Friday, March 31, 2006

C-SPAN 2 on Saturday April 1

Saturday, April 1 at 11 am and 10 pm for my panel Work, Women and Family: A Candid Discussion with me, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Andi Buchanan. If you miss it, it will be on archive shortly, and I'll post the link soon on the sidebar. It's a terrific panel that might inspire and encourage you to take action! If you watch, email me and let me know what you think.


I was email-interviewed two weeks ago by Veja, one of the largest magazines in Brazil, think Time magazine in Portuguese. Yes, it seems like my ideas have greater currency in Brazil than they do in the US, and someone will have to explain that to me. Anyway, I was cleaning up documents today and found the questions, and the answers I typed out. I thought I'd post them here. I was intrigued by the questions, and had fun answering them, even though I know but a fraction of my words will reach the final article, if that, and being portuguese-illiterate, I won't even know what they are. Enjoy!

Interview questions from Veja:

- You are a daughter of feminism, decided to leave your job and I can imagine how you felt judged these last months (even though you wrote a great book etc.). Why did you decide stop to work all day long for few years? Did you feel guilt?

My job demanded tremendously long hours, as do many jobs in professions like law, medicine, business and academe. Long hours make it especially hard to combine these jobs with having a family, especially a family with young children. That's why we're seeing so many mothers leave the professions we fought so hard to enter--these are the hardest jobs to reconcile with being a mom.

When my first daughter was born, it was just too much. I wanted to work less for a few years. In the US we are expected to work very long hours; it's just assumed. I wanted a different model for family life, in the name of a family-friendly feminism. Most moms and dads are just asking for a few years off, to work a few hours less each day, over a working life that is 45 years long. It's not such a big deal. Our culture is still caught in the judgmental mommy wars, and that stops us from realizing what changes are possible.

Some people judged my decision harshly; they felt I had so much to contribute to my profession, and it was a shame to waste that. Many others understood the inner tension that mothers experience when working fulltime becomes too hard. They realize that asmore of us share our stories, we can start to change our society, so that women won't have to sacrifice their careers and their economic earnings when we become mothers.

My own mother is the model working professional woman, and she had been home with us kids when we were very young.

I didn't feel guilt. No, when I had a child and realized how little our country supports families and supports women who have children, I felt anger. My generation was told we could be totally independent, that we could 'have it all.' That turned out to be untrue.

- What is your opinion about "feminism choise"?

We need more real choices. Women and men need the choice to leave their jobs for a few years to parent young children, and be able to return to good jobs later. People in Scandinavia have this kind of choice, but not in the US. Working a paying job is important. Caring for children is important. For too long women and men were told to choose one or the other. We need the real choice to do both, without penalty, and with more support. I'm not interested in debating who's the right kind of feminist. I want to show our nation a family friendly feminism.

And you know what? Some of the next wave of feminist activists are housewives too. The founder and editor of Mothers Movement Online ( is a housewife. The creators of the forthcoming motherhood activism website are both housewives. We're seeing mothers leave the workplace, get frustrated, and become very political about making change. Housewives can be very political on behalf of all mothers, paid workers and at home both.

- Do you think feminism failed - where and when?

Feminism hasn't failed, no. There was much backlash; almost immediately conservatives started to organize against women's requests. In the 1970's, feminists were trying to support mothers, and families. They were asking for good daycares. They were asking for equal pay. But the political forces against them were stronger, and eventually feminism's programme was whittled down to something more narrow. All that is changing. The National Organization for Women (NOW) is beginning a new campaign on behalf of mothers and caregivers. There's a new political website called that hopes to launch on Mothers Day.

- How do you see feminism today?

In feminism I see a chance to rally all of us to take better care of our families, in ways that help women, not keep us down. I see lots of young mothers, especially those online in the blogosphere, saying, hey, we want to work, we want reproductive freedom, we want economic independence, we want families too. They won't accept the old answers, which told us to either work, or have families. Younger mothers want both. This is feminism today: friendly to families, offering support to all of us, openminded, like a best girl friend.

- What is your opinion about Hirshman's solutions, like to marry down and have only one baby?

That's insane advice. Marriage is magical it's about love. Telling women to "marry down" is as bad as the old advice that told us to "marry up," to marry for money. Hirshman's marriage advice abandons the love and romance that we women want in our lives. Real feminism believes in love. Real feminism recognizes that we share the work of raising the next generation--of loving the next generation. Instead of bad relationship advice, we need policies that help us and our families. And one baby--ridiculous--some of us want one child, some want three. Children are about love, not social engineering. Her advice takes our eyes off the real problem, which is that our workplaces and our policies don't yet support family life, and don't really support mothers, who do most of the work of raising children.
Mothers don't want to be told what to do. They don't want to be underestimated. Many feel they wanted to keep working, and were pushed out by their employers. They're mad, and they want people to understand that, not tell them they married the wrong man.

- In your opinion, what is the future of feminism?

The future of feminism is quietly exciting. Beneath the media radar, younger mothers and fathers are rejecting the old roles. Stay-at-home fathers, like those at the website, want to raise their children. Mothers and fathers both are asking for part time jobs with fair pay, so we can earn a living and be near our kids and stay happy. At its core, feminism is about having real choices about work and real choices about family life. Our nation's policies and mass media haven't yet caught up to this shifting wind.

Love her tone....

Anyone else catch Anne Lamott's colum Let's have a revolution! Does July 14 work for you? in Salon this week? I loved the easy tone she uses to write about what we sense is going wrong in our nation, and the ease with which she can be political without resorting to screed and rant. I wrote more about it at the blog I write for Hylands should anyone want more!

Good Models...

This past weekend I was at a conference hosted by the Posen Foundation and the Center for Cultural Judaism, based in NYC. They asked several of us to meet with them in Miami. Because my husband had meetings that truly couldn't be rescheduled, I took both children, the 7-year-old and the baby with me. It was harrowing to get through the airport. At the end of the trip, this is what I found.

The Foundation had hired two babysitters and rented a suite in the hotel. They created a hotel camp/childcare for all the professors who needed to bring their children.

And, because my baby won't take a bottle and we were meeting not at the hotel but at the University of Miami, they hired a third babysitter devoted to my baby, who watched her in a nearby office and called me out whenever she needed to nurse.

How's that for a new experience, and a model of workplace family-friendliness that doesn't make us choose between being parents and professionals? Kudos to the Posens and the CCJ.

Also, bravo to Good Morning America for today's good show on "Mothers Make it Work."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

C-Span this Saturday, aka Friday Night with B.E.

So much fun to appear with Barbara Ehrenreich and Andi Buchanan on a panel last Friday evening at the Virginia Festival of the Book. BE has been fighting and writing for so long for women's rights, and for the rights of all americans across class lines to have a shot at economic independence and a decent life. She began the session by talking about her own life, just a bit, reminiscing about how when she interviewed to enter a PhD program in the sciences, she was asked whether she intended to become a mother. "I knew the right answer," she said, "No." You couldn't at that time profess to want a family and be taken seriously as a professional. She did indeed want a family, and did go on to have kids. Considering this, and reaching as she always does for a vision of the big picture, she told us that she fears that work and family are on their way to becoming one or the other, mutually exclusive, once again. She reminded us all to look beyond class lines, to care about what happens to professionals and to care about what happens to cooks and line workers and taxi drivers and the people who clean the bookstore--we were appearing at the UVA bookstore that night.

The evening energized me. It's easy to become dispirited. There's so much to be fixed in the work-and-family problem, and it all seems to intractable and vague. And still, we discuss it as mommy wars, or as work-family-balance, and we leave out the F-word; we don't seem able to tackle head on the fact that we are talking about another episode in a 150 year struggle in our nation about the role and rights of women. Clear and simple, but untill we can address it in these terms, as a gender problem, we'll never get to the core of why the workplace is so hard for mothers to navigate well (hint: it's not because we're lazy or stupid or not ambitious enough) and why good nurturing child care is so hard to find and afford and why we need to pit women against each other (hint:the mommy wars keep our eyes off real prizes, like social change, or equity, or fairness.) It was lovely to be in a place where you could say the F-word. I had a good time announcing "I'm a mom, I'm a feminist. And I'm proud." And Andi was her usual eloquent self. Barbara seemed to enjoy herself, and was incredibly gracious to us younger women. I think she was happy to find some women writers who weren't running fast as they can from a feminist and progressive vision of the world.

Ah, children to be put to bed, so I will return later. Till then, the panel should be aired on Saturday on C-SPAN 2. I knew, in lieu of Good Morning America and the Today show, I get to appear on C-Span. Hey, could be worse, at least on C-SPAN, when you say things like "sexism is bullshit," no one edits or censors you. I'll post the time when I know it.

(PS: the Good Morning America show with Kim Gandy and Laurie Pettine will air Friday, we're told. They're on between 8 and 8.30. And Laurie will be putting in a guest appearance here at the playground next week sometime.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Stories Wanted for

You heard it here first: Mom's Rising will be the funnest part of May. Promise to supply details very soon, but here's a call for stories for their website. Feel free to pass it around. Trust me: is a place you'll want to be.

YOUR TRUE-LIFE STORY WANTED: A new online grassroots organization,, is working furiously to launch a website with an
ultimate goal of bringing motherhood and family issues to the forefront
of our country's awareness.

MomsRising is looking for 500 word (or so) personal essays for the
MomsRising website launch on April 15th. The Personal Stories feature is
a chance for women to share anecdotes about being a mother. The good,
the bad, the ugly, and especially the funny. We'd like to hear it. Send
your story to Kristin at by April 1st. Thanks!

Miriam on the MojoMom podcast

I haven't had the time to figure out podcasting but I do know how to talk on the telephone. Good thing Amy over at Mojo Mom has figure it out. I'm up on her pod cast page , talking about motherhood, the parenting life, what we love, what bothers us, and how to change the balance between the two.

Amy aka Mojo Mom has directions on the pod cast page for anyone new to podcast listening. It's up at iTunes, too. Enjoy.

The Political Play Date

This week gets really fun. Thursday night I'll be doing a MotherTalk with the editors of Brain Child magazine, and Friday night I'm on a panel with Barbara Ehrenreich, at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Updates when I return.

I've been thinking about a vision for how Playground Revolution can grow, and how it can contribute to the new rumblings of social change and improvements for family life in our nation, and for how family life can be strengthened in ways that support women's choices, not constrain them. Lots of other bloggers do a great job dissecting media; they're on top of it, and whenever there's a major media moment that's bad for moms and bad for dads and bad, bad, bad for family life, the blogosphere lights up with smart critique, and often, visions of what we need and what we want.

I'll still add my voice to these debates.

I also have something new to add to the mix. I've been thinking, ever since my post on Mommy Guilt back in January, about what it means to have a political practice as part of our lives. Yes, writing is political, but we need writing because it reshapes our culture, and other forms of activism too. I've been asking people who are activists, in one way or another, and Playground visitors and readers of The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars know that I define 'activist' very broadly. Anyway, I've been asking activists to write about their lives and what they do. We all know the issues. We all know the general range of policy change and shifts in human kindness that would make family life better. Yet, too often we have the sense that nothing will ever change.

I think that sharing the personal stories of people who take action is very important. How do they do it? How do they start? How do they make that first phone call, and does it come before the toddler throws up, after the baby has a 104 degree fever, or in between? How do some people find time in the day to be political in more overt ways? I want to find the personal stories, the poignancies, the good ideas that are relatively easy to accomplish, and which may help get the ball rolling.

It goes without saying: send me your stories.

Today we meet the inaugural activist: Kim Simmons from Maine, and founder of what should become common practice: the political play date. Voila!

Miriam: Kim, I heard that you organized a "political play date." That's a new concept. How did you come up with it, why, and what happened? Are they ongoing?

Kim: Maine faced our 3rd citizen's initiative/referenda on the extension of civil rights to include sexual orientation last fall. The previous fights have been brutal and it felt very important to me that the "pro" civil rights group win this year (which we did). I was juggling a part-time job and 2 children and did not have a lot of time to volunteer for the campaign, and I noticed that many of my politically aware and progressive friends were also spending a lot more time keeping their private lives together and were not contributing as much as they'd like. It struck me that there were few ways to include children in contemporary politics, so I organized a "political play date." I advertised it through the local mom's group, hoping to attract some new faces, and also to my friends and through my older daughter's school. I baked some brownies, had a kitchen table full of literature, petitions, etc. and otherwise we had normal playtime. In the future I would be more clear about my "ask." Although fewer families came than I hoped, we did receive coverage in our local paper. I am planning a second one for April 25th (Equal Pay Day) and am trying to remain creative about ways of politicizing moms/including political moms in social change activities that are manageable with small children. I am also contemplating a film series on political issues that intersect with parenting, at the local library, with some kind of simultaneous children's activity in the children's room. I would love feedback and other ideas on how to stimulate activism at the most grassroots level.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Two things, entangled. Yesterday I received an email from Jeremy at Little, Big, reminding us of the anniversary--third, if we can believe it--of the United States' invation of Iraq. He asked us progressive parent blogger types to recognized it. Reading his email, I was thankful for someone's explicit intervention. I was wrapped up, of course, in my life: babycare, olderchild care, musing over a next book project, laundry, and not to make it sound like life is entirely dreary and interior, cleaning up after a very, very fun visit from Marion Winik, in town to read from her new book Above Us Only Sky at the lovely Big Blue Marble Bookstore. She stayed over, we had visits from other friends, including my agent, his wife and their kids, and our friend and author-blogger, Eileen Flanagan, of Imperfect Serenity. It was, as Marion toasted at one point, heavenly. Today I was cleaning up, recycling the bottles, happy, tired. Not thinking of the War's anniversary.

So, a moment to remember the hugeness of the world and our nation's political role in making things worse,not better.

Entanglements. We tend to think small. Our lives keep us busy. We vacuum, and we live in a vacuum. War? How come on this anniversary, what we're embroiled in are "mommy wars" not debates over the wars that kill? And cultural commentators now use the phrase "daddy wars' to talk about men's issues. What about the big war out there? We waste the word, focus on fake wars that could be fixed, that are made worse by media creation, take our eyes off the war that kills.

It's the craft of living in a vacuum, and the narrowing vision of it all that struck me as I read the New York Times this morning. The responses to Claudia Goldin's Op-ed last week, the one about how mothers aren't opting out when you actually look at statistics were singularly bad, and troped, to use a good ole literary criticism word. They came from Mommy Wars central casting, they didn't even need to be written by real people. The most amazing thing: they continue to talk about motherhood in a total vacuum. If you were reading these pieces and the letters in response, and you were from that mythical planet in outer space where miraculously you too speak and read English, you would think we are a society in which families are mothers alone with children. No one talks about fathers. No one talks about more complex dynamics than a mother and her life of paid or unpaid work. Where's the context?

I spoke with a wonderful radio journalist the other day from WMRA in Central Virginia. It was a pre-interview for a show I'll be appearing on next week. At the end, he asked me where I'd like us to be heading. I explained. He told me that several times in his life as a journalist, he'd seem stories take exponential leaps forward from the discourse they'd been stuck in. He told me he thought this happened without regard to the left-or-right politics of it, but because media owners thought that a new story could make them money, that the new story was more commercially profitable than the old.

Let's hope. And is there a way to get out the word?

Stay tuned for a new feature: guest appearances at the Playground.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

California to New Jersey

Here's a link to check out: the movement to create paid family leave in New Jersey.

Read this, and let's all figure out how to support this effort. Currently, only workers in California have automatic paid family leave, wage replacement that comes from the state, not from the luck of having the 1 in 5 jobs that pay family leave. Yes, that's right. Only about 20 percent of workers in the US have jobs that offer paid maternity or paternity leave.

The fact that it may spread to New Jersey is a big deal. It creates momentum. It creates political models for activists in other states to follow. And the thing is, this element of public support for families actually ends up having the support of the business community, because, surprise, family leave is expensive, and these programs spread the cost throughout the state, so that even the most highly paid workers would pay only $2.75 a week. It may be the first, and most possible piece of a larger family friendly programme to attain.

So read all about New Jersey's paid family leave movement. Because aside from jokes about turnpikes and the like, Jersey in many ways is one of the more progressive states in the union.

Spring Schedule

Check the sidebar for my spring travel schedule.

I'll be in Charlottesville for my first visit to the Virginia Festival of the Book. I'll be on what promises to be a fun panel with my pal Andi Buchanan, and the very famous Barbara Ehrenreich. Andi and I will be on WMRA, the Central Virginia NPR affiliate, for a call-in show on family life.

I'll be in New York in early April for a talk at the Manhattan JCC on "Having It All."

I'll be in Washington DC for several talks, including one for the famed Wednesday Morning Group.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Hey, thanks to Kim at Hormone Colored Days for emailing me about ParentsWork, a Chicago-based, new organization for parents--fathers and mothers both--to advocate for better policies so it's easier to care for our kids. Go check it out, and I'll be looking forward to learning more over the next few days. Thanks Kim!

In future posts, look for a big thank you and shout out to Rebel Dad, and my belated (where does the time go?) participation in the Literary Mama anthology virtual book tour.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Anyone who stops in here at the Playground knows they won't learn too much about my family members. I'm the odd blogger out that way, a blogger who's quite reserved about her at-home life, mixed with an author who blogs non-anonymously under her actual name. I want to open up a bit and share a moment from my family life. Today was our parent-teacher conference. I came home with a piece of writing by my second-grade daughter that gave me one of those happy-parent shudders.

You know: one of those moments where the universe lines up and everything's good and right and hopeful. The teacher pointed me toward a letter my second grade daughter had written to soccer star Mia Hamm as part of their hero project. It turns one of the administrators at her school went to college with Mia Hamm's agent, and offered to send a letter to her through him. The letter had such verve. It reads, and here, you must imagine the words in a second grade hand:

Dear Mia,
We have a lot in common. We both like soccer. We both are on soccer teams. I am in 2nd grade. My name is Samira. Me and my friend Emily are studying you. Our class is doing a project on heros. The headmaster of our school told me the he went to UNC with you....He knows your agent. Could you give me your autograph. From, Samira.

She signed her name in a fancy upward scrawl, with the S curlique-d and extended so that it underlines the rest of her name. If I can get my digitial camera's E18 problem solved, I'll post a picture of it.

Raising good confident kids who can do their own versions of writing World Cup winning soccer stars and start out "We have a lot in common"--that's why we do the parenting work we do. Today, as I drove home I thought about how we don't often remind ourselves of what all the fuss is about: we struggle about how to combine paid work and public action and time-consuming civic engagement with parenting because in those moments when it all works, when we see our kids succeed, when we see them try, when we see them become comfortable in their own skin--there's just no feeling in the world quite like it.

No wonder we think so hard about parenting, no wonder we raise such important questions about how the care work of parenting can fit into the rest of our lives. And no wonder so many of us are committed to raising these long-range questions about how as a society we will make good parenting and good working more possible for more of us.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

International Women's Day

This morning, yes, with a two-month old I got out of bed, showered, got my older daughter dressed and fed and out of the house with a proper jacket and her school bag and her lunch box, and diapered and changed the baby and put her in her bunting because it's still cold here, and I dressed in presentable clothing, and I think there was even a bowl of cereal for me, and I even sat down to eat that bowl of cereal and scanned the headlines (Republicans supporting more wiretapping, bad) and checked the weather page for later this week (70 degree days ahead, good). The secret to the burst of energy: last night the baby slept 7 hours straight. Yay.

I did this all because my niece Molly asked if I'd give a talk at her high school for International Women's Day. What fun I had! (Local author Jennifer Weiner was there, too, and lots of other goodhearted Philadelphians.) Central is Philadelphia's magnet high school. It's very diverse, economically and racially, because it reflects the city. I'm always on the look out for places that challenge our society's myths of white privilege, that only white people are smart: here's our city's public school jewel, and it's diverse and inclusive and smart.

I spoke in a first period psychology class about work and family issues.

How interesting to raise these topics with high school students. I gave my usual talk, and stressed that whereas we see these struggles as private, as something that individual men and women and families must solve, the real solutions are public, and they involve policy change and workplace change.

Some students asked about different careers that they imagine themselves in; one asked why corporate lawyers--his hoped-for profession--have to work so many hours. He said he planned to get established in his career and then start a family. I pointed out how men, but not women, have that option, and also told him about lawyers I know who are trying to change all that. Other students talked about their own families, about parents who worked night shift, and how hard that was, or about a dad who was at home and a mom who worked, and how much this student missed his mother and was much closer to his dad. Still another student asked how same-sex couples manage this, and we talked about that, about how the absence of health benefits for same-sex partners affected any flexibility they might otherwise have.

And I did all this with the baby in a sling, sleeping. (My mother-in-law, aka Molly's grandma, came in about ten minutes before the end and took the baby into her arms and out into the hallway.) At the end, one of the students asked me what I had done, and I narrated my own ins-and-outs, making sure to talk about how I have this flexibility because I have a husband whose job gives him health benefits, and how that's given me flexibility over these past seven years. I really wanted them to realize that these paths are not just individual decisions. They take place within an array of policies and rules that we're not often aware of, like healthcare regulations.

I sent the students off with an "assignment": ask your parents how they've managed working and parenting. What do they think of their lives? What social changes would have made life easier for their parents? What might they have done with more support, flexibility and options? If life has been hard, what might have helped?

I wish I could hear the conversations that will take place.

Congratulations to all the Central High School students who are organizing and taking part in this day.

Happy International Women's Day, everyone! Spread the word.

Moms with Cancer

A new book came in yesterday's mail: Another Morning: Voices of Truth and Hope from Mothers with Cancer.

I immediately skimmed through it and thought, I must pass this on to a dear friend who has struggled with cancer--successfully--and has a child at my daughter's school. I've known several women who have dealt with chemo and radiation and surgery, all while trying to keep the home front going, make life as calm as possible for their children, all while, I'm imagining, trying to batten down thoughts of whether they would live to see their chidlren grown up. I will pass it on to that friend,but wanted to spread the word here, too. I'm imagining that it must feel mighty isolating to go through this, so if anyone knows of someone struggling with unexpected and severe illness, pass this book on to them so they know they're not alone.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Upcoming events

Big Announcement about upcoming events, and I promise to post them at the side very soon. If you'll be in the Charlottesville area, email me for information (and send your friends!):

Thursday, MARCH 23, 7:30 p.m.
Mother Talk, Charlottesville, VA, with Andi Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz, hosted by the publishers of Brain,Child Magazine.

Friday, MARCH 24, 8 p.m.
Virginia Festival of the Book, UVA Bookstore. "Women, Family and Work: A Candid Discussion." I'll be on a panel with Barbara Ehrenreich (yes, that Barbara Ehrenreich!), E.J. Graff, co-author of the new book "Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men, and What to Do About It," and Andi Buchanan, who is by now well known to readers of Playground Revolution.

Catching up

Here's the link to the Smart Moms, Hard Choices" article in Newsweek that some are talking about. This week our national media doesn't seem to know what to do with motherhood. On the one hand there's this article and that in the NYT, which take more account of social scientific evidence of trends in work and motherhood; then there's the LA Times/John Tierney report that housewives are happier. The reporting on the latter seems to take a gleeful delight in announcing that at home moms are happier than working moms. As one friend said to me, if working moms are getting 3 hours less sleep **per night** than other moms, of course they're less happy. The Mommy Wars continue. No one's winning yet.

Mostly, I want to report that MotherTalk Philadelphia last Friday night was thoroughly inspirational. Our guest was Judy Stadtman Tucker, the editor of Mothers Movement Online. I blogged about it at our MotherTalk blog.

Buzzing after Judy Stadtman Tucker's MotherTalk: Philly

It's definitely a rare pleasure these days to stumble home after midnight on a few glasses of wine. Even more of a pleasure, really, when I've spent the last few hours in the company of Judy Stadtman Tucker, Andi Buchanan, and a roomful of thoughtful and energetic women. Judy is the editor of Mothers Movement Online. She's also an eloquent and thoughtful speaker, someone who in the name of a refreshingly new feminism can synthesize all that's going on in the world of motherhood: in our interior lives, in the cultural debates we find ourselves in, in the policy intiatives on the horizon.

All I can say is that she's the kind of person that when she looks around the room at 11.30 pm, after several hours of conversation, and says expansively, "This is the revolution," well, you feel like indeed, you're part of the new century's take on the early 70's famed CR groups. You see yourself as part of history. She has that effect on you.

Andi got this email today: "Thank you for an engaging, enlightening, interesting evening. It was a pleasure to be in the company of so many thoughtful women. I was especially struck by the very personal feel of the discussion -- I came away with a true sense of connectedness, although I only knew maybe a quarter of the women present.

We're loving MotherTalk for the space it opens up for us as whole women, to talk about literature and media, politics at large and the micropolitics of who gets dinner on the table, all in the space of one evening, one living room, one rolling conversation.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Run, Don't Walk

I'll be posting this several times over the next few weeks so we all remember: Marion Winik is coming to Philadelphia again to read and talk.

Here's the info, from the MotherTalk blog: MotherTalk Mt. Airy--Saturday, March 18th, 5 pm

Last month MotherTalk teamed up with the Big Blue Marble Bookstore, in Philadelphia's Mt. Airy section, and Andi and Miriam talked with an energetic group of moms, as the snow began to fall. In fact, the discussion was cut short as the store decided to close early, given the blizzard outside.

This month, MotherTalk and the Big Blue Marble are joining once again to present NPR commentator Marion Winik, author most recently of Above Us Only Sky. Come in, come all, no rsvp: Saturday, March 18, 5:00pm.

The wonderful new Big Blue Marble Bookstore is at 551 Carpenter Lane, at Greene, in Mt. Airy. Call 215 844 1870 for directions.

The Marble's website description:
MotherTalk with Marion Winik. Come drink wine and laugh with Marion Winik, NPR contributor and author of the new Above Us Only Sky (Seal Press). Wine and cheese, parenting discussion, and book signing/reading

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More on the Times article

The article. It's good. It's getting lots of us talking. A mom at my daughter's school sent it around, and her mom wrote back (no names, you know I'm into the privacy thing...) Here's my response. I've been feeling all this from such a different perspective, as I'm working through my new daughter's infancy. I don't get paid family leave, and have a mortal fear of debt, so I've been struggling, once again, with working the shortest, fastest, most productive number of hours I can. I feel that old tug of wanting life to be calm, wanting lots of baby time, wanting good time with my older daughter, and not having enough of the time left over to do the public writing and speaking that also gives my life meaning. I know that life's rhythms change over time, and before I know it the little one will be in pre-K and at school the day long. I do feel committed to writing about these tugs, once again, in visceral and detailed ways. Our public debates about work and family life are missing the texture of the details: of who makes the lunchbox sandwiches, who crams her lecture notes into an hour's preparation, who makes sure the heating guy can get into the house, and above all, the corners of the day where we talk with each other, have conversations about the big things that matter, and imagine life the best it can be. This article is a watershed because it's the first of late to really dig in to some real issues and offer real data. It's getting us talking, on different terms (despite the terrible and argument-diminishing last paragraph). The hubbub has renewed my commitment to talk about these things, in their detail, because politics (and high-advance book contracts) aside, what we need is the honesty born from our real lives.

Here's my response.

Hey, thanks for sending this around, it seems like it's all anyone's talking about today. Boy, Thursday's my working mom day, and as I rushed around the house preparing to teach, pulling my baby out into the cold without her bunting, rushing into class ten minutes late, well, you get the idea. A crazy day. I think these things are so complex. I liked the article, up till the end, where they say, we got equality at work, but not in the family. I feel like it's my family where things are good and complementary, and it's the workplace that isn't. I kept working through my new baby's early days because I don't get any paid family leave, and because this time around, I didn't want to start from scratch five years later rebuilding a career. After class today I was talking with a friend. I told her the working mom thing was really hard--and I just do it one day a week. She, the single mom of a 4-year old, looked at me ruefully, and said yes. It's really hard. She's doing important work, and shouldn't give it up, but it's very hard, and I want to cheer her on, and support her. This article cheered me because it gets to the ways that life is harder when we women are stretched so thin. I feel caught, as many of us, because I want to be near my kids and very active in how they grow, and I have other desires about being part of public life too, but on part time terms that still let me be at home. I'm determined to do this, even though it just feels hard. On my more optimistic days I feel like we're in the midst of a big change, and we can't quite see the contours of it yet, and maybe things will start to shift and make it easier for all of us to do the things we want to do.

I don't feel like I was raised to be self-oriented, [note: this had been another person's suggestion, that we are self-oriented and didn't appreciate our mothers' work] necessarily, I don't think that's it (though I definitely appreciate my mom and dad's parenting more than I did as a kid!). But I do feel like somewhere along the line from my childhood in the 70's till now, life took on a rollercoaster quality and moves way too fast, and I do my best to resist that.

The Times, good till the last sentence

Shoot, Thursday's my teaching day, and life really is hard enough when I'm on working mom duty, without starting the morning with the New York Times' latest on motherhood.

Positives: thank you, NYT, for finally asking some social scientists what they think.

Big Negative: the last line: We have equality at work, but not in our families.

No: this is the latest line; it's also parroted by Linda Hirshman. The workplace is okay, it's family, the private zone, where the problem remains unsolved. No, that's patently untrue. I'll tell you, my family lief is damn fine. My problem is that none of my workplaces have ever had a decent policy or programmes or childcare for people who work there. That's my problem. And my other problem is that as long we see this issue as either family or work, as always binary, always divided, we can't solve it. The separation is the problem.

That's when we can't see how they're all woven together:how our workplaces rely on ideal workers with no family responsibilities, how they rely on someone else's home labors to support the worker, and how they can't accommodate to mothers who don't have someone else's labor to rely on (except for that most excellent new century family: the working mom and stay at home dad).

That's the problem. Now tell that one out loud.