Friday, June 13, 2008

More on My Success, So Far

Remember (ahem): the Matron is not discontent, ambitious or a tiny burned from her jaunt through big publishing and prestigious award (she's been there unsuccessfully, had that).

Oh no.

Thus so -- she blithely enters a birthday bash for a friend, full of neighbors and new folk. She engages in small talk and happy this and friendly that.

Just as she's moving for more grilled shrimp, the Matronly ear catches from behind: "Yes, my blog did get me a book deal."

Did you know that she has no qualms about interjecting herself in a complete stranger's conversation? BLOOD could not be pumped faster: the Matron has that much information from the blogger, that quick.

The Matron cannot help but note the irony of writing a blog post and immediately leaving for a party to meet a stranger whose blog won her the publishing success that has long eluded the Matron.

Not that she cares or is keeping her own personal scorecard of Success, So Far.

Did you see how the Matron has more comments? Wait! She's not keeping track! really. . . .

The Balanced Marriage, Take 2

The Matron has a scoop!

Check out the cover story of the Sunday New York Times. Times links are tricky, so if this doesn't work, google: Lisa Belkin June 15 When Mom and Dad Share it All.

Remember how the Matron recently moaned about household inequity? Belkin's article continues that conversation, featuring parents striving for bona fide 50/50 in all ways. ThirdPath Institute, sort of a balanced life think tank, is source and guide for their journeys.

Long article, worth your time! The Matron will blog less so you can read more.

And she recognized herself in these pages as more 'gatekeeper' than sanguine partner. Because the Matron? Family and gender roles aside, she plays best with others when SHE is the person in charge.

Here's a lovely mix of optimism and hubris and control. The Matron doesn't run the world yet, but she thinks that feat is still possible. And just that thought is enough to make her happy. . .

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Matron Apologizes

to pretty much every human being who had the fabulous adventure (um, serious misfortune) of interacting with her during the first two years of Stryker's life -- before she had more offspring onto which to focus her considerable energy. And anxiety.

You see, the Matron?

When her firstborn was approximately 43 days, 11 hours and 32 seconds old (not that she was tracking), she noticed yellow snot oozing out of said child's nose!!

Her instant instinct was to dial 911. She is not kidding. Thank God her mother-in-law was nearby to physically hold her back from the phone.

The Matron apologizes to the female pediatrician she interviewed while four months pregnant. Oh My God! Repression has its merits. The Matron actually did something like this:

Newly Pregnant Matron: "How many years experience do you have?"

Pediatrician: "Twenty-five. Twenty of those as a mother of four."

NPM (sooo not impressed): "Hmmmm. Did you see the recent AMA study linking ultrasound noise to fetal discomfort? How about the Congressional hearings on vaccines and autism? Lead as a public health issue? Correlation between the Great Lakes and thyroid disease? My notes indicate that your clinic recently partnered with the University of Minnesota, offering in-services on childhood nutrition to doctors. Did you partake in this opportunity? Knowledge of scoliosis and screening? How do you tend to children with clear gender identification issues? Gay or lesbian children or those wondering and when do you consider these things? Are you able to glance at a child and guarantee they will not be run over by a minivan or contract the nation's only case of malaria?"

Funny how just after that 'interview,' the pediatrician's nurse called to say the doctor was no longer taking new patients.

The Matron is sorry for being utterly unbearable!

She also apologizes to the preschool staff who suffered through the Matron's intense scrutiny of their school, perched on a child's stool for one week solid while she scoped out 3 year old education ONE FULL YEAR in advance!!! With questions and unsolicited advice!

Matron to preschool teacher: "You know, I read in Psychology Today that squabbles among children are actually a good thing, that one should allow the fight. So maybe you should NOT have intervened when little Sally hit Theo on the head."

Note how this was not a question.

Preschool Teacher: "Mary, is that your stool in the corner? You should go there."

But -- a glimmer of hope! When Stryker was just 9 months old and at a friend's house with the Matron, a messy house full of children and half-eaten food and complex Game, Stryker picked up a muffin that someone had dropped and popped it in his mouth.

The Matron didn't miss a beat in her adult conversation.

More experienced mother: "Are you okay with Stryker eating something that Lucy dropped on the floor?"

Matron: "Oh my God. Yes. If it's not poison, have at it."

Experienced Mother: "You're going to do just fine."

Today, the Matron noticed how Merrick runs wild up and down the block. He has several adult, childless neighbor friends with whom he spends quality time, helping them garden or unload groceries or walk the dogs, the things the Matron is TIRED of doing with underage aid.

Merrick: "Mom! I going to Chip and 'Sanndwa's! Be back soon!"

"Mom! I wide my bike now. Bye!"

"Mom! Wosy (Rosy) has cookies fow me. Bye!"

If he's not bleeding, screaming or breaking a bone, the Matron assumes he is fine. What a difference one decade (plus two years) and more children make. She thanks Buddha-God-Oprah that she had enough self-awareness to know that intensity-anxiety like hers demanded distribution among three, rather than razor-like focus on one.

But maybe she should've had four. . . . ?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Mommy Wars?

Monday, Suburban Correspondent weighed in with her very smart response to the Matron's post about housecleaning. And who does more. Which would be the Matron.

One of the best things Suburban said was this: "most of us do not believe that women who take care of their homes and their children full-time already have a job."

Hot dang, clanged the Matron! This is righteous feminism, the good stuff rolling in 'round the middle of the last century when women pointed out the fact that raising children, cooking, cleaning, managing the extended family, shopping, and tending to all the tender psyches within a ten mile radius actually constituted legitimate labor.

Motherhood and household management create a full-time job --one we all share.

Now, Suburban also used the phrase "the Mommy wars," noting that she this was one flame she did not intend to fuel. The Matron understands that dear Suburban did not invent this term, simply deployed it, as many of us do.

But who is waging this battle? The Mommy wars?

First, let us cringe at the phrase itself. The use of the phrase "the Mommy wars" immediately diminishes any legitimate issue at hand. The Matron does not allow pediatricians or nurses to refer to her as "mom" and she does not think that the larger social issues wrapped up in a woman's choices (or lack thereof) regarding work and child-rearing should be linked to the word "mommy." We are women. Women. But that's a harder, scarier word with different, less necessarily nurturing, connotations.

The Mommy wars also has a back-fence feel, a cat fight around the corner, the plight of the individual woman at hand as opposed to a complex set of social, economic and political forces that engage us all.

In her book, Perfect Madness, (okay, the Matron linked that book to her own review rather than the book itself!) Judith Warner tracked how the American impulse toward, and reverence for, individualism affects mothers. We feel all alone out here, and we are. There's no universal daycare, no social security or salary for full-time mothers, no certainty that public education is adequate and safe.

In sum, to the Matronly mind, "The Mommy wars" diminishes and individualizes complex social issues regarding work and child-rearing. But let's step away from the phrase itself and explore the content: the 'war' women are waging as mothers.

Sniff, sniff? The Matron smells no gun powder.

While The New York Time Magazine discusses Emily Gould and the snarky world of Gawker, the little world of women blogging about motherhood, work, and life is an entirely different, completely pleasant planet.

Comments are all: "you are so wonderful" and "I'm sorry you had a bad day: if I was there I'd make you a cup of tea" or "Let me tell you what I did when my three year old punched his preschool teacher, maybe that will help?"

Indeed, so strong is this culture, so powerful, that the Matron hesitated over Suburban, was sure to remove this woman from any critique of the phrase itself, to not in any way wag her finger at her bloggy friend for using the phrase. Because the Matron? She did not want to hurt anyone's feelings.

Cheri at Blog this Mom is a good example of this culture. In two years, her blog has gotten ONE mean-spirited comment! Even the edgier, institutionalized and commercially-inclined Dooce and Her Bad Mother brim with girlfriend, Mama-Love! We women online mail free gifts to strangers, routinely, with various blog give-aways; we heart blogs and women we love. Nobody is fighting. In fact, we are all running over to Mrs. G's Women's Colony.

Indeed, at first this puzzled the Matron! Trained as a literary critic, she wanted to seize and pounce, to deconstruct one post and laud another. But she soon saw that the glue that bound the blogosphere was not one of witty word or being more clever than someone else, but of real women (mostly) and feeling-- of support and sharing, not ripping apart like an academic article or book review. (even though she still sometimes gets competitive and grumpy when she compares her prose to some of the very famous and thinks that her words have verve, snap and sparkle and shine just as much and maybe sometimes little bit more but she's not supposed to notice and point this out, which she just did anyway, rebel!)

Mommy wars? Not in this blogosphere.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Warm and Fuzzy Child

Today, the Matron took her children to Ax Man, a surplus store full of oddity and hardware. Merrick fell in LOVE. Must have. Dirt cheap. Has worn constantly -- this:

A gas mask.

And tonight? Merrick has informed the family that he will be cuddling up with this hardware at bedtime, sorta like a stuffed bunny.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Feminist Studies

The Matron's higher degrees include minors in Feminist Studies. One of her favorite articles construed marriage as nothing more or less than the economic exchange of women between men, just like property or gold.

How much did the then Youngish Miss adore said theory and articles supporting? She felt compelled to reference that theory in her own wedding -- and not casually, on the side, during a conversation. Oh noo, she worked that whole 'historic economic exchange of women' (those words precisely) into the actual goddamn ceremony. Now that's writing talent. And nerve. And. . . you fill in the blank(s)!

So. . . in the wedding ceremony there were first the 60 seconds of silence for the gay and lesbian friends who were not allowed to marry, followed by the proclamation that historically, marriage may have been one raw deal for women, shuttled from father to husband. But the union ahead? The nuptials of Youngish Feminist Miss and her chosen?


Today, she sometimes stands stock still (with three backpacks over one shoulder, purse slung on the other, green basket from van full of bowls, grapes, half-eaten bagels, library books, homework assignments requiring parental signature and bag of groceries in another while Merrick inquires about the status of his after school snack?) in her own life and wonders: "How did this happen?"


That ceremony with the nod to gay/lesbian rights and the short but very sharply-done treatise on the history and significance of marriage with a Marxist-Feminist slant? Normally, one just hires a judge, any old judge. But the first THREE judges who read the Young Miss's Left Wing Love Song, turned down the job!

So she shopped that thing, just like a novel, and some lovely lefty judge said this: "That is the best ceremony I have ever read!"

On Wednesday, the Matron and her beloved celebrate 13 years of marriage, preceded by four years of living in sin (according to her mother-in-law and probably her own mother whose opinion on this matter she has yet to seek).

That would be 13 years of observing the strange and, yes, sometimes discouraging, divergence between philosophical/political conviction and actual life. As one of her dear friends reminded her just last week, throughout history, women do more domestic work than men. Give it up, girlfriend.

(and because she is lazy this way, the links above were just the first two google finds! There were many many more)

Yesterday's graduation party offered the Matron a cleaning, cooking, serving, socializing, cleaning marathon. She whipped on her best apron and damn near flew out of the gate!

This is the house in which the Matron entertains -- and cleans!

The back view allows for a fuller understanding that there are 2800 square feet and four floors -- to clean!

Yes, she knows she is lucky. She once lived in a low-income housing unit about half the size of her current first floor. THAT is not what she's complaining about.

Today, she tackled a thorough dusting of bookshelves (this family has hundreds - hundreds -- of books), mopping and dusting three children's bedrooms, cleaning the crud in the silverware drawer, sweeping and mopping the wrecked main areas from yesterday, vacuuming dog hair from appropriate places, sorting through summer clothes.

Five hours in, hobbling on bruised knees (from the mopping), she carried the mop, broom and bucket through the kitchen and past her husband and said this: "When I'm working full-time this fall, I think we should hire a housecleaner."

John was staring into his cell phone (it's sort of hypnotic that way): "Hmmm. Well, maybe that's something to think about, maybe."

Do you hear the sound of a woman snapping?

So when John turned and looked at his wife of 13 years and instantly absorbed the imminent combustion and potential certification and divorce, he said this, quickly: "YES! We will hire a cleaning service!"

Year 14, coming right up!