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On being selfish: Where is the line?

Mamas_with_wine_240 The recent debate about Sarah Palin's choice to go back to work three days after her fifth baby was born (and what that means for the "little" people's parental leave rights), as well as the comments on the Blackberries on the playground post, have got me thinking about selfishness. I wrote, "when do we cross the line between caring for ourselves (whether that be reading a good book or furthering our career) and giving our children appropriate attention? must good parenting be about entirely sublimating our own interests to focus every moment on our progeny? ...I think most of our behavior rides the line, not entirely healthy for our children, but not entirely servicing our own sanity, either."

I've been wondering a lot lately, when am I being selfish, when am I just giving myself what I need to maintain my sanity and sense of self-worth? If I let my children's dinner be blueberries and cold Otto's hot dogs because I really just need to run once or twice a week, is that selfish, or self-care? If I ignore their needs temporarily (such as today, when I'm working without any child care because my sister-nanny just went back to work at her former employer, a preschool) for long-term gain -- including the mortgage payment and my career -- is that fiscal good sense or minor neglect? If I go out for drinks with other mamas once a month, is protecting my identity as friend worth the risk that they'll watch an inappropriate movie and eat preservative-packed ice cream bars with papa? When I shoo the kids out of the kitchen so I can dive in to my latest preserving obsession, am I foregoing one more opportunity to snuggle and read with my kids, or am I just making sure we'll have local heirloom tomatoes to mix into pasta all through the winter and spring? How often do you do something that feels right for you, but wrong for your kids (even if it's very minor wrong)? Am I justifying when I say that having a sane, happy mother is far more important than the paltry sum of tonight's nutritional profile?

Photo thanks to the awesome Amy McMullen.

Comments

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This is exactly what I was thinking. How can a person -- man or woman -- think that they can govern a country with a special-needs baby and a pregnant teen daughter? She says her family will be there for her daughter, but how can they? If she's VP, how will she have time to do anything other than say, "I'm praying for you, Honey!"

I remember when my third child was six weeks old, I told a friend that I was so glad I didn't have to go back to work. I was so tired all the time and knew my brain was not functioning at 100%. Men don't give birth. They don't breastfeed. They don't have leaky breasts or have to use a breast pump. For them to go back to work three days after a baby is born is really not a big deal. Their body didn't just produce another human being.

I also feel sorry for her daughter. It would have been tough enough being a pregnant teen as the daughter of a governor, but being thrown into the national spotlight is unthinkable to me.

There are times when EVERY working parent decides that their job has to take a back seat. Barack Obama was elected to fill the Senate seat that was left vacant by a Republican senator who quit after one term because he felt it took him away from his family too much. And this year, a Republican mayor running to fill the spot left vacant by Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL) decided to drop out of the race after winning the primary because he realized he really couldn't take that much time from his family.

And neither of those MEN had a special-needs baby or a pregnant teenage daughter. I'm afraid that I would have to say that Palin is being very selfish in her decision to run for VP. She has two children that REALLY need her now.

It's a simple answer for a complex solution. Basically it's all about balance and finding the right balance that works for you and your children.

Interesting question -- I've been lurking guiltily downstairs today because my younger son has just gotten to the point where he can be upstairs and play with his brother without supervision.

I'm justifying it to some extent because his older brother is going back to school tomorrow and they won't have as much time to play together...

Regardless of the reason, I'm loving it. But am I a slacker? I've already done a ton of laundry and cleaned out the refrigerator out of guilt.

I think this idea of selfishness is at the heart of all of the so called Mommy Wars, and the problem is we live in a multicultural and yet judgmental society where our notions of what children need, what mamas need, our very definition of what childhood IS (and what motherhood is!) have undergone (are still undergoing) these tremendous shifts, and each of us is left trying to figure out what feels right in the face of conflicting messages from our friends, family, the media, and the subtle disapproving looks from strangers. And can you throw in a few feminist ideals, wondering why only the mamas seem subject to such intense scrutiny, without risking leaving the children and their needs behind?

On the best days, my children may thrive with a little benign neglect, while I am trying to get a blog post written, I hear them solving their own problems creatively, entertaining and reading to each other, and I feel happily connected to them just doing things like cooking with them, riding together on our bicycles. On the worst days, all of the things I try to do feel in conflict with each other, the needs of each different child seems to be in conflict with each other, and it's triage at its worst. That's when it helps to have a community of other mothers who you can laugh with about how awful it can be, who can gently remind you that the things you agonized about two years ago now don't seem like such a big deal. What you do if you fear that community turning judgmental on you and labeling you selfish, I don't know.

I agree with Cindy on the balance issue and would also throw in timing. I know I've had to make alot of choices about things to do or not do in the name of family (not just for the kids, but my husband as well. He needs my attention as much as my children do). I would love to do all the things I used to be able to do, when I want to, and for however long I want, but I just don't right now. It won't always be this way, but right now I have to set different boundaries than I did before, with other people and with myself.

I try to figure out what I can do that fills me up and doesn't take me from the family at the same time. And I try to prioritize because I just can't do it all. So, if I want to run I can put them in the jogger and do it. Or I run at 6:30 in the morning before every one is up. When I was working full-time, I ran on my lunch hour. If I'm not willing to do it on those terms, is it really that running makes my more balanced or is it being alone? Maybe I can't do both, so which one do I want more?

I have great respect for bedtime, because it means that I can then do the things I wanted to do all day but didn't. Balancing that "selfishness" can mean doing the things I really want to do at a different time or in a different way. It's not that my need is selfish, it may be that my timing is just poor, or selfish. I want an oompa-loompah, AND I WANT IT NOW.

There are times when I've noticed my need to be away from the family is higher than at other times. When I really stop to think about it, it's that my family is taking more from me than it's giving. Most of the time I am fulfilled by a little time to myself and the rest of the time with family. Being with them can be just as fulfilling as being away. But too much time away and I realize I'm running away, and that doesn't fill me up either. On a good day, if I sit on the floor and play trains for 15 minutes I feel just as good as if I'd read a good book for that time. I guess what I'm saying is that sometimes turning to the family to be filled up works, despite my own thoughts that getting out is what I want instead. I think that often falls into the "make lemonade" aspect of things. If I can't do everything I want, I may as well make the most of what I can do.

I've been trying to put together my thoughts about the whole "feminist movement" and it's shortcomings or not based on all the political events lately. I think my conclusion is that the movement taught us that we can do anything we want. But it didn't teach us so much about being accountable to the choices we make or that sometimes limits are okay, if they're our own limits that we can change on our own terms.

I have the Republican Convention on while I'm writing. I don't have a problem with women working and having children, family, home, etc.

I have a problem with the extent of illness in her family. A baby such as hers needs her. Sure there are examples of women who have done what she's done. But obviously her absence has been felt. She's got a pregnant teenage daughter and other young ones.

Maybe she needed to be paying closer attention to how and with whom her daughter was spending time. Men don't do that, women do. And we do it because we know that hormones take over the brain of a teenager. Its a time to be vigilent.

She's not a role model. Yes, others have teenagers who have get pregnant, but other cultures don't have our high teen pregnancy rates because they have better family values and they believe in sex education.

Here's a parent who doesn't believe in sex education and isn't deligent in watching her own.

Then there's the baby. Why not take time off to get a handle on that? What's wrong with that?

Yes, she's a woman, but she's not the best example of family values that I can think of.

Oh, such a ripe, ripe issue. So many angles, so many questions, so much room for judgment. There is too much of that in this world, and it wears me down. We are all out here trying to do an impossible job (being the perfect parent) and we could all benefit from the faith and gentleness of others. And that's all I have to say about Sara Palin.

As for selfishness, I think it's incredibly important. When I counseled troubled teens, I would often end up talking about "putting the 'I' back in team"; if you don't take the time to get in shape and learn ball skills, how much can you really contribute to a soccer team. You can't just spend the whole practice time sitting on some elses' feet while they do their sit-ups. The same goes for the family team. That being said, I am terrible about taking time out for myself, but my husband is good at sending me away when it is clear I need some time.

And I believe kids need time to themselves, space to play, and the occasional taste of junk food to grow up to be independent, critically thinking individuals capable of making decisions for themselves and learning to cope in the world.

My sister -- a young single mom -- made a comment this summer about her "spoiled nieces." On further conversation, she said it is just interesting to watch the different attention these kiddos who are from two-parent households get. She wasn't judging our parenting styles, per se, just commenting on how different the girls' lives are from her son's. Who is a perfectly reasonable child. So, I think there is room for all kinds of decisions and choices in this area, and selfishness, to a point, is an incredibly important part of everyday family maintenance.

As for parenting a child with Down syndrome, I can really only speak to the first two years, but it really hasn't been all that different from parenting any other kid so far. The kid needs love and cuddling and attention from parents, food and warmth and a few extra dr. appts. This can all be provided by working parents, stay at home parents, single parents, four parent families, grandparent families, rich families, poor families. Extra therapies take a little time, but not so much as you would think. I am sure life will get more complicated as we enter into school age, but so far I don't really think this is an issue the country needs to concern itself with in regards to a potential Second Family. We can't know how much extra time that baby needs without being intimate with the family.

And that's really all I have to say about Sara Palin.

I think the thing that has surprised me most over the past two years of motherhood is just how normal my life still is, even with this beautiful little being with blonde curls and Down syndrome in my life.

I believe the kids are richer if they have 2 parents with solid identities who are happy. (That said, regarding the previous thread, we shouldn't have kids just to ignore them.) Every parent (um, person) needs different things though! And kids easily know/feel when you're not 100% there.
Example - oftentimes I found doing "bedtime routine" with my 5 year old was boring, and guess what, he preferred doing bedtime with his dad. I stopped for a while, and when I started again, I was really into it and really enjoyed it, and now he prefers me for the ritual.
I believe that some of us (myself and husband included) tend to overdo the parenting bit to make up for the selfishness we found in our baby boomer parents. I find unfortunately that has given our kiddo some issues, in that he's expectant of this and feels entitled, things that we would have been severely reprimanded for as children. Is it so bad though? Are they really even "issues"? Maybe, if it produces another generation like the boomers. On the other hand, with balance - BALANCE! - it could be a very good, strong thing that will produce a confident generation that understands how to consider the needs of others. This is very much a generation that is sorely needed in this country, and if we can lead our kids that way by example, it's all the more likely to happen.

What a nice way to transition from the Palin topic to generalize more about the difficulties we all face as mamas to find balance in our lives...

I struggle with this on almost a daily basis I feel. My current example to is of running...just starting a program that requires running a little bit 6 days a week. I do this in the morning..and while I want to do it early before the kidlets wake up...at the moment they are getting up VERY early (like 5:45am). But I tend to sit them on the sofa, get them a morning cup of milk and put in a video while I run for anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes.

I was feeling really bad about this for the first few weeks...but as soon as my 3 year old acknowledged "mommy running" one day..I started to feel that it was perhaps the beginning of her understanding that it was something important to me and (maybe a big stretch here..) that i need it.

on the other hand, i am very guilty of sneaking off to read my email or the uM website ... and i actually do feel pretty bad about that...and i am honestly trying to refrain until after their bedtime.

so, for me, it really depends on what i am doing in that time....sometimes are a "healthy selfish" and perhaps others are just a "selfish selfish".

just another 2 cents, i truly think that we mamas trying to find the balance as generally overachievers...we want to do the best we can at work, for our children, for ourselves. and i personally think that most of know that it isn't possible to be our best at all of these activities all the time. the tone of the NY Times article was that it was "surprising" that it was the progressive working mamas that were questioning palin decision to take on the VP with the special needs newborn...but really, in my opinion, why would that be surprising? we are doing it, every day, and we know the struggle....

Great website,

It's nice to know that there are other people as haunted by the guilt/frustration dichotomy as I am. Balance is a word that keeps coming up but its attainment seems very elusive. Somehow it seems that there are just not enough hours in the day.

I have the feeling that the path towards balance lies somewhere near the idea expressed by a couple other readers of finding activities which we can genuinely enjoy with our kids instead of grumbling along through the routine. Often, having kids feels like having a playmate who only wants to play his or her own favorite game...

Ouch...selfishness. I hate that word. The plague of it kept me in an unhappy marriage that was killing me emotionally and draining my ability to even be a mom to my daughter. Being the product of multiple divorces, I vowed to myself that "divorce" would not enter the vocabulary of my life.

Lucky for me, "survival" IS in my vocabulary; survival as an individual and as a mom. For many years, faced with a petulant and uncompromising spouse, I denied myself in lieu of my marriage. I was willing to make the necessary sacrifices so there would be no trouble in my house and my daughter would have the benefit of growing up with 2 parents. I was there for her in every way physically, but I had sunk so low into my depression that I could not provide anything to her emotionally.

On an amazing day of clarity I was finally able to see what I was really giving my daughter by choosing to stay in my marriage. By my example, I was teaching her that a wife and mother is not a real person and that she is only there to give to her children and husband, with no legitimate needs of her own. How had I, an independent career woman, with a life full of friends, and years of travel and adventure under my belt, sunk to this level?!? I was drowning because I was so committed to being a dedicated mom, at the expense of everything else that made me the person that I am. I was cheating my daughter of "ME".

The most selfish thing I ever did was to divorce my husband. My daughter now has 2 parents, separately. I don't get to spend as much time with my daughter as I used to, but when she's with me, I'm present and thrilled to be there. She gets to see the funny, weird, crazy, smart, adventurous part of me that never existed in her father's house. My daughter knows who her mom is; she knows what being a mom means and she knows what being her mom means to me. From my perspective, you've got to be a real person if you want to be a real mom.

P.S. This DOES NOT mean that I think Sarah Palin is a good choice as McCain's VP. Regardless of the choices that she's making I think McCain's choice is an insult to women everywhere. If he thinks we'll jump off the fence just because his running mate sports the same genitalia as the rest of us gals, he's got another thing coming!

I think many of these comments on the site are shocking, especially coming from educated "urban mamas." I think that if Sarah Palin's policies were different, she would be hailed as the second coming. The best way to fight for family friendly government policies is to put a mother of five in the White House... Her children, if elected, will have opportunties that they NEVER would otherwise have including a top notch education, foreign travel, and the best therapists for baby Trig. Is it not possible for a father to give as much love and guidance to his children as a mother? I am a full-time working physician who has a stay at home husband and I think my children benefit incredibly by having two parents who are parenting equals. The husbands of the "urban mamas" in my neighborhood take very little responsibility for their children and the running of the household.

If you think the health care of your family will be improved by Barack Obama, think again. A national health care system will make this country look like Canada, or the VA system. Only the free market and less regulation will make health care affordable.

Don't you think a woman in the White House with five children would be better for family friendly work policies than anyone else? Really, think about it....

I think many of these comments on the site are shocking, especially coming from educated "urban mamas." I think that if Sarah Palin's policies were different, she would be hailed as the second coming. The best way to fight for family friendly government policies is to put a mother of five in the White House... Her children, if elected, will have opportunties that they NEVER would otherwise have including a top notch education, foreign travel, and the best therapists for baby Trig. Is it not possible for a father to give as much love and guidance to his children as a mother? I am a full-time working physician who has a stay at home husband and I think my children benefit incredibly by having two parents who are parenting equals. The husbands of the "urban mamas" in my neighborhood take very little responsibility for their children and the running of the household.

If you think the health care of your family will be improved by Barack Obama, think again. A national health care system will make this country look like Canada, or the VA system. Only the free market and less regulation will make health care affordable.

Don't you think a woman in the White House with five children would be better for family friendly work policies than anyone else? Really, think about it....

Heidi, the VA has outranked care private hospitals for over six years now. Here's an old link, but the results repeated themselves last year as well:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/19/AR2006011902936.html

So yeah, if Obama's health plan makes us "like Canada, or the VA system", bring it on!

For the record:

1.I work for the VA and am very proud of the care that the veterans are provided, especially here in Portland(Walter Reed is DOD, NOT VA, just so I don't get a barrage of links about the scandals there). I can't speak for everywhere else. No, it is not perfect, but neither is private sector care. At least Canada and the VA don't bankrupt sick people.

2. Health care cannot truly be a "free market". Our U.S. health care system (or lack thereof) as it stands has no economies of scale and the demand for health care is also induced by the supplier(physicians), not just the consumer. I'm not an economist, but I know that these two conditions make it extremely difficult for a market to function unfettered. Getting health care is not as simple as buying a car or a television.

3. I'm totally unenthused by Obama (I don't believe "Change" or "Hope" are real plans or strategies), I was hoping for Hillary. Really, if Palin wasn't so anti-choice and anti-gay, I'd be intrigued by the McCain-Palin ticket. Under other circumstances, I'd be thrilled by a mother of five as the potential VP...but Palin stands for all that I hate about the right, and come November I will vote as a loyal Democrat, albeit grudgingly.

Great post. Insightful reading for a rainy day here in OKC. I used to be a corporate working mom and after my department was downsized, I opted to work from home instead of searching for a new corporate marketing gig so I could be a more hands-on mom. My DH was a stay-at-home dad with our 3 kids (then 8, 6 and 1) when we switched back to a more traditional role. I actually don't feel that much less "guilt" working from home than I did being gone from 8 to 5 (though even then I worked 2 days from home as a non-negotiable point of my hire). My toddler knows I spend a great deal of time on my laptop, but I still get to play with him, supervise him and stop at a moment's notice to get him more milk or wipe his bottom or give him hugs. So, I say let go of the guilt. Most moms know when they need a break and kids need to learn that moms aren't their servants and that parents need personal time for fulfillment, too, whether that is squeezing in work or a hobby or working out.

I totally agree with Deborah that Sarah Palin is being incredibly selfish. Any mother who would knowingly thrust her pregnant teenage daughter into the national media spotlight is either not thinking clearly, or is incredibly self-centered. I cannot believe she would think her daughter would welcome this kind of attention. And like others have stated, there are MANY men (my husband included) who have had to compromise on their careers to have a better family life. So it's not just women. I think personally that this was the wrong time in her life to try for a national office, considering she has a special needs newborn baby and a pregnant teenage daughter. My opinion is that she should have politely declined.

Re: Heidi

The point is, her policies aren't different and I wouldn't vote for her on the basis of being a working mother of five any more than I would vote for Biden on the basis of him being a long-time single father of two. As you pointed out, I am educated and that education has taught me to vote based on a candidate's record, principals and policies, not their gender or the size of their brood. I support nothing that Palin stands for. The fact that she is female is not a selling point for me, rather it just adds insult to injury. At the end of the day, everyone knows they would never have picked a male candidate with her lack of qualifications or her extremist stance, so she is to me, merely a slap in the face of anyone who believes in true equality. As an educated woman, I find it degrading and insulting to be pandered to in this way; with the obvious assumption that I am too stupid to do my homework or so lacking in integrity and autonomy that i will vote with my genitalia and not my brain.

Regarding Sarah Palin's husband as primary care provider: when she was elected Governor of Alaska she assumed he would quit his job and stay home with the kids. According to those close to her she didn't ask him about his thoughts on the matter, she just assumed he would. Well, turns out the guy really wasn't the stay at home type of guy Sarah though he was. So how can we assume he will stay at home with the kids once in the WH?

Yes, off topic, but we can't assume that any one Mom or Dad wants to stay at home. I personally would go crazy as much as I love my toddler. I prefer the 'balance' of work away from home and Mom.

I've been struggling a lot lately with just this question, and while I'm only just starting to work toward behaving according to my latest realization, I thought I'd share it in any case. It's not unrelated to Rebecca's thoughts on "healthy selfish" vs. "selfish selfish"--though we could debate the best terminology. Here is my starting guideline for myself as I'm trying to assess the activities that steal me away from my toddler during the day: Is what I'm thinking about doing something that I'd encourage my child (or my partner, or a mama or papa friend) to do to take good care of himself? I'd put exercising, getting enough (hah!) sleep, taking some time to regroup, nurturing important relationships, etc., in this category. Checking my e-mail and various Web sites obsessively throughout the day, as I've been doing lately, not so much. I think I'll have at least as much time for my little guy and I'll be happier and more centered if I can substitute more of the first category of activities for the second. Which is why I'm going to sign off now and get ready for bed, without going back and trying to pretty up my post(isn't easy for me!).

And in my haste, what I forgot to say is this: In striving to incorporate in my days the things I would encourage in others as good self-care, I expect that I'll not only be a better mother to my son and a better partner to my honey, but I'll also be modeling good self-care for my son--which, in my mind, would be an invaluable gift to give him. Now we'll just have to see if I can swing the right kind of "selfishness"!

well, i just say here here to e.'s and Deborah's posts and the others like them, as well as the ones who point out that Sarah Palin's life-stage is not a good one to be a vice president. Thanks for pointing out the basic biology of it for a woman, it doesn't behoove anyone to deny that. Different jobs have different demands. I don't think any of us can really imagine what demands are made on people at that level. Of course, McCain, if elected, can choose to give her no power to do anything, and that might solve her problems as far as how to raise her family. And, not everyone has the ability to balance work and family as well as others. So far Palin hasn't shown that she's all that great at it. Her family seems to have had a hard time since she took on the job of governor, surely a lot more demanding than being mayor of Wasilla.

As far as selfish vs. self care, my husband and I talk about this a lot, because both of us have parents who cared much more about indulging themselves than they did about nurturing their kids. And, you could say you get what you pay for. We spend stressful time with the parents under duress, and can't wait to get out of there. And they yearn for relationships with their kids they will never have.

It is a topic that lends itself to a lot of discussion, but I think a good thing to realize, is how your child sees you. You are 100% of that child's world, for quite a time. During that time, be that. You won't regret it. When they are 15, 30, 40, 50, you won't be thinking about how you wish you hadn't insisted on taking your kids to things that were about you, or taking a you-day every week. You can think about when you walked down to the park with your child and watched her discover petals on a flower, or how you worked together on some project, and you will be close to your children still, and be saying wow, what a special time in my life it was to be so intimately involved with a tender, growing, evolving, magical little person.

I think the part of this whole discussion that makes it hard for me to access are the pieces about class and economics. I choose not to discuss the race piece because there are much more articulate folks in the blogosphere talking about that piece of the Palin debate. I didn't have a choice about staying home with a child. We don't have paid parental leave. And if we did it would than likely be offered to parents at the top of the economic food chain, not-so-much your call center workers, admins, retail workers who reside at the bottom and most of whom have yet to realize the flex schedules, nursing rooms and on-site child care that a select number of parents (too few) enjoy now.

As someone of who often had to choose between paying child care so I could work or the rent on time, it feels like the way that most parents live is lost amongst the voices of the mamas with more resources that may end up on either side of this debate.

I guess the larger question is what are we doing to make sure that EVERY mama gets to choose whether to stay home with a child, disabled or not, pregnant or not?

I'm a working dad. A CEO. I didn't (and wouldn't) go back to work just 3 days after the birth of a child despite having a high-profile, demanding job. My wife and my newborn needed me and I needed them. They deserve so much more than 3 days.

I cannot judge Sarah Palin's decision, everyone has their own situation and sometimes circumstances force tough decisions. In general though, a mum (or dad) going back to work 3 days after the birth of a special needs child doesn't sit well with me. I do not see it as laudable or an example to be lauded or emulated. Rather I see it as a sad indictment of our society.

Derek

I raised 4 children - 3 daughters and the youngest a son and I realized upon the first birth that my life was no longer my own. That decision I made to bring a life into this world forever superceded the 'me' factor because you can't retire from motherhood you have to die out of motherhood. Once a mother - forever a mother. When they are young they are heavy on your lap and as they get older they are heavy on your heart but they NEVER go away the relationship with them just matures.

When my children were younger, I found ways of entertainment that included them, places they could go as well and as they grew older and more able to fend for themselves my life evolved into more events that did not necessitate their inclusion.

Motherhood is a serious event and most of us have children for the wrong reasons not realizing the impact our every decision has on their lives and the lives of those they will encounter.

Selfish parents usually raise selfish children and parenting must be taken more seriously. You can't have a child without thinking about the impact they will have on your life.

Children really do change your life because from the moment of their birth until your death - you are a parent and there is no greater responsibility in this world - for we are raising the next generation - the persons who will ultimately be responsible for us, the laws of the land, the doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers for generations to come and with that mindset alone - parenting must be taken seriously.

If you can't sacrifice your life to them - then at the very least don't sacrifice their happiness for yours.

To Nanismami: i'm going through a similar thing now; i have a daughter who is smart, funny, very young,, (5 going on 35), WAY TOO observant for her years and who thinks critically. i have a husband who (among other things) is a miser and has a pattern of sabotaging things i do; he is tremendously insecure, even as he was/used to be (and perhaps still is) very proud of having an overly (for this community ) accomplished wife. because my daughter adores her father, and if i were to leave i would NEVER go without her (i would go back home to the US; we live in Australia and my husband could never function in the US,) i feel condemned to remain in this horrid marriage.

i look at myself these days and wonder was it selfish for us to have had her: from the time i was 13 i was told that i would never be able to have my own child. thanks to tenacity and technology, thirty five years later, there she was, as perfect as only an accomplished dream could be. it cost me my own health but that seemed a small price to pay. but was it selfish? to bring a baby into the world and be so old, perhaps too old to really keep up with her and even to live long enough to take care of her.

i grew up virtually motherless, as my mother was first an abused captive in a crushing marriage then an immobile, virtually uncommunicative invalid for more than a decade before she finally died. i fear this for my daughter; so much so that i write daily journals for her on the topics older girls and young women want answers for, answers from their mothers. i am terrified that i won't be there for the moments she will need me most but i am confident that the universe will throw surrogate moms in her way, as happened with me.

i gave up my home country, my career in political analysis, international work with refugees, war criminals and human rights to marry a man who seemed to be kind and generous and deserving of me. selfishly, i wanted stability and to be cherished...didn't happen. now i watch myself sinking into a mire of devaluation and think -- no, know -- this is not what i want to show my daughter.

i watched sarah palin, the kind of woman i used to envy because of her ability to drop babies, almost on a whim and i didn't see selfishness; instead i saw greed and a craving for power. it's there in the way she uses her little baby and her teenaged daughter: her baby is brought out like a show pony these days; her daughter was not properly taught and watched and protected -- by her mother -- but now she is an ideal walking set of talking points for the agenda of the "Base," the most dangerous members of the republican party (INMHO). These are the folks who have given us 'family values', pro-life, pro-gun, anti-tax, racist and separatist rhetoric and policies. when the party was ruled by men such as newt gingrich, their family values were empty -- he dumped his first wife while she was in hospital for cancer surgery in favor of the affair he was having with a staff member. another sterling example of their exemplary family values was the Starr Report; Larry Flynt would have been proud of its pornographic tone. imagine, an appointee of the US Congress creating pornography -- on the public dime.

Their family values outed Amy Carter as a lesbian; bullied an adolescent Chelsea as ugly, a buck-toothed bluestocking.

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