"Irony is such a bitch"
So says Jennifer Brown. Now what I'm going to say next even surprises me. I discovered that some of the best, most interesting writing on the Kansas City Star's website is in, believe it or not, mom2mom.
You read that right.
The folks who write there write with passion, strong voice, and surprising honesty. If you are interested in people, what they think and what they fear, in the difficult ways they are trying to solve this mystery of life, mom2mom is a good place to lurk.
I have been a journalist for a long time, and I’m a hard-boiled guy, so the very idea of mom2mom made me snicker. I mean, what in the hell does this have to do with journalism? Where is the reporting? Who are the sources? Where's the objectivity? Have the editors gone asleep at the switch? Will this just be more soap opera silliness?
Okay, I admit to misogynistic thinking when it came to mom2mom. And I should know better. After all, I find women far more interesting than men. When I'm writing fiction I'd much rather write in a woman's voice, explore the world from a woman's point of view. I love women. Some of my best friends are women. My wife and my daughter are two of the most complex people in the universe. And that's saying nothing about my sister.
But mom2mom just seemed so phony. In the throes of disaster, the Kansas City Star was trying to reach out to young women, coincidentally, a group big-ticket item consumers. And that may well have been the Star's idea.
But, boy, was I wrong about what women would do with mom2mom. Take, for instance, Jennifer Brown's wonderfully honest blog on mom2mom where she shares her guilt about finally dropping off her youngest child for kindergarten and being, in her words, finally free. Free at last.
Here's how she puts it: "It's hard for me to even comprehend, really. I have NEVER been completely and totally free. I went straight from high school to full-time job, then to job and college together, then to job and college and mothering together, then to Real Job and mothering together, then to full-time mothering."
That's a novel. You’ve got the plot now all you need are the characters and the dialogue.
(As an aside, it might be interesting to write the male counterpart to that paragraph. Maybe I'll take a crack at it in a later entry.)
I love this: "I've not been a good summer mommy. I've been working too hard, sleeping too little, letting them watch TV too much, and not having enough fun. And now that it's really almost here I feel guilty as hell. I mean, what kind of monster gets this excited about having all the kids gone all day long?"
My answer of course, is a human monster. That is to say, not a monster at all. It is human to enjoy solitude. It is human to enjoy spontaneity. It is human to want adult companionship sometimes. It is human to pray for one -- just one, dear Lord -- clear thought each day.
But Jennifer Brown knows this. Nobody could write with such wisdom and not. As she closes, she gives us this insight: "I suppose this is just a process I must go through. A feeling that I'll never have done enough for my kids. A guilt that there was more of me to give, and I selfishly kept it. A wish that I could go back and be a better mom, because that's what they deserve."
Well, Ms. Brown is not alone. And, some of us fathers are haunted by the same feelings.
But they’re human, these feelings, and they're not unique to us.
They may be unique to our prosperity, however. We do live in a time when we can focus on our children as no generation before. We can, if we like, indulge in the cult of the child. If we are in a two-parent family, we may be able to focus entirely on our children, though such luxury is almost always reserved for women. We live in a time when most of our food comes from the grocery store -- where we push the children around in a shopping cart shaped like a racecar -- rather than from the ground. In an earlier time, we would have tilled or gardens with our hands and our children would have been forced to weed them so we all could eat.
Freedom from want, breeds angst and guilt. As Ms. Brown says, “Irony’s such a bitch."