Wednesday, January 26, 2005


I have an internal fight with television. On the one hand, I’d like to totally get rid of it and see what life is like. On the other hand, I make good use of it: the kids watch in the morning while I take a shower, I occasionally use it as a babysitter, and I very much like watching West Wing. What bothers me most, I think, is the addictiveness of it, that when I turn it off the kids whine (usually when we’ve watched some extra, out of our routine).

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Mommy crashes

Wow, was Blogger really down?

I’ve been in a tailspin for the last couple of weeks, and I’m not sure I know you well enough to share it with you! It may be because it’s January. I don’t like to complain about New England weather because I agree with my friend who thinks that it’s unbecoming to complain about the weather. Also, I didn’t grow up in New England, and I feel that I chose to live here, and therefore should not complain. But last January I “ran away” overnight, and this year I was ready to leave again. It started with a busy, week, compounded by my husband going to two firefighter funerals. Neither was close by, but I dislike being reminded that firefighters die, and it makes me a little crazy that he uses precious vacation days for an optional activity that doesn’t include his family at all. Then my mother called to tell me that she’s taking my brother and his family to England to see my aunt and uncle. My uncle has some heart conditions, so I’m getting the sense that she want to see him just in case. My family and I are not invited. And the thing is, she could have saved being hurtful just by asking us. What’s the chance we’d fly our family of five to England in March? After that I had a really bad day. I was ready to leave home without my kids, make a new start somewhere warm. Or maybe just move out and persuade my husband to hire me back as the Nanny – I’d get paid, and every evening I’d be able to go back to my own space. My husband got it, kind of, and shooed me out of the house to have dessert and coffee with a friend which somehow helped to restore some perspective.

Today I’m recovering from a stomach bug I had on Sunday night. It was just for a few hours, but it was intense. I’m still feeling a little shaky. But I had a Mommy payday this morning – my five-year-old wrote me a note:

To Mom
I Like all the things you do for me Love Parker

He said it was a get well note. I cried and told him it was wonderful.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Note to Bookstores

I just got back from buying Amy Dacyczyn's The Complete Tightwad Gazette at my local chain bookstore. Yes, I know it's ironic that I paid full price for that particular book, however, it's for a Yankee Swap of women friends that I'm going to on Saturday. Fortunately, I asked an employee where to find the book and she led me right to it – in the Reference section. The Reference section, as you know, contains books like thesauruses and dictionaries. I could have looked a long time before I stumbled across it (which is why I usually prefer to shop online when I know exactly what I want to buy – but I’m short on time).

I looked the book up at Amazon, and the list of topics at the bottom of the page includes basically Personal Finance and Reference. Apparently, there is no homemaking category despite the fact that nearly everyone has a home and had to figure out how to run it. I personally have at least four books with I would put in the homemaking category (Home Comforts, Sink Reflections, Speed Cleaning, and A Housekeeper is Cheaper than a Divorce), and I have read many more. I think a homemaking category makes sense and would have a large market. Granted, it would overlap with personal finance and decorating, and many other topics, but it would prevent homemaking books from ending up in the Reference section!

I'm sure that the fear is that in creating such a subject grouping, feminists would boycott the whole bookstore. As I've said before, homemaking takes skill that has to be learned, and that skill is almost never acknowledged or valued. I think that creating the the section would define the work I do as worthwhile and valuable, as worth explaining and analyzing. A small step toward that goal, granted, but I'll take what I can get.

More on the environment

Aargh, I just lost my post! Here is a facimile therof!

I want to add to my discussion below of the Christian right views of environmentalism with a few quotes from the Grist article. I highly recommend the article.

"Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land -- of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ," writes constructionist George Grant. Christian dominion will be achieved by ending the separation of church and state, replacing U.S. democracy with a theocracy ruled by Old Testament law, and cutting all government social programs, instead turning that work over to Christian churches. Reconstructionists also would abolish government regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. EPA, because they are a distraction from their goal of Christianizing America, and subsequently, the rest of the world. "World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish," says Grant. "We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less." Only when that conquest is complete can the Lord return.

People under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth when the droughts, floods, and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the Apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the Rapture? And why care about converting from oil to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a Word? Natural-resource depletion and overpopulation, then, are not concerns for End-Timers -- and nor are other ecological catastrophes, which are viewed by
dispensationalists as presaging the Great Tribulation.

We do not need politicians who believe that environmental atrocities are the route to salvation and the return of Jesus Christ. We need leadership to do the right thing for the environment – to reframe our consumerist paradigm that more is better, that a better life can only be achieved through more money and more stuff, and that our country must, at all costs, grow economically. There is no real "out" to throw things to; we will run out of oil, probably in my lifetime - we must change. Some change will happen at the grassroots level, but I know I need leadership to do the right thing, even when I know what it is – and I bet I’m not alone.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Bill Moyers and the Rapture

I'm extremely disturbed about the ideas Bill Moyers put forth in a recent speech about belief in the rapture and policies that ensure (or fail to ensure) a better world for our children. (Our minister spoke on this subject this Sunday.) The crux of the rapture is this:
Once Israel has occupied the rest of its 'biblical lands,' legions of the anti-Christ will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts, and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.
If you believe in the rapture then there is no need to take care of the earth, to work for social justice, or to do anything else that ensures a better world for the future. And many of our leading politicians are born again Christians who presumably believe in the rapture. The politics are detailed in an article by Glenn Scherer in Grist. Scared yet?

I believe this topic needs to come out of the closet. If people thought that W started war in Iraq to fulfill some biblical prophecy providing the necessary preconditions for the rapture, would he have been re-elected? And if so, then what does that say about our country?

And at the very least, we should deny rapture-believers driver's licenses. If they believe that at any moment they are going to fly out of their cars, clearly they are a danger to the rest of us, much as an epileptic with uncontrolled seizures is.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Why did I have kids?

I went to knitting group at church today (we learn doing these dish cloths), and a very nice woman asked me why I had kids. Before I knew it, I had practically told her the story of my adult life BC (Before Children), but had never answered the question. When I realized that, I told her it was biological imperatave. Why don't I know why I had kids?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Not at my best

My five-year old seems to need (or rather "need") me to get mad at him. I have days when I feel like I'm nagging at him constantly: "get dressed," "take your plate to the kitchen," "tell your little brother what you want him to do, not what you don't want him to do," "don't be bossy," "you don't have to be the mommy, that's my job," "Where are your shoes? If you put your shoes in the mudroom we wouldn't have this problem" and so on. Some days I make more of an effort to turn that off (I'm working on it). Today I don't think I was even thinking about not nagging, but we had a fabuous morning. It was sunny and in the forties, and we went to the park to swing. We didn't stress about getting there at a certain time. Mason (who is two) went on a big swing so that Evan (nine months) could have the baby swing. Parker can pump and mostly keeps himself going.

After that we drove around to get the little ones to sleep. Parker and I were having fun, then suddenly we weren't any more. I did realize, though, that it didn't go bad because of something I said or did. It must have been a sudden drop in blood sugar or something like that. Then there was a small transgression a little while later with a small consequence (help me clean up to pay me back for time spent other than I had planned). Followed by passive aggressive lollygagging, at which point I lost it a little. He did clean up, and did a pretty good job, but had a headache from crying about it. After that uncomfortable couple of hours, the rest of the day went fine. And it doesn't seem so bad now that I write about it and realize that it was only a little while out of a long day.

One of the hardest things about being a mother is getting past the mistakes without ever being able to remove myself from the situation. Also, not letting a bad time ruin the whole day. I don't want to lose it, ever. I know that I will sometimes lose it. It is useful to me to discover that it isn't always me. My five-year-old and I sometimes have a rough relationship, and that is my biggest doubt about being able to sucessfully homeschool. It may be the age, and it may be more than that. He's an awful lot like me (or like I used to be) with a tendency towards mopiness, and I lack sympathy with it, and resent the energy it pulls from the rest of the family.

How Christmas Went

I thought I was doing pretty well with the holidays this year, but then Christmas Eve came along. We went to church. We want that to be part of our Christmas tradition. What were we thinking!? Last year, with a four-year-old, and a one-year-old it went pretty well. My husband thought we were crazy to sit near the front, but the kids could see a little and it kept them interested. So this year we sat near the front again and my husband didn't think it was crazy -- at first. M, who is two, could not sit still. After one carol he announced "Dat was pretty loud!" At one point he came out with a line from Bob the Builder. Meanwhile, the baby (nine months) is taking apart the pew, chewing on sharpened pencils, flinging everything he can reach to the floor after first testing it for gum-easing properties. No one screamed and cried, but oh my! After it was over the guy in the pew next to us leaned over and said "Give them a screwdriver and they'd have the whole pew taken apart by the end of the service!" Ha ha.

So that wasn't fun. And then we head to Grandma's. On the way there I chime in with a comment and my husband tells me that I'm shanghai-ing the conversation, that my comment was not on topic. I cry. Later that night, at home, I have a hissy fit. I was totally overcome my the number of wrapped packages. After we go to bed I sneak downstairs to take some presents away from the tree!

And after all that, Christmas was fabulous. The number of presents seemed about right to me. I got stuff I wanted and so did everyone else. At Christmas dinner at a relative's our five-year old had the giggles, and I had a good time (and these are my husband's relatives). So I hope I learned something for next year.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Expectations and Reality

I was raised with a wealth of expectations. I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I never answered that I wanted to be a mother and housewife -- that was not a correct answer to the question (and not an answer I would have given anyway)! I was bright (still am, I hope) and took difficult courses in high school, went to college, and then three years later, did a professional master's degree at an well-known university.

Last week my women's circle topic was a look back at 2004 and a look forward to our hopes for 2005. Although I had thought about what I wanted to say, it still shocked me a bit to hear it come out of my mouth: I want to be a better mother; I want to develop more routine to my housework; I want to support my husband in his search for a new job. Who is this person? I'm not unhappy with my choices, but they are so at odds with the way I've viewed myself for so long. I identify myself as liberal and a feminist, and when I hear myself say these things I think I sound conservative. But I am not. And I don't know why conservatives have a perceived monopoly on making motherhood and homemaking a profession. The individual tasks I do each day to take care of my family are not difficult, but as a whole, it is a complicated job and a time consuming one. I know how to shop for a week's worth of food for my family. That's not a task that is glorified, but it also isn't one just anyone can do -- witness the men in the supermarket, cell phone in hand talking to the primary shopper (not that I'm saying that no men know how to grocery shop -- I'm just saying that it is a learned skill). I know the rhythm of my children's days, and can usually manage sleep and hunger issues so that the kids avoid meltdowns. Daddy is not as good at this because he isn't with the kids every day. He also isn't always willing to listen to my guidance because he doesn't always value my knowledge. Society does not value the work done by a mother and housewife.

As a liberal, I feel ashamed of saying that taking care of a family is a difficult job that takes some skill and is worth doing well. When I see emails with quotes about the value of motherhood at the end, I assume the sender is conservative. It should not be that way. I'm liberal, and I still believe quotes like this one even though they make me wince:

"The mother is the most precious possession of the nation, so precious that society advances its highest well-being when it protects the functions of the mother."

~Ellen Key

I think sometimes about taking to young women at my alma mater,
and what I would say about the life ahead of them. I'm not sure they would listen -- I don't think I would have. But I would tell them that most women (I think 80%) have children, and that it makes sense to think a little about that and plan for it. They can watch women they work with to see how they handle balancing motherhood and work. I would suggest that considering money and income before children arrive allows for more choices after. If anyone had told me to marry a good provider I would have laughed and said that I would provide for myself, thank you very much. But a husband or partner with a good income provides choices about staying home or working.

All of this feels like disloyalty to feminism and liberalism, but it shouldn't be. Raising a family is work, however it's apportioned between parents and paid caregivers and household help -- the work is valuable and should be valued by all people, regardless of politics. Recognizing the value of parenting and homemaking would allow young people to make more realistic plans about their future, perhaps choosing careers or employers that would make balancing family and work easier.