Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.
Margaret Mead, anthropologist
I chanced across this quote in a book called The World’s Best Advice from the World’s Wisest Women, by BJ Gallagher. It’s one of those books that you buy your mother for Mother’s Day–a compilation of funny and inspirational quotes that you can read quickly, leave out on a coffee table or curse whoever bought it for you for not buying you a real book. But because I can’t seem to read a book from start to finish these days, it must have appealed to my quick-fix-needing-multitasking self.
For the record, I still read, but in a more random way (i.e., shifting back and forth between my ever-growing stack of bedside books.) This might be some kind of delayed rebellion from grad school, but in all honesty, it probably has more to do more sleep deprivation and having so little free time that I no longer commit to finishing a book if it sucks.
Plus, I just can’t hack all those heavy, depressing “literary” books that I once ate up–you know, the kind your stuffy 86-year-old male teacher made you read back in the day. If you were lucky enough to get someone young and hip, you got to read some good stuff, like They Might be Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, one of my personal heroes. If not, you slogged your way through all those dead, white authors they tortured us with in the 80s, like Lord of the Flies. Kill me now.
(As you can tell, I’ve got a big chip on my shoulder when it comes to those old dead guys. Thankfully, literature has opened up a lot since my high school days, and we’re now reading a lot more books by women and minorities. You know, books that actually, gasp, mirror the general population.)
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is this: real life is rough enough these days–who wants to spend their precious free time reading about adolescent boys trying to kill each other in the jungle? I’d much rather read something by someone who’s got some solutions to the messed-up problems we all face. Something that might actually give me a bit of hope, not send me running to stick my head in the oven.
That’s one of the reasons I’m so into memoirs these days. And any other books that talk about how tricky this parenting-with-kids thing is, books that show how one person, at least, survived. Like Ayelet Waldeman’s Bad Mother or Kate Braestrup’s Marriage and Other Acts of Charity. I’m looking for clues here, or tips–someone to help me illuminate this dark, dangerous, rock-filled way.
When we haven’t time to listen to each other’s stories, we seek out experts to teach us how to live. The less time we spend together at the kitchen table, the more how-to books appear in the stores and on our bookshelves…. Because we have stopped listening to each other, we may even have forgotten how to listen, stopped learning how to recognize meaning.
Isn’t this one of the reasons we connect online, through email and Facebook? It’s a great way to learn, listen and ask for help, not to mention catch up with like-minded spirits–especially when our crazy schedules don’t allow as much face-to-face time as we’d like.
One of the things I’d like to do with this blog is talk about a few great memoirs and how-to books that have helped me along the way. With any luck, they might even be of interest to you.
Can you help me out by sharing the books, blogs and ideas that have helped you as well? All you have to do is post a comment–only your first name will appear on the page, nothing else will be published. With your help, we can create an online community of married-with-kids folks who’ve been there, done that and, surprise!, even lived to tell the tale.