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Mom University: Jen Lawrence (a.k.a. T.O. Mama) of MUBAR

Thursday, March 24, 2005
to mama

If you're surfing the mamasphere, you're likely only six links away from MUBAR (Mothered Up Beyond All Recognition) at any given time. The blog is the brainchild of Toronto writer and mother Jen Lawrence, who is also the creator of T.O. Mama.

In my Mom University interview with Jen, she and I talked about her piece Getting in Touch with your Inner Martyr.

Ann: When did you write this piece?

Jen: I wrote this in September 2004, when my daughter was 10 months old.

Ann: What's the story behind the piece?

Jen: I have always toyed with the idea of writing and have even written the first few chapters of several very bad novels. But this was one of the first pieces of personal writing.

The back story is that I had just been accosted in Loblaws by a woman who accused me of "endangering" my daughter's life because I had given her a plastic bag of croissants to hold to try to stop her from crying. Now I was getting used to being accosted by perfect strangers advising me that my daughter was too hot/too cold/should be allowed to fuss/should not be allowed to fuss. But what really surprised me was that the woman who accosted me in the supermarket had two small children with her -- she too was a mother. And I was so upset that, when I got home, I needed to exorcize my anger and thought, "Hey, I'll write it all down." That led to an exploration of why we feel judged, why we judge, why there is no safe position for moms to take beyond that of martyr.

Ann: Why did you choose this particular piece of writing when I invited you to choose something you had written?

Jen: This piece sums up a lot of the frustrations I felt as a new mother. The lack of confidence, the feeling of being judged, the feeling that I could not do ANYTHING right.

I chose to highlight this piece because I feel that being open about the dark side of mothering is important to other women. When I was grappling with terrible anxiety and guilt right after the birth of my daughter, books by Anne Lamott, Andi Buchanan, Ariel Gore, Faulkner Fox threw me such a lifeline. For the first time, I felt that I was not some sort of abnormal monster for feeling less than joyful some of the time. And that (and the good people at Pfizer) helped me through my post-partum depression. And although I do not put myself in the same category as these other writers, other women struggling with maternal guilt wrote me to say they found this essay to be helpful.

Ann: What do people need to know about MUBAR?

Jen: I describe MUBAR as my "ramblings about motherhood, Feminism, Baby Girl, fertility, post-partum depression, celebrity gossip and shopping." I write about whatever has been running through my mind that day. Sometimes I write about fertility treatments or post-partum depression because I tried to read everything I could when I was going through those experiences and I hope that others in the same boat might find my story helpful. Sometimes I write about the national daycare policy or tax laws because something is bothering me. Sometime I write about how "mothered up" I feel when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and think "God, that poor woman needs a makeover." Sometimes I just feel like writing about Jessica Simpson or P. Diddy or where to find a great lip gloss. I can be remarkably shallow!

Ann: How has creating MUBAR changed your life?

Jen: I have met so many wonderful people through MUBAR. I have had a chance to meet (or virtually meet) authors whose books line my shelves -- like you and Andi Buchanan and Faulkner Fox. I have had a chance to connect with a number of other wonderful mom bloggers/kindred spirits from the comfort of my own home. I find that the mom blogging/writing community is an amazingly supportive one. It has all been such a positive experience.

Blogging has also given me an identity outside of being Baby Girl's mother. In her book The Mother Trip, Ariel Gore wrote a fabulous piece called "Children Need Interesting Mothers."

Ann: I just found this article online in which Ariel talks more about being a break the mold mom.

Jen: The blog inspires me to read/see/experience interesting things outside the domestic sphere. Seeing the world through blogger eyes also allows me to see the humour in things. When I was mauled by stabby the venepuncturist at the fertility clinic, instead of getting sad or angry, I thought "Hey this would make a great blog entry!" It also gives me a bit of an external identity should I wish to return to the workforce at some point. Although I wish that employers looked at the mothering skill-set a little more seriously, I was a headhunter for a while and do not kid myself that most employers do not get excited about seeing SAHM on a resume.

And most importantly, I am much less crazy around the postman now that he is not my only source of external communication. No more hiding behind the door and then springing out to see if he brought me the latest issue of Chatelaine.

Ann: Is there anything else I didn't ask you that you'd like to say about blogs, blogging, or your life as a mom? Or anthing else for that matter?

Jen: Blogs have given so many people who might not otherwise have access to the media a chance to have a voice. I really hope that in spite of the occasional judgmental piece in the media (what did The New York Times call mom blogs -- "an online shrine to parental self-absorption") or the occasional jerky commenter, that women continue to share the truths about mothering -- the good, the bad and the ugly.

Ann: Thanks very much for taking time away from mothering, writing, and, of course, shopping, to do this interview, Jen. It's been a lot of fun.

If you want to read some of the earlier Mom University interviews, check out the Mom University links section in the sidebar.

| posted by Ann D @ 3:21 PM