Wednesday, July 20, 2005

New Blog

From time to time I get link requests, and here's one especially I'd like to support.

The first is Play is the Work. This is a blog by two moms, one in Seattle and the other in San Francisco. tag line: "The blog for parents who want to worry less and play more." Unlike some of the slacker mom stuff that was coming out a year ago or so, this blog's attitude is about worrying less, and still really being affectionate toward your kids. The slacker mom material always seemed so harsh, to my ears anyway. This blog is about kindness. It's connected with a small media company called BrainCandy that these two moms have created. I think their product is alternative video for young kids. So go check them out, they're trying to start and sustain forward-thinking conversations about parenting, and tell Sam I sent you.

And also, Suzanne over at Mother in Chief needs some cheering up. She's been moving back into the paid workforce, through free-lance writing, is trying to make the pay from her job equal what it costs to do time-consuming writing work; in short, she's dealing with something similar to many of us who do writing, or part time work, or who move back and forth between paid and unpaid work. So give her some cheer, tell her it will be okay, and that if you lived near her you'd stop by to babysit, or do her laundry.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Food Network

Fun announcement here: it looks like I'll be a guest on the Food Network. Rachel Ray, who does 30-minute dinners, and also that show on traveling to fabulous places on $40 a day, is hosting a new show, called Day to Day with Rachel Ray, which focuses less on food and more on a range of women's issues. I'll be on a segment about motherhood, and we're taping on August 2d, though the show will air sometime this winter. That's all the detail I know.

If anyone's up for some fun, the audience participation part looks like it's still open! Check out the Food Network's page for the new show.

Monday, July 18, 2005

In Praise of Working Mothers

In the past two weeks I've had three press calls. One was for a terrific article on whether there's a mothers' movement, and what it looks like, by Katherine Ellison, author of The Mommy Brain, in this past Sunday's San Jose Mercury News.

The other two were about working mothers. In both, and especially for the ten-minute radio spot I did, the hosts or reporters were very anxious about working moms, and about the guilt they feel. In both, my constant refrain was: Working Mothers Should Not Feel Guilty. We should feel, and rightfully, mad, frustrated, tired, torn in many directions, ambivalent, and all sorts of other emotions. But we should not feel guilty. Working dads don't feel guilty. Guilt does not help. Turn that guilt around, feel it as the anger that it is, and call your elected officials and tell them that you're mad at how hard the workplace makes family life. But don't feel guilty. The most important thing as we all make more room for mothers and fathers to follow the life paths they feel best about--whether it's being home with kids, working part time, working full time, and doing all of the above--is that we not let any of the gains of the last women's movement be lost, and important among those gains are the right to work, and have interesting, fairly paid work, and to work on equal terms to men.

Yes, we are now trying to change the workplace so that it's more amenable to raising children while we work, whether while we work full time, letting us back in after we take time off, valuing our part time labor--whatever it is. But in all of the searches for alternatives to fulltime work, we must also and always defend working mothers, and understand what's hard about that, and what many working moms need in the way of support. This is what it means to cast the old Mommy Wars model aside, the way I write about in the book. That instead of just defending our own choices and lives, we make sure our empathy has room for all of us.

And isn't it a sign of our conservative, crazy times that I even have to write an entry like this? That working moms even feel guilt instead of anger? So share the empathy, no matter what your life looks like at this moment, no matter how many hours you're home with your kids or at work. and remember the big picture, that we are defending women's and mothers' rights to work--rights that were hard-won--and demanding that they more truly fit our lives. And keep telling each other that we should be angry, and vocal about it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Pleasure of Good Radio

Being a writer has unexpectedly put me in contact with journalists, a happy, if naively unexpected side effect of publishing a book. If the post below was about potentially untrustworthy journalism,this one is about radio journalism of the best time. You must, must, must check out and click On Air to stream it to your computer. This is the community radio station in West Marin that interviewed me last night. What a treat. The host, Jonathan Rowe, who, it turns out is on the board of Take Back Your Time Day, was just one of those smart, engaged, broad-thinking people that you just want to talk with all night. I was surprised, and sad, when our hour was over. The conversation was so good that I kept asking him what he thought. He started with an anecdote about being at the Hong Kong airport with his wife and young child, and being surprised that there was a full indoor playground for the kids. His comment: things are usually so bad, and as a result, we expect so little. that we are surprised when we come across something that actually suppports our families. Wouldn't it be great if every airport in North America had a play area and play scape for kids in the various terminals.

I seem to have a hazy memory--I was there very early one morning--that the Vancouver airport also had a playscape for kids, right near a large cluster of skyway gates. I too, was happily surprised. Must one leave the USA to find such things, and to place the scarcity and lack of support in real context? Every air traveler in america should be lobbying for these things--just think about how much better behaved all our kids will be on airflights if they have a chance to run around and climb for 20 minutes before boarding? All those business travelers who complain about antsy kids--call and write your airline now! This is not just a problem for families!

And for very funny and well-written kid on airplane stories, see Andi Buchanan's Mother Shock and just scroll down to the airplane stories.

I'm off with some pages to a new cafe that opened down the block from my house--High Point cafe--a local woman who just moved back from Seattle where she owned a cafe. I'm bringing a draft of an essay I'm writing for Andi's forthcoming book "It's a Girl," the gender companion to "It's a Boy" which I think is already up on Amazon and will be released soon. Both are essays about raising kids, and I'm trying to sort out my daughter's love for cheerleading, including a story about how she took her cheerleading doll to school one day and not one but two boys attacked it, leading me to feel staunchly protective of the doll and curious that the girly act of cheerleading would provoke such acts of violent reprisal--at Quaker school, no less.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Uh Oh...

Readers, I've possibly done a very evil thing to the world of mothers. After so many critiques, in my book and here on this blog, of New York Magazine for its horrific accounts of the mothering life, I spoke with a reporter working on a story on moms and nannies for that very same magazine. I even mentioned these sentiments to the reporter, whose response was, "So you're familiar with the magazine...." She then promised me that THIS article would be different.

Now, I don't know that the article will actually run. The reporter's final words were, "you'll be hearing from our fact checkers"....which, of course, I haven't. Now, just in case it comes out and my words have been tangled against my will into weapons against mothers, know that I did say things like "mothers who work shouldn't be or feel judged, working is a good thing" and I did say that families who employ nannies should feel very lucky, that only around 5% of families in the US can afford this kind of personal, home-based care for their kids. As much as I know what this kind of media does, it's still so tempting as a writer to believe that my thoughts are so crystal clear and inviolate that they can only ever mean what I mean them to mean, that contributing and saying smart things might do the world of parenting some good, and that my insights will pass an editorial attempt to turn them into trash. Perhaps we're all so craven for media mentions that we'll do just about anything. Anyway, let's cross our fingers and just hope this one turns out okay. And I'll let you know if I ever hear from that factchecker!

More radio tonight, in west marin

Any Californians out there? I'll be on Jonathan Rowe's show on KWMR/90.5 fm. 5.30 Pacific time. KWMR is out of Point Reyes, and it's the community radio station for West Marin. Jonathan has a small child--two years and nine months, he writes--so I think the conversation will be very engaged. Pass the word.

A funny thing has happened this summer. My daughter takes the bus to camp. This means that aside from my neighbors who meet us with their kids each morning and afternoon at the bus stop, I'm out of the parenting loop. I just don't hear that many parenting stories. What a change for me! It also says something about isolation and parenting. Usually I drop my daughter at school and pick her up after, so I'm always in the swirl of the two-minute conversation that gets picked up the next day, or the after-school playground conversations that, although interrupted, give me so much to think about. Now I support buses--and this summer, my daughter's camp is 30 minutes away, longer in morning traffic, so I live for the bus--and we know I've blogged before about buses and how they're a small and unnoticed and really important part of parent's lives. I'm also noticing how they contribute to isolation, especially for those of us who work from home. In other words, I suppose, send parenting stories!

ps--you can stream this, traipse over to the KWMR homepage and click "On The Air" for directions.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Rick's book

What I'm thinking about today: Rick Santorum's new book and the it takes a family, not a village claim. Partisan politics aside, what do we make of all this, and isn't it interesting that he's able to say that if one parent should be at home, it could be a dad too. Yes, i can't stand him, and will work against his reelection in our fair state, but now that the media's picked up this next missive in the parenting ways--can we call them the daddy wars now that Rick's involved?--public opinion on all these topics will again be stirred. And as politically progressive people who want to claim family life as ours, why give it over to a piece in a right wing play for more power?

Announcement, finally

I've been reminded by several readers and friends that I've been neglecting to announce what I'd anounced several weeks, many weeks back, that I'd announce! Reaching for the personal has always been hard for me, especially as I've seen mama writer friends who speak with personal and vulnerable voices raked over the coals--but also loved and beloved for daring to speak so lyrically and honestly. I've experienced first hand, as many of us, have how difficult it can be to cross those boundaries between political and public, and then, the private and personal souls that we are.

I am pregant! Yes, due in December, a girl, healthy so far as they can tell, and of course, as a mom just over 40 and dumped into the high risk category, I've seen the little thing by sonogram more times than I can count or keep track of. The administrator at my midwife's office probably thinks of me as that woman who always calls and says, "The peri-natal unit wants a prescription for three more sonograms, can you send it to them...."

I"m healthy and feeling good now, but all of you who met me during the book tour for Truth Behind the Mommy Wars unsuspectedly met a very tired, exhausted and nauseus woman desparately trying to hold it all together. On one trip to DC in late May, I nearly didn't make it back. It was a sunday afternoon, I had just finished a small book gathering at the home of Elizabeth from Half-Changed World. I got on the beltway to head back north on I-95. And know what I really wanted to do? Pull to the side of the road and sleep for ten hours. Call Rob and ask him to come get me. Call AAA and see if they wouldn't send a tow truck out to pull me the next three hours home. And it was my birthday, too.

But all that's behind me now, that bone wrenching first trimester tiredness. Now it's back to ordinary life. Post-book tour, baby on the way, my daughter in summer camp for four more weeks before we head to camp grandma and grandpa for the rest of the summer.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Summer/Ny Times

I don't really want to become a media flog, and I'm tempted for the sake of calm to cancel my ny times subscription for a few months, given that it's so easy to get it online, but: sunday's week in review article about moms and summer camp? Made my blood boil, filled as it was with so many wrong assumptions about family life. It's one of those recurring "what do I do about summer" articles. And the stories are predictable: summer camp is way expensive; if you keep your kids home they're lonely because all the other kids are in camp; how many parents hate summer because it's so stressful to deal with care/camp.

So here's the problem. All the interviews were only with women. Don't any fathers in America tend to their kids' summer camp need? Is summer camp planning only a mom thing? Does the NY Times not know any fathers? Please tell me the answer so I won't just believe in my feminist way that the media is conspiring to keep parenting and child-raising as women's work, thus burdening mothers and depriving fathers.

Second, there's no political analysis. The whole entire rest of the week in review is devoted to political analysis. But the one article on family life is unconcerned with anything other than how individual families make it work. Couldn't the reporter think about what's happened to full-length summer camps, so that parents end up doing a week here and a week there for their kids? Can we talk about school schedules? Can we talk about lack of public support for summer childcare? A lack of community centers, a lack of families who can plan collectively with others? couldn't we imagine a group of five-ten families creating a fun, inexpensive, at-home or at-the-pool summer option for their kids? I don't even know what the right answers are here, and there are different right answers, but these are some questions that could help us start a conversation.