Friday, November 23, 2007

The Mother Knot

Last week, I finished reading The Mother Knot. I actually got it for Christmas last year, but it languished on my to-read shelf for quite some time before it caught my eye as my next read.

This book was originally written in 1976--Jane Lazarre's memoir of her early years of motherhood. Aside from a (very) few dated references, the book has a very contemporary feel and could have been written only a few years ago. Since this book was written, a whole genre of mother-written books has been launched and I believe the voices of mothers and their experiencing of mothering are more visible than they once were (though still invisible in a larger cultural and social framework). The author is a feminist and her experiences with motherhood are filtered through that lens (which is one I identify with), so the book is overlaid with a feminism theme in addition to a mothering theme. To specify, this book is not about parenting nor is it about the author's child, it is about her, and her complicated emotional reactions and experiences with being a mother, the act of mothering, and cultural framework surrounding the role, as well as her frustrations with that role). From the preface: "that sense that her experiences might reflect those of other women, might even help to demolish that impossible set of standards which oppresses us all--the motherhood mystique."

Another quote that made me think about the whole SAHM, WAHM, WOHM thing, this describing her mother-in-law's situation (6 kids): "I thought of Marie, working at the cleaning, washing, and ironing while three babies played in the playpen. She had not 'stayed home with the children.' They had stayed home with her as she did her work." I liked that flip in perspective--my ideal situation is one in which all of us our home together and each going about our own business, so to speak (as in, kids play, DH works on his projects, I work on mine and there is a harmonious interplay of work and family life. No artificial, segregated division, and also each member of the family having their needs met).

Towards the end of the book she shares an anecdote about her OB that I think carries a huge ring of truth still today:

"My obstetrician had whispered a secret to me on a sunny afternoon. I had come to the office prepared with my written list of questions. Why was I feeling nauseated, I asked, and what was all this pain in my thighs? And he had answered wearily, 'If you want answers to questions, have a miscarriage, or toxemia, or let something else go wrong with your pregnancy. We don't know anything about normal births.' So much for technological know-how."

I have a variety of notes written about this book in my notebook and I'm going to transcribe them at some point, but I need to just go ahead and post this for now and add more later! (later today, hopefully!)

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