Literary Mama’s own Andi Buchanan recently appeared at the Association for Research on Mothering conference in Toronto, Canada talking about trends in mother-literature. The full text of her speech appears on her own blog, Mother Shock, but you can get a flavor of it here:
It used to be transgressive to write about “the dark side” of motherhood. I still remember when a friend read one of my essays from Mother Shock — “Loving Every Other Minute of It” — where I concluded by admitting that I didn’t love every single minute of being a mother. Now, in this climate, in 2006, that seems almost quaint. But when that piece was first published, in 2001, my friend called and said she’d been positively shaking when she read it. She told me, “I love it. But I’m so glad it was you who wrote it, and not me.”
I’d like to think that books like mine and others helped give people the courage to voice their dissatisfaction, or their worry, or their difficulty, or give voice to their own dark side. But now that it is becoming no longer transgressive to admit that motherhood isn’t all Hallmark moments and peak experiences, the pendulum has swung. And suddenly, at least when it comes to what publishers are thinking about what makes books and newspapers sell, if you aren’t a bored mother, a depressed mother, an I-could-care-less mother, a mother who drinks, you are not a mother who is having an authentic experience.
The fact is, the hallmark of the parenting experience is vulnerability. You are never more a part of the messy, hot, sticky, sometimes boring, sometimes disgusting, sometimes painful reality of life than when you become a parent. You are plunged into the reality of biology, of life, of the heart of human existence — the emergence of self. And you are plunged into this often as ill-prepared as a newborn is for life out in the world. And it is harrowing and punishing and exhilarating and incredible, and sometimes it brings you to your knees.
Cool is an armor against that.
Sometimes when we don it, it is protective gear against a world that is cruel or difficult or that we can’t face without a mask. Sometimes we take it on to protect us from our experience. But sometimes we take it on to prevent us from being fully where we are. And in literature, that prevents us from really getting to the raw truth of our experience. We become ironic, painfully self-aware narrators of our own lives whose endless chatter never allows the unmediated thought to emerge. We fall in love with our own edge, but we don’t allow ourselves to look at how it cuts both ways.
Read Andi’s full speech and report back — we’d love to know your thoughts!