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Defining passion, as a mother
May 27, 2009 8:38 AM   Subscribe

"Yes, I have four children. Four children with whom I spend a good part of every day: bathing them, combing their hair, sitting with them while they do their homework, holding them while they weep their tragic tears. But I'm not in love with any of them. I am in love with my husband."
posted by Brandon Blatcher (182 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damn, this is an old article.
posted by billysumday at 8:40 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


She's sounds like the most selfish altruistic person I've read about in the four years since this article was first published.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:44 AM on May 27, 2009


In re her husband:

he knows far too much about Klingon politics

Looks like I love him more than her kids, too! Too bad for you, noisy youthful suckaaaaaaas
posted by Greg Nog at 8:45 AM on May 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


It is his face that inspires in me paroxysms of infatuated devotion.

Sub to his dom, maybe?
posted by davejay at 8:47 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wikipedia section
posted by Joe Beese at 8:50 AM on May 27, 2009


he knows far too much about Klingon politics

Have you ever noticed that the Klingons are all speaking Unix?

"Grep ls awk chmod."
"Mknod ksh tar imap."
"Wall fsck yacc!"
posted by netbros at 8:51 AM on May 27, 2009 [66 favorites]


"This could fill me with smug well-being"...

and, it did...
posted by HuronBob at 8:51 AM on May 27, 2009 [12 favorites]


An interesting update to this story would be that the Waldmans are now divorced, the husband retaining sole custody of the children due to this very essay.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:51 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I really would prefer not to be asked to think about the "torrid," Good Vibrations-tastic sex life of a fugly, self-obsessed literary super couple.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:52 AM on May 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Well, at least I learned from this that Michael Chabon is a Star Trek fan.
posted by Prospero at 8:52 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


An interesting update to this story would be that the Waldmans are now divorced, the husband retaining sole custody of the children due to this very essay.

But that right there almost makes it worth it. (Reading the article, that is. I'm not saying I'm happy they fell out of love and are no longer having torrid Good Vibrations sex. Although if it means that shit like this doesn't get published in the NYT, then okay.)
posted by mudpuppie at 8:53 AM on May 27, 2009


Have you ever noticed that the Klingons are all speaking Unix?

"Grep ls awk chmod."
"Mknod ksh tar imap."
"Wall fsck yacc!"


The most effective response to all of these is

chown -R us ./*base

(see also: chmod +rwx yourmom )
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:54 AM on May 27, 2009 [25 favorites]


Broadcasting this kind of sentiment seems weird and misguided to me. Is she hoping to inspire women with children to not forget to be madly in love with their husbands? If so, no amount of external pressure can make that happen as love/infatuation doesn't work by convincing. Otherwise, what is her motivation here? Just to let the world know she's a kinky mom? Great. Here's an "I'm a Kinky Mom" bumper sticker and matching shirt pin for you.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:56 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


*changes tense of last comment to conditional; vows to read more carefully*
posted by mudpuppie at 8:56 AM on May 27, 2009


Related: Ayelet Waldman on Fresh Air, May 5th. She discusses not only this article but also her career as a novelist, living with bipolar disorder, and choosing an abortion after learning her fetus/unborn child would likely be severely fucked up. It's a fascinating, funny, and very real interview. Her life is really an open book.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 8:57 AM on May 27, 2009


This is interesting. I've been thinking in the last couple of days about why I'm never going to have kids. One of the reasons (among many, many others) is that I don't think I could ever have my children be the center of my life - I'm passionately in love with my partner and I really enjoy the way my life is now, and I can't imagine that having kids would so change the way I think about life. It's one of those situations where I look at people who used to be like me and now have kids, and they talk about how having kids totally changed their priorities and they're so happy and I just think... they're clearly not lying about being happy, but I couldn't in a million years imagine that happening to me.

I think some of that comes from my own childhood; I was raised by a single mother who very much put me at the forefront of her life. I was the center of her world, and she sacrificed a lot to make me happy and healthy and to make sure I had a lot of great opportunities. She set the bar for parenthood really high, and she never seemed to resent me. She never said that she wished she hadn't had me.

And I've always put that down as one more reason on the Why I Shouldn't Have Kids list, but maybe it doesn't need to be there. Hmm. (That list is about 200 miles long, though, so the removal of one item isn't going to make a huge difference.)
posted by marginaliana at 8:57 AM on May 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


This couple is an exception, and good for them. (It is too bad that she is so snarky in her essay, talking about being "a Bad Mom" when she is actually bragging. It makes it that much harder to resist snarkiness here.)

It is true that once a couple has children, their emotional satisfaction drops along with their frequency of sexual interactions. Countless studies affirm this, not that I need a study to confirm this sad fact of life.
posted by kozad at 8:58 AM on May 27, 2009


If she were my mom, on Mother's Day I would have brought her a breakfast-in-bed consisting of a wrinkled, filthy print-out of that article attached to a black, charred piece of toast with a dull knife.
posted by chococat at 9:01 AM on May 27, 2009 [14 favorites]


Your child rearing practices do not interest me. Your sex life does not interest me. Your affluent, metropolitan New York Times Style Section lifestyle does not interest me.

That is all.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:02 AM on May 27, 2009 [34 favorites]


I really would prefer not to be asked to think about the "torrid," Good Vibrations-tastic sex life of a fugly, self-obsessed literary super couple.

The Lovers (Warning: Christopher Walken and roast goat meat involved)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:02 AM on May 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


An interesting update to this story would be that the Waldmans are now divorced

I think this is intended as a hypothetical, "wouldn't it be interesting if..."?

A bit odd to see a 4 year old article on Metafilter, even as creepy and TMI as it is. Here's a recent update on the author and her new book Bad Mother. She seems to be making a career out of being a contrarian mommy.
posted by Nelson at 9:03 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


[L]ook, she likes to fuck her husband, Michael Chabon, a lot, and playing with her kids she thinks is okay and everything, but not really in the same league as fucking her husband, Michael Chabon, and if she feels that way, that's her right. She likes to fuck Michael Chabon, period, deal with it. -- Gawker
posted by brain_drain at 9:04 AM on May 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm not in love with the Times' Modern Love column. Irritating writers + embarrassing confessionals = massive bore.
posted by grounded at 9:07 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Related: Ayelet Waldman on Fresh Air, May 5th.

Thanks for adding that, it's where I first learned of this article.

I posted it because it's something I've seen in couples around, the elevation of the child or children to the detrainment of the marriage. It's a delicate balance and interesting to see how other parents manage it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:09 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Waldman has a history of TMI when writing about her family life in Salon, not to mention the fact that she basically humiliates her children on a regular basis in her articles (openly discussing the hope that one of her children turns out to be gay to ensure she'll be the only woman in his life among other things that (a) I don't need to know and (b) the children don't need to have the rest of the world knowing about).
posted by deanc at 9:09 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I love my husband more than I love my children.

Who the fuck ranks how much they love the various people in their life that they love? It is completely possible to love two different things, but for those two loves to be in no way comparable to each other. They can both just exist. I love both video games and chocolate, but I don't love one more than the other. I love them both and sometimes I am all about one and sometimes all about the other. They aren't in competition with each other.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go play the new Punch Out game while simultaneously eating krackels.
posted by ND¢ at 9:11 AM on May 27, 2009 [33 favorites]


I posted it because it's something I've seen in couples around, the elevation of the child or children to the detrainment of the marriage.

Jon and Kate are going to make it BB, they are just going through a rough patch right now.
posted by ND¢ at 9:15 AM on May 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


Who the fuck ranks how much they love the various people in their life that they love?

That's what I think is the problem with this article for me. Either the writer is so utterly dense that she thinks "love" is this single-issue monoform thing, or she's engaging in deliberate semantic dishonesty and having a word-game Carri Bradshaw spout.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:17 AM on May 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


I have a wife and a child. My wife has sex with me often. I can't wait to tell her we get to be smug about this.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 9:17 AM on May 27, 2009


I hope she doesn't have a picture of her husband as her facebook avatar.
posted by 7segment at 9:18 AM on May 27, 2009 [17 favorites]


Waldman and I have something very important in common: I love Michael Chabon more than I love her kids, too.
posted by Avenger at 9:18 AM on May 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


Have you ever noticed that the Klingons are all speaking Unix?

Have you ever seen photographs of Alan Cox, Richard Stallman, Ken Thompson, Dennis Richie, John Gilmore, etc?

Klingons to a man.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:18 AM on May 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


I hope she doesn't have a picture of her husband as her facebook avatar.

I browsed over to her blog, and then her Facebook, and it appears her Facebook photo includes HER CHILDREN ::dun dun dun::!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:20 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


...and they talk about how having kids totally changed their priorities and they're so happy and I just think... they're clearly not lying about being happy...


Evidently, a lot of parents DO lie, to themselves as well as others, about just how happy their kids make them. That, or they just learn to redefine happiness so that having children fills the happiness criteria.

Some parents I know, I'm convinced, are miserable - they're always making odd comments that divulge just how trapped and burdened they feel as parents - but can't bring themselves to admit it. Others I know seem to completely thrive and don't give off that vibe at all. Still others seem to be fluctuating netween the extremes, depending on the time of day and how their kids are acting at a given point.

I'd like to have kids, eventually, even though it's somewhat more complicated a process, being gay. But I've seen enough evidence to indicate that the default attitude among many (but not all) parents - that you aren't really fulfilled unless/until you have kids - isn't supported.
posted by darkstar at 9:20 AM on May 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


I really liked her "Mind Your Own Kids" essay for Salon.
posted by zarq at 9:20 AM on May 27, 2009


I don't know, I thought it was endearing, and I'm very happy for her and Michael Chabon. I hope that if I get married one day that that's what my marriage is like. As a matter of fact, if I wind up being one of the billions of husbands in the world whose sex life ends after childbirth, I will almost certainly get divorced afterward. It would be the hardest decision in my life to make, and I know for a fact that throwing away a relationship with someone I loved will be gut wrenchingly painful. But I also know myself well enough to know that, in the end, I won't accept a sexless life. I suppose I can see why other people would think this makes her weird or a bad mother, but I can't help but feel like she got it right, and good for them both.

Also, if I were married to Michael Chabon, I would also totally want to bone him for the rest of my life.
posted by shmegegge at 9:21 AM on May 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Creepy that she spends time daydreaming about how she would feel if all of her children died.
posted by iconomy at 9:22 AM on May 27, 2009


Look, sure, I love my children. But I'm in love with pizza.
posted by Damn That Television at 9:23 AM on May 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


Reason number 3345634 not to have children.

It's good for the environment and it's good for your mental health! Get a snip!
posted by kldickson at 9:25 AM on May 27, 2009


If this essay were the only bit that she wrote about the topic, I could get behind that. It sucks that people get married to each other for love and passion, and it all gets put on the back-burner for 18-25 years while the kids are raised. There is nothing wrong with loving your spouse more than your children, and putting the marriage first doesn't mean the children get neglected, it only means that time is allotted for the relationship. Dates are canceled only for emergencies, not tantrums, etc.

That said, that she's made an entire career from explaining how she loves her husband more than her kids, and laying it out on the table just seems horrible and exploitative. The kids will grow up more healthy and self-reliant if their parents aren't constantly praising and spoiling them. The kids will value relationships more highly if they see how much their parents care for each other and love each other. But having to hear repeatedly that they're secondary? Not just kind of knowing it, but constantly having to be reminded? That's bullshit of the highest order.
posted by explosion at 9:25 AM on May 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


"How," we are often asked, "have you stayed together for forty-four years?" The answer is, "No sex." This satisfies no one, of course, but there, as Henry James would say, it is. - Gore Vidal, Palimpsest
posted by Joe Beese at 9:27 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I bet her kids get peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day.
posted by digsrus at 9:28 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have met Michael Chabon, and let me say this, I love him more than my children too.

Actually, I don't have any children. But I do really love Michael Chabon, if anyone deserves a wife who loves him as much as Waldeman does, it's him.
posted by featherboa at 9:30 AM on May 27, 2009


Yes, I have three cats. Three cats with whom I spend a good part of every day: feeding them, cleaning their litter boxes, sitting with them while I watch a DVD, cuddling them while they try to chew on my beard. But I'm not in love with any of them. I am in love with my wife.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:30 AM on May 27, 2009


Who the fuck ranks how much they love the various people in their life that they love?

A lot of people probably. The love for an SO, vs a parent vs a sibling vs a good friend is different and should those two collide (Both the SO and a sibling ask you for the same favor at the same time), you wind up ranking them somehow. Ranking is probably a bad word though as it implies that one person must always be more important than another.

In the NPR interview, the author said if she had to choose between her husband and her kids in a life or death situation, she would sacrifice herself, of course.

Jon and Kate are going to make it

Not without some help around the house. They're toast.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:32 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Have any of you considered that post-childbirth celibacy is actually a feature rather than a bug? I mean, do you really want to stick things someplace a baby has come out of? Kind of gross don't you think? Sex after childbirth is why God invented secretaries.
posted by ND¢ at 9:32 AM on May 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go play the new Punch Out game while simultaneously eating krackels.
Krackels are a hollow imitation of Nestle Crunch, and you should be ashamed to admit you eat them.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:41 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


An interesting update to this story would be that the Waldmans are now divorced, the husband retaining sole custody of the children due to this very essay.


Actually, her "bad mother" shtick is still paying the bills.

Though I don't know how radical it is to admit that your love for your husband is of a different sort than your love for your children.
posted by availablelight at 9:42 AM on May 27, 2009


Krackels are a hollow imitation of Nestle Crunch, and you should be ashamed to admit you eat them.

I have to admit, I prefer mini-size Krackels to mini-size Crunch bars. They have a better crunchy-to-chocolate ratio.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:43 AM on May 27, 2009


Sex after childbirth is why God invented secretaries.

comments like that is why ada lovelace invented programming
posted by pyramid termite at 9:44 AM on May 27, 2009 [17 favorites]


This lady creeps me the hell out.
posted by PuppyCat at 9:46 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you surf on over to the Michael Chabon wikipedia page and look at the personal life section, it becomes abundantly clear just how much they love each other more than their kids, whose names are Sophie (fine enough), Ezekial (Zeke is an alright nickname, I guess), Ida-Rose (um), and Abraham (!!!). Poor Abraham is going to have a tough time in school. Though, his middle name is Wolf, which is pretty sweet.
posted by Caduceus at 9:47 AM on May 27, 2009


I have to admire her for saying stuff like this, knowing full well that she's going to get the virtual equivalents of stoning and lynching. I say, good for her if she loves her husband better.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:48 AM on May 27, 2009


False dichotomy. Love is not limited, only peoples ideas are. Parental love and spousal/partner love are not the same.
posted by stbalbach at 9:49 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Jon and Kate are going to make it BB...

It is a strange and unexpected mark of age that I don't recognize the names of celebrities anymore. I picked up People last week and was pretty much lost.

And, you know, this world is filled with guiltless nymphos who care more about sex and/or drugs and/or money more than they love their kids. They just happen not to be pampered white women married to famous writers, and they at least have the dignity not to take some pseudo-defiant public pride in it.

And really, who besides the other trendy moms she runs into down at Whole Foods are actually shocked or captivated by this observation? It sounds like a new-century version of women admitting they fake orgasms. And she'll invariably become addicted to this silly brand of attention--we're bound to hear that she insists on giving it to her husband with a strap-on, or that she secretly eats foie gras with hamburger helper.
posted by troybob at 9:52 AM on May 27, 2009


I found this article by Waldman on mother/son relationships more interesting and a bit more challenging, especially when read alongside the other one. She's a very emotionally bald writer. It makes her sound like a kind of terrible person (man, does it sound like she was awful to her mother-in-law), but I can't decide if that's just because she's not cleaning things up for her reader to make them easier to swallow.

Reason number 3345634 not to have children.

I know this is just general child-free muckracking, but I don't really see how the article makes having kids seem like a bad thing. I intend to be biologically childfree, but want to adopt someday--but one of my primary concerns in raising children in anyway is that I'm too self-absorbed as a creative-type and that the idea of loss of identity through childrearing terrifies me. That she's able to have a romantic life and strong identity outside of her children sounds like a feature of her role as a parent, not a bug.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:54 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Basically, this woman is the Camille Paglia of emotional banality.
posted by troybob at 10:00 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't understand why everybody is so eager to vilify this woman. I found her essay to be encouraging. It's nice to think that it's possible to have a good sex life and a passionate marriage after having children. However, I've read enough mommy blogs to know that Chabon and Waldman are the exception, and not the rule.

Any single man who has never read a mommy blog should do so immediately; it's a very effective form of birth control.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:03 AM on May 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


literary super couple

Good one.
posted by Zambrano at 10:07 AM on May 27, 2009


God I am so congratulating myself right now on being completely self-centered, and totally aware of it.
posted by autodidact at 10:11 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


She's a liar. Seems pretty clear to me that someone who makes a living compulsively describing her every thought and deed and dishing on everyone she meets is first and foremost in love with herself. Secondly, she is in love with being married to Michael Chabon. Then, maybe, you get to Michael Chabon, himself. And then those side effects of unprotected sex, the walking, talking STDs, the spawn of self and Michael Chabon. These are a few of her favorite things.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:14 AM on May 27, 2009 [15 favorites]


It's lonely and depressing to be a sane American.
posted by Zambrano at 10:14 AM on May 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


So, wait. Moms who want to prove that they love their children as much as their husbands should bang them?
posted by The Straightener at 10:14 AM on May 27, 2009


> Some parents I know, I'm convinced, are miserable

I don't have kids, but most of my friends have at least one now, and their Facebook status updates usually make the daily reality of parenthood to young children sound pretty bi-polar. They're usually along the lines of;

a) "_______ is losing his/her mind. Two toddlers at home! Help!"

or

b) "_______ is deliriously happy because his/her son/daughter just smiled at him/her."
posted by you just lost the game at 10:18 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wasn't this essay published years ago? I remember the author going on the Oprah show, and being questioned by lots of women about her views. She basically seemed to dismiss them because she was this urban, educated woman married to a brilliant writer, and they were midwestern moms who wouldn't understand. Why is this being bandied about 4 years later? I'm surprised this isn't a double on MeFi.
posted by bluefly at 10:23 AM on May 27, 2009


Sex after childbirth is why God invented secretaries.

How's that potato-looking baby coming, ND¢?
posted by jessamyn at 10:28 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Though I don't know how radical it is to admit that your love for your husband is of a different sort than your love for your children.

Also, on the Oprah show I referenced, one of the women asked Waldman if what she meant was that her love for her children was just different than her love for her husband. And she said "No, I love him more."
posted by bluefly at 10:30 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why is this being bandied about 4 years later? I'm surprised this isn't a double on MeFi.

Yes, I was surprised it hadn't been posted before, but hey, Metafitler isn't perfect (but its in therapy and learning to cope with that fact).

A search on the url produced nothing, while one on the author's name only brought up a single post.

Finally, there's no time limit on what's posted to the front page.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:34 AM on May 27, 2009


Oh I didn't mean it in a mean way. I just thought maybe there was a reason this essay was making the rounds again, like maybe Waldman had recently published a longer book on the subject again or something.
posted by bluefly at 10:43 AM on May 27, 2009


I just thought maybe there was a reason this essay was making the rounds again

Perhaps we're seeing the inevitable merger of SEO tactics with traditional publicists. Ugh.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:46 AM on May 27, 2009


...or maybe she had another kid for whom she wants to declare her inferior love.
posted by troybob at 10:49 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


How's that potato-looking the world's most beautiful baby coming, ND¢?

So awesome!
posted by ND¢ at 10:56 AM on May 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


It would have been a much more interesting story had her children been conceived via sperm bank; her primary love for anonymous would have had some interesting literary implications as well...
posted by troybob at 10:58 AM on May 27, 2009


I wonder if they could swing an advance on the addiction memoirs their children will presumably write at some point.
posted by The Straightener at 11:01 AM on May 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


like maybe Waldman had recently published a longer book on the subject again or something.

She did, actually.
posted by Caduceus at 11:06 AM on May 27, 2009


...or maybe she had another kid for whom she wants to declare her inferior love.

So, troybob, you don't like the article and think less of the writer as a person, is that you're saying?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:08 AM on May 27, 2009


iconomy: "Creepy that she spends time daydreaming about how she would feel if all of her children died."

Wait, don't all parents do this?

Uh-oh.

Sorry, kids. Mama loves you very much. She's just a worrier. Now please stop reading my ancient Metafilter comments and go play laser baseball or whatever it is you'll be doing in ten years.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:13 AM on May 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


...usually make the daily reality of parenthood to young children sound pretty bi-polar.

It is, totally. It is a relentless struggle of duty and frustration1, and it is also an endless bounty of surprising joy and happiness2. Just not at the same time.

1 try bringing a three-year-old home on the subway, a fourty-minute ride, when she's throwing a screaming tantrum and kicking and hitting you and will not stop for the entire ride
2 my wife and I went to bed last night after spending the better part of an hour looking at pics of our three-year-olds from mother's day and laughing, and then woke up to the two of them working together on getting ready for school without us, and them running over to us and hugging us as hard as they could apropos of nothing
posted by davejay at 11:22 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I posted it because it's something I've seen in couples around, the elevation of the child or children to the detrainment of the marriage. It's a delicate balance and interesting to see how other parents manage it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:09 AM


I grew up in the 90s. In this day and age, we raise children such that "everyone is special", no one is better than the rest, the children are perfect and can do no wrong, for Mumma-Daddy will still love them best in the whole wide world. It's great for children to be able to feel unconditional love from their parents, but hey. We're not all "special little snowflakes". It's good that some parents still have some perspective on their children.
posted by Night_owl at 11:24 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who the fuck ranks how much they love the various people in their life that they love?

Yeah, I'm with Brandon Blatcher on this one: "probably a lot of people." And I mean that they do it whether they mean to or not. I think she laid out the criteria for it pretty clearly: if you can imagine someone dying and the world not stopping, then it's probably fair to say that, in some way, you don't love them quite as much as those whose deaths would be world-stopping for you.

I think it's pretty normal to have moments where you imagine what you'd do if something happened to someone. I doubt that it occurred to her one day to sit down and rank her love for everyone in her life, this moments just came and went and the facts were simply just what they were.

I'm glad she wrote the article. I never sat down and ranked my love for people in my life, but my husband is the only one whose death would be world-stopping for me. (Much as she notes, I have other responsibilities so I'd have to find some way to continue.) So yeah, I love him more than anyone else. By far. That's one of many reasons I choose not to have children, but I don't think she's a demon because she had them or anything, or because she's honest about her feelings. Women get a lot of motherhood ideas pushed on them and have to suffer quietly when they feel they don't live up to them. It's people like Waldman whose honesty gives those women a perspective that says they don't have to hate themselves for how they feel. Mothers who don't feel like Waldman have had articles written for and about them for decades.
posted by Nattie at 11:28 AM on May 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm surprised this hasn't been posted before - this makes the rounds every X period of time, with the requisite "she's awesome!" and "she sucks!" replies from everyone.

I don't care what she does - I think people who mine their personal lives to make a living have to be hard to live with.
posted by pinky at 11:28 AM on May 27, 2009



God forbid I go back and count the number of times she writes God forbid in that article.
posted by notreally at 11:30 AM on May 27, 2009


Wow, she has managed to push as many buttons here as her essay did the first time around. I liked it when I first read it, and I liked it even more now, rereading it.

I don't have kids, and maybe never will, but I think that my friends with kids can be really conflicted and contradictory about it. And the parents I know with relationships more like hers -- more centered on each other, rather than centered on the children -- strike me as happier and more balanced. The people whose primary identity switches entirely to being Mommy or Daddy aren't nearly as much fun to be around, and I'm not at all convinced that their children end up happier for all that intense focus.
posted by Forktine at 11:36 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've read enough mommy blogs to know that Chabon and Waldman are the exception, and not the rule.

Mommy bloggers are not a random sampling of mothers.
posted by palliser at 11:46 AM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Her life is really an open book.

That I choose to leave on the shelf.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:46 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't have kids, but most of my friends have at least one now, and their Facebook status updates usually make the daily reality of parenthood to young children sound pretty bi-polar.

I am completely guilty of this. My status updates go from "She said "Dada!" to "3AM. IF THE TWINS DON'T GO TO SLEEP SOON I AM SELLING THEM ON EBAY."

It is a relentless struggle of duty and frustration1, and it is also an endless bounty of surprising joy and happiness2. Just not at the same time.

That's an excellent description of parenthood, right there.
posted by zarq at 11:47 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reason number 3345634 not to have children.

It's good for the environment and it's good for your mental health! Get a snip!


You know what would be really good for the environment? If we all killed ourselves. You go first.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:48 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait, remind me again - is having kids a really great thing, or a really terrible thing? I get so confused reading Metafilter sometimes.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:49 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have to admire her for saying stuff like this, knowing full well that she's going to get the virtual equivalents of stoning and lynching lots of attention, appearances on Oprah, etc., etc.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:58 AM on May 27, 2009


So, troybob, you don't like the article and think less of the writer as a person, is that you're saying?

It's more the phenomenon I object to. Opportunistic, mediocre writer wraps her work in a placenta to market it to the mommy trend and creates faux controversy as some kind of claim to edgy, stark honesty, kicking off a cycle of women using their kids as make-up mirrors to reflect/magnify/recast their mundane maternal flaws as chic naughtiness, such that the implications and struggles of real-life parenthood are shrouded in yet another layer of yuppified cliches.
posted by troybob at 12:02 PM on May 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


> Wait, remind me again - is having kids a really great thing, or a really terrible thing?

Sounds like it's a bit of both.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:02 PM on May 27, 2009


That was a fantastic essay you linked PhoBWanKenobi, about the author's ma-in-law etc musings.

As you say, it's impossible not to flinch a little at the baser bits of the personality she reveals - then it's hard not to cherish her for exactly the same reasons.
(After reading all the witty carping here about her, I'm amazed...)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:02 PM on May 27, 2009





wow she is the most irritating person on the planet



Actually, Optimus Chyme, it's even more irritating of Gawker to sarcastically translate her self-knowingly & deliberately gushy comments about wearing a "fabulous Vera Wang" as "see how awesome I am!!!!!".

That's really breaking the butterfly on the wheel of leaden sarcasm.
(And that's really a horrendous metaphor!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:29 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Count me among the people whom this piece rubbed the wrong way. I think what bugs me (along with the false humility noted by others) is the us-or-them mentality, the score-keeping nature of the "who do you love more?" question. As if we all have to take our stand, and decide whether we're one of the star-bellied sneetches who love their husbands more, or the plain-bellied sort who love their children more. Make up your minds, ladies! Who's the sun, and who's the moon?

What's interesting is that I find myself sympathetic to the people who like this piece: I get that husband and marriage can be easily neglected when children arrive, because the children are so physically and emotionally consuming, especially to mothers. But couldn't there be a different piece about that, one that isn't set up with a protagonist distancing herself from all other mothers, saying how she's not like "them," because she is truly, passionately in love with her husband? It just doesn't strike me as an empathetic or a generous piece, but a purposely divisive, self-aggrandizing one.
posted by palliser at 12:49 PM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Of course there is a hierarchy involved! With a healthy marriage, most subsequent children will thrive. This fairly new practice of putting children before everything has raised a generation of self-entitled spoiled brats.

I am so thankful that my parents daily make a concentrated effort to keep their marriage strong, and this July, will be celebrating their thirty-first anniversary as a result.

I know that my parents love me, and while they wouldn't do just "anything and everything" for me, I know they always have my best interests at heart.

Please don't believe that I'm saying a healthy marriage will always produce well-adjusted children, or that well-adjusted children can't come from unhealthy marriages. But I do believe that it's a step in the right direction.

(I do, however, believe that there is a reason why Lewis talks of four different types of love, and it is silly to compare the voracity of each. One has στοργή for children, and ἔρως for one's spouse--we do not necessarily have to love in different intensities, so much as we may love in different ways.)
posted by litterateur at 12:51 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's because I work in a Domestic Relations law practice, but the way I see it, your spouse and always and forever true love may not pan out, but your kids are your kids forever. A seventeen year old will not usually invoke great paroxyms of warm fuzzy lloooovve as they did when they were giving those adoring sloppy toddler kisses, but they have you, you have them and the love is always there (sometimes obscured by shear aggravation).
It's sad that romantic love can turn to betrayal and disgust, but it happens every day. Not to say that families don't become estranged, but not with the vehemence of love gone bad.

I read this and other essays by Ayelet Waldman years ago and they always left me feeling uncomfortable. These kind of mommy blog essays succeed when they can come off as girl talk between friends. I don't ever get that from her writing.

And her inauguration e-mail reads like a parody.
posted by readery at 1:16 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


This fairly new practice of putting children before everything has raised a generation of self-entitled spoiled brats.

Are they all on your lawn?
posted by brain_drain at 1:18 PM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Actually, Optimus Chyme, it's even more irritating of Gawker to sarcastically translate her self-knowingly & deliberately gushy comments about wearing a "fabulous Vera Wang" as "see how awesome I am!!!!!".

No, she's definitely more annoying. She sent that (very lengthy) email to 5000 recipients in the hopes of getting noticed for her spam. She's a total publicity whore. And Gawker just fed into her need for attention with their mockery, so I'm sure she, at least, wasn't bothered by their sarcasm. She probably got another column out of it.

Don't get me wrong, I like that she loves her husband passionately. That makes for a stable base when you do have kids. My parents, who have been married over 50 years now (and their parents were married over 60 years when their respective spouses died), let us know that they met and fell in love before we came around, and so they had that bond first. Then we came along, and they loved us in a completely different way. I'll be married 20 years next month, and I hope I pass that same legacy onto my kids. Love is a good thing. Passion is a good thing. I can't see how the death of a spouse would be worse than the death of one's child, but maybe that's just me. Still, it's not like there's a quota on love anyway.

So it's not the concept of loving one's spouse passionately that's the problem, or the idea of this woman putting her spouse first. If it works for her, that's fine.

But the smug, self-righteous narcissistic fluff she writes, in which she (very poorly) pretends to be worried that she's not a good Mom because she's having all this mind-blowing sex all the time, is just offensive. Lots of women continue to have mind-blowing sex after they have kids. For a lot of us it's even better than before we had them. Maybe the reason she doesn't hear about all the hot sex her friends are having is because she's expecting them to go on and on about it, as she does, at Mommy and Me classes.

And going on TV and re-iterating that she loves her spouse more than her kids is not only offensive but unnecessary. Though I doubt her kids will be traumatized by the knowledge (she doesn't seem to spend nearly as much time with them as her husband anyway), I don't see that they really need to be reminded of the fact all the time, either.
posted by misha at 1:25 PM on May 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


With a healthy marriage, most subsequent children will thrive.

Absolutely. As flight attendants say, "Put your air mask on first and then help your children with theirs."
posted by msalt at 1:25 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


But couldn't there be a different piece about that, one that isn't set up with a protagonist distancing herself from all other mothers, saying how she's not like "them," because she is truly, passionately in love with her husband? It just doesn't strike me as an empathetic or a generous piece, but a purposely divisive, self-aggrandizing one.

I think you're on to something, palliser.
(And this is not back handed, by the way.)

Motherhood can involve some deeply disgruntling giving up of self - not always resolved by bedtime.
And sometimes it's an odd comfort to stare in the mirror - when you read the more idiosyncratic mommy-pieces, like this one - and see a familiar, slightly angry face gazing back at you.
Bits of her don't fit me at all & I don't find her a relaxing read. And the bits I do recognize also don't give me a particularly flattering sense of familiarity.

(How precious to imagine I'm different from other mothers!)
But perhaps she has achieved a perverse sisterhood by not really giving a fig about being divisive!

Just seen another comment. Readery wrote:

These kind of mommy blog essays succeed when they can come off as girl talk between friends.

Now with that I really disagree! Those are the real pass-the-sick-bag-Alice blogs!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:34 PM on May 27, 2009




No, she's definitely more annoying.

I agree. If anything, Gawker's comments provided a couple nervous laughs to break up the prolonged cringe I was feeling as I read, flinched, skimmed, read, flinched, skimmed, and then gave up. I mean wow. Either I'm completely humorless with a broken irony meter or she just loveloveloves the fabulous people she meets at these fabulous places, and wants you ALL to know just how fabulous it all is. On the positive side, it sheds a little more light on the sort of person who'd write an article about loving her husband more than her kids. There's a cost-benefit analysis there, you know, because he's the famous Michael Chabon, whereas her kids, I mean, even if they get part-time jobs, do chores and otherwise chip in, it's not like the really know the right people yet and can introduce her to them. Besides, kids are so needy, right? It's "what's for dinner?" this and "can you drive me to school?" that. Talk about clingy, sheesh.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:37 PM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Afroblanco: I don't understand why everybody is so eager to vilify this woman. I found her essay to be encouraging. It's nice to think that it's possible to have a good sex life and a passionate marriage after having children.

I tried very hard to like these essays—after all, I think I agree with some of the main tenets of them (by which I mean to say, as a guy who will probably have kids, I think the idea of wives wanting to have lots of sex after childbirth is just dandy)—but in the end it was impossible to avoid a certain amount of exasperation with this lady. I think that the annoying thing about her writing is her dialectical style; in (apparently) arguing her point that the marital relationship should be prior to the parental relationship, she doesn't even state this opinion. And the chief evidence she adduces to support her position is, overwhelmingly, a reference to her own contentedness and a contrast of that contentedness with the misery which everyone else experiences. Now, to be honest, she could very easily be correct when she says things like

Everyone wants to be reassured that no one else is having sex either... Still, almost none of them are having any sex... I am the only woman in Mommy and Me who seems to be, well, getting any.

—this could be absolutely, positively true, and I don't dispute that's possible. But it is natural for people to resent it a little when someone spends two long pages telling the world that she and her husband are the only really happy people out there. In fact, it seems to me that she spends a lot of her words on bragging; this sunny string of declamations about her own happiness and the happiness she shares with her husband and family peppered with descriptions of what she reads as the miseries of the families around her is hard to see as anything else.

Of course, as I said above, braggarts can be right. And annoying people can be right. She is correct, in a simple kind of way: people often sublimate their sexual desires and bond them to other objects such as their children. She's so caught up in describing the bliss that can come when you live like she does, however, that she misses a few interesting points about this, I think.

First of all, this is not a new phenomenon. In fact, I would say that this occurs far less than it has historically. The sublimation of sexuality, an incredibly complex subject which I can't even pretend I understand fully, is fertile ground for thinking about the character of both sexes. I would probably argue that women have historically been expected and encouraged to sublimate many of their desires to other objects. My wife, for example, comes from a long line of women who were artists; however, her mother was the first who actually went to art school. Until then, all of them were painters in their spare time, and might have been great artists if they (a) had had the opportunity to focus seriously on their work and (b) hadn't been expected, upon marrying, to drop everything else and “be a good wife.” The story is that several of these women, who lived in Italy, became immaculate cooks and expert decorators and furnishers of their own homes…unfortunately, chiefly because this was the only outlet afforded to them for their creative desire to create beauty in the world. I don't know if men in the past were often dissatisfied with the amount of sex they got during their married life, especially after they'd had children. But I have a feeling that if they'd examined the situation they would have found that when you force a woman to accept that she will never be able to pursue the things that fulfill her most simply because she wasn't born with a flap of skin between her legs, she usually tends to focus her sexual energies elsewhere.

Now, while I might feel some confidence in making that very tentative statement, when I start trying to theorize about the nature and sources of feminine desire, I run the risk of invalidating my arguments both because of a lack of authority and a lack of tact and sensitivity. Still, whenever I read something about how women are supposed to act and how women want to act, it's hard for me to avoid seeing it in the light of the difficulties women have faced in the past; maybe that has something to do with my being a man.
posted by koeselitz at 1:40 PM on May 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I really don't care to hear about this woman's intimate life either [ick], but I do agree that it's weird when people talk about "passionately loving" their children. I mean, my 1960s-70s mother loved me deeply, responsibly, with great devotion like any parent, but she didn't blather on gushingly about my every sneeze to anyone who'd listen. She didn't festoon her work area with zillions of pictures of me and my sisters or act as if everything we did was brilliant and amazing. I guess she was so busy supporting us and raising us to be "in love" with us. When she was with other adults, she talked about adult things, and when she had adult guests or family at our house, she certainly didn't expect them to sit and bask in the glory that was Little Fellini, girl marvel. They did grown-up stuff, and we either listened politely or went off to do kid stuff.

None of my friends' parents were "in love" with them, either. That whole concept seems like a very recent and largely bourgeois phenomenon. People used to just be parents rather than "parenting" or feeling the need to discuss the experience of parenthood ad infinitum.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:41 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


This fairly new practice of putting children before everything

Is this an actual practice or is it "hey I read some articles on the internet about how this is happening so obviously it must reflect reality in some way"?
posted by Avenger at 1:43 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


In two weeks, I'll have been married to the same woman for 28 years. I still love her very much. However, as soon as our daughters were born, I loved them more. This doesn't mean that I loved my wife any less, but that the focus of my universe shifted.

I would die for my children. I would die for my wife. But if my children and my wife were both in mortal peril, I would protect my children first. My wife understands this, and she feels the same way. She loves me, but she would sacrifice me for our daughters.

@marginaliana: No one expects it to happen, but it does.
posted by Chasuk at 1:49 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is this an actual practice or is it "hey I read some articles on the internet about how this is happening so obviously it must reflect reality in some way"?

It is from what I've seen as a childcare provider.
posted by litterateur at 1:49 PM on May 27, 2009


Went looking for that Oprah appearance and instead come across a recap from the show.
Lee Ann says she and her husband have decided to make their kids the center of their universe, and that's what works for them. But, Lee Ann admits that she watches TV while she and her husband have sex.

Oprah: What are you watching?

Lee Ann: It's Oprah or Wheel of Fortune on the occasion that I am just too exhausted. After the third night in a row, I may watch TV, while he does his business. I am satisfying his needs.
Wow, just wow.

I would die for my wife. But if my children and my wife were both in mortal peril, I would protect my children first.

Interesting. Like I mentioned earlier, the author said she would sacrifice herself for her husband and kids, in this situation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:56 PM on May 27, 2009


Until then, all of them were painters in their spare time, and might have been great artists if they (a) had had the opportunity to focus seriously on their work and (b) hadn't been expected, upon marrying, to drop everything else and “be a good wife.” The story is that several of these women, who lived in Italy, became immaculate cooks and expert decorators and furnishers of their own homes…unfortunately, chiefly because this was the only outlet afforded to them for their creative desire to create beauty in the world.

koeselitz,
Loved that comment.
And because I am a woman - I'll admit I've sometimes wondered - what if "The story..." is a crock?

Not remotely flinging clods at your family's unofficial story
It's just we have a similar narrative in my family. Apparently, the family tree is bulging with fertile females who were thwarted artists and writers of noted potential. They can't all have been, I sometimes mutter!

(This is offtopic anyway. But it fascinates me...)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:00 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's because I work in a Domestic Relations law practice, but the way I see it, your spouse and always and forever true love may not pan out, but your kids are your kids forever.

Well, this is certainly true, and loving your kids is certainly an incredibly important thing. But isn't this kind of thinking precisely what contributes to marital strife? If we're going to start giving credible weight to lazy truisms, I could just as easily say "You love your kids because you have to. You love your spouse because you want to." Neither of these things actually makes any kind of decent point, and neither is actually as true as they at first sound. But what bothers me is this idea that you have to in some way hedge your bets. I don't think that's what you're trying to say, but I still think that's the real take-away from your comment. That romantic love fades, and kids are always your kids, so focus on the kids. If the marriage fails, eh, these things happen.

I can't help but feel like this is part of the problem. I think too many people think that having kids means refocusing everything you have and that the only connection you'll really feel to your partner is as the other person who has to raise these kids with me. For the life of me, I can't figure out why this is such a dominant point of view. Maybe it's a throwback to harsher times, when winter was fatal and childhood mortality had to be fiercely fought against? I don't know. for instance:

A seventeen year old will not usually invoke great paroxyms of warm fuzzy lloooovve as they did when they were giving those adoring sloppy toddler kisses, but they have you, you have them and the love is always there (sometimes obscured by shear aggravation).

If there's anything I've learned from being the frustrating 17 year old for my parents, it's that they needed each other most when I was at my worst. But if their marriage had turned sour before then out of some misguided belief that my siblings and I were the only things that mattered in their relationship, how on earth could they have been there for each other by that point? Few people would spend over a decade having their (emotional, social, sexual) needs neglected by their partner and still be a capable and willing support system for that neglectful spouse once raising the kids stopped being cute. Sure, many of us still hang in there when it comes to doing the raising and the chores and such. But when it comes down to it, everybody needs emotional support, not just practical. And if the neglected husbands or wives in this world had been honest at that point and had said "I have nothing for you. Where were you when I needed you for all these years?" we'd all think they were monsters.

But here we all are, clucking our tongues at divorce rates and unhappy marriages and thinking "well, nothing to be done about it," and then calling this woman names for having the gall to tell people, in publicized markets no less! that she still loves her husband the same way she did before the kids.
posted by shmegegge at 2:03 PM on May 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


I do agree that it's weird when people talk about "passionately loving" their children. I mean, my 1960s-70s mother loved me deeply, responsibly, with great devotion like any parent

You seem to be splitting semantic hairs here. Why does loving "passionately" bother you, but loving "deeply, responsibly, with great devotion" does not?

she didn't blather on gushingly about my every sneeze to anyone who'd listen.

Good for her. If she did, she'd be a strange outlier; in my entire life, I have never met a single parent who does this.

None of my friends' parents were "in love" with them, either.

How do you know? Did you interview all of them? Did you fully grasp the concept of parental love when you were a kid? You make it sound like "passionate love" and "being in love" have visual characteristics like giving flowers or heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.

People used to just be parents rather than "parenting" or feeling the need to discuss the experience of parenthood ad infinitum.

Yes, the good old days, when babies ate all their food from cans and jars, fathers didn't change diapers, infants died sleeping on their backs, and bad kids got the belt. Modern parents who do research and share tips are such sissies!
posted by brain_drain at 2:03 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the "putting kids before everything else" phenomenon is largely a part of our economy, at least here in the states.

When my Mom was young, women were expected to stay home while their husbands worked. That's just the way it was. Now, of course, we have the freedom to work outside the home or stay home with the kids as long as we have the economic means to do so. That's progress, but it comes along with the burden of feeling the need to justify our choices.

If we work after we have kids, we feel we have to justify not spending time with our kids. We have to make a case for needing the money, and preserving our sanity and all the rest.

If we have kids and choose to stay home (and are fortunate enough to be able to afford it), we have to justify that, too, though. We don't want to be seen as lazy or less than ambitious, so we feel we have to set ourselves up as Perfect Mothers.

I recently went to a graduation ceremony. The Mom is a friend of mine, and she had these gorgeous scrapbooks of the graduate, going back to when he was a baby, with photos and mementos, and all of his sports trophies displayed and all the rest. My kids saw this as over-the-top. My other friend and I actually found ourselves making comparisons to how little we had chronicled our own children's lives outside of, say, baby books and digital photos, and finding ourselves wanting.

Which is ridiculous. Of course we could appreciate all her hard work and effort and devotion, and compliment her on it, but we really shouldn't feel the need to raise the bar. It's not a competition. There's no prize for "loving our children the most unselfishly."
posted by misha at 2:04 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


My other friend and I actually found ourselves making comparisons to how little we had chronicled our own children's lives

After we get together with other parents, my wife and I like to make fun of how much uglier their kids are than ours.
posted by ND¢ at 2:09 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's the boastful quality of this essay and her work that irk me in general. It's like I have a hot, famous husband, we fuck immediately after we've had kids (unlike you mere mortals), I'm better than you even as I pretend poorly to be humble, neener-neener.

Who wants to read that?
posted by Maias at 2:13 PM on May 27, 2009


It's the boastful quality of this essay and her work that irk me in general.

At least we get to feel superior to someone who has a superiority complex Maias:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:18 PM on May 27, 2009


I'm pretty sure my parents love each other more than they love me, and I think it's fucking fantastic.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:20 PM on May 27, 2009


At least we get to feel superior to someone who has a superiority complex

Not me. I'm a bigger person than that. With perfect teeth.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:49 PM on May 27, 2009


The thing about maintaining the passionate love in your marriage over the course of many years is that you have to preserve your sex moves. Many young people make the mistake of using all their sex moves within the first year of a relationship, much less a marriage. This is a big mistake. You think your spouse wants to see the same sex moves over and over again for the rest of his or her life? No way. So, here is what you do. Write down a list of your 20 best sex moves. Doesn't have to be in strict order, but generally from your best moves on down. Obviously you have more than 20 sex moves, and the rest you can use as you see fit and where appropriate, but save those top 20 sex moves. Then take your current age and subtract it from 60. You can still have sex after 60, but nobody expects new sex moves after age 60, so it can be greatest hits from there on out. Next divide that number by your 20 sex moves. Okay, that number is how many years you need to wait between introducing new sex moves. Hit your spouse with move number one right away, but only use moves 21 through whatever for that first time period. Then when the prearranged date comes for you to introduce a new sex move (I keep the dates on my Outlook calendar): boom you rock their world with sex move number two. They are like "Whoah I didn't know there were going to be new sex moves! And that is a good one too!" After a couple of intervals have passed your spouse will get the idea that you have some sex moves you haven't divulged and that he or she should keep coming back for more because who knows when you are going to shake things up. This is the kind of thing that a husband or wife really appreciates. It goes without saying that you should not explain that you are doing this deliberately and have planned intervals with which to bring out new sex moves. That would ruin the romance.
posted by ND¢ at 2:58 PM on May 27, 2009 [18 favorites]


old mrs. shmegegge: you know, we've always had a decent enough sex life, but it wasn't until his 57th birthday when he finally stopped crying immediately afterward that it really became incredible.
posted by shmegegge at 3:05 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Write down a list of your 20 best sex moves.

I would rank this high on a list of things not do when you are married, particularly if most of those sex moves have net yet been introduced into the bedroom. Use some kind of code. Commit it to memory.
posted by troybob at 3:05 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


#14 IRTYDAY ANCHEZSAY
posted by brain_drain at 3:18 PM on May 27, 2009


#15 Profuse apologizing, cajoling and begging.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:22 PM on May 27, 2009


and then calling this woman names for having the gall to tell people, in publicized markets no less! that she still loves her husband the same way she did before the kids.

I don't think this is quite fair, shmegegge. I think people's criticisms have been a lot narrower than that -- that she engages in false humility ("it really bothers me that I have such a passionate relationship with my husband, but I can't help it!"); that she seems to be in competition with other mothers ("nobody else is having any sex, and I feel for them, I really do, SIIIIGH"); that her love for her husband is good for her children, but advertising worldwide the fact that they are secondary in her affections may not be.

Can I say I don't like what I know of her from her articles, but I agree that spouses' love for their children can enhance, rather than detract from, their love for each other; and that their sex lives need not suffer because there are small people sleeping in the other room (though they are just going to have to give up on 10 a.m. slept-in weekend sex for some time, sorry to break it to everyone)? Or do I have to make a choice between liking Ayelet Waldman and being a sexless Mommy & Me drone?
posted by palliser at 3:25 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think people's criticisms have been a lot narrower than that

I agree with that some people's criticism's have been precisely as you describe them. On the other hand, some people simply think she's wrong to love her husband more than her children, or that having a healthy sex life after childbirth is weird or unnatural and shouldn't be expected.

honestly, I don't know anything about her and don't care whether she's humble or self-aggrandizing or mercenary or what. when you write so candidly about your personal life, i suppose that a certain amount of googling is going to come with it, so if people want to go find other reasons to hate her on top of hating her views on marriage, more power to them. maybe she is narcissistic. I don't know.

I'm trying, as much as i can, to address only concerns like the one I quoted that seem specifically to think that spousal neglect is a natural and unavoidable consequence of childbirth. That's really the viewpoint I have trouble with.

So let me say here and now that, really, I have absolutely no problem with people disliking the author for all the other reasons you've mentioned.
posted by shmegegge at 3:33 PM on May 27, 2009


on the other hand, now that I think of it, I also think it's a tad unfair to be bringing up Oprah appearances and book deals as though there were something wrong with this woman wanting to spread her message, or that it takes some lack of character to go on Oprah in front of a hostile audience and let them tell you you're a monster for however many minutes.

but again, I don't know the woman. maybe she's a shithead. if I ever meet Mr. Chabon, I'll ask him.

where the article is concerned, however, I choose to see her piece as encouraging that it's possible to enjoy one's life after marriage.
posted by shmegegge at 3:36 PM on May 27, 2009


All parents should put each other first & their children second, that way we would see an end to all the helpless, self centered little emperors/empresses that the last couple of generations of breeders have produced. There'd also be a lot more happy marriages, which is good for everyone (except divorce lawyers), especially the children.
posted by zarah at 3:42 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


All parents should put each other first & their children second...

I imagine a simpler solution would be to stop viewing love in quantitative terms.
posted by troybob at 3:44 PM on May 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


All parents should put each other first & their children second....

The best advice to parents never begins "all parents should....."!!!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 4:19 PM on May 27, 2009


...in my opinion, at least!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 4:20 PM on May 27, 2009


As I consider it more, I guess that's what I find offensive about the whole thing: It's not just that she chooses to commodify familial love, as if the passage of time were a recurring game-show version of Sophie's Choice, but she goes on to exploit that choice--and, by extension and by name, her family--by characterizing it as some form of proud defiance that is faux-elegantly counterintuitive and, conveniently, controversial, and to no higher purpose than crass self-promotion.
posted by troybob at 4:28 PM on May 27, 2009


I'm trying, as much as i can, to address only concerns like the one I quoted that seem specifically to think that spousal neglect is a natural and unavoidable consequence of childbirth.

Shmegegge, you appear to be quoting me and I don't think spousal neglect is natural or unavoidable. Heck, one of the best parts of my marriage was the sex (imagine what it could have been if we had saved up our secret sex moves. rrraarrggghhh). It's this weird intensity thing she's on about that creeps me out. I have been amongst women who talk about not having sex with their husbands for weeks at a time, but did I brag about my secret life - "Honey watch your sister for a minute. I think Daddy needs help with something out in the garage." No. To each their own.

At the office today we were talking about intensity, how often those really intense loves become the most intense hates. We got a doozy right now. Sure when everything's going great there's nothing better. And good for Waldman and Chabon is that they have fame and fortune as well. But bragging about it is creepy.

Also, the year when I was constantly nursing a preemie with an extremely shy three year old attached to my thigh, I would have paid good money to NOT be touched by another human for a 24 hour period. So, not exactly a good year for sex in our household. It happens.
posted by readery at 4:41 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have been amongst women who talk about not having sex with their husbands for weeks at a time, but did I brag about my secret life - "Honey watch your sister for a minute. I think Daddy needs help with something out in the garage." No. To each their own.

Yeah, that was my reaction to her story about some poor mother complaining about a post-childbirth drought, and the other mothers reassuring her, and how she therefore assumed that none of them were having sex. No, Ayelet. They were just being tactfully sympathetic. It's like if someone mentions that they're having financial difficulties, you don't jump in with, "Really? wow, we don't have that problem on account of we're loaded." It's sort of amazing that not only does she not exercise tact herself, she appears not to comprehend the concept.
posted by palliser at 4:53 PM on May 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


> (though they are just going to have to give up on 10 a.m. slept-in weekend sex for some time, sorry to break it to everyone)

I have a friend whose parents suddenly decided to send him and his young siblings to Sunday school for the first time, shortly after they moved across the road from a church. Off they'd go, very much against their will, and when they came back they'd find mom and dad lying in bed together, all relaxed and as happy as could be, often with the remains of breakfast in bed spread about. It wasn't until he got a bit older that he put two and two together...
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:09 PM on May 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have a friend whose parents suddenly decided to send him and his young siblings to Sunday school for the first time, shortly after they moved across the road from a church.

Trust me, being forced onto that Southern Baptist church bus every Sunday morning by purely heathen parents created depths of trauma that no degree of connubial love can possibly justify.
posted by troybob at 5:44 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, this was some relatively hippy-dippy Canadian church, so I don't think there was any permanent mental scarring. My friend says his parents also tried to make the idea more enticing by telling him that there would be free cookies, so the first time he went he was in a circle with the other kids, taking turns introducing themselves, and when it was his turn he said "My name is _____ AND I'M ONLY HERE FOR THE COOKIES!"
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:17 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Waldman has a history of TMI when writing about her family life in Salon, not to mention the fact that she basically humiliates her children on a regular basis in her articles (openly discussing the hope that one of her children turns out to be gay to ensure she'll be the only woman in his life among other things that (a) I don't need to know and (b) the children don't need to have the rest of the world knowing about).

This is the reason I wish I could do a 9-year alarm clock for dooce. F*** is that kid EVER going to hate her mom.
posted by Decimask at 7:00 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are people you ought to love, and so long as you make an effort to love them, and you honestly and decently fulfil your duty to them, the rest of it isn't really a choice. These people include your spouse, your children, and your parents. Biological impulse, the vagaries of oxytocin and timed imprinting, might make you love your spouse the most, or your kids the most; it's nothing to be ashamed of or smug about, it's just the way it is. This is what I took her essay as meaning: not a "you ought to do this", but as a "this is how it is for me". There'd be no point in saying "you ought to do this", because it's not really something a person can consciously choose one way or the other.

If for some reason--and the likely reason is "peer pressure"--you felt it was appropriate to love your children more than your spouse, and you felt that you didn't, you could try to learn to do that. But that's not the point, the rankings, while the are meaningful and do exist, are not the point. It's the score that matters. If I owe X $100, and I owe Y $10, it's fair to say I owe X more than I owe Y, but that doesn't mean my debt to Y does not exist. If I see X once a month and Y every day, chances are I'm paying Y back the $10 before X sees a cent of the $100.

Whether there's a constraint on your ability to love is debatable; there might be, it might be something like IQ as a measure of your ability to think, or multitasking ability, or inherent ambition, or "limit of calm under stress"; or on the other hand it might be unquantifiable, like how "kind" or how "trustworthy" you are. Capacity to love seems to improve with practice, as many religions preach.

On the other hand there is definitely a limit on your ability to act on love: your time and your resources, emotional, intellectual, financial, energetic, etc. To my way of thinking it doesn't matter how much you, in the privacy of your own head, fancy that you love your grandmother: what matters is your willingness to prioritize your time to call her, write to her, or visit her. That's interactive of course; if your grandmother loves you, she wouldn't want you to risk your job, your marriage, etc spending excessive time with her - and you know that. So it'll balance out to "just called to say I've been thinking of you," with an option of "come right now, I need you to take me to the hospital, and feed my cat while I'm in for bowel surgery".

So this woman, on the face of it, seems to have the time, emotional interest, and energy to spend to attend to what her kids and her husband need from her. That makes her as good a mother and wife as can, by a loving child or husband, be expected.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:59 PM on May 27, 2009


shmegegge: But here we all are, clucking our tongues at divorce rates and unhappy marriages and thinking "well, nothing to be done about it," and then calling this woman names for having the gall to tell people, in publicized markets no less! that she still loves her husband the same way she did before the kids.

No—we're calling this woman names because all she's done is use high-minded talk about society and fulfillment to say to the whole world:

“I'm getting laid, and you're not. Ha!”
posted by koeselitz at 8:00 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Caveat: I haven't read her other articles or in-depth background biographies, my opinion's based only on that one.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:03 PM on May 27, 2009


Brandon Blatcher: I posted it because it's something I've seen in couples around, the elevation of the child or children to the detrainment of the marriage. It's a delicate balance and interesting to see how other parents manage it.

readery: Maybe it's because I work in a Domestic Relations law practice, but the way I see it, your spouse and always and forever true love may not pan out, but your kids are your kids forever. A seventeen year old will not usually invoke great paroxyms of warm fuzzy lloooovve as they did when they were giving those adoring sloppy toddler kisses, but they have you, you have them and the love is always there (sometimes obscured by shear aggravation).

Chasuk: In two weeks, I'll have been married to the same woman for 28 years. I still love her very much. However, as soon as our daughters were born, I loved them more. This doesn't mean that I loved my wife any less, but that the focus of my universe shifted…I would die for my children. I would die for my wife. But if my children and my wife were both in mortal peril, I would protect my children first. My wife understands this, and she feels the same way. She loves me, but she would sacrifice me for our daughters…No one expects it to happen, but it does.

I know this is probably winding down, but I wanted to offer another perspective, since I think it's kind of important:

One side of the story that everybody seems to be ignoring—which makes sense, since this is a conversation about parents, and where would parents be without a bit of ignoring-the-important-and-obvious?—is the other variable in the equation: the children. It strikes me as laughably absurd that we can get 140 comments into a conversation about whether a person should love her children more than her spouse without even once considering what's better for the kids; but then, where parents are concerned, that's often not likely to come up except as an afterthought anyhow, right?

To be blunt: I am one of those kids whose parents loved me more than they loved each other, who felt as though their relationship with me was more permanent than their relationship with each other, and who were both certain that they'd sacrifice the other spouse to save me. Yes, my parents love each other, and they are still married and (I am certain) will be married until the day they die. But if I could have parents that don't see me as the center of their worlds, if I could have parents that don't define themselves more by their association with me than they do by their association with each other and if I could have parents that wouldn't, I'm certain, sacrifice each other to save me and my siblings in a heartbeat, if I could only go back and have had parents who were good to me and yet wholly and completely focused on each other and on their marriage rather than their kids…

Well, if I could have that in exchange for removing my own appendix with a rusty butter knife and nothing but a four-year-old bottle of Early Times for anesthetic, you'd best believe I'd be on my back swigging booze and sawing away at my belly with a dull blade in a New York minute.
posted by koeselitz at 8:48 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry, mom.
posted by koeselitz at 8:50 PM on May 27, 2009


It strikes me as laughably absurd that we can get 140 comments into a conversation about whether a person should love her children more than her spouse without even once considering what's better for the kids

I assume you didn't read the previous 140 comments, because a quick review yields the following examples to the contrary (whether one agrees or disagrees with them):
There is nothing wrong with loving your spouse more than your children, and putting the marriage first doesn't mean the children get neglected, it only means that time is allotted for the relationship.

The kids will grow up more healthy and self-reliant if their parents aren't constantly praising and spoiling them.

The kids will value relationships more highly if they see how much their parents care for each other and love each other.

That she's able to have a romantic life and strong identity outside of her children sounds like a feature of her role as a parent, not a bug.

It's great for children to be able to feel unconditional love from their parents, but hey. We're not all "special little snowflakes". It's good that some parents still have some perspective on their children.

The people whose primary identity switches entirely to being Mommy or Daddy aren't nearly as much fun to be around, and I'm not at all convinced that their children end up happier for all that intense focus.

Please don't believe that I'm saying a healthy marriage will always produce well-adjusted children, or that well-adjusted children can't come from unhealthy marriages. But I do believe that it's a step in the right direction.

All parents should put each other first & their children second, that way we would see an end to all the helpless, self centered little emperors/empresses that the last couple of generations of breeders have produced. There'd also be a lot more happy marriages, which is good for everyone (except divorce lawyers), especially the children.
posted by brain_drain at 9:24 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: why?
posted by skwt at 9:40 PM on May 27, 2009


I'm with koeselitz. Not so much about primitive surgery, but if I could I'd trade some of the good parenting I undeniably got for knowing not only that my Mom and Dad loved each other more but loved their lives individually and together more.

In no small part because I think it turns out that's good parenting too. I was 21 when I got a real idea of the trouble in my parents relationship and it badly rocked my world. The relationship between anyone's parents is part of the story they have about where they come from and why they're in the world and there's something very hard about learning the flaws in that story. It's also hard to completely shake the idea that your trajectory might have similarities to theirs. And in no small measure because of this, it made it harder for me to rely on my parents as friends and counselors as I entered and tried to navigate life as a young and then an older adult, because I knew they simply hadn't found answers that I wanted.

I would die for my children. I would die for my wife. But if my children and my wife were both in mortal peril, I would protect my children first.

I think there's a degree of natural impulse towards this. I don't even have kids and I find myself protective of children of people that I'm close to, enough that I can readily imagine myself choosing to risk my own safety to protect theirs. And couples who clearly have a lot of love for each other and a healthy relationship and yet feel like they love their kids more, when it comes down to it, I suppose are really just fine. It's one way to live.

At the same time, this whole "we'd sacrifice ourselves and each other for our kids" thing seems like an only rarely useful sentiment. Just like most of us would be more helpful for most causes as part-time volunteers than as famous martyrs, most people will probably never have to sacrifice a spouse to protect or even simply effectively care for our children. And most kids would probably appreciate and benefit from being part of a home where Mom and Dad are, at least to some imperfect extent, part of an ongoing romance, so it's not like the goals are even necessarily at odds.

This is one reason why the linked article doesn't bug me so much. I can see how it could read as gloating, as self-congratulation disguised as self-examination, but I don't see the issue at the heart of the author's piece as wrong. I do understand from what I'm told that feelings shift for many parents after childbirth. I don't understand people who seem to feel a heirarchy of priorities rather than a balance of interests is the right approach. And the author's observation that "there is absolute unanimity on this topic, and instant reassurance," if true, is troubling, because that means there's a social mechanism for reinforcing this. If putting up with a bit of indulgent self-satisfaction is part of the price for having a contrasting possibility reinforced, then I'm happy to let the author be a bit smug.
posted by weston at 10:01 PM on May 27, 2009


Just a different vantage point, but if a man comes up with any new sex moves after a length of marriage, his wife's first impression is likely to be that he learned it from some Strange Woman. You want to be a little careful about the intro of these things.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 10:54 PM on May 27, 2009


I'm surprised this hasn't been posted before - this makes the rounds every X period of time, with the requisite "she's awesome!" and "she sucks!" replies from everyone.

I fail to see how those two statements are contradictory.
posted by mazola at 11:30 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


unrepentanthippie: Just a different vantage point, but if a man comes up with any new sex moves after a length of marriage, his wife's first impression is likely to be that he learned it from some Strange Woman. You want to be a little careful about the intro of these things.

If a woman's first reaction to her partner being sexually creative is that he must be cheating, then the couple has a hell of a lot more trust issues than sex issues, and should see a therapist ASAP. I don't see why anyone would think this is normal.
posted by koeselitz at 2:47 AM on May 28, 2009


I can understand why she did this. The "mommy blogs" are not an accurate sampling of all motherhood, but they're very, very loud, and there are a damn lot of them. And it's not just the blogs - there are stacks of books, marketing, and the like that encourage parents to love their precious little darlings more than anything in the world ever ever ever. I can completely understand why someone would just finally snap and write a big "fuck that noise" essay of their own in response -- not that you shouldn't love your kids, because no one's going to stop you from doing that, but that perhaps the blogs and books and marketing and etc. is encouraging something that's a bit off-balance. You should love your spouse as well, of course, and for pity's SAKE you should also love YOURSELF. It's possible to love all of them and you equally. But the blogs and books and etc. do tend to advance a very imbalanced approach, and I think she just disagreed with that.

...Mind you, her motivation is separate from her execution. The execution's just weird.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:11 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's this weird intensity thing she's on about that creeps me out. I have been amongst women who talk about not having sex with their husbands for weeks at a time, but did I brag about my secret life - "Honey watch your sister for a minute. I think Daddy needs help with something out in the garage." No. To each their own.

Which is totally reasonable. I'm not convinced, for myself, that she's bragging. it's possible, obviously, but the impression I got from the article wasn't that she was bragging to these other women she knows. In fact, the impression I got was that she keeps her satisfying love life a secret because, and this is key, people would hate her for bringing it up - perhaps out of an assumption that she's bragging.

And what occurs to me is that nobody really talks about having an awesome love life after kids, except late night call in shows (god bless you, Sue Johansen). If there are people out there having post-marital bliss, you'd think it was some extremely tiny percentage. It's enough to turn people off of marriage entirely, since the people who are enjoying their marriages sexually apparently feel shamed into keeping mum about it, by the kind of reception this woman (for many reasons) is getting here.

So is she bragging? Maybe. But honestly, I'm inclined to think anyone who confessed to the sex life she's talking about would be received the same way, bragging or not. (not by all the same people, obviously. but some of them.) I think that's a shame, because a lot of us could do with hearing more people talk about how their sex life didn't end after marriage and/or childbirth. There's a lot of projection going on both in this thread and other places about her, where people are assuming some malicious intent from her not just because she's bragging, but because she has mentioned her satisfactory love life at all. I have difficulty getting behind that.

No—we're calling this woman names because all she's done is use high-minded talk about society and fulfillment to say to the whole world:

“I'm getting laid, and you're not. Ha!”


This is kinda what I'm talking about. I can't help but wonder how a person could possibly say without shame that they have a wonderful post-marriage sex life and not inspire people to make a comment like this. Should she have been groveling and begging your forgiveness in order to not give you this impression? Or maybe her sin is talking about it at all? Again, I have difficulty getting behind this sentiment.
posted by shmegegge at 9:02 AM on May 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


This poor woman.
I am reminded why I can't quite enjoy Michael Chabon's books: it's the desperate flailing smugness.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:10 AM on May 28, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: I think you are not so familiar with "Mommy blogs" as you think you are.

A lot of the blogs I read attempt to demystify that whole "perfect Mom" stereotype of a woman who can do anything, and, yes, whose life revolves around her children, by showing what it's really like for them, day to day.

And, shmeggage, I think you are way off base. Of course women who have kids talk about sex, and their sex lives, just like any other women, and I don't think we slap each other down for it, either.

When I started writing erotica (which I didn't do until after the kids were born), my closest friends couldn't have been happier for me.

And when they're tired and complaining, the major complaint is not usually their spouses wanting sex, it's that their spouses aren't helping them more with the kids because they want to have a more active love life, too.

So, please don't come in assuming we are judging this woman just because she's passionate about her husband, or because she's not putting her kids first, or because we're dried-up husks of sex-hating breeders who secretly envy her.

What we're annoyed by is her insufferable smugness and her lack of empathy for other women, and her own children, too.
posted by misha at 10:03 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course women who have kids talk about sex, and their sex lives, just like any other women,

I never said they didn't. What I said was that people don't often talk about how great sex can be after marriage, and that the general impression is that it isn't. My point was that it's both refreshing and (in my opinion) important for people to express things like what the author was expressing more often.

and I don't think we slap each other down for it, either.

a lot of people are doing just that right in this thread and other places about this woman. and no, it's not just because she's insufferably smug. maybe that's the only problem YOU have with her, but you're speaking for a whole lot of people as if they all felt exactly the same way you feel.

So, please don't come in assuming we are judging this woman just because she's passionate about her husband,

I don't know who the "we" in this sentence is. all married women? all married women who hate Ayelet Waldman? don't worry. I'm not assuming anything about whoever you're lumping yourself in with as though you were all the same person. I'm describing a trend that is visibly evident in this thread and elsewhere.

or because she's not putting her kids first,

you're right. nobody thinks badly of her for that. clearly, everbody agrees with her and nobody's judging her for admitting this.

or because we're dried-up husks of sex-hating breeders who secretly envy her.

which is totally what i said. you've paraphrased me perfectly. christ.

What we're annoyed by is her insufferable smugness and her lack of empathy for other women, and her own children, too.

oh how oh how could i possibly have mistaken statements like this for projection and defensiveness? look I have a tremendous respect for you, but there's a point where statements about Ayelet Waldman's personality and character flaws stop being observations based on evidence and start being sweeping assumptions based on god knows what. If I were to read your comments the same way you've read Waldman's article (namely, by making assumptions about your character based entirely on my subjective opinion) you'd tell me I was being an asshole and assuming things about you when I don't know what I'm talking about. In fact, you've already done that when I haven't said anything about you at all. Maybe it's time you took some of your own advice.
posted by shmegegge at 10:32 AM on May 28, 2009


So, please don't come in assuming we are judging this woman just because she's passionate about her husband, or because she's not putting her kids first, or because we're dried-up husks of sex-hating breeders who secretly envy her.

Misha,
I get your feeling of umbrage.
But I find her refusal to offer community empathy bracing and fun.
Her lifestyle is light years from mine. It's quite possible she'd glare poisonously at me at a dinner party and turn rudely to her other neighbor and I'd hate it...but I enjoy her provocative angle on the mommy muddle and sex and kids.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:43 AM on May 28, 2009


shmegegge, I think you're projecting -- you're concerned about sexlessness after children, and you're acting like what the other commenters here are really pissed about is that this lady takes delight in getting laid. I really do think an essay could be written about great sex after children that didn't begin with "the other mommies are all, invariably, this way; but I am this way." It is condescending to motivate your piece in a way that first places everyone else in a different bin (the circular type).

If we need confirmation that she is a hyper-competitive, deeply insecure score-keeper who obsesses over where everyone ranks in everyone else's affections, take a gander at the essay linked by PhoBWanKenobi. (Here I will admit my own prejudices: I do have a hard time imagining a good mother who also "terrifies" her children with her mood swings, but I suppose anything's possible. My suspicion, though, is that this is not this healthy, passionate bond that finds expression in great sex, but that she competes with her children for her husband's attention and love. That is bad. Really bad. I guess we'll find out when their memoirs come out.)
posted by palliser at 10:44 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't help but wonder how a person could possibly say without shame that they have a wonderful post-marriage sex life and not inspire people to make a comment like this. Should she have been groveling and begging your forgiveness in order to not give you this impression?

Hey, you know what? There just might be another alternative. Like maybe not making sweeping assumptions about how every other married person lives, or injecting the implication that people who put their children first have shitty sex lives so they engage in transference. That's smug and inaccurate.

She's welcome to crow all she pleases about her wonderful sex life, and I'd even suggest it's heartening to read it. What isn't particular nice is the smarmy "of course they put their kids first - they're not getting any!" fallacy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:54 AM on May 28, 2009


shmegegge, I think you're projecting -- you're concerned about sexlessness after children, and you're acting like what the other commenters here are really pissed about is that this lady takes delight in getting laid.

I am concerned about that. how is that projecting? and some of the commenters here are pissed about the fact that this lady takes delight in getting laid. i'm trying not to point fingers and name names because I think that's kind of fucked up, but if you're trying to tell me that no one here is either jealous or resentful of this woman because of what her sex life says about their own, then have fun in your fantasy land.

If we need confirmation that she is a hyper-competitive, deeply insecure score-keeper

I'd like, at this point, to say that we don't need that. I'd like to say that we really don't need to confirm anything about her personality at all, and that it's still possible to talk about post-marital sex without getting personal.

Like maybe not making sweeping assumptions about how every other married person lives, or injecting the implication that people who put their children first have shitty sex lives so they engage in transference.

I think you're talking about Ayelet Waldman here, but it occurs to me that maybe you're talking about me? Assuming you're talking about Waldman, I'm interested in reading where she does this. I didn't see it in the article, but that could just be my read of it.

out of curiosity, is it possible that she says that some people put their children first and engage in transference because of shitty sex lives, insted of all people? if so, does this make her point more palatable?
posted by shmegegge at 11:15 AM on May 28, 2009


I'm interested in reading where she does this. I didn't see it in the article, but that could just be my read of it. out of curiosity, is it possible that she says that some people put their children first and engage in transference because of shitty sex lives, insted of all people?

Nope!:

"But the real reason for this lack of sex, or at least the most profound, is that the wife's passion has been refocused. Instead of concentrating her ardor on her husband, she concentrates it on her babies. Where once her husband was the center of her passionate universe, there is now a new sun in whose orbit she revolves. Libido, as she once knew it, is gone, and in its place is all-consuming maternal desire. There is absolute unanimity on this topic, and instant reassurance.

"Except, that is, from me."

"Absolute unanimity" contrasted with "me." I don't see how she could more clearly be distancing herself and making sweeping assumptions.

And what I was trying to do, in response to your challenge to come up with "reasons" based objectively on her writing, rather than on "god knows what," was to explain my distaste for her image as she presents it. Yes, she rubs me the wrong way, for reasons entirely separate from my deep insecurities. It's because she seems like a self-obsessed, hyper-competitive dink.
posted by palliser at 11:21 AM on May 28, 2009


I think you're talking about Ayelet Waldman here, but it occurs to me that maybe you're talking about me?

Er, no?

Assuming you're talking about Waldman, I'm interested in reading where she does this. I didn't see it in the article, but that could just be my read of it.

Her train of thoughts go "all the moms I know talk about how they're not getting any, whereas I am getting plenty, and I love my husband more than my kids". The implication here is that parents who put their kids first = little to no sex.

out of curiosity, is it possible that she says that some people put their children first and engage in transference because of shitty sex lives, insted of all people? if so, does this make her point more palatable?

Sure, it's also possible some parents do engage in transference and therefore put their kids first. It's also possible some parents engage in projecting their own unsatisfied dreams onto their kids, and that's why they put them first. It's also possible that, you know, you can put your kids first and have amazing sex with your spouse. Her assumptions run too broad to consider that alternative though.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:24 AM on May 28, 2009


Her train of thoughts go "all the moms I know talk about how they're not getting any, whereas I am getting plenty, and I love my husband more than my kids". The implication here is that parents who put their kids first = little to no sex.

Also, the pull-quote palliser brought out.

I hope you can understand why that would be insulting.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:27 AM on May 28, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: I think you are not so familiar with "Mommy blogs" as you think you are. A lot of the blogs I read attempt to demystify that whole "perfect Mom" stereotype of a woman who can do anything, and, yes, whose life revolves around her children, by showing what it's really like for them, day to day.

I don't think of those blogs (I'm assuming you're talking about blogs like Finslippy or Dooce, which I do read) as "Mommy Blogs", actually. In fact, I think of them as trying to do the same thing as Ms. Waldman -- but just doing a much better job of it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:32 AM on May 28, 2009


"Absolute unanimity" contrasted with "me." I don't see how she could more clearly be distancing herself and making sweeping assumptions.

well, it's an interesting thought. maybe you're right. I read it that she was talking specifically about the mommy groups she had been a part of, and that she was then using that as a springboard to talk about the larger issue. but honestly, i couldn't say that my read is better or more reasonable than yours.

It's also possible that, you know, you can put your kids first and have amazing sex with your spouse. Her assumptions run too broad to consider that alternative though.

i don't know for certain that she eliminates that possibility. I think that a debate like this happens a lot in feminism discussions, too. (for what it's worth, i think this is probably a discussion deeply entrenched in feminism and sex-positive thought.) some feminist thinkers and writers have, in the past, been thought of as polarizing rather than unifying. and people have criticized some feminist writers for distancing themselves from women in traditional gender roles, and judging them. hell, for some of those writers it's been true. but I also think that sometimes you can hear someone say "women are trapped in paradigm [x], but there's another way, I know from experience," and think to yourself "so what, you're better than me, now? fuck you!" (please note, I'm not talking about you specifically. that's intended to be a very general "you.")

so, for what it's worth, I think she's trying to express a viewpoint that doesn't get much expression: someone who loves her husband more than her kids. and she's said in this very article that she's ashamed of her feelings, and feels like it makes her a bad mother and just generally a wrong person. I think it's worth it to say these things out loud, and to let people say them out loud without condemning them.

but what I'm hearing a lot of in this thread are people saying that that's false modesty. that she's just trying to make bragging more covert by faking humility. and that's an awfully big assumption to make. and I think that assumption is the structure upon which this perception of smugness and judgment rests. so yeah, I can't help but wonder if maybe some people, in this thread and elsewhere, aren't only responding to her tone and execution, but her very point itself. I think a lot of people are assuming they're (or people they know are) being judged when maybe that's not it. Maybe she's kind of a dick, but maybe she's kind of a dick who's really only trying to say that, no, there are in fact people out there who feel the same way you do if you're someone who wonders whether or not you're a terrible person for still taking time away from the kids to fuck.
posted by shmegegge at 11:39 AM on May 28, 2009


if you're someone who wonders whether or not you're a terrible person for still taking time away from the kids to fuck.

Well, that depends on what the little darlings are doing, doesn't it? Take them to the neighbors' for cookies, by all means. Leave them an extension cord and a car battery, and some busybody might call the police.
posted by palliser at 11:54 AM on May 28, 2009


i don't know for certain that she eliminates that possibility [that you can put your kids first and have amazing sex with your spouse].

Well, she sure as hell doesn't include it. To say "the real reason for this lack of sex, or at least the most profound, is that the wife's passion has been refocused. Instead of concentrating her ardor on her husband, she concentrates it on her babies" and all pretty much underscores that. That's my problem with the article.

Why are we supposed to applaud the brave, brave woman who's being so honest about her adoration of her husband over her kids? Is it alright if some of us are an eensy bit insulted by her assumption of "total unamity" on her false dichotomy?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:58 AM on May 28, 2009


Is it alright if some of us are an eensy bit insulted by her assumption of "total unamity" on her false dichotomy?

of course it is, not that it's my place to say what is or isn't ok.
posted by shmegegge at 12:07 PM on May 28, 2009


Why are we supposed to applaud the brave, brave woman who's being so honest about her adoration of her husband over her kids?

God, the condescension is thick here. Issues?


Is it alright if some of us are an eensy bit insulted by her assumption of "total unamity" on her false dichotomy?

No it's not, because I'm not sure why you should be insult by what someone is doing if it has nothing to do with you and because she is writing reality as she's experienced it. That's the whole point of her writing the article, she's in these groups, the topic comes up and everyone else's experiences are different from hers.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:52 PM on May 28, 2009


...if you're someone who wonders whether or not you're a terrible person for still taking time away from the kids to fuck.

"Well, that depends on what the little darlings are doing, doesn't it? Take them to the neighbors' for cookies, by all means. Leave them an extension cord and a car battery, and some busybody might call the police."

Palliser,
I'm probably reading your whole "little darlings" comment the wrong way!.

But it looks as though you're suggesting that the price of a selfish sex session (unless you've taken every precaution possible for your kids - in which case it's not selfish at all) might well be mortal danger and the cops!

Which is precisely the sort of alarmist, low sex drive mommy-thinking that our terrible author scoffs at!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:03 PM on May 28, 2009


Um, yeah, that was just a joke. I don't think the police are often called because parents left their children with electrical equipment in order to go have sex.
posted by palliser at 1:11 PM on May 28, 2009


well, they won't be until I start having kids!
posted by shmegegge at 1:13 PM on May 28, 2009


Um, yeah, that was just a joke

At least I was smiling - if for entirely the wrong reason:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:13 PM on May 28, 2009


Although now that I examine my motivations, it was probably a combination of "here's a funny image" and "here's some hyperbole comin' your way, sister!"
posted by palliser at 1:15 PM on May 28, 2009


Good for you, palliser:)

(The trick is, shmegegge - you turn everything off at the mains first!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:23 PM on May 28, 2009


I don't think of those blogs (I'm assuming you're talking about blogs like Finslippy or Dooce, which I do read) as "Mommy Blogs", actually. In fact, I think of them as trying to do the same thing as Ms. Waldman -- but just doing a much better job of it.

I completely understand this. I don't generally think of myself as a Mommy blogger, but the consensus among those that do that I know personally is that this term, once derogatory, has become an empowering term to many, and I have heard Dooce refer to herself as one.

shmeggage, I was being sarcastic. It wasn't my intention to attack you personally, but to specifically counter these points:

And what occurs to me is that nobody really talks about having an awesome love life after kids

I can't help but wonder if maybe some people, in this thread and elsewhere, aren't only responding to her tone and execution, but her very point itself.


I'm sorry, if, in doing so, you feel I was out of line. I felt that you were really off the mark when you implied that anyone was advocating "spousal neglect".

I can't help but wonder how a person could possibly say without shame that they have a wonderful post-marriage sex life and not inspire people to make a comment like this. Should she have been groveling and begging your forgiveness in order to not give you this impression? Or maybe her sin is talking about it at all?

This is where my "we" came from, the "your forgiveness" in your comment seemed to be pretty much all-encompassing.

but what I'm hearing a lot of in this thread are people saying that that's false modesty. that she's just trying to make bragging more covert by faking humility. and that's an awfully big assumption to make.

I do think that if you read the spam she sent out about the inauguration, it's hard to credit her with that humility that, apparently, you are seeing in the post BB linked here.
posted by misha at 1:57 PM on May 28, 2009


This is where my "we" came from, the "your forgiveness" in your comment seemed to be pretty much all-encompassing.

that makes sense. in that particular instance, and really that's the only point where I did this, I was specifically speaking to koeselitz.

I do think that if you read the spam she sent out about the inauguration, it's hard to credit her with that humility that, apparently, you are seeing in the post BB linked here.

You know, I took a look at that, and I don't know what to think of it. Maybe she really is totally self involved and self-aggrandizing. On the other hand, it's a gawker post and it's awfully short on facts. I don't know who these 5000 people were that she sent this to. I also don't know what the hell it is or why she sent it. Does she have a fan club? Maybe she sent it to her fan club? I don't know. It's not a flattering depiction, though.
posted by shmegegge at 2:13 PM on May 28, 2009


Does she have a fan club?

It's from her email list. You have to sign up to get the messages. Frankly, I think it's inpoor taste for someone at Gawker to sign up for it and then proceed to make fun of her. If you don't like her, fine, but it's petty and small to mock her for an email list post, particularly when the list is clearly intended be pretty fluffy and light, if the welcoming letter is any indication:
Thank you for joining my e-mail list.


As a Jewish girl skilled in the art of contracting out tasks too complicated or unpleasant to face on my own (snaking the sewer pipe, resurfacing the driveway, cooking), I have retained the services of Constant Contact to manage my email list. I intend for my contact to be anything but constant. Sporadic at best. I promise to send no more than a single email every month or so, to let you know if I am reading in your city, to offer you tickets to the dinner I am planning with the brilliant Alice Waters, to send you haikus, jokes, and funny pictures of kittens. (Kidding. I'm kidding. I loathe cats.)
Please feel free to unsubscribe at any time. My feelings won't be hurt, and your reward will be the inestimable gift of never having to hear from me again.
Yours,


Ayelet Waldman
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:39 PM on May 28, 2009


I really don't understand the fuss.

I chose my spouse. I carefully considered his many qualities, both good and bad; I considered our long term compatibility; I joined myself until death to a fairly known entity.

Children, on the other hand, are genetic bingo. They can be anything. They're a crap shoot, and while you may choose to have them, you very rarely get to pick them.

A person can only have one primary relationship. That is the definition of the word primary. A child will have a primary relationship with one parent, normally but not often the mother, assuming she is present. A parent, however, cannot have a primary relationship with all offspring; therefore it seems only logical that the parents' primary relationship should rightfully be with each other.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:28 PM on May 28, 2009


Well, maybe the concept of "primary" is itself a fallacy when applied here, in that way.

It is hard to imagine loving some random collection of limbs and organs as much (if in a different way) as you love your spouse, whom you chose and have known for years. But it happens, and I'd wager most parents feel that they couldn't rank their affections. It's mysterious, though -- so mysterious, in fact, that when parents are expecting their second child, there is a near-universal experience of deep anxiety over how they could possibly love the second child as much as the first. Even though the experience of coming to adore a child has happened once already. It's weird.
posted by palliser at 8:03 AM on May 29, 2009


...It's weird.

I warmly agree, palliser, that "primary" needs to be modified in this case.

And that it's extraordinary how your love flows, enlarges, doubles - does whatever it needs to do (if you're lucky!) to accommodate the new. Not to mention the infinite weirdness of looking at the new person - and maybe thinking "oh, so that's who you are?" - or - "I think we know each other?" - or even, just "...goodness gracious!".

(I think "primary" is best kept for "health care provider"!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:23 AM on May 29, 2009


I think some of what's rubbing people the wrong way is rhetorical choices, particularly the persona Waldman adopts here (and probably in her other work). Yeah, she's a square peg, an outlier in her particular social milieu, like a lot of first-person-essay writers (and a fair amount of MeFites). She chooses to way, way spotlight that: "Oh my god, I'm such an oddball, aren't I?, and this really bothers me." Which just comes off as protesting-too-much artifice when she's clearly reveling in her "outsider" status.

Contrast that with another raging weirdo square peg, David Sedaris. But he chooses a different stance: his narrator is usually oblivious to the fact that it's unusual to take field trips to the morgue or spend one's childhood dreaming of being Billie Holiday. Which makes that persona come across as endearing -- if you're me.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:21 PM on May 29, 2009


How is she an outsider? Happily married smug mother of kids. Her schtick is I love the husband more than the kids, but that hardly makes her an outsider-- it makes her what she sees as an improved version of the ultimate insider, AKA, the married woman with children, your basic nuclear family. She's more like the popular girl who thinks being an outsider is cool-- and tries to push the envelope by saying a few outrageous things-- but when you come down to it, how could you be more conventional?

If she were taking multiple lovers-- or tolerating her husband doing so-- or raising her kids on her own or "childfree," or living in some kind of communal arrangement or gay or bi, she could claim outsider status. But a wealthy, married mom with a high status husband? Please.
posted by Maias at 7:02 PM on May 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


If she were taking multiple lovers-- or tolerating her husband doing so-- or raising her kids on her own or "childfree," or living in some kind of communal arrangement or gay or bi, she could claim outsider status.

It's an interesting point, Maias, especially when you consider Ayelet's marriage in that light.

Chabon is very popular in the gay and bi community, his works often develop around a theme of sexual awakening, usually as the result of a same-sex encounter, and he has been quoted as saying, "I had slept with one man whom I loved, and learned to love another man so much that it would never have occurred to me to want to sleep with him."

So who are we to say that they *don't* have an unconventional marriage?
posted by misha at 7:39 AM on May 31, 2009


I think we can safely say that if they *did* have an unconventional marriage, she would write about it. If she is "bold" enough to blog where her kids can read it that she wants to kill herself and bold enough to boast in the NYT about her fabulous marital sex life and bold enough to write that she wants her kid to grow up gay, why would she censor polyamory or her husband's bisexuality?

Or maybe that's the next book...
posted by Maias at 9:49 AM on May 31, 2009


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