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Sunday, March 05, 2006

My Point

I just had one of those moments when many of the things I’ve been thinking about came together in a flash of clarity. Let me explain.

Nine days ago I had coffee with my friend Miriam Peskowitz and her cute new baby to talk about writing and mothering and how to get important ideas out in a book market focused on celebrity and the simple pitch. We commiserated that the books that got publicity were the ones that can be summed up (rightly or wrongly) in one catchy phrase. The conversation with Miriam motivated me to go meet my agent in New York to talk about strategies for selling my book (a memoir of my first five years of motherhood).

On Tuesday, we had a nice lunch in the Village. At one point my agent described me as “the lefty spiritual mom,” a label I’ve been trying on all week. After browsing Borders Wednesday and finding a book that tells women that God wants us to submit to our husbands, I decided I might enjoy staking out some territory as “the lefty spiritual mom.” Someone’s got to stand up for a different definition of family values, and it might as well be a Quaker mother.

So in a new burst of enthusiasm for my career, I cranked out an article on “Sex and the Third Grade Girl” and sent it to an editor. Then I started another article on what my kids are learning about race. This was inspired partly by a book I’m reading, Learning to Be White, about how white children are socialized, and partly by the second half of my New York trip, a visit to the New York Historical Society’s exhibit “Slavery in New York.” The article also comes out of memories of my fights with my own mother about race—or more specifically, inter-racial dating.

Then Friday night I attended a Mother Talk salon with Andi Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz hosting the editor of Mothers Movement Online, Judith Stadtman Tucker. With a living room full of women, we had a great discussion that went way past my bedtime about the need for a major cultural shift in the way our society regards parenting and gender roles.

Later, I thought about my participation in the discussion and the ideas I’d been writing about all week. My politics has come through in all, but not necessarily my spirituality, which I tend to reserve for audiences I know are interested in that. It got me thinking about my voice as a writer and what I’m trying to say in my work. The other motherhood writers at the salon all have a clear point they are trying to get into the public discussion, a thesis, as it were. Like many Quakers, I’m reticent to be seen as pushing my religion, a quality some view as a Quaker failing. When Malcolm X became convinced that Islam had something to offer black people in the US, he wasn’t shy about sharing it. I’m convinced Quakerism has something to offer the world, but what is my simple catchy thesis?

This is what came to me this morning: How we parent matters. It doesn’t just matter to us and our children; it matters to the wider world. Being conscious about the choices we make as parents, fostering our children’s self-awareness and creativity, teaching them to see “that of God” in other people and the earth—all the issues I wrote about in Imperfect Serenity are fundamentally important if humanity is going to make it through the next century. That’s why motherhood matters and why parenting deserves to be better supported by society at large. How we parent now will shape the future. That’s my point.


Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

Go, Eileen! I cannot wait to read your book! I want to read your articles, too, so please link us to them when they come out. I like your point!

9:29 PM  

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