This afternoon I finished reading Inconsolable by Marrit Ingman. This was another library request that my mom picked up for me. I gobbled it up as well, though it was a memoir, not fiction. I have LOTS of thoughts, but few moments in which to share them. I guess I need to get used to that instead of waiting for some "magic" time when I'll be able to say everything I want to. I have a growing stack of books by my computer that I've finished reading, but haven't had time to make a "proper" entry for--maybe I should just make a list and then re-shelve them?!
Okay, so back to the book. It was a memoir of postpartum depression. The author uses lots of profanity that I found a little off-putting (I'm kind of uptight!), but overall the book was very good, very honest, and very real. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but as I neared the end, I started to feel like it wasn't living up to its promises. Maybe it is morbid curiosity, but I felt like she kept promising to get to all of the "deep and dark" she'd been through, but she never actually got there--i.e. there were lots of references to, "I might have to go back to cutting up my arms" or, "that was when I was having suicidal thoughts all the time..." but she never actually truly writes at an intimate level about those experiences (though she keeps saying she will). She alludes to a lot of suffering, PPD, suicidal thoughts, "crazy" behavior, etc. but the actual essays are more like semi-humorous vignettes excerpted from her life with her young son (a colicky baby who has severe eczema and food allergies). There is definitely as hearty helping of angst mixed in, but it is no where near the "almost as unpleasant to read as it was to experience it" level I was anticipating based on the introduction.
I appreciated her observations on parenthood/parenting styles in general and her comments about judging other people for making different parenting choices. I also started pondering my ongoing sense that I can somehow figure this out once and for all and be PERFECT at last. I think my parenting operates from the assumption that it is possible to be perfect and do everything right. I need to get over that!
Here's a quote I really identified with:
"There's a certain type of parent I see often--sometimes see it in myself--who is a success-oriented person from a middle-class background, well-taught (traditionally or through self-education) and accustomed to high praise. We're used to getting a report card or a performance review every six weeks, we're current with Big Ideas and prone to Big Discussions over pints of Guinness, and we throw ourselves into parenting with the same right-minded stamina with which we might compare graduate programs and scholarships. We educate ourselves about various theoretical orientations on the topic, read the works of champion scholars...memorize acronyms and slogans, and align ourselves with a 'good match.' We study rigorously, and our parenting is like a practicum. We analyze situations and apply theories; we fasten Snappis and gently redirect toddlers with great self-satisfaction, as if we are strutting for a review committee. We meet over coffee with study groups."
"This is not necessarily lamentable. It's good to be well read, to be prepared, to invest oneself in the new role of parent. It's just not really about the kids is it? It's about more than just wanting to be good at what you do; it's about wanting to be the best. We're parenting careerists. We want to be superstars. We want other people to praise us. We want props for holding off on the antibiotics for that ear infection, delaying solids just a little longer, for buying the organic crib sheets and the shampoo that's made with kukui nuts harvested by the indigenous people of Brazil and imported by a woman-owned business. We go that one extra mile. We exceed expectations...Is this wrong? Again, not necessarily. It's not wrong to have ambitions, to dream of home-sewn Halloween costumes (or ones we just "whipped up" because we're so crafty) and slow food and perfect portraits and cooperative preschool."
"But we have to remember that our standards of success, of happiness, of demonstrating our love for our children are inflated. We'll never meet them. Our reach will always exceed our grasp."
It goes on and I continue to identify, but the quote is getting out of hand now!
Another one I just thought was funny. This was just following her cesarean:
"So that was it. I'd failed. Well, close the book on this one. Nurse Rachet was probably stuffing a Nuk into the kid's mouth or giving him a Happy Meal. Hooking him up to an IV of Kool-Aid. He'd have to grow up in an iron lung. Maybe the other kids would use him as third base. He'd call me 'Mother,' and I'd sign his college tuition checks while he snuggled with a rhesus monkey made of sheepskin."
I literally laughed out loud while reading that one :)
"Mothers of the world, we've got to have each other's backs. Without working together, we literally cannot survive. Because we are divided--into 'working' and 'stay-at-home' parents, into 'natural' or 'attachment parents' and 'mainstream' parents--we remain marginalized as a group. We just haven't noticed, because we're too busy shooting each other down, trying to glean little nuggets of self-satisfaction from an enterprise that is still considered less significant than paid work..."
Much as I strive to be accepting and honor the dignity and worth of each human being (like a good social worker!) I do see this tendency toward division sometimes sneaking out in myself--either in thought, or conversation--and I sometimes see it in my friends as well. However, I really feel like I am committed to helping women as mothers. Yeah, I also like babies, but my heart lies in helping other women. I wish I had more time to actually do more of it!