Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mama Drama Take 2

When I was writing my book Sisterhood, Interrupted, I knew that my manuscript submission deadline was to be but an arbitrary end. I could have kept writing and writing and writing. Because mama drama (Chapter 5) is a story that just doesn't quit.

In a recent issue of The Daily Mail, Rebecca Walker writes, "My mother may be revered by women around the world - goodness knows, many even have shrines to her. But I honestly believe it's time to puncture the myth and to reveal what life was really like to grow up as a child of the feminist revolution." Rebecca is a colleague of mine, and a peer. She contributed an essay to my anthology Only Child. I'm saddened to hear, as she reveals in The Mail, that she's having trouble conceiving a second of her own. But publicly blaming her mother, and through her mother, flaming feminism, seems extreme.

Like Rebecca, I'm starting my journey to motherhood later. Had it not been for feminism, I might have stayed married to a first husband who was wrong for me (we divorced). Had it not been for feminism, and more specifically, the Pill, I might have conceived in my early twenties, a time when I was still growing up myself and would have failed miserably at motherhood. And let's face it: had it not been for feminism, I would not be a writer publishing feminist articles and books--including some that question and critique the movement's hot contentions and debates.

Like Rebecca, I too have had my share of conflict with my mother. We've screamed, fought, brought each other to our therapists, and duked it out. My mother is not a famous feminist, and to be sure she's been ever present in my life--perhaps unlike Alice Walker in that regard, according to Rebecca's account. My mother was overly available, and therein our troubles began. As one of the writers in our Only Child anthology puts it, sometimes we onlies can long for neglect.

Yes, my mother-daughter troubles were of the fixable variety. Perhaps Rebecca and Alice's are not, and perhaps it is unfair for me to even compare. The personal is by all means political; when your mother is Alice Walker, no doubt those boundaries are bound to slide. But when Rebecca writes that "Feminism has much to answer for denigrating men and encouraging women to seek independence whatever the cost to their families," I fear she is revealing far less about a movement and more about herself.

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Gloria Feldt said...

You know, the truth of the matter is it's always the mother's fault. Just kidding (I hope, since I have three children and three step children).

But more seriously, I would have found Rebecca's article amusing if it hadn't been such sad statement about how women--once again--are damned if they do and damned if they don't have a life beyond mothering.

I rebelled against my mother who went to work in my father's business every day by deliberately spending the first few years of my married life as Susie Homemaker, doing all the cooking, sewing, and housekeeping she didn't do. Pretty soon I was bored silly and started to college, then got a part time job, then a full time job, then an all-consuming job. My daughter seems to be repeating the pattern. The good news is that just as I forged a wonderful relationship with my grandmother who cared for me while Mother was at work, I too have learned that grandchildren are perfect and bring none of those rebellion issues to our time together.

Your last line is beautifully, sadly true--Rebecca's angst is infinitely more about herself than her mother. And isn't it ironic that Rebecca gets the platform from which she spews anti-mom venom because of who her mother is. Perhaps that's what she resents the most.

Sally said...

I wrote about this on my blog when the story came out. I think that while it's more about her own issues with her mother than it is about feminism & motherhood, it opens up the discussion about the pressures of motherhood and feminism.

I find that a lot of women I encounter (obviously, I can't apply it to every older fem) have sort of a negative reaction to women who embrace motherhood. While I understand the historical challenges motherhood presents to women, I think the point is that we now have a choice to make the decision we want, and shouldn't be looked down upon whatever that decision ends up being.

Anonymous said...

That was a terribly sad accounting of a childhood and if all true than she certainly does have cause to be upset about it. Past a certain point though our parents failings cannot be blamed for who we are as adults.

I can see why she blames feminism. I was not enamored of it myself as a young woman. I felt that it didn't take into account those of us who weren't privileged and for whom the choice to work was never a choice but a necessity. I also felt that my desire to marry and have a child was not considered a valid choice. It was "well, if you must" type of thing.

Life was not really meant to be traveled alone. There are good reasons that go beyond procreation and the religious right that compel men and women to come together and perhaps have a child. At the end of the day it is more important to have someone to share your life - ups and downs -with and someone, maybe, to pass what you have learned on to then being independent.

There is that line from the Carly Simon song (which I am probably interpreting from my own view - but whose else matters really - that goes something like: "How can I learn to be me all by myself?"

The trouble with relationships is that we ask to little from ourselves and from our mates when we should be demanding all from both.

Renee said...

I'm proud to be Debbie's mom (GWP) even if Debbie eperienced me as "overly available." Relationships need constant nourishing, interaction, and even confict to continue to grow and evolve. What matters to me is not just confict, but the repair of broken times when feelings that are hurt can be repaired and oxygenated in order to survive. Sounds like Rebecca Walker has not been able to do that because she does not have a willing "partner" with whom to share her particular feelings with in regard to her relationship with her mother. Some people have difficulty multi-tasking, between motherhood and everything else, or vice versa, everything else and motherhood. Some women suffer from what they have experienced in their own childhood with their own mothers tht remains unresolved and filled with regret and perhaps Alice Walker is one such person. That is unclear. Relationships need interaction and attention; empathy and understanding are of particular importance. Relationships are not static things to be put on shelves once we pass childhood. It's alot of work, but well worth it when two people love and respect each other. It is particularly sad if a mother cannot enjoy her daughter's success and happiness in whatever the daugher choses as a path in life. This works two ways-- daughters can be proud of their mothers, as well. Renee

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