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Monday, May 18, 2009

Learning from the Lovely Ladies of the Stitch-n-Bitch.

by Em

Children, as a whole, are self-centered little creatures. They can't help it. They come into our worlds with no knowledge of the fact that we actually had lives before they showed up.

I can clearly remember the moment when this realization of my mother's "Life Outside of the Child Universe" hit me: My brother was running late for school, per usual, therefore we missed the bus. Again. Mom proceeded to berate us from the moment we slinked to the backseat of the faux wood-paneled Mercury Cougar station wagon until she, quite literally, kicked our asses to the school curb..."I've got this to do, and that to do, and you guys need to finally think about someone other than yourselves...blah, blah, blah."

My mother is normally a very mild mannered person. And by mild mannered, I mean passive aggressive. For her to actually verbalize her anger was an eye opening moment, at least for me. I'm pretty sure all my brother heard was the "blah, blah, blah" part.

So I began to pay attention. What exactly was this stranger up to from 8-3 p.m. every weekday as we went about our important lives? Didn't she just curl up in the corner and await our return so that her existence would have meaning again?

Ah, no.

Turns out, this chick had a life.

And her days usually involved one of her friends from the Stitch-n-Bitch. Not an official title per se, but more a description of their group activity that kept them sane. Think today's Book Club phenomenon, but with some type of handicraft - cross stitch, sewing, knitting, etc. And lots, and lots, and lots of venting. I didn't understand it then. What did these ladies of leisure possibly have to complain about? So they were busy with PTA, volunteering, church activities, motherhood? Doing for others. Wasn't that their calling?

But I so get it now.

For these were the last of the girls who represented life before the Women's Movement. Out of the eight usual suspects, only one had a "career" before kiddos - she was a teacher. The rest of the bunch went from high school to maybe a few years of college, only to drop out once the diamond was placed on the finger, then proceeded to have children. My mother had dreams of Art School. Her parents had three other kids. So she became a secretary, met my father, then quit to have kids of her own.

Because of when they were born, these ladies had little choice of their life path. Their generation had to find fulfillment in husbands' successful careers and in children's accomplishments, while the generation directly behind them were being told "you can have it all, and it's all there for you to have!"

Talk about an identity crisis.

By the time she was my age (37), my mother could see the light at the end of the tunnel - the light representing when it would finally be her turn, as my brother and I prepared to fly the nest. And the rest of the gals understood.

They cheered each other on as a few went back to finish their degrees, one left an abusive husband, and one juggled being a single mother when being a single mother wasn't all that hip. They held hands as one husband suffered a severe heart attack and another confessed an affair. They cried together as one friend was buried because of breast cancer and then another because of a brain tumor - both events way too early.

And then, like that, the magic moment in time was gone.

Some husbands were transferred. Some friends finally achieved the careers they wanted to begin 25 years earlier. Some, now grandmothers, were called to duty as their daughters who "benefited" from The Movement kept their careers even as children were born.

I look back at that time in my mother's life, and I'm envious. I guess every generation thinks another one has it better. But most of the friends I am blessed with are scattered across the globe, from Hawaii to London. We're juggling families, careers, volunteer work, carpooling duties. Some of us are preparing to take care of our parents as well.

Who has time for a good stitch-n-bitch?

So I send cards, I phone, I e-mail, I blog. All in an effort to connect. To stay connected. Because in my high-maintenance family world, quality friend time is a luxury in which I rarely get to indulge.

And that makes me very sad.

Youngest starts preschool in the Fall. Am I a bad mom to say part of me cannot wait?

I just hope my friends haven't given up on me. I feel the need to resurrect a little magic.

I don't want to crash Em's post today but I simply must share that I am guest-posting for the first time ever at this sweet little blog called Little Bites of Heaven. It's written by a mom of uh, TRIPLETS, and if you want to hear me ramble on about how I thank God everyday that I wasn't a mother of multiples, head on over there and check it out. 


  1. I'm so glad you wrote about this, because it reassures me I'm not alone. Although it isn't nearly the same as person-to-person relations, the Internet does allow me to keep in contact with friends and others I've met through blogging. As a stay-at-home mom and writer, I don't have any time during my day to spend with friends. Even phone calls are a luxury. I wish it was different, but if I get 5 minutes of free time during my day I use it to write. But I'm grateful for this, because I love writing. Thank you for this post! I'm curious to see what others think about this topic.

  2. I talk with my friends all the time about how we're set up for failure. We can hardly see our husbands enough, let alone each other. Life is just too FAST and busy, we're all taking on so much.

    I love this post. It reminded me of Lorna Landvik's book "Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons" I thought it was going to be dumb with a title like that, but I love that book. It's your mom's story! Most of the same things happen in it. Crazy. Maybe Lorna Landvik interviewed the Ladies of the Stitch and Bitch :)

  3. Kimberly - I'm glad you like the post. I had serious writer's remorse this morning because I feel like I portrayed them as a self-serving group. But they were far from that.

    Heather - are you kidding me?! I'll need to pick it up. There goes my shot of mining their stories for my own novel. Frustration. This group has really been on my mind lately as the last "baby" of the group - the daughter of the lady lost to brain tumor - got married this past weekend. My mother was very upset she could not be there, but some of the other women were able to go. I imagine it was a bitter sweet time.

  4. Oh my goodness.

    You said it exactly right.

    And no, you should not feel the least bit guilty about looking forward to preschool. Because as much as it may sometimes feel like it, you don't just feel that way because of self-serving purposes. You are watching your children go through stages and changes, which means you, too, are going through stages and changes.

    Nothing wrong with looking forward to the future.

    And a little time to yourself. ;)

  5. Awesome post...and I think you spoke for all of us SAHM's. I have moments when I "reflect" on my life before the kids....and look ahead to life after they start school. Nothing wrong with is probably the only thing keeping us all sane.

  6. I am stopping by from Racheal's blog. Your post is so real. How we MoM's do it is a lot of support from our friends and family. and lots of drinks!! :))

  7. Wow, what a beautiful post. I think I'm going to like it here :)

  8. I really enjoyed the post today. The title was great as well.

  9. Em-
    I don't think you portrayed your mom and her friends as self-serving at all! Look at how much they gave up for their families? They deserved some time to stitch-and-bitch. I was certainly one of those self-centered kids who thought my mom's life revolved around me and my siblings. How sad. I only wish my mom had had a group like your mom's friends to vent to.

    It saddens me, in a way, that we're raising our daughters to "have it all." I'm all for equal rights, but it seems like now lots of grandmas and nannies are raising the kids. Sigh.

    This was a fabulous post, thanks! :-)

  10. Em - I moved to a different city from my friends after college and I now lament that I can't just go over to their houses and just bitch and cry. I cna do see on email, text, instant messenger, facebook, etc... but nothing beats old fashioned face to face. In that fashion, the earlier generation did have it "better" than us.

  11. the stitch n bitch... that's awesome.

    it's interesting, and a little sad, to think about what my mom gave up for me. but again, i don't think she gave it up for ME, specifically... i think she went the route that you described, and after a short stint as a secretary, met and married my dad and began "married life/mom life", which ultimately has defined her. so much so, as us kids have grown and left, she doesn't have a whole lot going on in her life. at all. and i don't want to be like that. but does that mean i have to go find a career to dedicate myself to? i'm not really feeling that, either.

    my kids are needing me less and less, but definitely LOVE having me right here for when they do. but it is very apparent to me that while my heart is very full, i have a small opening in my soul for rent. once i figure out what will occupy it, i think i will have achieved that elusive "having it all"... but i can almost guarantee whatever it is won't involve a paycheck. a very big one, anyway.

    sorry to veer so off of the original topic... it is truly wonderful that your mom had such a support group. i think women "back then" had a greater sense of "being in the same boat"... any differing lifestyle wasn't so much out of choice, but out of circumstance. now, women are so desperate to get some sort of external validation that they are "doing things the right way", i think they have sort of turned on each other. which is a shame.

  12. I love the idea of a Stitch-n-Bitch and think I just might need to start a local chapter. It's critical for our sanity as SAHMs. If I didn't have my girlfriends to bitch too, I actually do think I just may go crazy. I'm glad your mom had her girls and I'm OH so THANKFUL for mine.

  13. I don't stitch, but I can definitely bitch.

    And I was so the kid who thought the world revolved around mememe and had a mom who took all kinds of crap. Not just from me; from all of the kids in the fam, AND my father.

    Now I see that she is a saint. For reals.

  14. I was just thinking the other day how much simpler life was back then and I really do miss it

  15. I loved this post. You totally spoke to me. I have now started counting the days until all 4 of my children will be in school. Hayden starts this fall so I am half way there (that is one beauty of multiples). I can't wait to find things to fill my time.

  16. Thanks to all of you guys for liking the post - I'm glad it resonated.

    And Lee, I think when it's your site, you get to crash anywhere you want. Think of it as permanent ownership of the shotgun seat :-) Loved the post over there. Look at you, guest posting! Stud.

  17. Em - I love this post. On many levels.

    For one it reminds me to think of my mom as a woman once in a while and not just my mom. Even now that I'm a mother, I tend to forget to she had a life before the four of us - her kids.

    Two - it validates all the times I have screamed at my kids - "Mommy was someone before I was a Mommy you know? I need my alone time to do some of the things I did before was a mommy."

    Third - it reminds me to friggin' make all of the effort in the WORLD to hang with as many of the cool chicks that have graced my life as possible. Whenever, wherever. Cause these days effort is what it takes but oh, it's essential for the soul.

    Fourth - I love the reflection on yesteryear of what motherhood was and how women angled to get their chance to become a mother. For all of us who were educated to think what we really wanted more than anything was a career, motherhood at times has felt like a consolation prize. It took me years to really realize, understand, accept and surrender to the incredible CHOICE I had to be a mom and I thank God every day that I got smart enough in time to go for it.

    I love this post Em. Thanks as always for gracing these pages...

    And thanks for thinking that I have permanent ownership in the shotgun seat but still you are the driver when you write here and I totally and utterly respect that.


  18. So true. I coudn't survive without my gal pals, both near and far!


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