Who says what?

Novelist, mother, minister, and yoga teacher muses on books, babies, motherhood, and what matters with reverent humor.

Monday, July 20, 2009

You Know Not What You Do

I have just finished The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer, a novelist I adore, and you may have to stop me because I have more to say than anyone has the time to read, but being frank, as one can be while blogging, I have to confess, I didn't like the book primarily because I DO NOT AGREE with this premise that our time raising our children is anything like a "ten year nap." Also, it was not at all funny. (But then neither is this blog post.)

What disappoints me on a large scale (like bigger than a billboard), is the fact that women continue to act as though raising children is not of any significance, pining away for something worthwhile to do. (Um, gee, I don't think there EXISTS more worthwhile.) The characters in the book are all, mostly, aching for a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Paying no attention whatsoever to the reality of their lives.

What happened to me the other day: I come back from the grocery store. I have a car full of groceries including milk, cheese, frozen yogurt--you know, COLD things--and I discovered as I put the baby in the car seat at the store that she is soaking wet (through her pants). I am feeling a great senseur of urgency about my work, necessity, and, of course, purpose. I need to get the groceries in the house, unpack them, get the baby dry and clean, and entertain the toddler meanwhile or at the very least keep him from destroying himself or something in arm's reach and just at that moment, a door-to-door Sierra Club guy walks up the driveway and wants to talk to me, and I think to myself, HE thinks I can talk to him because I am simply "staying home."

I told him I don't have the money. My husband does. When he persisted, I told him I'm not sure we even like the Sierra Club. I said, AGAIN, I have a soaking wet baby and some thawing frozen food in my car. This may not make the national news, but it's as pressing and necessary as anything. And please, won't the women wake up from the thorny stem of feminism that has poked them into slumber like a reverse fairy tale, and realize that life is not happening SOMEWHERE ELSE. It is happening here, among the detritus of home life, as well as in the boardroom, and that somewhere, food needs refrigeration and that if you are the one to keep it cold, you have a purpose. A very fine purpose, in fact. Keeping frozen yogurt cold and edible may, actually, make this world go round. Never mind the act of service in cleaning a tiny, baby bum. (But p.s. if you pay attention you will be rewarded with a sense of purpose.)

Coming off of soap box now. Stepping down. Walking away from the silence of the computer.


  1. Oh. my. gosh. Can I wrap you up and take you home with me?

    Wait, that sounds stalkerish.

    Brava, brava - will be back once I pick up kidling -

  2. I guess I just can't feel a sense of PURPOSE in it, myself.

    Urgency, yes, sure. And even accomplishment, and a little thrill that we survived another day, and maybe even made progress (learned a new word, rooted out all the horrid blackberry vines, whatever).

    For me, it seems like people who are very proud of keeping their cars in perfect maintenance. Umm, hello, you could have bought a bike. Just sayin'.

    Because the point, for me, is not the day-to-day raising of the children, it's the hope that you raise them well enough that someday they make their living doing something other than killing baby seals. And maybe help old ladies across the street. Because Lord knows we'll need the help by then.

    And so the purpose, the need, only exists because we had the children in the first place. We created the need, so we have to address it. Meanwhile, people are starving and wars are going on and people are using bad software and those things STILL have to be fixed, whether or not we have kids.

    But then, I don't do "in the moment" very well. Yoda would be disappointed.

  3. You mean you'll be back once everyone is dry and you've had a chance to eat some ice cream?

  4. But here's the thing,we didn't just "have" them and thereby create a need, those little people with their big souls have a reason to be here. We care for them as we would care for the earth, as stewards of something bigger. And anyway, isn't ALL work made up of the little tasks that move towards a greater thing?

  5. Samantha -

    When I was in Div School, the first day of my first feminist theology class, the prof (Mary McClintock Fulkerson) said:

    "We know what feminism has given to the churches as they wrestle with theology. What can churches and their theologies give to feminism?"

    Ten years later, it's still the question I come to when I get frustrated with discussions like SAHM v. WOHM, or when communities like the one at Feministing.com say they honor women's choices but then put down motherhood.

    My answer to the question changes every few months or so, but in response to your post, I'd say that theology gives feminism purpose. Empowerment. If women felt "called" to have children, maybe they'd feel differently.

    I think many women/couples still feel like they should have kids "because." It's what you do. Whereas Mr. Aerin and I got married with the understanding we would not have kids. Twelve years and two preschoolers later, I can tell you - I felt called to have children, just as sure as I felt called into ministry (and then not into ordination).

    AND - if we acknowledge women's empowerment in choosing motherhood, I think we have to assume there are some men out there feeling called to fatherhood, and their role in childrearing still doesn't seem to live up to what's expected of a "mom."

    Still, it's so easy to fall into the "purpose-less" trap...I loved your post - am sharing on Facebook, etc. etc. And now I really think I should get a copy of your book to read.....

  6. But here's the thing,we didn't just "have" them and thereby create a need, those little people with their big souls have a reason to be here.

    Ah, right, forgot that you're a minister. ;)

    By the way, the real point here is that you should make the Sierra Club guy carry in the groceries for you while he gives his spiel...

  7. Oh, you can't be telling me you don't think you're little guy has his own agenda!?

  8. I don't have babies, but I'd have told the Sierra Club guy to take a hike!

  9. But do you have frozen yogurt?...

  10. Agenda? always. Purpose? Not so much. But then, I don't really think any of us has a purpose, unless we make a point of finding one for ourselves.

  11. Have you ever read MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Viktor Frankl?