Friday, January 27, 2012

Weekend Reading: Too Good Not To Read Edition

I had a completely different weekend reading post lined up, but it will have to wait, because damn there were some good posts on the internet this week. I couldn't not share them with you, particularly since they come from disparate segments of the blogosphere, so I suspect none of my readers will have seen all of them. It was like the entire blogosphere was on fire this week, while I was posting fluff about my workout. (And also a review of a really cool book, which includes a giveaway that is still open... so if you missed that post take a look and see if you want to try to win the free copy. And I did rather like my post about the secret to happiness, so that's something.)

Anyway, to the links:

First up, Parisienne Mais Presque had a beautiful piece about bread. It makes me wish I had a decent bakery on my way home... But I do not, so the grownups do without most nights, while the kids eat toasted bread that we make in our breadmaker, slice, and freeze.

Remember the incident with the dogs in the park? Right after that, there was a rash of dog attacks in New Zealand, including a horrific one in which a "friendly" family dog mauled a three year old. (I read the New Zealand news- I can't really explain why, since my husband, who is the New Zealander in the family, doesn't. But I do.) And a woman who had been mauled by her neighbor's dog here in San Diego died, not directly from the attack, but her family says she never really recovered. So, not being a dog person, I've been struggling to remember how much joy dogs bring to some people. And then I read this post about a boy and dogs... and well, you should just go read it. It has restored my faith in dogs. And, a little bit, in people, too.

Next up, a powerful post from Zuska about fighting her own internalized sexism. This really resonated with me, because no matter how often it happens that I realize some woman doesn't take me seriously because my hair is blonde or because she judges me to be too pretty to be smart, it always surprises me. I naively expect more sisterhood, I guess. This has happened less and less frequently as I've aged- when I was in college I was frequently written off as an intellectual lightweight by men and women alike. In fact, this probably contributed to the break up of my first college relationship. The guy I was dating had been taken by the surface attributes and wasn't prepared for me to be better at chemistry than he was. It continued in grad school, where some of the other women nicknamed me Barbie. To some of the other women, it was just a little good-natured ribbing. But to some of them, it was something darker, and came with the implication that I didn't really belong there. It even continued into my early career. At my first job, a visiting investor stopped me as I was walking through the lobby and asked for coffee, assuming I wa sthe administrative assistant. That investor was a woman. Now, though, I don't get this reaction from other women. That is one of the hidden benefits of aging, I suppose.

And speaking of the hidden benefits of aging... Alice at Finslippy had an amazing post about how now that she is older, men don't treat her like an object anymore. This line really really caught me:

"Maybe my gray hair pushed me over the edge into a new world, one where I'm considered worthy of respect. Or, more likely, I'm not considered at all."

Yes, that. I do not have gray hair (a hidden benefit of being blonde?), but I, too, have largely disappeared from the leering attention of strangers on the street, and like Alice, I am fine with that. More than fine, even. Glad.

Her post is a wonderful construction of controlled and directed rage, and you should go read it. The only downside of reading that post was that it made me realize what crap my daughters are in for when they get older, and that was a bit depressing.

Liz at Mom-101 was inspired by Alice's post to write an equally amazing post about her experience with acquaintance rape, and what it was like to have her rapist attempt to friend her on Facebook. The mind boggles at the idea of a man who forced himself on a young woman back in high school trying to friend her on Facebook now. As I said in my comment over there, I suspect that means he remembers the encounter very differently, and that is a sad, sad comment on the state of our culture, that someone can be a rapist and not even realize it.

She also writes about the power of blogging about these and other difficult experiences. I agree with her on that point- one of the best things about the internet and the blogosphere is the fact that you can discover that you aren't as alone in your feelings and experiences as you thought you were. But it takes people brave enough to write their authentic stories for that to happen.

And last, but most certainly not least, Dr. Crazy at Reassigned Time has a brilliant post about how its not that she's "forgotten" to have a baby, its that she has other priorities now- and maybe always. You really should go read the post, and read all the way to the end- the last two paragraphs are brilliant. My thoughts on this topic are a jumbled mess, so apologies if what I write doesn't make a lot of sense.  First of all, even though I come from the other side of the artificial mother/not mother divide, I am in complete agreement with her statement that "It’s not about “forgetting” to have a baby, and it’s not about not “really” wanting one.  It’s about the fact that I want many things, that I am many things." I have written about this from the motherhood side a couple of times- first, in frustration at the fact that our culture seems to require women to declare that "first and foremost, I am a mother", and later in my post on being a feminist mother, in which I assert that motherhood grew my life in such a way that I have found room for the demands of motherhood without losing the room for "me". As I said in that post, it took me a long time to adjust to motherhood and get to this place, but here I am.

That said, there is no denying that something is given up to have kids- but something is gained, too. For me, overall the "gained" side comes out ahead, but some days, it does not. And we are rarely honest about that. We talk vaguely about the joy of motherhood like some strange cult trying to attract new members. Yes, the joys are many- but so are the sacrifices, and we usually gloss over those. So I do not find it surprising at all that some women look at the truth of what motherhood really is and say "no, thanks." Or "not now- I want to do X first." Really, it is more surprising to me that more of us don't opt out, given the fact that the joys of motherhood are so hard to express. Well, anyway, anytime I try to express them I fail miserably.

With all of that said, I still think there is too much emphasis on the fact that kids impact women's careers. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that the assumption that your career will suffer lasting harm from having kids is too generally accepted. This is not at all a comment on Dr. Crazy's post, which is about her specific situation and decisions. But I feel like I have to say this again, for any young woman who wants kids and is freaking out about combining motherhood and career: it is possible to do it. And be happy while doing it. I have more to write on this topic, and I'm still trying to formulate my answer to FeMOMhist's question about how, exactly, I made my life expand to accommodate motherhood and "me"- but I do not think this post is the place to do that. I'll come back to it, soonish.

But for now- stop reading here and go read the wonderful posts I've linked to. You'll be glad you did.


  1. For some reason, I never saw you as a blonde...

  2. @Mom101- that's funny! But I am- 100% natural, too. My hair has gotten darker with age, but even so, you'd never call it anything but blonde.

  3. Liz and Alice's posts made me sooooo angry, and definitely brought up some memories from my teens/20s. It's scary how so many of us go through those things...I hope, hope, HOPE I can teach Evan to respect girls/women and never ever do those things (and stand up to guys that think it's funny, entertaining, etc.).

  4. It's funny that on our blog, the two of us really do embody the bifurcation of having kids/not wanting kids. I totally understand why someone wouldn't want kids-- in general I do not like kids. I love (and like!) my own kid(s) but I only have about a 3 year window around my own kid's ages that other kids look cute and aren't just obnoxious sticky things. Hormones are an amazing thing. To me it makes sense that the default question should be, "Why would you want kids?" rather than "Why don't you have kids (yet)?" (And this is actually a tiny rant in an upcoming ask google questions.)

    #2 otoh loves kids but definitely does not want any of her own (and why should she?). I enjoy telling her about the messier tribulations we sometimes have to go through and then follow up with, "Don't you feel like you're missing out?" For some reason she doesn't. She makes a fantastic substitute auntie though!

    As to how to be a successful mother/career woman/happy person... two things: be perfect (and this includes knowing when to let things go) and find the perfect help (whether husband or someone you hire). ;)

  5. @Alyssa- maybe some day I'll blog my stories. They aren't as harrowing as Liz's, but I still find I have a hard time thinking about writing them down and posting them. But maybe someday I will.

    @Nicoleandmaggie- there was a long period of my life during which I assumed I would not have kids, mostly because I was in a serious relationship with a man who did not want them. I am really, really happy that things worked out so that I had kids, but I also really, really miss some things about life without kids. And I struggle to explain why I'm so glad I have them! I don't understand at all why some people think that a woman can't have a happy and complete life without becoming a mother.

  6. @Cloud - thank you for linking to my post about bread! It's on a much lighter subject than the others you mentioned; I guess we can't always attack the tough issues (though wow, do I admire those of you that do.)

    Oh, and there's currently a public service ad campaign here in France about gender equality. I keep thinking I need to stop and write about it and tease out some of the more complex bits, and I think of you and all you've written on the subject, naturally... I hope to get to that this week.

  7. One of the things I liked so much about Dr. Crazy's post is that it pushes back against the whole idea of "choice" in terms of having kids. Yes, it's true many people make deliberate choices whether or not to have kids, but many don't (even though who have kids didn't always "choose" it in the most intentional sense). Many women (and men!) get to the 35+ category and are unpartnered and child-free and it doesn't have any thing to do with choosing or not choosing, wanting or not wanting. They're just living their lives and there's no partner and no baby. (Often, no baby because there's a no partner, and it's pretty hard to force falling in love/ meeting the "right" person.) Having an baby without a partner is certainly an option, but it requires a significantly great amount of intentionality than just stopping taking the Pill.

  8. Haven't read all your links yet but wanted to say amen to this - "Really, it is more surprising to me that more of us don't opt out, given the fact that the joys of motherhood are so hard to express. Well, anyway, anytime I try to express them I fail miserably."

    Me, too. I find it hard to describe the joys without sounding like a walking cliche. I have this friend who blogs a love letter to her kid every so often, and it is really and truly lovely. Personally, I find trying to write that way so difficult, like I can't find my authentic voice.


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