Monday, July 19, 2010


The reason I have no advice: the trick is to give of yourself without giving yourself completely away. But for each person that balance is so different. All of us must learn this balancing trick whether we are from Mars or Venus, childless or fecund. The problem arises in American society most poignantly when this gathering of libertarian individualists is saddled with offspring. Mothers are to learn a huge capacity for selflessness, and overnight, with no preparation and are allowed less leeway than fathers. Everyone believes that the balance they have found, or been deeded, is the only righteous one. By the numerous pursed lips around you, you will discover the parameters of allowed selfishness for mothers. It is a narrow path, and silently trodden in misery by many. You are just supposed to take it--on the head with a hammer, up the ass with a poker, whatever--and then at five p.m., you can have a drink. Mommy's Time Out is a brand of table wine I have seen in my local liquor store. The label shows a woman sitting in a rocking chair facing the corner of a room, a small table next to her with a glass of wine on it. This is available in both white and red.
Even if you are good at finding your own balance, there will be people hissing at you to find a different one, a better one, one that plays better to the chorus of other mothers, one that photographs better for Christmas cards. Even your nearest and dearest may blame you for doing it wrong--i.e. not as they would. All around me are older female relatives who continually instruct me that I am giving too little of myself in some ways: why am I not baking cookies, cakes, pies? That's what mothers do! That's what they did. You can't leave him alone like that! Or conversely, too much of myself in other ways: I shouldn't lift him up like that. Can't he play by himself for once? Why do you let him interrupt adults like that? (Oh, you mean, like you interrupted me just now?)
All in all, they want me to stop paying so much attention to that self-centered little id over there, or that big id over there (my husband) and come pay attention to them. Hey, don't I understand that romance and motherhood are fine and beautiful while they last, but that the greater part of a woman's life is actually more rewardingly spent with her women friends and relatives? What? You don't agree? But that is a truth universally acknowledged!
And these women, lovely all of them, are beset by bizarre consolatory habits that are now dragging their health down. They didn't find that wonderful a balance, but sought consolation in banana bread, chardonnay, or quilting. And if I do not save my brown bananas, or have a wine cellar, or own a sewing machine, it's clear that I am doomed. I have had it adamantly explained to me in no uncertain terms that knitting will ward off depression. Well, not if you knit like I do.
I don't actually believe that keeping my hands busy will prevent me from dwelling too deeply on my situation and despairing at its utter tragedy. Thought is not a problem for me. I like it. Consciousness is bliss, not ignorance. Ignorance is inevitable, but can be remedied. Once lost, it can never be regained, thankfully. And you still have to find your own balance.

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