Let me start by saying that most American female readers, myself included, l-oo-ve Liz Gilbert. Her bestselling book had us eating, praying, and loving along with her as the author recovered from a painful divorce by traveling the world. It was our ultimate female escape — four months eating through Italy, four months praying in India, and four months doing charity work and falling in love in Indonesia.
But Liz, I have a bone to pick with you. In your new book “Committed,” readers are not only forced to hold your hand while you overcome your commitment-phobia about marriage, we also are expected to collude with your distain for motherhood. Granted, as the studies bear out, many traditional families did place a “disproportionately cumbersome burden on women” (your words) but really, Liz, has every mother raised healthy children by “having to scrape bare the walls of her soul to do it?”
You use your grandmother as an example. Saying she had a wonderful life as a young woman working as someone else’s maid and buying an expensive coat and fancy shoes. Yet she had to trade those amazing freedoms for motherhood. In your explanation of her hardship, you try to get readers to believe that the lowest point in her life was having to cut up that coveted designer coat and make coats for her children. Even after interviewing granny you are still not convinced that she really means it when she says that those years with small children were the happiest in her life. Has it ever occurred to you that your Grandmother joyfully transformed her old coat because that security blanket was no longer necessary? And, I’ll bet she was quite proud of her handiwork too.
We mothers understand your grandmother. Motherhood means losing your mind and finding your soul. Any woman who has spent countless nights walking a fevered child, or days-on-end calming toddler tantrums in public, or years of giving love while still buying the bacon, knows her own power in a measurable way. There is no greater way to build a woman’s self-worth than to allow her body to manufacture a human and to nurture it to its greatest potential using her beautiful brain and ingenuity. Motherhood is a quiet, Godly confidence that says, “Don’t mess with me world. I make PEOPLE.” You won’t know that Liz, because, as you tell us, your books are your babies and your babies are your sister’s kids, whom you can return, just like a library book. (No offense to Aunties everywhere. We mothers are grateful that you are there.)
Elizabeth Gilbert you are a smart, well-researched writer whose prose and metaphors make me smile with every paragraph, but I have some news for you. We are in a post-feminist age where women are more free than ever to be truly feminine if they so desire it. To create peer relationships with more equitable division of labor, to build careers with creative hours that compliment motherhood, or to stay at home and get the job done full-time because that gives us pleasure. Your voice is one of a dinosaur feminist who makes child-free sound like cancer-free. You say. “Childbearing and child rearing consume so much energy that the women who do become mothers can quickly become swallowed up by that daunting task — if not outright killed by it.” Really, Liz, killed by it?
I will be the first one to tell you that motherhood gave me life. The joy I get from watching my children grow pales in comparison to that great big paycheck I used to get, or my former collection of fancy shoes. Every day I marvel that my kids are still breathing, have full stomachs, creative brains, and are bubbling with self-esteem — all because I did something right. And, lest you think that mothers have less power and therefore less voice, independence, or sense of accomplishment, remember that fabulous saying from the South, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” This speaks to the power of woman as the ultimate leader in the household. You do allude to this power once in “Committed” with a description of your own Mother. “She’s subtle and graceful enough in her method of control that you don’t realize she’s doing it, but trust me: Mom is always steering the boat.” But then, because of your own fears or inadequacies, a few pages later you dismiss your Mother’s power by telling us she is now happiest that all the kids are out of the house.
In “Committed” you tell us that your goal is a “Wifeless” and “Motherless” marriage. Yikes. Sounds like two guys shacking up to me. Note to Liz: Guys aren’t a whole lot different from children. When the going gets rough, you might want to try nurturing the dude a bit. Be prepared to put on a motherhood hat sometimes.