Sunday, May 06, 2007

Successful Mothering

Biologically speaking, a mother is successful when she has taught her young how to hunt for themselves. (No, that does not mean getting them into Harvard.)

One of the reasons that I am not worried that Iris is in the right activities is that I have larger concerns. Read Peacekeepers of the Immune System in the October 2006 issue of Scientific American to learn about all the functions of regulatory T cells and what can happen when they stop functioning. I shared the article with my immunologist who remarked, after reading it, that it basically describes all the things that I am living through.

I explained much of this in my essay published in Cheaper Than Therapy: joy, healing and life lessons in fiber. I have been too sick to engage in the type of competitive mothering that Judith Warner described in Perfect Madness. My largest concern is Iris' emotional development and that I can be there for her through her perilous adolescent years. I pace myself and try not to let the little stuff get at me. I can't allow that to get to me. The stakes are high.

(Besides, people who know us in real life, and regular readers of this blog, already know that Iris literally kicks butt.)

Remember that coworker I mentioned who returned from four weeks at McMurdo Station in Antarctica to find that her husband had not done a single load of laundry in her absence? She's dead now. She felt a lump in her throat when her son was 4 months old. It turned out to be lymphoma, a type that is believed to be an autoimmune reaction to stress. By the time he was 10 months old, she had died of complications from chemotherapy.

She had worked nearly full-time while tending to a newborn and through chemotherapy. She wanted to work part-time, but she was the main income in her family; assistant professors earn very little. Apparently, they also do very little housework. She became a casualty of this crazy, upside-down society. She was 34 years old and her son will not have any memories of her.

1 comment:

  1. Mark asked if I really meant to imply that her husband was complicit in her death.

    Well, he was a "wonderful husband" in the Perfect Madness sense. But, in my heart, I can't forgive him.

    He promised her an egalitarian marriage. (What women who paid the price for a PhD in science ever married a man who didn't promise an egalitarian marriage?)

    They break their marriage vows so casually. They gave up their marriages too cheaply.


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