Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Dr. Laura Schlessinger Show: A Love Story

Hi, this is Susannah from California and I am my kid's mother. I am also my husband's wife. My cat's bitch. I am a writer but not an author (the difference there being moolah and a silly little thing called publishing), a product developer, a lover of fine chai and pedicures. I can be selfish sometimes, moody, but for the most part I do these things well, I go about my life with sincerity and with love. This is who I am.

No, not THIS, God no. This isn't me. This is Dr. Laura, Mother Laura to some. A vision in lemon chiffon.

The problem lies, I think, in doing it all. Ah yes, the age-old dilemma of the modern mother, the precarious tippy-toe tightrope walk balancing family and work, self and financial worth. I haven't written in depth about this issue before because it would be like writing about the proverbial iceberg: I could wax poetic about the tip but never really be able to reveal the whole frozen mess underneath the surface. I would risk hypothermia if I tried.

And yet here I am, wearing a parka an
d sliding across the ice wearing flip flops. I start my new job on July 14th (Bastille Day for you francophiles, July 14th for you regular folk) and I wonder if I haven't completely fucked up yet again. Because while I am a liberal and believe in everything good and fair and happy, I admit to listening to The Dr. Laura Schlessinger Show from time to time. That ass-crack lady who abhors living in sin (oops), who disdains daycare (ahem), who tears working mothers a new one on a daily basis. I loathe her but love listening. If I were to call in? Oh but would she hate on me.

1-800-D-R-L-A-U-R-A. Of course it's nothing I haven't told myself. A two year old is better off with her mother. We could probably sell our house and move somewhere far away from our families, far from Zoey’s grandparents, somewhere more affordable so Bryan could be the sole breadwinner and I could be a Stay At Home Mom. We could sel
l our cars, stop shopping. We could be the family Dr. Laura wants us to be. And I struggle with this woulda coulda shoulda, it gnaws at me at night. I close my eyes and I see her:

And she wants to kick my ass.

But if I have learned one thing these past few months being unemployed (and I have learned a lot) it's that I don't have to fear spending time with my daughter. It can be boring, but you know? So is work. Zoey means more to me than life itself, than Anthropologie and reality tv, she means more to me than paychecks and pedicures and whiskers on kittens. Zoey is my breath.

What I have learned is that I get to be the one to dictate what my family will be. Well, Bryan and I. Together we determine the dynamics of our life. What I have learned is that it's never easy, tightrope walking, that sliding on ice wearing flip flops leads to frostbite and you need your big toes for balance. What I have learned is to close my eyes and see her for the answer:

I don't want to be a working stiff forever and so I'm thinking of writing a book about being a working mother. Most of what I have read out there is either highly political or focused on strategies to make it work. And I have read those books, every last one of them. They've helped, to an extent. Some made me angry, others made me feel empowered, some just made me feel even more trapped even if it was trapped in a HavaHart cage. But none of them felt like I was talking to a good friend when that’s what I really need. A shoulder to cry on because I have to leave my daughter, the one person who really makes me laugh from inside out. My story, my truth about the myth of the working mother. My humor in a situation that often makes me cry. My own shaky tippy-toe balance on the tightrope walk of work and motherhood, fifty stories up and without a safety net. How I had a baby, kept my job, lost my mind, lost my job, loved my baby and found myself.

Whaddya' think? Would you read it?

42 comments:

Claire said...

I'm putting in my advanced order for it right now. I, too, work full time (as a teacher, at least I do have summers "off") and I have a 22-month old and a brand-new 6-week old. I need a working mom "friend" even if it is in blog world. So I'd definitely buy the book. I'd have bought it yesterday, if it were already available.

Ana said...

ok, I am still waiting for your book to come out...
how much longer?????

Linda said...

I'll read your book - don't think I'll try listening to Laura.

Courtney said...

most definitely!! that would be the most perfect book for YOU to write! I'm not even a Mom and I would read it.

...that's a little weird isn't it. Maybe I do need Dr. Laura.

Alex said...

i would for sure buy your book as a working mother too!

Becca said...

I would LOVE to read your book, and I would make sure to buy multiple copies to give to my friends. Yeah!

Megan said...

a resounding YES

Misplaced Country Girl said...

If you wrote a phone book I would read it. As a future mother I am going to need all the help I can get and I would rather get it from you than someone who doesn't know what they are writing about.

Oh, and you should know, my mom was a single mother. She worked and I went to daycare as a child. I don't have one single memory of being in daycare. I do however have tons and tons of memories of spending fun times with my mom. Zoey is going to be an extraordinary person and it's going to be because of you and your husband. Stop beating yourself up.

benson said...

color me an ostrich..but, if someone makes you feel like crap about your life...why listen?Get off that station RIGHT NOW. I don't know you personally, but from what you write (and yes, I do think you would author a GREAT book)I think you're a darn good mama bear and whose cub knows that no matter what.(geez..where did I come up with all the frickin animal analogies?!)

I *Heart* You said...

of course!!!! your best posts are bout your love for your daughter. you could probably complie them into a book of short stories. you personify the reality that i will face when we start our family- working, leaving the kid with someone else for the majority of the day for the majority of the week so we can afford all the things we want in life which includes giving our kids a nice life close to grandparents and culture. this is getting really wordy.

the short version, yes.

dahlias said...

Um yeah! Aaaand the closest thing I have to a daughter, or child for that matter, is my cousin's daughter Stella....but I love your stories and writing so I'm in, for sure.

jen said...

Go for it! I was a Stay at Home Mother for close to 10 years and felt conflicted/proud/bored/happy the whole time too. I NEVER felt superior and that's what I've read a lot of in all the mom books, whether for working moms or "non-working" (I HATE that!) moms. What I'd like to read is something funny.

Have you thought of doing some kind of compilation book ala Dooce's essays about fathers? I'm sure there would be lots of Mommy bloggers who would contribute (count me in!) because we're ALL struggling.

I was extremely lucky to be in a situation where we "did without" meaning no big vacations, smaller house, etc. but it's not like we REALLY did without. If we would've still been living in NY there's NO WAY I could've stayed home. I made no judgements. I was just happy I could.

The Lil Bee said...

Abso-friggin-lutely! And as for Zoey...well, you are clearly doing something right because that darling little munchkin is all smiles. Dr. Laura is a giant, wrinkled ass. Blech!

Sarah's Fab Day said...

I hate that you feel so torn, it's such a crappy place to be and believe me I have been there. You should so write this book it would be perfect for those of us with less than stellar writing skills, you will tell a story that so many of us have a hard time sharing not to mention I'm sure it will be funny as hell.

And Dr. Laura sucks a*^!

Mrs. Blandings said...

Yes, I will read it. Buy it. Not check it out from the library. I will recommend it to my book club, so that's five more copies.

Jennifer said...

Anything you write, I will read.

Stop listening to that hypocrite!

Pippa said...

please do - and make sure they sell it on Amazon so we can get it down under

Mary Buek said...

Okay, here it is from a former working mom. My husband was a high school teacher. You cannot support a family on a teacher's salary, and still live in a safe and sane place. I had to work. My kids went to daycare. I also went to school. It was tough. You are at the mercy of everyone with little time to yourself. The whole point of the women's movement from its inception, to me anyway, was that women would have choices. I don't know what happened. . . sometimes the choices still seem to be opting for the lesser of two evils. However, I will say that my kids, adults now and probably about your age, turned out fine -- great, in fact. I believe that you, as a parent, have the most influence in your child's life. Exercise that influence, love the kid with all your heart, and things will work out fine. And as far as I'm concerned Dr. Laura is a judgmental and hypocritical bitch.

hej said...

Only your vote counts.

karey m. said...

oh...your dad is so right. and to think i wanted to kick hej's ass when he was taunting you on your fockers post.

until i found out he was your dad, of course.

but he's right. we'll read you even if you scribble on a scrap of paper. you're that good. xoxo.

Paloma said...

Absolutely! I'm not a mom yet, but I totally think that you would bring a fresh perspective to the matter. You are REAL! There's no fluff, no strategy, it's just real and relatable.

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

I'd TOTALLY read it. And would see myself in your words.

Tessie said...

Hel-LO! You'd better not be TEASING me about this shit!

I've stopped reading books on working motherhood. They're all full of lies and bullshit and crazy talk. I guess I'm okay with the crazy talk, but not the lies and bullshit.

What is going ON with this comment? I meant to say:

HELL YEAH I would buy it, and read it, and use it as an all-purpose stocking stuffer like my grandma does with the bible!

Leslie (Reclaiming Miss Havisham) said...

Oh Dr. Laura. What you're doing by listening to her is called "recreational outrage" and I'm the queen of doing it. I read fundamentalist baptist message boards just so I can be like "what the fuck!!!"

Americans have had the nuclear family model drilled into their heads since the start of this country. The working father, stay at home mom, 2.5 kids and a dog white picket fence thing is something we created for ourselves. People like rules. If there is a mold of "happiness" to strive towards, people feel like they have a purpose. They know what the plan is.

When I was a baby my mom was a writer for the Tennessean, the official newspaper of Nashville. When she was fired abruptly she had the choice of staying at home with my sister and me or doing something else. She decided to try something she had secretly played around with in her mind for years-turn her beloved hobby into a business. She loved making and designing clothes for my sister and me so with endless hours of hard work and a full time nanny, she became an awe-inspiring childrens clothing designer. To this day, she can't fill the orders as fast as they come in for the clothes.

I'll be honest. I hated it. How come Caroline's mom volunteers to be brownie troop leader every year? How come Amy's mom is available to bring her forgotten gym clothes to school at a moment's notice? How come Anne's mom cooks a big full meal every single night from scratch? Why does the nanny pick me up from school instead of you like everyone else's mom?

It wasn't that I NEEDED or was BETTER OFF with a stay at home mom it was just what I saw around me. I think if you have dreams of a career and you force yourself to stay home with your child and have your soul crushed by laundry and Oprah you are doing your daughter the worst injustice of all. You show her that when women have children their lives are over. You show her that she doesn't have options of her own that her fate has already been decided for her by Focus on the Family.

What if Zoey ends up having a brilliant research mind and dreams of archeological digs in Africa but she was raised in a way that values the nuclear family over personal happiness and fulfillment? Do you want to teach her that beccause she's a girl its "too bad so sad" for her and she has to stay at home and create the ideal family? Never give up writing because she'd remember that forever. The goals of adult women outside of being a baby incubator DO matter and should be considered.

And while I was pissed off then, I wouldn't change having a workaholic mom. She started a small creative niche business which are the hardest kinds to start. She did this with very little start up capital and with two children. She re-invented her career mid life, and powered through even after her divorce. So my resentment back then is outweighed by the fact that I'm a happy confident driven person who is completely self sufficient thousands of miles away from anyone I'm related to. Most of the girls with the perfect moms are still living within five miles of their homes and married and making their own perfect families. They are happy with that choice and I'm happy for them. I'm just glad that I stood a chance to do something else.

JackeeG4glamorous said...

Funny that you mention this. Check out my post from yesterday. I think that moms today have been tricked into thinking you are wrong which ever way you go. Work/S@H...so there's a TON of angst ridden ladies out there.
I would read the book - I think all us ladies have to relax a little of our expectations on ourselves. Trying not to be practically perfect in every way! You can bet your pretty little toes that men don't even think this way. Their belief of themselves has been enforced for centuries that they are the king of the castle. So to them, it's all good.

v8_grrl said...

Of course we would read it...we read this blog right?
I wouldn't have to read it because I live it...but I would read it because I feel our goofball lives are parallel in some weird universe.

We need a good, honest book about the craziness of being a mother...worker,spouse,chef,student,housecleaner,travel planner, muse and laundry attendant

xo
m

Shannon said...

its always so good to hear that so many of us are in the same boat. I love my son but I also want to show him that I'm not only a mom, but a hard working and strong woman. I may miss him everyday, I may doubt that I'm doing the right thing all the time, but... at the end of the day I can be proud of who I am. After all, who says that somebody has to be qualified to do only one job, why not enjoy it all. Thanks for relating. Its time to get on that book, let's go. I need a good summer read.

Judy said...

I think it's pretty clear from these incredibly wise, talented, supportive blog friends that anything you would or have written, in any form- published, blogged or scrawled on the side of a building would be snapped up in an instant.(I am most impressed with Leslie's(reclaiming Miss Haversham)intelligent and thought provoking comments) You have many books in you and none more pertinent or personal than one on working Moms from your unique, invested, witty, thoughtful and thought-provoking perspective. That's a given from me-and NOT just as your Mom (too much cheering from the stands? I hope not). You know what a voracious reader I am and, if I do say so myself, I do know a thing or two about a thing or two-it would be a tragedy of epic proportions if my age hasn't bestowed some amount of wisdom and knowledge upon me. You're a writer and, as your Dad so wisely says, write-write it whenever/whatever/however you decide. One of the best things I've heard ever came to me not long ago (author/origin unknown)..."What other people think of me is none of my business." Or as your Dad says, yours is the only vote that counts. If you have any obligation at all, it is only to yourself. You have a voice worth hearing and you are gifted with the talent to write. It will come...and "they" will come.
Now as to your working Mom issues....as so many have said, including yourself, Dr. Laura is an asinine, hypocritical, sold-out, radio personality-not worth the dynamite it would take to blow her to Hell. YOU, on the other hand, are wise beyond your years and, you are THE BEST Mother I have EVER seen/known. I am stunned, as biased as I am, still utterly blown away by the pure, amazing, off the charts love, devotion, talent, capability, fiercity of your mothering of Zoey. I thought I was good...well, you leave me in your dust, my Girl.WHERE did you learn to be this amazing mother/woman/wife/person/friend? I was fortunate enough to have been able to be a stay at home Mom to you and Andy up until about middle school. No doubt about it, it was great, challenging at times, but wonderful. I'll even admit that it saddened and concerned me a bit that you were not going to have that same luxury with Zoey. I was WRONG-now we all know my admitting wrongness is as rare as it is painful to me. I was absolutely wrong to have had any concerns in that arena. Fine to want to be a fulltime Mom...understandable to be sad that you can't...but guilt? No Way! You and Bry found a gifted Day Care and I see how much it enriches Zoey's life, nothing else. You, Zoey, Bryan, your lives, your parenting, your most incredible love and devotion to each other...I just can not see how, given every option and resource in the known universe at your command, any of you-most especially The Divine Miss Z, could in any way, shape or form have a better life. Guilt, like chronic pain, is not only useless, it is damaging. Throw it out for the garbage it is. LOOK at yourself and our precious, beautiful (inside and out), funny,smart, confident, curious, caring Zoey and amazing husband, Bry, and KNOW that it is all PERFECT right now, exactly as it is. There is nothing else. Mom

Amy said...

Hells yes.

~M said...

I would read (and buy, not just check it out from the library) your book. Get on it, girlfriend! Also, check out this author: http://www.arielgore.com for some inspiration. Her book, "How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead: Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lights" is a must-read for you. She also has tele-classes that might interest you. Go, Susannah, go! And for Pete's sake, STOP listening to Dr. Laura. Now.

Mindi said...

i love being a stay at home mother. but i think that could also be due to the fact that i am a little lazy and don't wanna have to juggle work and little things like, you know, taking care of 4 kids.

i would read your book. i also like to listen to the laura everyonceinawhile just because. she is kinda like a car crash--you just can't look away.

Oh Brother! said...

The chemistry of family and happiness.

How can any one person's mix and family dynamics be right for another?

Your happiness is the only gift you owe both Zoey and Bryan (what better example for Zoey?)

Write.

Now.

And don't look back.

Love.

Laugh.

Live.

And never look back.

Simply look around you. And if you have a young woman named Zoey who is happy and confident, a husband who is happy and proud of you, and a mirror that shows the best version of YOU, then; there you go.

I love you, Susannah. So does Zoey. So does Bryan. Mom. Dad. All these people here.

I think those are ALL the ingredients you'd ever need.

Besides, you already know what's right. Right? Write.

Love,

Your bro

Sarah said...

You know I would ready anything you wrote. Even if it were jut a pamphlet.

visual vamp said...

I have been living under a rock and I just found your blog. I read all of the posts on the first page, so now I will be late (to teach a weekly tango class). You are fabulous. Thanks for writing. I'll be back...

Judy said...

Dear God! I am so overwhelmed with pride and love for our Son (Andrews/Andy/Oh, Brother) and Daughter (obviously, Sus/Petunia Face). LOOK at Andy's, wise, beyond his own years and oh so loving answer to his Sister. LOOK at all the people here supporting our Daughter, Susannah...read her!SEE that she writes an almost daily blog sharing with the world her most tender and private thoughts-and much needed humor.

Hey, hej, are we not the luckiest parents on the face of the earth and beyond to have worked and stumbled into raising not one, but TWO such absolutely amazing children/people?! My heart is full and, yes, my "eyes are sweating" If I do nothing else in my life, I can say with pride and joy that I am Andy and Susannah's Mother and THAT would be more than enough!

Robin said...

I saw the title of this post and thought there is no effing way she likes Dr Laura!
Please, please change the station and do not tune in again. Ever.

That said, of course I would read your book, and buy copies for all my friends. In fact, I Need your book - like NOW. 4 weeks into my 12 week leave and I am super torn about going back full-time, part-time, or not at all. Oy!

I love your blog and the best posts are always the ones about Zoey. You are an amazing mother and your stories already touch so many readers. So write that book and start collecting your well-deserved royalties already :)

fashiongirl said...

Totally! It would be filled with cute Zoey pictures, right?

Petunia Face said...

Thank you all for your support. I am going to make a commitment to myself to finish one chapter a month. Then, in a year to a year and a half I will have a first draft! And I will print out all of these comments when I submit it to agents and publishers.
Thank you :)

Sschraed said...

Definitely do it....i would buy it in a second :)

Design Junkie said...

listening to dr. laura is the same brand of emotional cutting referred to in the SATC movie. And don't forget, Dr. Laura is a working mother who "lived in sin" for eight years before her second marriage to a man she met while he was "separated" from his wife. I wouldn't worry too much about what she or any one else thinks. Screw 'em.

Anonymous said...

I'm a stay at home mother so please don't make your book hateful/ disdainful/ mocking of my choices; so many working mothers' books are! But yes, what you write, I will read. Always.

hello gorgeous said...
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