(re)introduce you to Judith Warner, author, mother, and guru to all people interested in motherhood at this particular social, political, and cultural moment. While I have been a fan of Warner's writing since I first discovered "Domestic Disturbances," her blog at the New York Times, I hadn't discovered her 2005 book, Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, until this fall, just as my own experiences as a mother were beginning to leave me feeling hollow more often than full.
Since Big Boy was born, I have spent a lot of time telling myself how lucky I am - to have a loving husband, healthy and happy children, a supportive family, financial stability, great friends, my own health. But I didn't feel lucky. I felt sadness nagging like an arthritic joint, loneliness like a weight, boredom like unwanted ballast. (Lindsey wrote beautifully on Monday about "the feeling of being lonely when surrounded by people.") Newly settled in a town devoid of cultural outlets, I went to Walmart just to have something to do, to be able to interact with other people. My conversations with the other mothers I met at Big Boy's various activities centered on diaper prices and hand-me-downs. I thought that having these encounters was better than being alone, but never before I had felt so powerless. So disconnected.
Not only did I not see myself in any of the people I met; I didn't see myself in me. And then I read Judith and was reminded that Me was still there, but I was obscuring her.
In Perfect Madness, Warner asks, "What kind of choice is it really, after all, when motherhood forces you into a delicate balancing act - not just between work and family...but between your premotherhood and postmotherhood identities? What kind of life is it when you have to choose between becoming a mother and remaining yourself?"
And that's just what my problem was (well, still is, but I'm working on it): in trying to conform to a standard of motherly perfection, I lost touch with the woman I had been. I turned away from my own identity and took up residence in a world with children at its axis, as its sun, and as its satellites.
"They" say that you can't start recovering until you accept that you have a problem. I believe that to be true. I also believe in the healing powers of community, wherever you might find it.
My nascent journey into our bloggy universe has already unearthed valuable connections that have helped I to find Me again - a reader of Wallace Stegner, an inflexible yogi, a teacher, a talker. A woman who loves children, but also loves herself.
What part of your identity have you shed? Was it intentional or unintentional? To your benefit or detriment?
How great is Judith Warner?