys. Because it's important to remember one's gender roles and presentation ALWAYS when parenting children, so as to properly bestow upon them an understanding of theirs. And it's very, very, very and especially important not to raise yourself a faggy boy. I suppose they are saving the ways in which we ought not to raise butchy girls for the much-anticipated sequel, A Manly-Man's Guide to Raising Girls. And then there's the less overtly problematic but highly saccharine variety. And oh man - there are A LOT of those one. A la The Happy Mom Handbook, The Wit, Wisdom and Wonder of Motherhood, The Contented Mother's Guide ('Cause this shit is so tricky, we probably aren't doing it right) and other gems like the I Love You Mom Coupon Guide (seriously? There's a book for this?). And then: I make Milk! What's Your Superpower? WHAT? I'm down with breastfeeding. We've been over this. But if cows, dogs, cats and monkeys can all do it too, it might not actually be a superpower, folks. The milk kinda makes itself.
This all just makes me want to, you know, sigh a lot. (insert long and weary sigh.) Why am I sighing? Because I'm weary! Because I'm really, really weary. Super-duper weary, even. Motherhood is wonderful. Of course it is. You know, most of the time. And my kids are magnificent and unique (read: the best fucking kids to ever grace this planet and god I hope I'm not raising them horribly). Really. That's the hope. I would sell every organ in my body (and yours too) if it would ensure the happiness and security of these little wonders of mine. But there is no order or discovering of my true self through mothering. There's discovery, of course! There's sweet, sweet love. Of course. But really - really - it's about scraping by. Doing the best I can. Trying to make it work. And when I don't manage to make it work, trying to clean up the aftermath. That, friends, is motherhood. There is no swan-li-ness. When people ask me (they ask me this a lot, lately) how I do it (it being manage grad school and mom-ing), my response is generally that there isn't really a choice. I do it because there isn't another option. It is what has to be done. Yes there's love and mushiness and all that good stuff. But I am not a swan mother. I'm a profoundly ugly duckling and under the water my little webbed feet are paddling a gazillion miles an hour. There isn't a lot of grace in it. It is, of course, possible that I'm just spectacularly bad at this particular calling. Then again, maybe these other folks are just blowing smoke up all our asses.
Now - all this being said - there have also recently been an upsurge of pithy and sarcastic mothering books. Books dedicated to expressing the ugly, the hard, the desperately funny/unfunniness, and the need for a whole boatload of wine. These books, and long may they prosper, have titles like this: If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother. Or, the Grumpy Girl's Guide to Pregnancy. Or Must. Have. Wine. (Yes. Yes we must). Or, and this is one of my particular favourites, Bad Mommy Moments: Celebrating the Moments of Motherhood That Suck,
I like joy and wonder as much as the next girl. Really. I do. I even have some of it, some of the time. That's all anyone can ask for, as far as I can tell. What I don't like, and really have a hard time with, is the forced joy and wonder and wit and wisdom. The swan-mother discourse that makes the mamas who do want to acknowledge that the joy and wit and wisdom and wonder (which is present, of course) comes at a price. Takes work. And a loss of self-ness. And the inability to pee on our own.
Down with Swan Mothers. Down with The Food Shopping Secrets Every Mom Should Know.
And up with Machiavelli Moms.