Sunday, February 1, 2009


Looking over my notes for this week, I see it’s just rant after rant:

I’m getting claustrophobic in this twilight we’re living in, teetering from the 1900’s to the 2000’s - It seems sometimes the whole sphere is too full of people shouting – even if pleasantly – like trying to talk in a too-crowded restaurant. You overhear too much of other people’s lives, most of it heartrendingly boring in the intimate details you eavesdrop on – potentially as embarrassing as if watching someone perform in a public place those universal and ordinary acts of grooming that usually mark an intimate space.


And how many times can I say that I already miss my daughters, that I’m worried about the future. And why would I want to catalog over and over the pacing of the shackled beast . . .

I rant over the Unreliable Nanny story I heard on NPR last week.

If you can’t trust someone with your kids, what are you supposed to do?” Joe asks. Uh, is this really that tricky a question? Let’s see – according to this radio story the range of possible solutions to this pressing dilemma include – pressing charges, not letting your kids watch Sponge Bob, and/or writing a song about it all. Are we not forgetting something here? Some other possible way parents could respond to the need their children have for reliable care?

And then I rant the next day:

I hate being a MOMMY – that should be a private term of endearment and only coming from three young people in this world. I don’t want anyone else dirtying that term. Just like when some sweet and private actions are presented snidely and in public are porn – some innocent terms are offensive when used by strangers.

I hate that quote from Mem Fox (one of my favorite picture book authors) about how she was raised to be an “active participating member” of her community and how she looks askance at “wealthy(?!) men’s wives who don’t have jobs outside their homes.” Do I have to look askance at myself? (well, I do . . . and admire women like my sister-in-law, for one, who is super-competent and active and involved on every front - including a full-time job and raising exceptional children and an overwhelming multitude of other impressive activities.) 
But many, many of working mothers are already consumed (as I would be) with traveling to and from and keeping their home life and personal sanity somewhat together after a full day somewhere else. What have they got left to give to their real, i.e. residential, community? The volunteers at the school are largely "unworking" mothers. 
And I hate this woman against woman ragging. Why can’t we just let women be? And acknowledge that there are valuable and wholesome effects brought about by paycheck and non-paycheck people in our communities – instead of throwing guilt at each other? 
It’s like the forward in that Permaculture book (David Holmgren?) where he’s obviously been taken to task once too many by self-righteous feminists writing in and he rather testily points out that NO, his wife is not a downtrodden woman that he keeps locked up in the kitchen, but that she has chosen the hands-on work rather than writing the books and wake up, people, that a new environmental model – where we stop being so addicted to accumulating STUFF and start LIVING on the land we have - requires that there be hands who actually dig and plant and grind and cook – and that that work is what makes ideas reality. ARRR!!

Not all my rants this week have been on paper only. One day my daughters are late for school and I choose to take their younger brother to his school first (because he’s not late yet and with this route I can still get to my swim group on time). “Well,” says a daughter,

“when I’m a mom I’m going to put my children’s education FIRST!” and I erupt in rage (YOu do that, sweetie!) and am still – oh, very angry – because when I come back later that afternoon they still don’t get it. They’re still suffering from the unfairness of it all! (the unfairness! Tell me, please, what it was I have been putting first? My backstroke?) Do I really have to become nothing in their eyes so that they can break away and become something on their own?
It’s time for a change. (In society as a whole, but I think I'm going to have to make the first move.) But how do I make this transition? 
I think the older ones don’t really need anymore the things I do. I think, to them if I brought more money in, if I were doing something dignified by a paycheck – that they would value. Though they’d be surprised at the time it takes to do the invisible things I do – groceries, laundry, most meals, invisible tidying & disinfecting, outside, long-term food preparation (bread, canning, drying, etc.). They already think they’re doing it all – they tell me this - that they clean the house in their chores, pack their own lunches, cook dinner sometimes. 
But [8-year-old] still needs someone home when he gets home (by law and honestly I can see that he does). He gets anxious even when I talk about being gone during the day. Do I make him pay for them? for me? I don’t want to have to do everything I do at home PLUS a job – or live in disorder and chaos because it just doesn’t get done. But I feel guilty staying at home now but also angry I can’t just have peace and time to do writing and home-things without at my back always hearing Opinion’s wingéd chariot ready to trample me down.

If there is a unifying web amidst this week of rants, it is that I am dissatisfied with my present form of life, but (and in the very same breath) irritated that this hard-won (if not wholly achieved) competence over the years all counts for less than nothing. 

I’m no Martha Stewart – that’s not the kind of housewifery I’ve been aiming for. But I wonder sometimes if I don’t save more money than most part-time jobs would earn me. I can make bread and feed my family on beans and . . . whoa, I feel another rant coming on.

Looking for some concrete point to web my silks onto, I find a single word
– which being interpreted means that our CSA share provided us with more beets than I ever thought possible to need and I have been making borscht over and over - to the near universal dismay of the hungry hordes. The recipe I found that finally passed muster was for Ukrainian Borshch and I think the secret was the rich meaty homemade beef broth at its base – truly delicious, nigh unto addicting with a little yogurt stirred in.

Ugh! And still everything I write down convicts me of the charge of Mommy-ness. This domestic round is my life. Me - mouthy and ambitious! Who would have believed? Maybe everyone always knew, could see this fatal and incipient domesticity, except for me.

And yet if I were a zookeeper what I do every day would be valuable and worth at least an article in a young readers’ magazine - if not a mini-documentary.

(Sorry, rant again.)

When I haven’t been ranting, I have been reading like a madma’am, because this is the final week before I enter the realm of no non-essential reading. This week: The Tiger Ladies (memoir of a girl growing up in Kashmir), Twelve Little Cakes (memoir of a girl growing up in Czechoslovakia with parents who were anti-Communist), and Sky Burial (memoir of a Chinese woman who as a young wife searches Tibet for her medical officer husband – 20 years later finding out and then wandering home, lost)

For each of which I also have rants.

There are just weeks that living through I’ve begged the future redactor of my journals to skip over and flip to the meaty part (surely, surely) just up ahead, the part where the story gets good. It’s an unexpected pleasure to be that redactor myself and to close the door, softly, on this ranting woman, and move on to the future . . .


Mrs. Organic said...

I erupted just yesterday. I have the hardest time when I'm made to feel like I'm expecting entirely too much. And really it was such a little thing I needed help with, they have it so easy. Ooo, I feel myself slipping on to the rant path - sorry.

On another note, have you read Bridge of Birds?

Emma J said...

No, what's Bridge of Birds? (Very cool image . . . )

Mrs. Organic said...

I just heard of it over the weekend. It's a Chinese fantasy/sci-fi that came highly recommended. It's not normally the thing I go for, but I thought I'd give it a try - expand my horizons and so on.

Are you on goodreads? I'd love to see your reviews. Also, I think you'd enjoy this writer

Emma J said...

I'll have to check goodreads out. And add Bridge of Birds to my list. You're wonderful, Mrs.O.

If you're interested, there are reviews of books I've liked on this blog (under Year 2007).

Mrs. Organic said...

I am interested, I'll check them out. Have you marked the reviews that contain spoilers, or are they "reader beware"

Emma J said...

They're more like "instant reviews" one sentence or two - identifying genre, what I liked about it and page numbers. No spoilers for fiction, but the non-fiction I sometimes sum up what I took away from the reading.

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