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day 1: lose all psychological momentum built up over the weekend by postponing visit to gym. finally go to gym, take tour, feel certain that everybody is staring: who is the new girl? suddenly become too self-conscious to stay and work out. (besides, it’s enough that i took the step to get here. right?  RIGHT?)

sit in lounge. flip through information packet. get up to ask about childcare (since childcare was one of the prime attractions of this gym). learn there is no more childcare for now, but that it may start up again in the summer. drive home, feel remaining momentum (no childcare? no childcare!) drain from my bones.

day 2:  after much hemming and hawing and to-do-ing about nothing, go to a p.m. pilates class. ouch. in a good way.

day 3: wake up, anticipating serious post-exercise pain. am surprised that none is there. remember that we have dinner plans at 6:30, which can be postponed until 7:30, especially if i explain the delay by telling entertaining stories about my time at the gym. spend morning discussing with mac whether/when he’ll train, whether/when i’ll go to the gym, whether/when our sitter is coming over.

go to dinner. at 6:30.

day 4: wake up, find post-exercise pain. (it’s not called DOMS for nothing.) hobble around the house all morning. try not to make any sudden moves. begin, slowly, to feel my smug-o-meter climb as the DOMS subside and i have visions of myself getting back into shape.

do not go to gym.

day 5: wake up with back-ache (induced, i believe, by curling around a nursing baby for most of the night). get dressed, head to gym for a core strengthening class followed by a dance class. find the core class challenging but not impossible. make my way to the dance class, a good 10 years older and four babies heavier than the next oldest person in the room, and a good deal whiter in my moves. have fun. realize that fun is not always pretty.

day 8: decide that gym is not for me, what with no childcare *and* no follow-up phone call from perky front desk person to see whether i’m going to join. feel gym is irresponsible for lack of said follow-through.  

spite gym by signing up for independent pilates classes.

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dear effie, dear little girl,

     every year that i write these letters i feel further away from you. it’s so hard to believe that it has only been four years since you left us — i remember all too clearly, as if it were last week — and yet it feels so long ago. so many lifetimes ago. so much grief ago.

     today is a very different day from the last one we had with you. it was gray — rainy, then snowy — not the kind of winter day that draws you outside to play. i exercised, and my tummy is probably about the size it was when you were there, taking what would have been your last breaths. i was tired from being up with your brother during the night, and i half-wanted only to be home, snuggled in the house with my family. and then, of course, there is a family.

     such a very different day.

     i have learned so much in the years since you came, then went. changed so much. seen so much and loved so much. and through it all: you. my oldest daughter, my firstborn, the little girl who turned me into a mother, who helped shape me into the mother — the woman, the person — i am becoming, spend every day being.

     it is true that i don’t think of you as often as i used to. as often as i would like. as often as i think i should. but i like to believe i think of you exactly the right amount: as often as i need to, as often as i should. it’s strange — lovely in its own rough way — how you have woven yourself into the fabric of my life, of my being. how much you are part of the tension, the pull, that is my every day. how easy it is not even to notice. and how hard it can be, sometimes, when i do.

     i still haven’t learned how to talk about you to others. i still haven’t learned how to bring you up, how to hold people accountable for your memory. how much i wish in those moments that i had had the courage to name you. the courage to take a picture. the heart to create different memories than the ones i have. instead, what i have of you is so private: the moment of your delivery. your still body in my arms. your tiny perfection.

     there is, in all of that, an intimacy that i treasure for being mine. as i treasure you.

     your brother and sister are having rough nights. neither one wants to stay asleep. they both want to be held, to be snuggled in close. it’s fitting, somehow, that they are crying for me even as try to give you my undivided attention. this is how my days, without you, go by.

     i love you.  ~~scribblette

when i started drafting this post, i wrote:

at this particular moment, a feminist mother looks like a woman giddy about her stylin’ new ‘do sitting at her desk, pumping and writing.

and now i suppose i’m the same woman, with a slightly less “new” haircut, but still pumping (or rather, pumping again). maybe there is more consistency to what a feminist mother looks like than i thought. but probably not.

anyway.

Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother?

this is a fascinating question. if i’ve identified as a feminist mother, and–like most mothers everywhere, i presume–i feel compromised as a mother, then i suppose i feel compromised as a feminist mother.

i’m sitting here (still pumping) wondering about other ways i’ve felt compromised. what are they?, i keep wondering. and here’s a nice example: my current job. it is not a particularly good job. it’s not very rewarding, it’s not intellectually challenging, it doesn’t bring me much, if any, satisfaction. and that runs counter to my values: i believe in vocations, i believe in enjoying yourself in all you do, i believe in not wasting your time being unhappy (when you can avoid it). so how would i defend keeping this job? in particular, how would i defend keeping this job to an older daughter, for whom i was trying to set a positive example? i’m not sure i could defend it except in the most mundane of ways: there are material exigencies that prompted me to take this job, and in our current economic state there are material exigencies that prompt me to keep it. i can talk myself into feeling better by focusing on the things i am trying to do to create a better professional life for myself, but i suspect i would sound the way children of the ’30s sounded to children of the ’60s: old, tired, having given in. to any extent that i am those things — intellectually, professionally, romantically, psychologically — that feels to me like a compromise.

am i being self-indulgent to cut myself some slack as a dbm with an infant at home? perhaps. perhaps that, too, is a compromise.

i go back and forth with feeling compromised in the home. at my worst, i worry that i set terrible examples for my kids in all kinds of ways: communicating, sharing, loving. at my best, i know that all of these compromises can be talked through, can be worked through. generally, though, i inhabit some middle ground where i know that i am compromising all kinds of things i would prefer not to be compromising, but that i am limited, i am human, there is no choice but to compromise. the only choice is to make the best compromises possible at any given moment.

so…i guess there are many ways i am, or am potentially, compromised as a feminist mother. but i don’t feel that i am ever compromised specifically because i am a feminist mother, unless somehow my feminism is the root cause of all this reflection (in and beyond this post), in which case, i suppose, i am totally compromised.

but not unhappy about it.

i recently sat through an overly long meeting which included our institution’s attorney. at the end of the meeting he observed that every time we meet he hears mention of at least one instance of a student being inappropriate to university staff: yelling, using naughty language, being belligerent, etc.

“do you have a protocol for instances like these?” he asked. “do the students get written up? notified that their behavior has been recorded?”

we stared dumbly.

i am of that generation that “would never have.” i would never have spoken to a grown up like that. or, more simply, to someone who is older than me. perhaps anybody, really. i would never have assumed that my righteous indignation deserved public air. i would never have been so rude, out loud, ever.

but nobody on our staff has ever suggested that we actually reprimand students for treating us badly. instead of holding people responsible for their actions, folks on staff simply — but more problematically — simply avoid. they avoid answering the phone. and then they avoid returning calls to certain students. eyes are rolled over student threats,  and we always at least try to do due diligence to help us understand the validity of students’ claims, but once that is done we withdraw again, settling into those tried-and-true avoidance maneuvers.

i have never worked somewhere like this, where a culture of fear and anxiety is bred so long and so deeply into people’s working bones that depression and low morale are the spirits du jour. where people feel so completely powerless in the face of negativity that they take it — or not — but regardless, they won’t call people on their lack of civility.

and i am more than a little embarrassed that it took an outsider to bring this to our attention, to suggest that we give staff the power and authority to say to someone “you can’t treat me like that,” or maybe even “if you choose to treat me like that i will walk away.” i feel like my good sense as an administrator — as a feminist — hell, as a person — has gone missing. and i don’t like that, not one little bit.

i pondered all this while i poured a cup of coffee to bring back to my desk. and then it occurred to me that it isn’t just “staff” who is suffering: i have my own variation on this malaise. i have a co-worker — now an ex-coworker, thanks to two job shifts that relieved us of each other’s presence — whom i do not like. not personally, not professionally, not intellectually. she is a terrible administrator, a perpetuator of gossip, an outright malingerer, and, well, an idiot intellectual lightweight.

this is not the first time i’ve worked with such a person. but this is the first time i have had to stop myself from calling a colleague like this to the carpet. from saying, to her face, i know you are lying. from saying, to her face, what gives you the authority? from saying, to her face, truly, my dear, you are an idiot.

that isn’t like me. i can snark (mac says i can’t, at least not very well, which i think he means as a compliment, but i’m pretty sure i can) but i am, under it all, quite a civil creature. if i snark, i tend not to do it out loud. rather, i am the queen of the eternal internal monologue.

and i prefer myself that way. i do not like this version of myself, this person who has to stop herself from saying unforgivable, unprofessional things. this person who works amid such intense negativity that she has lost her own sense of civility. (well, almost. i haven’t said any of this out loud. yet.) and it’s no far leap, then, to this person who agrees to perpetuate avoidance, this person who allows other women to take abuse of any sort. i do not like that this institution brings out such things in me, even as it quashes other, certainly better things.

i considered submitting an application for a job at Nearby University, which was due yesterday. i chose not to. and today i wonder how long it will take me to fully regret that decision.

bitsy: mommy, i’m so happy!
scribblette: why are you so happy, honey?
bitsy: because i love you and my shoes are dirty!

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Your Word is "Why"
You see life as complicated and intriguing. The only thing you know for sure is that you haven't figured it all out yet. You question everything and believe very little. And whatever you believe is likely to change. You are interested in theories, philosophies, and religions...even if you don't buy into any of them. You are also fascinated by how things work. You'd like to understand as much in the world as possible.

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