I know the sobriety piece is just one thread of the whole interview, but I wanted to pull on it, for myself, and for others this might resonate with: When I was struggling with infertility I started drinking with every "failed" cycle, as a way to erase and diminish the feeling of failure, to deaden the sense of profound disconnect from my body, my sexuality, and my perceived gender role... to dull the anger and the shame.
As I slowly and unevenly started to come to terms with the fact that pregnancy and motherhood wasn't going to happen for me, the drinking got much, much worse. If I was never going to be pregnant, no reason not to drink, right? Oh, it was bad. It came to be a kind of self-harm, an expression of the shame and fury I felt at myself, at my friends who had their children with such ease (even as I recognized the struggles and difficulties they had as parents, and then more shame for the unjust anger and envy I felt), at the world.
My sobriety has been a gift that came only after I got over the self-loathing and shame of having wanted to be a mother so badly, and not getting that.
I feel like there's a lot of discourse over mothers drinking as a way of coping with the unfairness and awfulness of modern, Western motherhood. But I wanted to share that my own drinking came from what seems like the opposite situation, what *is* the opposite situation in a lot of logistical ways, but it feel like there's a lot of overlap: drinking to deal with the shame-anger-anxiety of failing to live up to the miserable-by-design expectations imposed on us.
Bought the book on kindle the second I read the title. My children are now 18, 16, 14, and 12. I am still recovering from when they were all little. I have been in a constant state of recovering their entire lives. I feel like I will never fully recover. And right now, I feel like I have spent so much time in overwhelm and taking care of basic needs that I failed to teach them independence, and how to live in the world as an adult. I also have an adopted daughter that is now 26, and a step child that is 27, so I had 5 children full time at home and 6 during holidays and summers. There was never any relief or recovery or replenishing during that time because we lived very isolated. I didn’t have friends or babysitters. Their father did nothing but add an extra person to care for and his needs always came first. Sex was a huge issue because I was constantly touched out and never wanted it. He demanded it as his right. I’m still very floored by the fact that he did maybe 1% (and that’s a generous 1%) of any care for the children, but demanded and got 50% custody in our divorce (I had him removed with a protective order in January of 2018, but divorce was final in 2021). It’s bittersweet because not having the children every other week has given me the opportunity to finally make friends and do things for myself. I struggle with this because I know the time they spend with him probably undoes everything positive that I do...
I can’t wait to dig into this book!!!
“… a plan devised by men.” Oof. 3 weeks ago I spent a harrowing day in the ER, writhing in pain from IVF-related complications. I will never forget laying next to my (terrified) husband, howling in pain, while looking up at two male doctors who had no idea how to treat me. You could see it on their faces: my feral screams frightened them. When a female OBGYN finally saw me, the senior male doctor gave her a “The things women go through…” as if I had nobly chosen this pain.
It was a real awakening for me. I’m still processing it, and have been questioning everything I put myself through. This interview arrived at an apt time.
Powerful thoughts about internalized social scripts and how we can find ourselves advancing an agenda (and being of service to it) without our full understanding or consent. I'd be interested to know how the social script-work breaks down along racial and class lines. As a Black woman, I do not experience this crisis identically with my white peers, so some of the statements about the pressures "all women" share had me squinting just a bit.
I feel like I’ve gotten more ambivalent about parenting the longer I’ve done it, which is something I’ve never heard anyone else admit to. It’s one of the many reasons I’ve stopped with one kid. Using the word “flattening” to describe the effects of motherhood is really apt - and it happens differently as the years pass. I felt flattened physically and emotionally as the mom to a baby with a rare, incurable, and terrifying health condition. I continued to feel that way as the mom to that toddler who refused to sleep until age 4. There were a couple years where I felt like I had a handle on things, and then the pandemic hit. Now I’m absolutely flattened mentally as the mom of a hyperactive, smart 10-year-old with OCD whose brain and body never shut off, which means I have to keep up with said kid’s runaway train of a brain on top of all the other work, household, and relationship things in my own anxious brain.
I remember the wide range of things I did and experienced before motherhood, and it’s like looking at a different person. Will I ever see her again? Would she recognize me now? When I’m in my 50s and an empty-nester, how will I redesign my life beyond motherhood? And why can’t I do that now?
MOTHERHOOD IS A SCAM SAY IT LOUDER FOR EVERYONE. I love my kids. I would push the entire world into traffic for my kids. They're weird and funny and frustrating and whip-smart and caring and curious but MOTHERHOOD IS A SCAM.
My kids are 9 and 12 and I still feel touched out a lot-- I work with the public, where I'm putting my emotions and self-interest in the backseat to care for and help them, and then I come home and my family (whom I love dearly) also wants love and care and my mental time and effort, and I am SO DAMN TIRED. It's a physical sensory overload and an emotional and mental one too, and it's so hard to find how to draw the line and express myself without offending anyone. Last night I came home and my husband said "Oh, all I want to do tonight is have a couple drinks with you and hang out and talk" and it felt so gloriously freeing to say "I'm too tired, I need to go to bed" and be asleep by 9pm. The kids had a friend spending the night, I did jackshit to help, I was incredibly selfish about my time and my body and it was amazing.
As an old man, this was an eye-opening discussion, and is added to the list of all the things I wish I had been aware of when I was much younger.
When I was young, mothers were given anxiety meds to stay calm. The doctor wrote my mother a prescription. She tore it up. Now, it’s “Mommy Juice” and “Wine o’clock.” How about getting mothers some social support, instead of trying to numb them?
The physicality of pregnancy, infant and toddler care was something I felt wholly unprepared for and is one of the main reasons we have just one kid. I didn’t have a term for it, I just knew that after almost 3 years of feeling like my body wasn’t my own anymore, I couldn’t bear the thought of doing it all again. I only stopped breastfeeding when a medical emergency put me in the hospital and forced the abrupt end to our so-called “child led weaning.” Reading in between the lines of matrilineal stories I’ve been told over many years, I believe I come from a long line of women who struggled with a great deal of shame over ambivalence at motherhood.
This interview was just a wonderful early weekend morning read, and can’t wait to get my hands on the book.
I was never able to have children and was good with that. Despite not being a mother, this interview resonates hugely with me as an incest survivor abused by my father from when I was 7 until I was 13. He was an alcoholic, but he abused me both when drunk and when stone cold sober. He controlled my body in other ways too. He didn't allow me to have my long hair cut short (it could be trimmed, of course, to keep it tidy) until I insisted it was all I wanted for my 14th birthday. Even after I got him to stop the abuse when I was 13, he still would do things like kiss me, saying it was to show me how boys would want to kiss me. And when my period started when I was 14, all he had to say to me about it was to be sure to keep myself clean.
Even my mother had dominion over my body, though she just handed me a book about menstruation instead of talking to me about it. (I was--and continue to be--an avid reader, so I was fine with that.) She refused to let me shave my legs when I wanted to in junior high school. And when she finally said I could, she insisted on doing it for the first time. Another time, we were walking down a street with me (I was about 16) in front of her, and she made the comment that men were going to like my butt. Took me a long time to realize how weird all that was. She never knew about the incest until I told her 30 years after it happened.
This interview is stunning. It's like finally having the curtain pulled back. Though, as others have said here, I'm a little afraid to read the book, concerned it will bring up all the trauma I've worked hard over the years (I'm 70 now) to recover from. On the other hand, the book explains so much, and I'm completely intrigued. I've put it on hold at the library to try it out and see how it goes.
My fourth son is 3-weeks old and I’m not just a human chuck wagon, but also an emotional support- person--trying to keep the four other men in my life feeling connected. (I’d do it if they were female, too, but they happen to be male, so this hits extra.) Still, the physical doesn’t compare with what keeps me up at night... no matter how much my husband or sons involve themselves in the active nurture of this baby, the prevailing winds are against us. THIS describes the hole in my heart where that cold wind comes through: “I write in the book about how, as a parent, there is a process of mourning that comes for many with realizing that our children, despite our best efforts, will be socialized into this patriarchal culture. We have to accept that we are all products of this world, while also holding space to resist that world, and that’s some of the hardest, and most valuable, work of parenting, to my mind.”
I relate so much to this. We had our three kids very close in age (we had 3u4 for a couple months because we are crazy lol) and I left my job to be their full time caregiver after #2 was born. Anyway, I remember many days where I was just done by 5 pm. I remember describing it to my husband as feeling like I was going to *jump out of my skin* if someone asked for one more thing from me. I thought it was me but it’s so interesting to hear that this electric or itchy feeling in your skin is common among caregivers of young children!
I was lucky that he was a really good sport about it. He’d come home from work and I’d basically toss the baby at him like a hot potato and go take a long bath with a book. That would give me enough time to recharge enough to be able to do the bedtime routine with him with patience and goodwill (which, as anyone with kids knows, tends to be a long drawn out process for children under 5).
I need to get this book and sit with it and this article. My kids are older now ( 18 and 15) but I still feel so 'touched out' from everyone on my life: the kids, my husband, my 2 dogs, the 9 person team at work who report to me. There is always someone who wants something from me. Always. The ' they are only little once' reference... I built so much of my life around that.... for the last 18 years while still "managing" to climb the corporate ladder.... I think I feel seen for the first time
I am reading this book and relate so much it gave me an immediate panic attack, rage, existential crisis. It’s so viscerally alarming that I had to stop and now read just a little at a time.
This piece has echoed so loudly every thought bouncing in my skull that I can only engage with it in bits pieces like lowering myself bracingly into a scalding bath that I know I need. I’ll be visiting this throughout the day as I work through it.
It’s such a fantastic book. I’m about 70% done. I will definitely be using it in my Sociology classrooms. I am currently writing an essay about the male gaze and the body (of desire) through the lens of queerness and breast cancer; so much of this book, in comparison to my own (differing) experience, is making me see with some clarity how positionality shapes our experiences within systems of power. I love it. As an academic who is trying to shift to creative non-fiction writing, the book is a great example, as stated in the interview, of the co-mingling of memoir ("craft") and social theory.