Susan Konig writes in her new book about a subject rarely written about today: motherhood. Once upon a time describing the wrangling of a pack of unruly but lovable kids was a staple of women writers such as Erma Bombeck and Jean Kerr. Nowadays, it seems, very few women have the material necessary to write about family life in this way.
Susan, fortunately, has an ample supply of material — right across her crowded kitchen table. In a series of short essays in I Wear the Maternity Pants in this Family she describes how on a September morn she happily packed her three older kids off to school. Her five-year-old was, at last, going to kindergarten. “For the first time in years I’ll have my days to myself,” she thinks, watching the school bus driving away. “I’ll write another book, get to the gym, three, four, no five times a week, run for political office save baby seals — individually and collectively — climb mountains, ford streams, conquer worlds.” But, guess what? Her sigh of relief and plans for world conquest were overturned by a sudden queasy feeling. Yep, baby number four was on the way.
About to turn forty three, she broke out the maternity pants once again, and visited a gloomy obstetrician in the suburb where she lived, who made her feel like Grandma Moses. He was so full of dour warnings about mature maternity that, as she writes, “This guy was writing a script for a Lifetime movie and I was the star.” She promptly returned to her big city ob/gyn, who is more used to women over forty giving birth. Besides, this doctor had never forgotten her. Her first bundle of joy, her daughter, weighed in at over twelve pounds. His only words of advice: “Try not to gain fifty pounds.”
Baby four was the third boy in the family and fit right in with only a little shoe-horning here and there. Susan describes the ups and downs, the ebb and flow, the tears and giggles of ordinary family life throughout a year — with one pre-teen daughter, about to go to her first dance, a rambunctious five-year-old and eight-year-old, a cat and a dog, and the added dividend, the new baby with his much-lauded ability to sleep for ten hours straight. She also shares the experiences of suburban life from neighborhood family fun nights that aren’t that much fun, to the usual home owner disasters of a leaky roof and a refrigerator that liquefies the last, longed-for pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Yes, this is a small book filled with very small tales of poignant moments that could easily be forgotten but deserve to be remembered. Nothing is more important than the kids catching fireflies on a summer evening, or her daughter’s Little League team (made up of eleven and twelve-year-olds, losing but gloriously—22 to 2– to the tougher fourteen -year-old all-stars from Brewster). But Susan’s real story is a much bigger one. It is the never-ending story of motherhood that begins with that first moment of queasiness and simply never ends.
She writes about moms:
Moms are masters of organization. We might be able to disband FEMA and just get a bunch of moms to do it. If we can pick up everyone from school, drop them off at three kinds of lessons, grocery shop, gas up the car, mail the bills and circle back around for pick-ups all in forty minutes while the baby stays asleep in his car seat–we could also evacuate neighborhoods, arrange shelter for thousands and make sure every child has Goldfish crackers, Band-Aids, and a blankie. We don’t always have time to look good because we are so busy getting little people (and their dads) where they have to go, feeding, washing, and lullabying, correcting home-work and organizing lunch boxes, matching socks and patching up boo-boos. So give us our comfy pants and a roll of duct tape, and the world will survive.
Darn true, Susan, and thanks for reminding us.
— Myrna Blyth, long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.