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Thursday, April 30, 2009

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On Being Good (enough) Mothers.


So last night I had this awful anxiety dream that I was running over an hour late for the above book-signing event, and I was convinced that no one would come, and that I was neglecting my family by even being there, and also, I was out of money and out of gas, and the next door neighbors were excavating giant turnips from their backyard.

Throughout all the drama, my editor at Good Housekeeping, who in real life has the serene energy AND magical powers of Glinda the Good Witch, was standing in the background, providing silent reassurance that all was well, a visible reminder of the magazine's refreshing mantra "good enough." And so it was, because somehow everything worked out. Except the turnips, which are an abomination in my opinion, no matter how much sugar you sprinkle on them.

I've been promoting this book locally because I'm proud of my piece in it, but also as a mini dress rehearsal for when my own book comes out. When I went to Houston this winter, and saw that Katherine was giving out cupcakes to promote her book, I realized I was going to have to get some game.

It's been mostly very fun and easy. The book store event has come together seamlessly. I've gone on two local radio morning shows to talk about the book (and will go back on 94.1 The Point tomorrow morning around 8), and the city paper ran a small Q&A piece about it yesterday.

I think the anxiety of the dream was triggered by a segue in the edited interview that made me wince a bit, where the sample confession cited from the book was one where a mom frames one of her kids for stealing from a piggy bank. I don't remember that particular example coming up in the oral interview, but seeing it in print, as a lead-in to my own enthusiastic support for the book made me wonder if people might think I was endorsing the act itself. When I did one of the radio shows, I had the same qualm about someone confessing to keeping booze in a take-out cup while driving her kids around. In that instance I was able to say, HA HA, NOT COOL. Seriously. Don't drive around drinking with or without your kids in the car.

You know, a lot of the confessions in this book are truly relatable. Telling the kids that Haagen-Dazz is special medicine for Mommies? My ten year old and I had a good giggle over the devious deliciousness of that one. There's some that are poignant, like the wife who has lost desire for her husband. There's a few that are unimaginable, like paying for Christmas presents with money earned as an escort. There are some that are wonderful, like the woman who secretly loves her post-partum body and doesn't care what others think. And then there's a handful that are kind of despicable.

The point of the book isn't to condemn or condone the particulars, but to tell the secrets, relatable, poignant, unimaginable, wonderful, despicable. To bioposy a slice of motherhood and just hold it up for what it is: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the hilarious. The Today Show coverage of the book got that. The commenters to the Wall Street Journal story didn't. Romi, the book's editor, summed it all up nicely on Huffington Post recently. I don't know what it is about our society that we have such a hard time accepting the multitude of experiences there are in raising children, or why we mothers are so jumpy whenever motherhood is up for discussion.

When Oprah ran the hour-long Secret Lives of Moms special the week this book came out, my twitter stream contained people (women) complaining there was too much focus on motherhood, and others complaining it didn't treat motherhood seriously enough. It was just one segment on one daytime talk show. The weight of our expectations is staggering. We pin so much on every statement about mothering. As if we could arrive at one singular, unchanging gospel truth. We act like a disenfranchised people: combative, insecure, split into factions.

Where is it getting us, or our children?

Does it really make us feel better to be able to say, about another mother, she's doing it wrong?

Or is that external judgement just the visible tip of the outsize judgement we bear against ourselves on the inside?

That reminds me, now that I think about those turnips, I remember one of my favorite childhood books was The Enormous Turnip, a russian folktale in which the whole village has to form a chain to uproot the vile thing. I don't know why I loved that story so much, given how I hated even a tiny turnip. I guess I just loved the idea of people coming together.

Speaking of which, if you're in town, I hope you can (sorry) turnip for Saturday morning at Wordsworth Books, R Street, from 10-noon. Swing by, have a mimosa, pick up a book, and let's all lighten up on each other, and mostly, on ourselves.

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Blogger Cid said...

Have fun at the signing, I am sure there will be no turnips present. Is the book being published similtaneously in Canada?

2:19 PM  
Blogger Shelley said...

Wish I could be there, never did like turnips but love mimosas!

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love that you biopsied the reality of motherhood. Looking forward to reading the book!

8:27 PM  
Blogger Busymomma66 said...

I think that some of the "she's doing it wrong" comes from our fear of that WE might be doing it wrong. We take everything that goes along with parenting so personally because it is personal, we've invested our souls in it.
Parenthood doesn't come with a safety net or a do-over. There is such societal and personal pressure to get it right, or you might be raising a serial killer.
So if someone is doing it differently THEY must be doing it WRONG.

9:03 AM  
Blogger patsyrose said...

No matter how good your parenting intentions are, you will always regret not doing it better. I've always insisted that I did my best "at the time" and doing your best is all you can do, right?

About your writing successes...I'm so proud of you!

9:28 AM  
Blogger Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

I will be at the signing event! Alas, with my three children in tow...
Look forward to reading your book!

9:45 AM  
Blogger Kyran said...

If children couldn't be towed, I doubt many Moms would make it! Look forward to seeing you!

Cid, I don't know about the Canadian release details. I hope it will be available there. Maybe the book's website has something?

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over at Notes from the Trenches, Chris has a hilarious post that ties right in, called "Little Ways I Fail"

Just thought your audience might enjoy too!


3:56 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

Jenny, that's a great post. We're big Chris Jordan fans around here. :-)

7:48 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

Hi Kyran--I loved meeting you at your book signing yesterday and so enjoyed our chat. Your piece in True Mom Confessions is, in my opinion, the best one in the lot. Bravo. I'm truly looking forward to delving into your blog.

Denise (

4:32 PM  
Blogger Holly said...


Better than turkeys. Yeah. Turkey dreams. I wasn't even EATING them. Sigh.

Man, I don't think I'd make mother-of-the-year (ever) but that whole driving with the booze...funny in thought, not funny in practice.

Don't suppose you're coming up to my area for a signing are you? Yeah, didn't think so. Nobody ever comes here. *sniff*

4:36 PM  
Blogger Robyn said...

great post. you have hit the nail on the head with "we act like disenfranchised people". How can we be since we are such a huge part of the population, and yet...?

glad I found your blog, via your mom (who is so proud of you!)

7:14 AM  

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