My email archives have become the journal I've never found the discipline to keep. According to my emails, I ordered the book The Price of Motherhood on February 15, 2001 and finished it on February 28. No small feat while caring for a 4-month old full-time. On February 28, I sent a stream of emails at times that correspond to my daughter's naptimes.
From: Kristin Maschka
Sent: Wednesday, February 28, 2001 12:46 PM
To: Everyone I Know
Subject: Must-Read Book!
I've just finished reading a new book that should be required reading for all mothers! I can't recommend it highly enough!
It's called....The Price of Motherhood: Why The Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued by Ann Crittenden
It just came out this month, and it is amazing. Buy it, read it, lend it to a friend, discuss it. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Those emails captured the moment my baby and a book reawakened the activist in me and connected me with other mothers on a path I never imagined.
Growing up, I was the sister who wasn't sure I ever wanted kids, didn't like to play with dolls and never babysat anyone. I was a bookworm and a jock. I spent much of my young life fighting for the chance to play ball and for equity for female athletes. But after college, I was a rebel without a cause for ten years as I got married, got a job, and got a house. A baby seemed to be the logical next step, and life with my husband had warmed me considerably to the idea of a family.
Our daughter was born in October 2000, just a few short months before the release of The Price of Motherhood. I have equally vivid memories of rocking our baby in the moonlight at 3 a.m. when she sleepily but truly smiled at me for the first time and of standing in my kitchen reading the LA Times review of The Price of Motherhood and immediately ordering my copy from Amazon.com.
Motherhood had made a mess of me. My chest felt tight all the time and I didn't know why. I was mad, sad, lonely and felt guilty for all those feelings. Ann's book helped me begin to sort through it all. I'd left a fast paced job to take care of Kate at home while my husband started logging the insane hours of a new associate at his law firm. Ann explained just how much I'd given up financially and why I now felt so vulnerable and powerless in what had been a marriage of equals. My husband and I had known intuitively that it didn't pay for me to work, but Ann described the income tax policies that made it that way.
People were treating me differently, like I'd been demoted even though caring for an infant was the hardest work I'd ever done. Ann explained how the idea of the unproductive housewife was born, how the work of mothers became invisible, and the true economic value of that work. I was angry at my husband for not being able to change his work situation, and Ann explained how intractable workplaces are. I felt trapped and angry at myself for not being able to figure out a better way for me and for our family. Ann made it clear how limited the options are and how mother's "choices" are "made in a world that women never made, according to rules they didn't write."
That tightness in my chest was familiar after all: I sensed injustice. Ann's book gave me the words and the concepts to talk about and tackle it. So I read furiously during nap time and at night and as soon as I finished I wanted to get to work. At home with an infant, emailing everyone I knew was the most I could really do.
Two leaders within Mothers & More, an organization I joined when Kate was born, received one of my exuberant emails. Judy Stadtman Tucker, founder and editor of MMO, and Debra Levy were already in contact with Ann. Within days, Debra Levy replied.
From: Debra Levy
Sent: Wednesday, February 28, 2001 9:02 PM
To: Kristin Maschka
Subject: Re: The Price of Motherhood
Did you get a telepathic message from us or what?
I was quickly and willingly swept into the work of Mothers & More. I joined the newly formed email discussion group, the POWER Loop, where I, along with mothers across the country, poured our stories into email and connected them to the things we read, and where a few months later we hosted Ann Crittenden as a guest "speaker." I joined conference calls where interruptions from demanding toddlers were the norm. I discovered that there were other mothers inspired by The Price of Motherhood in the same way, women who believed that motherhood could be different, better, fairer and weren't afraid to rock some boats to get there.
In June, Debra forwarded me an email from Ann herself looking for a mother to feature in a New York Times article. I sent my story back to Ann and soon we were trading emails about good hiking and hotels in Pasadena so she could come to interview me.
On a very hot August afternoon, the baby and the book came together. Ann arrived at my home and with Kate playing on the floor between us, we talked. Then we dropped Kate off with grandpa and went out for dinner and margaritas. I sat in a booth across from Ann as she signed my copy, "For Kristin: The reader I imagined when I was writing this book." Everywhere she went, Ann was meeting the readers she had imagined.
The article Ann was working on was never published. 9/11 happened. Just one month after that tragedy, and mere days after my daughter's first birthday, I got on an airplane to Chicago anyway. Ann was the keynote for the national Mothers & More conference where I met Judy Stadtman Tucker, Joanne Brundage, Executive Director of Mothers & More, and Joan Williams, author of Unbending Gender. Judy and I led workshops where moms sat alongside Ann and Joan and talked about what mothers need.
My first year of motherhood began, ended and was shaped by The Price of Motherhood. As a result, I am a rebel with a cause again. The kid who wasn't going to have kids became an advocate for mothers. After my interview with Ann that hot August night, I emailed my mom and dad, with an energy I hadn't felt in years and I signed it:
Your rabblerousing daughter
I went on to serve as President of Mothers & More for four years and continue to write and speak on these issues. My story is just one of many mothers who have found inspiration and been awakened to actions big and small by The Price of Motherhood.Five years later, the path I took is full of moms, and full of new books, articles, and websites. For me, it all started with my baby -- and one book.
MMO : may 2006