A young feminist pulls no punches in her examination of motherhood.
Fox (Creative Writing/Duke) candidly reveals her ambivalence, frustrations, and anger about the stresses imposed on women when they have children. Although she interviewed other young mothers, looking for confirmation that they shared her feelings, her personal story holds center stage here. (Indeed, Fox found many interviewees reluctant to admit their frustrations with maternity.) Her youthful vision of an uncluttered, stress-free life with a house, a man, and a child, she admits, was a fantasy. The reality, she learns, is that it’s not easy to combine selfhood with motherhood, to balance a writing career with childcare, or to achieve egalitarian parenthood. To explain to the reader where she’s coming from, Fox shows herself as a single woman: ambitious, edgy, fighting for liberal causes, looking to find a feminist prince. Once married to her prince, she discovers that pregnancy changes everything. Issues of control are real: How does one choose to be in control of birth and at the same time choose to avoid excruciating pain? (That the pain was real is left in no doubt as the author provides unnecessarily full details of both her home and hospital deliveries.) As a nursing mother, Fox finds that her husband’s parenting duties and hers are clearly out of balance. Keeping a record of time spent on a chart called “Frequent Parenting Miles,” she tallies in quarter hours what she figures her spouse owes her. Collect she does, and in the process conducts a mild flirtation that leads the couple into therapy and eventually into a more equitable partnership. Fox also explores her attempts to connect with other women, a task she finds far more difficult once husbands and children are part of all their lives. Her very honest account exudes relief at the chance to express her feelings and a measure of pride that she has faced some of motherhood’s inherent conflicts, if not entirely resolved them.
Unconventional, challenging, sometimes even warm and funny.