"Slarrow" refers to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" from Hamlet's soliloquy. Here are the chronicles of such darts and whatever attempt there may be to take arms against such a sea of troubles.

Location: Ozarks, United States

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Thing Called Wantin' And Havin' It All

Newsweek has an article about the perils of perfectionist motherhood called Mommy Madness. As is my wont these days, I read first the commentary (from Lileks) and the satire (from iowahawk) on the article before I read the article. Perhaps that has prejudiced me somewhat against the article's author. If so, then so be it. I'm still not sympathetic.

I read Lileks' point as this: choices have consequences, and adults bear them. This is strikingly obvious to most of us, but it seems these mothers in this article genuinely don't understand this point. Lileks goes on to point out that once one has accepted this reality, there's a joy and a peace that goes with it:
But I’ve given up great acres of work time to be here with Gnat, and the amount of free time I used to have – time I spent recharging the daily batteries – has dwindled to zip. But it’s all a trade-off. So it’ll be a couple more years until I can wander downtown again; so it’ll be a while until she’s in school and my day is my own. So what. Nothing beats the time we spend together, the look on her face when she shows me a magic trick, the hug and kiss I get when I leave her at school. Today she beat me at UNO again and I explained how Barbie glitter cards are made and we looked at a website about the solar system and ooohed and ahhed at Saturn. And that matters more than anything because she is mine and I’m her Dad, and qualifying those definitions just seems petty.
What these women "suffer" from isn't a lack of support from society or men (just another attempt to make it someone else's problem). What they suffer from is a type of self-centeredness in which they appear to be looking for accolades for their performance instead of the rewards that come with deep sacrifice. It's about self-actualization, not selflessness. As Lileks says, "[r]aising Gnat is the most important thing I do." It doesn't seem like the author of this article gets it, deep down.

The thing is, most of the women I know have to work hard at being a mom plus an earner plus whatever else they have to do. Yet they don't crumble under the kinds of pressures described in this article. Maybe that's because they have real problems and challenges. They can't afford designer issues and so do pretty well with what they've got. That's why Iowahawk's satire is so great. Can you imagine how the women described in this article would react if the redneck girls from the South and mothers from Ethopia showed up at their doorstep to "help"? Hopefully many of them would be shamed into better behavior, but you know some of them would just be horrified at the notion that that type would show up trying to help. I mean, it's one thing to hire that sort of person, but to be morally indebted--why, that would just be too gauche.

Like the Sawyer Brown song that I use as this title says, there's a danger in wantin' and havin' it all because it can turn you into someone who, although rich, always feels entitled to more. But in doing so, there's a large risk in tickin' off the support and watching it go elsewhere. If the author of this piece really tries to get some political traction out of this phenomenon, look for this bit of Tim Allen wisdom to make the rounds once more:
Because we live in the modern age, women now have choices that are just killing them.

They can have a job, not have a job. They can be married or unmarried, married with children, unmarried with children, married with children and a job, unmarried with children and a job, unmarried with children and no job, unmarried with children who themselves have jobs, have a job and an au pair who has children, marry the au pair, have the au pair have their children, etc...

Men, unfortunately, have the same choice we've always had: we can work or we can go to jail.

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