Archive for the ‘mothers’ Category

If My Mother Ruled the World

Thank you, Sally Field and BlueGal . . .

If my mother ruled the world:

  • The food pyramid would be replaced by mom’s doughnut food chart
  • What? You don’t like pea soup? Eat a brown sugar & butter sandwich and go take a nap.
  • Mom’s universal health care program in four parts:
  1. All illness can be flushed out of the body. Drink 3 quarts of water every 60 minutes, followed by a hot bath.
  2. No need for doctors. If you really want sound medical advice, ask a nurse who’s been retired for thirty years what you should do, then do it.
  3. No prescription drug coverage. “They all have side-effects. I just flush them down the toilet.”
  4. Maternity care: “A woman should be allowed to stay in the hospital for a week. She needs her rest.” (Yay! Mom)
  • There would be no war. “What other people?”
  • On quality child care: “Get outside and play. You can come in when I unlock the door.”
  • On marriage: “Never do something once that you aren’t prepared to do over and over again for the rest of your life.”

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Ravensbruck concentration camp memorial

A few years back, I visited four concentration camps in Poland and Germany in the course of a single week.  I don’t recommend this sort of punishing travel experience for just anyone, but I did it for a good reason and I’m glad that I did.  (If you’re ever feeling particularly angst-ridden and depressed and want to hear more about my experiences at each camp, buy me a glass of wine and I’ll pour it all out for you – the details and my impressions, that is, not the wine.)   

There was one camp, though, that haunts me still and at regular intervals.  Ravensbruck.  It was a camp for women and children, like women and children don’t already suffer enough during times of war.  Hell, even in times of peace.  And, here’s what moved me the most – a simple display of the camp’s survivors who, in their ordinariness, revealed more devastatingly than any tribute or memorial could about the extent of what was lost to so many others.  Women as mothers, wives, friends, grandmothers.  Women in their gardens.  Women smiling at the camera, waving on a summer day.  Extraordinary women doing ordinary things, in ordinary ways, remarkable because they – unlike so many others – walked out of Ravensbruck alive.

As another Mother’s Day nears, I started wondering how many women soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq?  How many mothers, wives, lovers?  How many women who would have been mothers, wives, lovers, friends?

As of today, the answer to how many female soldiers have died in Iraq since the beginning of the war is 79.  I know their names. 

Here is my idea for The Mother’s Day Project.  You know the sort of fiber-arts work I’ve been doing lately.  I would like to make a tote bag and incorporate the names of these soldiers.  I want to hand-stitch the names on muslin fabric, but I’d like to have many different hands contributing to the stitching.  I need volunteers. 

I don’t care one whit how accomplished you are with a needle.  Anything goes as long as the name is readable.  I will provide the names (pre-stamped so you simply outline the letters with stitching) and the fabric and, if you need help with the return postage, I’ll even take care of that detail.  Once I have all the stitched names, I’ll assemble the tote.

Why a tote?  Because I want something utilitarian.  Something that will go out into the world every day as a reminder of this horrible loss, made more horrible as people recognize that these names represent only a very small portion of the human toll this war has taken.  And, for every volunteer who contributes a stitched name, I will send the tote to you.  Put it to use.  Take it to the market, keep it in your mini-van as you drive your kids to school.  Stuff it with your knitting.  A week. Two.  Whatever seems right to you.

All I ask in return is that you keep sending the tote on, and that you record your feelings and experiences with the project on your blog (if you have one) or in a letter.

Obviously, this project will not be completed by Mother’s Day, 2007.  That’s OK.  If you would like to participate, send your contact information to mothersdayproject (at) sbcglobal (dot) net.

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The always thought-provoking Linda Hirschman wrote an op-ed that appeared yesterday in the NYTimes, Off to Work She Should Go.

Here’s one excerpt that stopped me in my tracks:

What has changed in the last decade is that the job of motherhood has ramped up. Mothers today spend more time on child care than women did in 1965, a time when mothers were much less likely to have paying jobs, family scholars report.

I’m not sure how one validates the statement, “Mothers today spend more time on child care than women did in 1965,” but based on my own observations and childhood recollections, the statement rings true. I am constantly taken aback by the amount of time, the level of commitment and involvement put into the lives of their children that I observe among so many mothers I know today. Sometimes, it seems to me, there is no minutiae of their child’s psyche, playtime, school day or even the families of their playmates that is unknown, un-analyzed or left un-deconstructed.

Compared to my own mother’s “go outside and play” attitude, followed by locking the screen door behind us while she spent an uninterrupted hour on the phone with her best friend, today’s mother seems more like her child’s super-hero partner, a constant, hovering presence ready to swoop-in and perform a rescue operation whenever a peep is heard.

Is that a bad thing? The mothers I know are raising wonderful children who will most likely realize their full capabilities as they grow-up and become adults. Isn’t that what we as a society want for all our children?

Of course, the answer to the last question is “yes,” but increasingly, whether or not an individual child reaches his or her full potential is dependent on the larger issue of class. Children born into one class get a full-time mother-advocate to clear their path in the world. Children born into the other class get mothers who have been mandated by law to work long hours at minimum-wage jobs. One class gets well-endowed private schools. The other, under-funded public schools. One class of children gets music lessons, art classes, science labs, travel opportunities. The other class couldn’t tell you the difference between an arpeggio, a gesso or a gerund.

I know these differences have always existed, but never, it seems to me, has the gap been so wide between the “haves” and the “have nots” as they are today. For the “haves,” being able to opt out of the workforce in exchange for what Hirschman refers to as the ramped up job of motherhood, the choice is becoming a birthright of class. (Whether or not this is a true choice is a matter of debate. If it were a true choice, wouldn’t just as many men be opting out of the workforce to become the stay-at-home parent?)

With each well-educated, accomplished career woman who drops out of the workforce, the mothers who remain lose an important, influential voice for family-friendly work policies, for better health benefits for those who utilize our health care system the most (women and children.) We lose role-models, mentors and advocates for higher wages. For the “have nots,” it’s like pressing a face against that screen door. Visible, but left to fend for themselves.

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