August 27, 2009

"In the six weeks since my baby was born, I seem to have lost all worldly ambition."

"I can think about September, when I am supposed to go back to work, only with dread. I have a class to teach. I have to start writing again. But the idea of talking about ideas in front of students or typing a coherent sentence (i.e., my normal life) seems totally implausible. Even now, the prospect of writing a few paragraphs about this problem seems almost out of reach. Taking care of the baby—physical, draining, exhilarating—is more like farming: following the rhythms of the earth, getting up at dawn, watching the corn flush in the sunrise. It is not at all like writing."

And yet, you are writing this article, Katie Roiphe. And yet you are writing this article.

52 comments:

campy said...

And yet you are writing this article.

She said she has trouble writing coherent sentences.

MadisonMan said...

Perhaps in the future the author will write something original.

Michael Hasenstab said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meade said...

"Taking care of the baby—physical, draining, exhilarating—is more like farming: following the rhythms of the earth, getting up at dawn, watching the corn flush in the sunrise. It is not at all like writing."

That's not even that much like farming.

Unless she adds in projectile vomiting and the manure-shoveling part.

traditionalguy said...

So being a parent is a 20+ year sacrifice? Someone did it for you and passing it along is not waterboarding you, is it? I predict that she will feel better about mothering her child in a few more months.

rhhardin said...

Around noon the rooster shows up and asks for a handful of scratch feed.

Synova said...

I saw her article yesterday and didn't get that far into it.

It wasn't so bad. Mostly musings about how, yes, having a baby isn't at all like yet another vocation that one applies ones self to the way you would to a job or to anything else.

I'd add, also, that all the kind things said about how chasing small children is good exercise and burns calories is all a complete bunch of hooie, too. Being too tired to think *does not* mean that calories were burned or fitness happened!

She can do *that* article in two or three years.

Kirby Olson said...

I think it's a good article. Roiphe is clear and straightforward, and says what needs to be said. She is the best of the anti-feminist feminists, I think.

For years feminists argued that traditional male occupations like writing were something they needed to do to be taken seriously. But those preoccupations are nothing next to family life, which is more absorbing and more beautiful, than anything any writer will ever write.

She's right. I don't see any contradiction at all in what she's written.

Even in war, people do manage to write. Even in love. Even from the frontlines of babycare. I really enjoyed this article, and will remember it, as I remember her other writings.

What she's doing is so much more important than what Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton was doing, and much healthier.

Lem said...

Natures way of ensuring that baby gets the kind of attention he will never get (or even be able to conjure up) the rest of his life.

A really cruel joke if you ask me.

rhhardin said...

Bringing home hay for the baby.

Bissage said...

Gee, I don’t know, folks. Seems to me Ms. Roiphe is trying to tell us how much she adores her new baby and how she’d much rather be a doting mother than anything else in the entire world.

Maybe your bullshit detector is beeping because she should simply stay at home but my whine-o-meter is registering a zero.

Maybe it needs to go to the shop or something -- sort of like that “baby” which might benefit from surgery to give “it” a cognizable gender.

Lem said...

Woman still have a long way to go in this country.

Where is her third man when she needs it?

Palin 2012.

wv - pilyr = Me, a Palin phile

Hoosier Daddy said...

Jesus Christ on a pogo stick. This dipshit should be glad she wasn't born in say, 1920, you know, when women didn't get to write a few exhausting paragraphs for a living.

I can only imagine what her husband is like. Probably named Maurice.

former law student said...

And yet, you are writing this article, Katie Roiphe. And yet you are writing this article.

Well, two years ago she was writing about how hard it was to be a divorcing mother of a three-year-old daughter. Maybe she merely updated a draft about being the mother of a newborn she wrote sometime in the past five years.

http://nymag.com/news/features/2007/sexandlove/30928/

I've got to say, trying to read a navelgazing article, written by someone I don't care two flips about, is torturous.

Some of the pressing tasks I do—say, running to the drugstore to buy more pacifiers

I call bullshit. Is the baby eating the pacifiers or something? My brother had one for his entire babyhood.

rhhardin said...

She is just saying she's wired to obsess on the baby, and knows better, but wired takes precedence.

It's an attack on received feminism.

Guys may obsess on math.

Lem said...

For depression Rielle Hunter recommends a cross country trip with the baby.

CarmelaMotto said...

I don't know what article Hasenstab read.

She is not complaining. She is over the moon in love with her baby. She is just surprised that all the things she thought were so important - like her job - are not anymore. At least for now while she is in the ether of love with her infant. She talks about being at a Gay Talese reading she was co-hosting and how she thought of nothing but her baby and and the fastest route home to her baby.

It is not poetry, it's more a blog post or diary entry and that's OK.

I think it's sweet. Especially since I have two friends going through this at the moment (and completely delerious from a lack of sleep).

former law student said...

She is just surprised that all the things she thought were so important - like her job - are not anymore.

Which makes it all the weirder that this is Kid No. 2 for her. Did she not have similar feelings after her daughter was born?

mrs whatsit said...

I liked this article very much and I can't comprehend why people are so bothered by it. Roiphe is not whining -- anything but. It is not whining to celebrate how much she loves her baby and how little she cares, at the moment, about pretty much anything else. I remember that phase, which recurs anew with each new child (FLS, maybe you don't have more than one yet? or any?) It's short-lived and addled but euphoric, unlike any other experience in life, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Plus, it does change your thinking about what kinds of work matter and what don't -- at least, it does once you regain the ability to think about anything but your child, which only takes a little while. The people who somehow got the impression that this piece is negative or complaining can't have read it very carefully -- or perhaps they accidentally read something else?

David said...

Meade noted this from a slightly different slant, but I will pile on.

"Taking care of the baby—physical, draining, exhilarating—is more like farming: following the rhythms of the earth, getting up at dawn, watching the corn flush in the sunrise. It is not at all like writing."

This nice lady grew up in New York City, daughter of a "noted feminist." She went to an all girl prep school in New York, then Harvard and Princeton (where she apparently did ok.) Now she's back in New York teaching at NYU.

She knows zip, zero, nada about farming and for this urban flower to make the comparison is ludicrous.

Why is it that these apparently smart expensively educated people do not have an internal (or external, for that matter) editor that whispers to them that they are making fools of themselves?

former law student said...

I remember that phase, which recurs anew with each new child

Sure, but did you ignore the existence of your older children while rhapsodizing over the newborn?

It's a weird mother who would do that.

Synova said...

Well, the addled euphoria is mostly hormones unimpeded by higher brain function due to extreme sleep deprivation.

It does a number on memory, for sure.

CarmelaMotto said...

I don't know her bio, nor have I read her other works. I just read what she wrote about being a new mom. It is "navel gazing."

FLS - what makes you think it's to the exclusion of other children? How did you jump to that?

mrs whatsit said...

Yes, I agree that it's odd that it seems new to her when she's not a first-time mom -- but maybe Synova's right and her hormones wiped out her memory. I went and took a look at that article you linked about her divorce and though I didn't read the whole thing, it really isn't a complaint about how hard it is to be a divorced single mom at all. In fact, it's rather like this one -- far from complaining, she writes about how happy she is to be divorced and how she's disappointing all her friends who expect her to be strung out and haggard and miserable .

Shanna said...

Sure, but did you ignore the existence of your older children while rhapsodizing over the newborn?

Isn’t that pretty normal? I mean, I don’t have kids, but there is a reason you have to make an effort to give the oldest special time, and to make sure they don’t feel displaced by the younger child. It is perfectly normal to focus on a baby, instead of a three year old. Not to say you completely ignore them, but it is just different.

Sofa King said...

This reads better in Engrish:

I may consider in September, when I should go back the work, only fills dreaded. I have the teaching kind. I must start to write again. But discusses in front of student's idea or enters one to link up the sentence idea (i.e., my normal life) is as if completely unbelievable. Since so, writes about this question some section prospect may not as if nearly and. Looks after the baby physics, leaks, likable is more farms likely: Is engaged in Earth's rhythm, gets up in the daybreak, watches at sunrise's corn flushing. It is not likely the writing.

Joe said...

Seems that the biggest, and nastiest, criticisms of the article come from those without children. There is a world of difference to have a child of your own versus even babysitting a sibling, niece, nephew or grandchild. Despite having done plenty of baby sitting as a teenager, I was quite unprepared for my deep emotional response to the birth of my children. Kids drive me crazy, but I wouldn't trade them for the world.

Scott M said...

@fls

You never answered my question on another thread...are you a parent?

Some of the pressing tasks I do—say, running to the drugstore to buy more pacifiers

I call bullshit. Is the baby eating the pacifiers or something? My brother had one for his entire babyhood.


No. They get lost or misplaced in the house despite one's best efforts. You do eventually find them, but at that point, you're loath to allow your baby to put it back in his mouth. Sure, you can boil it, sterilize it, etc, and it's clinically clean, but that just doesn't seem to be enough.

Luckily, my first three were not pacifier babies. Hopefully this next one (due Nov 4th and surgically our last) will follow suite.

Synova said...

"Isn’t that pretty normal? I mean, I don’t have kids, but there is a reason you have to make an effort to give the oldest special time, and to make sure they don’t feel displaced by the younger child. It is perfectly normal to focus on a baby, instead of a three year old. Not to say you completely ignore them, but it is just different."

Well, I've got four, and had them in six years (a couple of those years I've got no memories of at all and even thought my youngest was 5 the whole year she was 4)...

Actually... I think it isn't that hard to pay more attention to the toddler than the infant, if you've got both at once, except that we've gotten so weird about infants... maybe because we have so few. They have simple physical needs and are very self-centered about it all. A toddler has greater social/relationship/love needs that are a lot more pressing than an infant's need for food, a clean butt, and touch. If I had a crying toddler and a crying infant at the same time (like *that* ever happened!) I took care of the toddler first.

We get weird about babies. We freak out about the "soft spot" on their heads if the toddler gets within two feet of them and refuse to let them cry even when nothing we do stops the crying (crying is what they are good at) and fuss and worry about breast or bottle and we obsess on how they are laying and if a jumper toy is in this year or out and what sort of diapers we use and if a binky will ruin them for life and shriek, "Don't touch the baby!" any time the older kids look interested. And is it any wonder older siblings feel abandoned?

When my son was three months he kept spitting his binky out into the mud when we were standing in line to get processed for evacuation from the Philippines. I stuck that thing in my mouth to clean it and gave it back to him.

He lived.

Joe said...

I call bullshit. Is the baby eating the pacifiers or something?

You sometimes think they do. You can be all stocked up with diapers, diaper wipes, bottles, pacifiers and yet when you need them, you inevitably can't find them. Among other things older siblings are known to "help" by throwing things away.

My brother had one for his entire babyhood.

You fell for that? I have a great investment you may be interested in.

CarmelaMotto said...

Joe and Scott M - agree. Especially if it's a baby who is comforted by sucking and you need sleep and the baby won't go to sleep without one - or sleep through.

When you remarked on losing pacifiers, I used to throw them down the vent in the floor and when I was 3 (just used to nap with) and I threw my last one my mom said - no more....one of my few vivid toddler memories. I was addicted.

Scott M said...

@Synova

I have lost nearly all respect for you because you actually typed "binkie" :)

Look, in the grand scheme of things, infants are easy. I will grant you that your FIRST infant is going to seem like you're trying to move a mountain one stone at a time. However, being a stay-home dad (full time school) for my second and third, it was a piece of cake. They eat and sleep, despite your best efforts to play with them.

What's REALLY hard, visa vi attention to one or the other, is an older child, say 5, and a toddler.

The toddler is still young enough to warrant extra supervision but too young to really understand rules, so the toddler, in the 5-year-old's mind, gets away with murder.

Part of that is the daily parental acknowledgment of new skills/words/general stuff that the toddler does. The cute has been off the 5-year-old pretty much since the toddler came home from the hospital and that 5-year-old KNOWS you're going ga-ga over the toddler and, probably, being harder on the 5-year-old because 1) your patience is shorter 2) you expect more of them.

It's a very delicate balancing act that I don't pretend to have mastered after three of the little rugrats.

Synova said...

Five year olds are all little lawyers.

Every one of them.

Lord help you if they've figured out a rule and you do something different.

And they *always* expect the three year old to follow the rules that the 5 year old has figured out.

CarmelaMotto said...

Synova - agreed. However, I understand you were being evacuated, but gross. You or the baby could have gotten worms, etc. This is the reason my mom didn't let me eat the "polka dot" gum on the store floor or eat my mud pie.

I think we are "weird" about infants because of all of the info out there and pressure. I mean, if the kids not breast fed it is dooomed! Doooooomed!!!!!!!!!!

Also, toddlers can at least communicate a bit so you have an idea what's going on.

Jeremy said...

Did the comments link accidently point to dooce.com? Where am I? And can I get any recommendations on dual strollers - side by side or inline?

-The Other Jeremy

Joe said...

Inline. The side by side ones don't fit through a lot of doors easily and annoy everyone one around you.

former law student said...

are you a parent?

I have never given birth. So I cannot relate to this obsession because no entirely formed human being has ever emerged from my body.

Joan said...

What Joe said about the strollers.

If Roiphe has more than one kid, this was a very weird article. I read it as her being a very new mom, and still all caught up in the hormonal and emotional stew that birth creates. I remember that giddy-in-love phase, too.

When you have more than one, though, your times for staring lovingly at the baby are very limited. I didn't have time to do the crazy love thing so much with my younger two kids. ITA with Synova, and it's the advice I always give second-time parents: if both kids need something, help the older one first -- he'll remember, and the baby won't be damaged by an extra 30 seconds of fussing.

Joe said...

fls is a woman? I though he was a gay man? If so, perhaps he isn't aware that men can be, gasp, fathers. I guess he and Andrew Sullivan have a lot more in common.

holdfast said...

"I call bullshit. Is the baby eating the pacifiers or something? My brother had one for his entire babyhood."

-Well, as a new parent, I will admit that we've lost a (quite) few. Of course, I have Amazon Prime, so when we seem to be running low, I just order up some more and they are delivered within 2 Business Days. This works for diapers, wipes, Dr Brown's bottles (the best thing for gas), breast pump consumable supplies (don't ask) and other baby-rearing items. This whole baby thing ain't easy (he says while his wife does the vast bulk of the work) but it does help to think outside the box a bit - internet shopping and delivery has really helped, especially in the first few critical weeks.

holdfast said...

Phil & Ted's Sport for double strollers - my sister in law swears by them. For single we love the Bugaboo Cameleon.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I thought the same thing as FLS about the pacifiers... Really? How many is your kid eating.

On the farming analogy. I think she was trying to make a comparison of a baby being on a natural time schedule similar to the nature and time schedule of farming.

Milk cows don't know what time it is. The tomatoes don't know what day it is. Babies have their own cylces and rhythms and all of the time scheduling that you are used to doing in the working world is not going to work. You are on the babies time schedule....and don't you forget it.

The first time I was away for any time from my months old daughter, went to a barbeque on a houseboat for a few hours, all I could do was obsess about my baby. Is everything all right? Is she hungry? Crying? Worry worry worry....I was unable to concentrate on anything else and rushed to get home.

mrs whatsit said...

I might be the exceptional commenter on this thread in that I have both farmed and given birth to babies, and accidentally or not, in my view Ms. Roiphe used just the right metaphor. As DBQ said, taking care of a baby has nothing to do with clocks or PDAs and everything to do with natural rhythms and cycles over which a parent has little control. Plus, it involves a lot of manure (I believe Meade already made this point.) However, I do have to differ with DBQ on a minor point. Milk cows do know what time it is. If you doubt it, just get there half an hour late for milking some day and look at them lined up along the fence bellowing at you. It's worse than a newborn with colic!

Old Dad said...

For people who choose to live their lives in the public eye, they wrestle with the idiocy and rancor of public opinion.

Politicizing the response of a new mother to her infant is stupid.

C' est la vie.

pm317 said...

What a bunch of hooey, that article! Its main purpose seems to be a dig at the feminists who according to her look down on motherhood (that seems to be the predominant sentiment). To really drive home that point she makes it into an addiction, this and that nonsense. Why can't a woman keep her wits and rationality in tact and at the same time enjoy her motherhood? Also has she seen a mother bear defend and protect her cubs? It is a natural instinct and why the fuck this purportedly intelligent woman surprised about how she feels?

Freeman Hunt said...

Joan and Synova, I took that advice about attending to the older one first. Good advice.

I second holdfast's Internet shopping recomendation. Especially with Amazon's Subscribe & Save. Diapers and certain food staples simply show up on the porch. I never need think of them.

I wish I could put all of my groceries on Subscribe & Save.

Ann Althouse said...

"the rooster shows up and asks for a handful of scratch feed."

Sounds like it belongs in the euphemisms for masturbation thread.

Joan said...

Freeman: shortly you will figure out that the advice only applies while the younger one is a very young infant. Well before they hit a year old they start noticing things like "who gets Mom's attention" and then you have to start the balancing act that will never end.

Dana said...

Saddest part of Ms. Rophie's essay is that it's a maternity leave - she will have to leave this little baby to go back to that other *work*. It will require her to harden her soft heart which surprises her, and toughen up. She will have to make herself be able to walk away from him and leave him with someone else who will provide comfort, nourishment, and meet other basic needs. And to survive it all, possibly she'll be one of the many women who will attempt to make herself believe that what she is doing at work is just as valuable and meaningful as changing diapers, snuggling the little one close to her chest and being the one whose arms enfold him. Something very valuable is lost in this exchange. And it can't be recaptured once it's gone.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I do have to differ with DBQ on a minor point. Milk cows do know what time it is. If you doubt it, just get there half an hour late for milking some day and look at them lined up along the fence bellowing at you. It's worse than a newborn with colic!


LOL. I agree. Just like the cat who doesn't have a watch but knows when it is past "treat" time. The squalling is incredible.

amba said...

Not only writing, but Writing. "Writing." WRITING.

A need so consuming that it is threatening to everything you are and care about.

Oh, come on. This too shall pass.

amba said...

Natures way of ensuring that baby gets the kind of attention he will never get (or even be able to conjure up) the rest of his life.

A really cruel joke if you ask me.


Leaves us with a lifetime sense of paradise-lost. Unless Mom had postpartum depression.