5.04.2007

I'm Awesome (But Then You Already Knew That...)

This last week or so there's been quite swell of "I am a Good Parent" declarations going on, all triggered by Rebecca of Girl's Gone Child who suggests that this new trend of confessing one's self as a bad parent is the new form of saying "I'm so fat."

Interesting. And she's definitely onto something. But what? Like Her Bad Mother, I am very aware that most of my "parenting" posts relate tales of chaos and questionable mommy skills. Even in this last one here, I am regaling you with how I did not leave the house with my children as a well-prepared mommy of two should.

Let me tell you a secret. I did not get my kid to eat cheetos off the floor.

Also. There was a teeny weeny plastic dinosaur in my purse, which Big Boy played with quite nicely for a while.

Also. Although I had no snacks, we did have a couple of singles and there was a vending machine. Filled with candy and granola bars. I opted for the granola bars, though he begged begged begged for chocolate. And he had water to drink, not pop.

Also. In moments where he was really bored, when we were waiting for paperwork and all that other time-consuming stuff that happens when you spend your life away in one morning, I found a pen and paper, and we worked on his letters, and drew pictures and made up little stories and rhymes.

Why did I not tell you these things? Why did I lie? Well, as HBM says, it's not as much fun. Good is. Well. Good. Nice. But I can't get my comic jollies off it. Also. I'm not so much interested in telling you the minutiae of my day as much as picking a moment, and telling a story. And you know I like to tell a story with a bit of comic effect, normally with myself as the butt of the joke. I select some details, omit others, and even fabricate a touch here and there for the sake of literary effect. (yes. I said literary. shut up).

(see? I just did it, up there. in that parentheses. it's a rhetorical tactic--perhaps an overplayed one, but I like it, so bugger off!)

Rebecca is right to point out that this constant self-deprecation needs to be looked at a bit more carefully. On one level I see it as a kind of social gesture that says "I am not a competimommy! I do not judge! I am crap too. See see! Let's be friends!" There's definitely a specifically feminine discourse mode going on here, imbued with self-deprecation tactics in order to show comradeship and community. And in this way, I think it is actually extremely valuable. It's part of our community-building schtick. It's a form of rhetoric. It's a way we tell stories and engage one another. And within this context, I would even say it's empowering.

Stories.

Fiction?

HBM asks: "Are you as good or as bad or as in-between in real life as you portray yourself on your blog? How much of your 'self' IS portrayed - revealed? exposed? - on your blog? Do you lay it all bare, and if not - what aren't you telling us?"

I know that HBM is a Good Parent. Even through her writing. Especially through her writing. Would we be reading her if we really thought she was a seriously Bad Mother. Course Not.

I also know you are an excellent parent, and you are, and you are, and you are. And I am pretty certain that you folks know I also rockit in the parenting department (as does my partner in crime, DrMrGinga).

What am I not telling you? The stuff I think is boring. The details that can make a post spiral out of control and lose focus. You lot have no clue how long it can take me to write some of these things sometimes. But I carefully cultivate an off-the-cuff style so it looks effortless and conversational (I hope). And I also omit the stuff that is too private, and that extends beyond me (which is a lot, also).

How much of my "self" is portrayed or exposed? Everything and nothing. Most people who know me say that this blog reflects my personality to a T. I've done well in creating an authentic "voice." On the other hand, there is so, so much that is not written. Sometimes because I simply don't have time to sit and process with words, and sometimes because to tell would be to tell too much, and to make this blog into a more confessional or journal form that I don't really want it to be. This is not therapy for me. And although I value all of you, when I need help or support I look to those immediately around me. Ones I can physically grab in my vice-like grip.

So do you know me? Yes. And I know myself better through writing here. But I am edited. And tweaked. Just like you. Just as we are, everyday. I really don't know what authenticity is. It's one of those concepts that crumbles as soon as I attempt to define it. But I will ask--Is saying we're a fiction the same thing as saying we're false?

Note: While I am on another metablogging tangent, you should know that HBM and I have been devising ways to shift BlogRhet to the next phase. We want to make it a group blog where some "thinky" writing can take place--not necessarily academic, but certainly more research and exploration in orientation. If you are interesting in collaborating with us on this project, shoot me an email at gingajoy [at] gmail.com. Please! If you've already stated interest, expect to hear from us soon.

28 comments:

Her Bad Mother said...

Does saying we're fiction mean that we're false?

PERFECTLY asked. I keep thinking of it in terms of authenticity. Bringing TEXTUALITY into the equation opens up all variety of new avenue of consideration.

I think that maybe this should be a theme for a round of guest posts at BR - if we have any takers! (hint, hint, commenters!!)

slouching mom said...

Don't we contruct ourselves just as much when we're in a social setting as when we're blogging? Of course we do. I find the question of our authenticity impossible to answer. There is an element of construction every time we are presenting ourselves to even one other person.

slouching mom said...

oops. construct.

toyfoto said...

This is what I tried to get at with my response. I wish I could be as eloquent! Bravo!

bubandpie said...

So funny. Karen at Needs New Batteries did an Onion-style news report (I love those!) in response to Rebecca's challenge and it was funny too. Breaking news! Mother buys granola instead of chocolate for whining offspring!

Every time the whole caveat lector thing comes up I always get a bit impatient. Like Slouching Mom said, it's not as if the in-person self is true and authentic - we're always constructing ourselves, and recognizing that in others, too. A reader who needs to be told that HBM is not really a bad mother is a reader who is sorely lacking in imagination (and empathy).

Miscellaneous-Mum said...

I think when we're blogging we scaffold what's relateable about our lives with other mother's and then go knock it down sometimes because we're shy/embarassed/angry (pick an adjective).

Why? Because I guess we don't want to set our selves up as 'experts'; but then by the same token we do want the occasional pat on the back and a comforting "you're doing great".

Miscellaneous-Mum said...

p.s I'd love to help out with BlogRhet (sorry, couldn't find your email link, so posted here)

Motherhood Uncensored said...

Personally, the bad stuff is more interesting.

We all know we love our kids. There's only so many ways to say it.

But the poop in the tub, and the pubic hair? I can ride those as posts for days.

Blog Antagonist said...

If you are looking for a non-degreed "common man" type stay at home parent for your esteemed panel...I'd uh...gulp...like to get involved. Couldn't find an email link. blog_antagonist@yahoo.com

karrie said...

I see her point, and I have wondered at times while surfing around how much of the Bad Parent angle is exaggeration. OTOH, I love a good story, so if it makes me laugh or think, I'll forgive the author a little embellishment.

Some days I'm a good parent, other days, I'm not. Ditto some days I'm a very kind person, and other days, well, I'm a snarky cunt.

My blog is such a small slice of who I am as a person, but I think it is honest.

flutter said...

I think that the knowing of goodness, makes the mishaps all the more endearing. Or something. I might not be making any sense, but I mean every word!

my stream said...

Good question, Joy.

I don't think it means we're false, I think it means that we're tapping into the side of ourselves that wants to present ourselves to others in a certain way. Like -- when I meet someone for the firs time, I show them a select bit of who I am. A few visits in, however, and they get the real me.

We're constantly changing and evolving, as people, as selves. How I'm coming off on my blog on one day may not be the same as another, but they're all facets of me.

I hope this makes sense. I'm a bit fuzzy today.

mamatulip said...

Sorry, that was me above.

Mimi said...

I am an AWESOME parent. Obviously: this much guilt and self-reflexivity must mean I CARE, right?

Right?

:-)

Self-deprecation is a means of rhetorical hair-letting-down, something for which opportunities IRL have been sorely lacking. A blogging niche, if you will.

And where's my essay comments, dammit? :-)

Sandra said...

Over at HBM's I commented that I am a what-you-see-is-what-you get blogger. And in many ways that is true but reading how you presented the question and some of your commenters responded challenged me - of course we all construct ourselves in different settings. And I am the queen of self-deprecation in person and online. Alll verrrry interesting dear Joy,

Mary G said...

I thought I had your email, but I guess not. I would love to be in on Blog Rhet.

Karen said...

Well, yes, I quite agree. The reason I went all Onionesque on this particular topic is that I really felt that just describing my good motherness was fantastically boring in writing (though awesome to behold I am assured by fans everywhere...). As I remember from a poetry class
"Miserable, wicked me, how interesting I am..."

mo-wo said...

I tend to say that while I never misrepresent myself 'online' ... Mo-Wo and ME are not perfectly interchangable.

(doesn't it sound so 1998 to call it 'online'?)

I reported at HBM
".... I think we would be kidding ourselves to not think that part of the allure of mother-blogging-interchange is the confessionals; the exchange of errors that is so desireable for our survival as mothers."

Gunfighter said...

Are we authentic?

As authentic as we are in the flesh, I would say.

Everyone has things that they show you and things that they don't.

I guess the hope is that there is more good than bad?

What do I know? I'm just a guy that works ith guns.

Kevin Charnas said...

I love your contemplation, my friend.

And even though I'm naked right now, I am eating boring ole oatmeal.

Mom101 said...

Have I told you lately that I lurve you?

I agree, the character of blog protagonist Gingajoy is not the same as real life Joy. We need enough conflict and tension and missteps to keep us interested here. But that's not the same as beating yourself up.

Bad parent is interesting. But it can't be the whole story...

ozma said...

I'm fiction all the way, baby.

I can't even tell it like it is. I couldn't if I wanted to. Why? For one thing, I'm not sure how it is. For another, those posts write themselves and I go along for the ride. Finally, I'm constantly in the grip of the most boring personal anguish and it's virtually impossible to spin that well.

Sometimes I resent this, just as I sometimes resent that I can't be a complete freak and be utterly adored by all of humanity at the same time. Why CAN'T I reveal my mind-numbing torment on a daily basis and still be entertaining to you people? But then I realize it's not your fault, I just lack the talent for that.


As far as I can tell, people don't TRULY portray themselves as bad parents. Bad parents beat their children and belittle them or do other bad parent things that we tell ourselves we will never do (and I hope we never do do them). Rather, we portray ourselves as rebels against an arbitrary and oppressive set of social norms. These pose as sensible. They are about health! About edification! About growth and improvement! Yet, they are also impossible to meet, total in scope and relatively insignificant--while being couched as critical and all-important. So when we say we violate them it only sounds like bad parenting.

something blue said...

I sometimes forget that my blog is not three-dimensional. That always leads me to believe that I will be misunderstood and then I feel like I need to justify and explain the things I write.

It's easier to relate to self-deprecation than to boasting, even when it's an obvious and honest statement.

Jess Paar said...

Dear Joy,
Please forgive me for posting here but I was unable to locate an email for you and wanted to be certain you didn’t miss this event. I’m writing to invite to you to join a small group of bloggers who will interview leading experts and advocates in the field of Parenting infants and young children: Steven F Nemerson, MD who serves as a Chair of the Section of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at Temple University Children's Medical Center will be available to answer questions and discuss critical health issues facing parents of young children. With him will be Stacy Beller Stryer, MD (http://www.revolutionhealth.com/articles/?id=article.2006-11-27.1197046880) of FindingCures, Inc an organization dedicated to researching the health education and advocacy component of clinical studies.

Your blog was of particular interest because of its wit and energy. Your questions will reflect things that are important to parents and others who have similar parenting questions.

This news conference is sponsored by Revolution Health (http://www.revolutionhealth.com), the new health resource website founded by Steve Case, partly because of the difficulties he and his family faced during his brother’s battle with brain cancer. He wants to make it a bit easier for those who follow by providing tools to support both patient and family. I’m working with them to support the work of bloggers who follow health issues. One way we’re doing that is by conducting these topical briefings, just for the blogger universe. Revolution wants to highlight its ability to aggregate and share critical information on health issues by providing new information and contact with health leaders in relevant disease communities.

One great asset of the site is its population of experts, including those on parenting and pregnancy, drawn from major academic institutions across the country, including Columbia, Harvard, Cleveland Clinic, the University of California at San Francisco, the University of Southern California, Johns Hopkins, Memorial Sloan Kettering, MD Anderson, and more. We invited one of those experts in allergies, along with a leading advocate to participate in a conference call/news conference to answer blogger questions. We’d like you to join us. The call is informational; you are under no obligation to write about the conversation unless you find it useful.

Here are the details:
WHAT: Conference call/Q&A with experts on Parenting infants and young children
WHEN Wednesday, May 9 from 7-8pm EDT (4-5 PDT)
WHERE: Conference Call – number to be provided
WHY: To answer questions on the issue – clinical, research and other areas

We will also provide audio after the conference if you would like to post a link to that as well.

Please RSVP, either by email or telephone (see below) when you know if this is an opportunity that interests you.

With best wishes,

Jessica Paar for Revolution Health

Email: jess@echoditto.com
Phone: 202.449.5644 ext. 110

Redneck Mommy said...

I had something fiesty and eloquent to post, but damnit, my dog just barfed on the floor and I have to pee.

Let me just say, I believe my blog personality to be a true reflection of who I am as a person and as a parent, but it is indeed an edited reflection.

I'm wordy enough with out the edits, and not near as interesting without.

Now I must waddle off...

Mama Luxe said...

Spot on!

And a lot of times commenters (and I am sure I am guilty of this as a commenter, too...maybe even RIGHT NOW) don't seem to get that. You write about being frustrated, maybe embellish a little to make it more readable, and suddenly everyone wants to know if they should call the suicide hotline.

At any rate, the "bad" stuff is usually funnier or more poignant than the "good" stuff. If I wanted a load of treacle, I would go to Hallmark, right?

The "news" does this too (if it bleeds, it leads)...the difference being, I suppose, that they are supposed to have a sacred duty whereas we are just blogging.

Lisa said...

I agree with alot of the other comments. Reading the bad stuff is just more interesting, everybody likes controversy, which exactly why I created the "Real Moms" Message board. (I'll omit the link as to prevent a spam type of feel to this comment, but if interested, the link is on my blog).

One of my first posts was a flip out that my son had emptied the contents of my fridge on my kitchen floor for the 3rd time in less than a month. I did not embellish the fact that I screamed and yelled and done everything short of smacking him silly as punishment. And oy, just the mention of spanking and blame, I was bombarded with comments of how much of a bad mother I am.

But honestly, who can say that they do everything right? When we read about how you fed your child cheetos off the floor, it makes *us* feel better too. (even if it was embellished, although, I will admit that I was somewhat disappointed to read that some of those moments are fictional...), but either way, any real mom can relate, because we've ALL wanted to say or do some of these things. We know how it is to be stuck in a car with screaming children, or have to find some unusual way to keep them entertained if only for 10 minutes. Reading that on other blogs, makes us feel more normal! It's the bad in us that makes us look good.

Sheri said...

god, i'm so behind in my blog reading. so, so embarrassingly behind. but whatever. i love this post and all that you say about blogging and its construction and deconstruction. i even marked it so someday i can respond. but at this rate, it seems it will be a "year anniversary of this post" response.