Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dispatches From a Not-so-Perfect Life by Faulkner Fox

Sometimes, rather than reading about an unfamiliar culture or life choice, I like to find out more about what people in similar situations to mine think. Memoirs about mothering are quite popular these days, but finding really interesting ones is more of a challenge.

This “momoir” by Faulkner Fox is insightful, interesting, and amusing to read. Her first few pages pulled me in,
“When I hit my maternal low, I was in a situation that, I think, is considered totally normal for a person who has a baby and a three-and-a-half-year-old: Every day for the past three and a half years, at least one small, cute, and needy person woke me up at 6 A.M. or earlier.” (pg 4)
Fox is able to discuss in-depth her difficulty in adjusting to being a new parent, and, in particular, her need to be with her children conflicting with her need to write. Her anguish comes through loudly. She marries an avowed feminist, but still finds herself doing the majority of the childcare and housework after her child is born. She wonders how this could possibly happen when she has prepared herself to avoid this exact situation her whole life. She takes to making charts of the time she is putting in versus her husband.

She is also lonely as she in unable to make friends with other new moms. The reasons are complex, but seem to stem from her own judgmentalness and her fear of being judged. She is aware of these issues and her self-awareness makes the reading interesting.
“I felt that my loneliness came from some complex bundle, a personal or structural sickness perhaps: the disturbing inability to feel connected to loved ones who were standing right by me because endless domestic tasks – laundry, dishes, trash, vaccinations, taxes, cleaning the fish bowls- seemed to be always calling my name; a dearth of wandery, deep conversations with those who knew me well; and inadequate involvement in the social movements I cared about.” (pg 32)
Fox takes the radical step of not being a public mom for a year. She doesn’t go to birthday parties or out to the park with her kids. She avoids other mothers, going so far, as to hang out a McDonald’s where she is sure she won’t run into anyone she know. Her dark humor also didn’t seem to go over well with casual acquaintances. “ ‘This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,’ I said honestly, ‘and my last job, director of a pro-choice organization, involved death threats.’” (pg 145)

I’d highly recommend this book for new mothers, especially those who are taking time off from a high-powered career or an undertaking that is extremely important to them. Or for any mother who looks around the playground and wonders what she is doing there.

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