March 11, 2006

NYT: New Mom Is Off-The-Charts Insane, Totally Normal

As I'm reading Catherine Lloyd Burns' excerpt from her upcoming memoir in the NYT--it's all about how she and her husband deal with their new daughter, Olive, differently, and how that's fine, except that he does it totally wrong, and why can't he see that?--and I find myself toggling back and forth incessantly between two reactions: "this woman is absolutely insane, run far, far away" and "well, yeah, that sounds about what it was like figuring out how to be a parent."

To be able to actually articulate her insanity so clearly shows a certain degree of self-awareness--and with it, hopefully, some sanity.

Figure It Out? Figure It Out? O.K., You Figure It Out! [nyt]

9 Comments

no, greg, you were right on the first guess.

ABSOLUTELY INSANE.

I could go on, but you already hit the nail on the head.

yeah, I'm coming down on the "freakin' nuts" side, too. she is a piece of work...

I think they make anxiety medication for people like her. She sounds extremely sleep-deprived and at the end of her rope.

greg, i think you're right about the self-awareness. she's pulling an ayelet waldman--deliberately pushing readers' buttons and making herself hateful in a pomo here-is-me-looking-at-you-looking-at-me way. it's a literary essay, not an anecdote told over coffee. she's TELLING you she's freakin' nuts. i think it's gutsy to invite people to loathe you that much. and she's clueful about it to know herself, portray herself unsympathetically and ultimately point out that she DOES appreciate her husband's chillness. i wouldn't read this as essay as Truth...whatever that is

[I guess we'll just have to wait for her to show up and start planting comments about herself here, too. oy vey, it's like parenting porn. -ed.]

This is what I sent the NY Times:

I kept reading this column out of morbid curiosity, and later out of an expectation it will end as a piece of satire. My wish for this to be satirical, not loosely-based fiction was shattered with the last few sentences. That was when the writer tried to crudely take the broken persona out of its nosedive of sophomoric ugliness.

I'm left faintly hoping this was just bad writing, but that returns me to wondering what kind of credibility should I assign a piece vetted for an X number of NY Times column-inches. Possibly much less than I instinctively do.

Unless it was a fictitious journal of a woman slowly growing insane? That works least badly.


Good luck,

j.b. diGriz
Brooklyn, NY

[as a memoir excerpt, I can only imagine that it's an amped up, dramaticized retelling of what crossed her mind at the time. Which would make her the kind of histrionic drama junkie I don't have time or energy to be friends with, but which might make entertaining/ennervating reading. For someone else. -ed.]

Maybe men are more shielded from this type of parent (unless of course they are married to this type of mom) but I don't find this mother at all unusual. I have met quite a few neurotic moms in the 20 months I've had a child and seriously, she really is nothing exceptional (unfortunately).

[the solution, of course, is to stop lurking around urbanbaby's message board. -ed.]

The author's invitation to "loathe [her] that much" (as one commentator describes it) does not seem like a very gutsy or distinctive move. Woody Allen has been doing it for decades. I also found the ending a bit of a cop out -- as if she wants us to forget all the evidence of her insecurities and neuroses (however deliberatley and artfully described) and suddenly identify with her awakening to true awareness. I hope her memoir is toned down from the exerpts' volume level of 11, otherwise it will make for a shrill read for those who dare to read it, i.e. not me!.

The author of the article seems to be stressed out, possibly sleep deprived, probably experiencing some postpartum hormone issues, and definitely has some anxiety issues. In other words, a pretty average mom. The first step to self improvement is self awareness. If this woman can use this awareness to reduce her anxiety level even a little, it will help her, her husband, and her kid. I think it often helps to know that you are not the only one with a particular problem/issue, and to learn about other's coping strategies, so I think this can be a helpful thing for many people to read.

I think the posters on this blog need to stop the knee-jerk judgment of this lady and appreciate that she is trying to do better, and to help others do the same.

[while I agree with you and prefer to give the author the benefit of the doubt as to her self-awareness, self-improvement, etc., she is also engaging in a tried-and-true bookselling strategy of pushing extreme emotional buttons in an attempt to get attention. (for more gratuitous buttonpushing, try the latest "Mommy Wars" chick's blog at the Washington Post). Given that conscious decision on her (and the NYT editors') parts, I think most of the judgments here are well within the range of the expected. Unless she wants to come try and explain how wrong everyone is, she should just tough it out. -ed.]

I will certainly confess to...

-rolling my eyes because my husband doesn't fill the dishwasher as well as I do.
-putting out outfits for him to dress my son in because doesn't he understand that those jeans look cutest with that shirt?
-Using every ounce of strength not to correct the way he puts diapers on my son? (which by the way, does not result in any greater leak rate)

I wish I could blame the hormones, but my son is 2. I've just gradually come to the realization that I'm a bit of a control freak and it seems that parenting has exacerbated things.

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