I was reading Kelli's post earlier this week about parenthood and career considerations, and since then I've been thinking a lot about these issues.
I noted in Kelli's comment section about how it really irritates me that we hear so much about "working mothers" and nothing about "working fathers." This exposes two main assumptions about (mainly white, middle class) heterosexual gender roles: first, that all men work; and secondly, that not all women should. I say this because media spin bias is decidedly against the experience of the working mother:
Consider advertising, which, to me, is a goldmine of our cultural values. Instead of the typical 80s mom--"Dr. Mom," homemaker, etc--we have Working Super Mom. She comes home, diagnoses her kids ailments, outsmarts her husbands attempts to avoid housework or child-rearing, gets dinner on the table, and pays her online bills while running her after-jogging bath.
This cultural expectation for women is unfortunate. Instead of merely breaking through a glass ceiling, they end up being the porter of all the family baggage in addition to her own career concerns. Women didn't trade the kitchen for the boardroom; they took it with them.
Conversely, depictions of men--especially fathers--often show them in the home as bumbling, well-intentioned but ultimately impotent clods.
One question you might be asking is how come a woman's identity becomes inextricably linked with motherhood when she gives birth, but fathers are still just men?
It's because our culture wants to make sure that women are dragging their Kitchen Aid into their cubes.
Now, on to poetry. Ron Silliman's post the other day about his twins really surprised me. I don't recall reading a poem by a man about his kids--at least, not kids that were still living--so, to hear Ron frankly discuss not only raising children but also how parenthood was impacting his poetry was a real jolt.
It shouldn't have been. We should hear these things all the time, but we don't. Why isn't Ron writing more about this in his blog? A variety of reasons, perhaps, but among them perhaps is that he doesn't feel pressured or encouraged to do so.
Right now I'm reading Bernadette Meyer's Midwinter's Day, which contains a long sequence of prose paragraphs that describe the dailyness of motherhood and daughterhood--the constant surprises a child's imagination offers about clocks, breakfast, coloring walls in crayon, etc.
I've read several essay by women wherein they discuss how having children imposes upon them a restriction in writing poetry, so many poet-mothers begin writing shorter pieces, "when they find snippets of time to write." I see no evidence of this in Meyer's work, which was purportedly written over the course of a single day.
What interests me about Meyer's work is how closely connected her narrator is to the dailyness of parenting. The list in her poem is very exhaustive. It occurs to me that the parent poetry I've read by men is more concerned with moments, not routine. Men (grossly generalizing here) seem more interested in monuments, benchmarks, and events as opposed to process.
In any case, it's unfortunate to me that there is such a broad split between men and women who write poetry and raise children together. It seems like American poetry is missing out on some important male perspectives and ghettoizing women into specific categories.
Thoughts? Responses? Reading suggestions?