Wednesday, January 05, 2005

What mothers do

Naomi Stadlen's What Mothers Do — Especially When It Looks Like Nothing is reviewed in The Guardian.

"The how-to books, Stadlen suggests, reduce mothering to a series of tasks rather than a developing relationship." So here's another book to help describe the mommy experience rather than prescribe the rules of the practical tasks in physically tending to baby.

I wish there'd been more of these books when I first embarked on motherhood. I'm sure a few existed at that time, but nobody knew about them; I certainly didn't have a clue, not only about how to take care of baby — I couldn't begin to consider what kind of information, resources, support, outlets I might need to help me become the person this new relationship was transforming me into.

Frankly, I'm amazed that I managed to figure it out all by myself (how to be a mother), with the love and support of many of course. Needless to say, I'm still learning, but it's easier now — I'm braced for it.

Stadlen is absolutely right to argue that mothers often feel lonely, invisible and unimportant, as evidenced by the number who say, "I get nothing done all day," when in fact they have been interacting all-consumingly with a newborn. Practical tasks we can describe, but not the act of a woman who has just started something — lunch, tidying up, a shower ––when her baby wakes up and calls for her. Becoming instantly interruptible, she must put aside the threads of her personal existence and attend to it.

Instantly interruptible.

Regarding writer-mothers, women who are too self-centred to mother properly:
she comes in with a much tenderer explanation — that they find the degree of closeness with their babies unbearable because they don't feel sufficiently separate from them. They suffer from what Mel Brooks in The Producers calls "the urge to merge", and Stadlen is superb on how such mothers can feel accused by their babies' crying because they don't have a steady sense of themselves.

I should take better care to list these books as I find them. It may be too late for me, but I should have them on hand for when I find other women in need of them.
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