Ian Frazier is hilarious – way back in September he wrote a piece for The New Yorker called “Easy Cocktails from the Cursing Mommy,” which is one of the absolute funniest things I have ever read.
I can relate – when Baby Gaga was born, Husband and I started a regular cocktail hour in our home that has led to Husband’s buying our booze at Costco. In bulk.
Husband (returning from Costco): You know you have a problem when you’re standing in Costco wondering why the gin doesn’t come in something bigger than a 750 ml.”
This is all a back-assed way of saying that I love to read and talk about mothering – and not good-mothering so much as low-bar, try-not-to-kill-the-baby-mothering, and really not that so much as what mothering does to working / career / ambition / dreams / every wasted cent of that over-priced degree (or series of degrees) that we mother-types once thought would make some sort of difference in our lives.
This obsession of mine led me to obsessively read Helen Simpson stories (a collection of hers that was published around then was called “I Don’t Know How She Does It”) after the birth of Small Child. It led me to rail endlessly at a Writer Friend who, in the wake of his first daughter’s birth, was still somehow managing to FINISH A NOVEL. (Men. Enough said.) It led to me to killing a wonderful sixty minutes at the Farmer’s Market a few months ago, talking to a Writer Friend-of-a-Friend who is bemoaning her own wasted dreams, which have been interrupted by her own kids. It led me to give up on one novel and axe a bunch of short stories, too.
Someone has to change the diapers / buy the diapers / schedule the doctor’s appts / drive to the doctor’s appts / set the bedtime routines / make the meals / buy the groceries / organize the birthday parties / drive the children everywhere / install the carseats over and over again / join the fucking PTA … etc.
And that someone always ends up being Mom. Mom is not allowed to go lock herself away from the kids for weeks at a time, or insist on complete quiet all day, or skip dinner-time to work or drink herself slowly to death (especially if she’s nursing – that’s a crime in some states). Mom can’t be the artist-at-the-expense-of-the-children. That just makes Mom a bitch.
Some women cope by putting the work on hold until the kids are old enough to go to school all day, freeing up hours for writing. (Mine are WAY too young for me to even imagine that real possibility.) Some cope by putting the work on hold forever, and trying not to think too much about it by burying themselves in other people’s art and movies and music.
Some kill themselves.
Me, I thought about just giving up a few times this year. I sold a story, but that magazine appears to be going defunct. I finished what I consider the absolute best story I have ever written, but no one wants it. So I thought about starting over on the career track. Maybe get a PhD, or do some interior design. Ten years ago, my grandmother told me to stop writing and go do something “you’d be good at.” Maybe my grandmother had been right all along …
Grandmother (78): Why not get into real estate? Or be a psychologist? You’d be good at that.
Me (24): Psychology? They’re not even real doctors! At least suggest I be a shrink!
And this exchange was years and years before the Small Child and Baby Gaga came along and tossed their toys and dirty laundry all over my dreams.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to consuming myself in the care of my 2-under-3.
Last year, in a last-ditch effort to cling to my Writerly Identity, I co-wrote a TV pilot while pregnant with Baby Gaga.
Meanwhile, in the run-up to Small Child’s pre-school enrollment, I made a Dear Mom Friend at the school.
Dear Mom Friend is married to Big Shot Manager.
Husband strong-armed Big Shot Manager into reading my pilot, while they were both standing in a ball-pit at Small Child’s birthday party. (I would NEVER have asked Big Shot Manager to read my script – I like Dear Mom Friend too much.)
Big Shot Manager liked it! He got us meetings! Co-writer and I went to production companies and studio lots and had strangers tell us we were smart and talented! (Woo-hoo!) I stopped thinking about stopping writing!
So, score one for Children, Husband, and Family. Who knew all the cleaning and washing and feeding would get me, somehow, a few steps closer to a career?