The Loh Down on doing your best

I told you when I posted about Sandra Tsing Loh’s divorce article in The Atlantic that her perspective is interesting and intriguing. Much more so than Waldman’s (or any of the other so-called bad parents out there). Now that she’s posting about the difficulty of being a real parent in the era where all decisions seem judged crucial and the bevvy of “bad parents” are a disappointing group of flawed but decent parents who think it’s somehow funny to claim they’re failing while the rest of us struggle to make it through each day with our selfhood intact.

“Today’s Professional Class mothers are expected to have, above all, the personalities—and the creative aspirations—of elementary-school teachers. But if you’re like me, you can’t compete with those seasoned professionals for whom child education is an enthusiastic vocation.” Bless you for saying it. I love my child, I’ve said before, but I’m totally not cut out for this work. I’m doing a kick-ass goddamned great job, but this is not the job I want. Thank you for voicing what I’ve been desperately hoping is true: that smart, overeducated, middle class women who’ve hacked their way through the jungle of independence and career to carve themselves a creative niche make for depressed parents.

My favorite quote from the Loh article, in which she returns to second-wave feminism to decide who and what she is in this 1950s MadMen clusterf*ck of a society we find ourselves in:

“The 21st-century Creative Class mom’s life is actually far worse than that of her 1950s counterpart.”

She says in one sentence what I tried to say here and here and here, and Susan Maushart says in The Mask of Motherhood, a text I recommend to all families with or about to have a new baby.

And that prescient, erudite brevity is why Loh gets paid the big bucks.

8 thoughts on “The Loh Down on doing your best

  1. I totally think we are to rough on ourselves and each other when it comes to this whole mothering business. We need to cut ourselves slack. Pudding Day Every Day!

    • Pudding Day every day, indeed. Amen and halleluia. Gotta go make some more pudding. ;-)
      After Loh was excoriated by people who demanded who the hell are these people, btw) that she stay in her marriage for the sake of her children, I was shocked to find that her article made me want to consider divorce in a whole new way (mostly in the way I consider a trip to Hawaii or a long long long bubble bath…luxuries I don’t really have time or energy for). And this article on parenting came after a week of sunshine-y pollyannas proclaiming how wonderful children are, and I found the final line, about how making it through the day without sticking your head in the oven is a victory a *lot* more human and real and relateable. Is relateable a word?

  2. I think it’s probably worse, as you say, precisely because (ironically) there’s so much more leisure time, in a way, that parents have upped the competition stakes to unbelievable levels, as has the media in trumpeting all the things that you’re doing wrong. Back in the 1950s, parents could throw the Dr. Spock book across the room and ignore it, but there’s no escaping the chorus of disapproving voices on the interwebs.

    • J, you and I could go on and on on that one. Give us one…art time or bass time.
      Undine, I have mastered the escape of disapproving voices, in part because I’m much enamoured of the delete button. Seriously, I learned pretty early in this game that you just avoid the people who disagree. (Not in politics, for I feel that is one of the problems with out society in that there are too many filters and it’s too easy to ignore logical arguments from the other side.) But seriously, when my physician or my friends disagree with a fundamental piece of my parenting vision, I change doctors or friends. Same thing at work and in academia—I avoid the people who disapprove of my perspective. I almost got into it with someone at a conference who argued that literary criticism is pointless and over, and that academics use all the “wrong” philosophies with which to interpret texts. I just folded up my Foucault and shopped it to another.
      Your point, however, is exactly what shocked my about the blowback at Tsing-Loh after her divorce article. It seems like people are doing a pretty miserable job of just getting through life…why spend so much energy disapproving of others? bring that energy to the soup kitchen, for heaven’s sake, and put your moral outrage to work serving food. People have too much leisure time. How much less time was there for shouting down other people when we had to wash dishes by hand? (maybe that’s why I’m so well adjusted…ha!)

  3. “smart, overeducated, middle class women who’ve hacked their way through the jungle of independence and career to carve themselves a creative niche make for depressed parents.”

    – word, indeed!

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