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On motherhood and rigour

Friday, December 11, 2009

I have this desire to write profound words about all this and many other half-written posts. To reflect upon it all in a deep and meaningful way. To write something really honest, or thought-provoking.

I am feeling less than thoughtful lately (as in less than 'full of thoughts', not as in considerate, although probably that, too).

At the same time, though, I am trying to be patient with myself, and trust that my brain power may return one day. Sleeplessness, house chaos, spousal exam stress, intense heat - when these things pass, my lazy brain might roll out of its bed now and then.

Is it okay to wait a few years? Because that seems like a really long time. But how can it be sooner?


At times, I'm convinced that it is okay for me to take this time while the monkey is still small and I figure out how to live here. To not already have developed a few good PhD ideas to toss around. To not have followed global and regional affairs as closely as I would have liked. To write about whatever, to think less than rigorously, to not find that essence in the everyday that makes the best mommy blogging - and the best cultural commentary in general - so honest and meaningful and provocative.

By writing about whatever, I am practicing something else that is important and doesn't come to me easily: just jumping in and doing something, even when it isn't perfect or great. Yes, I edit a couple of hundred times, but in the end I do it. I am finally, finally starting to write. Even if I am writing crap, it is still a good thing (for me, not for you...). If I didn't have a good excuse for my lack of depth (no time, no sleep, no life), I might have never started writing at all.

And, AND! I am finally starting to think (really think, even if it isn't profound, I am actually dedicating quite a bit of thinking time and energy to this) about me and my life and my family and my body and my feelings and my past and present and future.

I have always shied away (honestly, fled would be more like it) from doing the me and my life thinking that I think will make me more me, and also a better mother, lover/partner (I just can't say wife), friend, woman.


I am a lazy thinker.

I love good books and films and articles and theories and analyses, for example, but rarely retain enough information to make effective use of the information later on, or linger long enough to squeeze out the really juicy stuff that is a little harder to extract.

I lack rigour.

This is why I love (and hate) being a student. Insanely long reading lists, articulate smart people, intimidating assignments - these things bring out the rigour in me (though they cause me a great deal of anguish and self-doubt in the process).

Motherhood, on the other hand - and especially stay-at-home motherhood - while important and rewarding and challenging to my core - has not exactly honed my critical analysis skills. Instead, it has been my justification for kind of setting them aside for now.

I am still outraged by the outrageous, and I still get excited when I read some kick-ass analysis. But I read (WAY) less. I often don't even get past the headlines. And I don't do anything with any ideas that might spontaneously arise. I am lazy, lazy, lazy.

As I write this I am thinking how cool it would be to somehow be more serious about all my bloggy reading and thinking and writing, and create something resembling a course, a reading list, a seminar, a study group. Something with some rigour, focused on an area that I am finding myself able to concentrate on a bit and also from which I am benefiting enormously. (Really, reading some of the brilliant mama blogginess out there is so inspiring, and I am learning so much). I will just leave the idea there for now, because it would take a lot of time and thinking to give it a structure and make it work. This is what I do, think of things, and then get lazy and let them fade away...


Back in grade 10 English, I read a short story by Kurt Vonnegut that has somehow defied my knack for forgetting all the details about anything excellent that I read.

It was about a society built on a tyrannical brand of Equality. So that nobody should benefit unfairly from their various types of privilege, everyone had their strengths amputated or neutralized; equality meant imposing the lowest common denominator in every sphere of life. The protagonist's father was a smart guy, so he had to have some noise-making device buzzing loudly in his ear every 30 seconds or so, interrupting whatever smart or coherent thought he might have been incubating. The really loud buzzes were called doozies.

(Seems like a stab at socialism, but come on, not from our beloved Kurt Vonnegut! It must be brilliant and lefty, right? Anyways, since I am lazy and I lack rigour, you can read this, and I will get back to being self-absorbed.)

Since becoming a mother, I have been reminded of this story so many times.

My days are filled with constant, unrelenting interruptions - doozies - with absolutely no respect for what else might be happening, what thoughts might be forming, what ideas might be taking shape, what interesting or important conversation might be developing, often to be cut short and then forgotten, or abandoned, or reduced to that which can be completed in unconnected, five-minute one-minute bursts of time.

Interruptions like diapers and nursing and boo-boos and potty and play-with-me and all that, but also the infinity of indescribable, really important nothings that require stopping everything Right Now, all the time.

Mom, mom, mom, mom! Mom! Mom! LOOK! - what is it? - Look how I can bend my thumb.

And I believe that all these interruptions not only make it exceedingly difficult to get stuff done (like the dishes, finishing the page you're reading, sending an email), but they interfere significantly with forming thoughts, memories and plans.

They really do impede intelligence, these doozies.

Since I accept that having small kids is naturally and understandably doozy-filled, I am left with this: the sincere hope that when the interruptions subside, thoughtfulness may return. Other than being a bit out of practice, I see no reason why it shouldn't, but it does feel a bit scary (or lazy) to just go with that and hope for the best.


I started writing this post because I was sad and frustrated with my limited opportunities for real thinking, and my limited success whenever I did give it a try.

Why don't I try to dedicate some time to developing a good PhD idea? Why am I going nowhere with this?

I am antsy. Something is missing. I assume it is a little bit of brain activity that I need. Some stimulation. Saying or writing something Good, something Interesting. (Insert usual disclaimer here: yes, yes, mothering is also Good and Interesting, and I love it, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. But...)

Sometimes I think I need to get some more paid work, to de-antsify myself. But without a dream job on the horizon for now, I don't know why I think that a not-so-fulfilling job would somehow be more fulfilling than Mothering: The Most Fulfilling Thing in the World.

Do I like finding a good translation for "gendered" more than playing this-dinosaur-is-really-hungry-and-is-GONNA-EAT-YOU? Do I like teaching the conditional tense more than reading Green Eggs and Ham?

Are these fair questions?


I am perplexed by the excellent writing and thinking and activism I come across by other mothers with small children. Envious. Impressed. Curious. Ashamed. Intimidated.

How do they do it?

I don't want my 'mommy brain' feelings to validate any mother-dismissing, 'it's just the hormones and the lack of sleep' discourses circulating out there. Clearly, there are lots of sharp, rigorous mamas out there, with voices that the world needs to hear. I wish they were all my friends.


All these fragments are about the same thing. A well written piece would have strung them together in a logical and compelling argument. I am lazy. Fragments are cool too, sometimes, but that is no excuse.


Why do all of my attempts to write about sadness and frustration turn into hand-holding pep talks and wierd attempts to be funny?


I have reread this post countless times over the past few days. But not one of them has been uninterrupted. I'm sure I've forgotten some really wonderful things I was going to say, but here goes anyways - Publish Post, click.


(as i continue to obsess with geeky blog details, i have registered my blog at technorati. i am not sure how it works or what it is, but i assume that once i am all signed up, i can start to figure it out. they have asked me to put this code in a post, and so here it is: M92P864XP7XZ)

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