June’s RCM Virtual Book Club title is That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam. Join us virtually on Thursday, June 27 at 8:30 PM CST. If you can’t make it at THAT time, check back in throughout the week to keep the discussion going. Big thanks to The Snail On the Wall Books for sponsoring our title selections!
You must, in short, accept that complex issues, are in fact, complex.
– Rumaan Alam
The Key to Motherhood?
I picked up That Kind of Mother in 2018, when it first appeared in hardback. As I began to read I immediately knew that I wanted to talk about this book with other mothers so I stopped reading, approached Stephenie, our beloved RCM Editor, and asked if it could be a book club pick. We waited for it to come out in paperback and then I read it to completion.
During my first pass of the book, I was just beginning to reconcile myself to the fact that I was a mom (yes, I was only beginning to do this three years after my son was born). And I believed that perhaps within those pages was the key to this whole motherhood thing. During my second pass of the book, I realized that That Kind of Mother is not an easy breeze summer read. That Kind of Mother is complex, as well as perplexing, and I am still struggling to wrap my mind around it.
Malaise and Overwhelm
Like Rebecca, I struggled with the malaise and overwhelm of a new infant. Rebecca’s thoughts were my thoughts. Her angst was my angst. Her post-partum, mine. And like Rebecca, I too, looked for a lifeline. I was amazed how Rumaan Alam was able to describe this first phase of motherhood in a way that was so relatable to me. Alam’s description of breastfeeding was particularly spot-on and would have been a more effective educational resource than all the other material that I read in 2014. He dealt with the emotional roller coaster of this whole motherhood ride.
Guilt then Over Compensation
Just like Rebecca, I believe most mothers suffer from an often overwhelming sense of guilt about something. For some of us, it might be the fact that we are mothers who work outside of the home. For others, it might be that we don’t feed our children organic, homemade foods. But, we all feel guilty about something. I struggle with the tension between myself as a mother and myself in all other ways (wife, sister, daughter, writer). And also like Rebecca, I often find myself over-compensating for my perceived lack.
Ambivalence, Then Recognition
Like Rebecca, I am sometimes ignorant about what is going on around me. And this book is alive with social commentary. I nodded my head in agreement when Cheryl remarked that she would bring over a jar of shea butter for Andrew’s winter skin. And even though, “skin is skin”, it really isn’t. I had a personal experience with this with my son. Though I adore that pink Johnson & Johnson scent on my sweet baby’s head, it is not as moisturizing as I would like and thus, I have had to mix it with Vaseline to make it work for him.
I tend to like my life neat and tidy, loose ends never dangling. This book did not give me that. It is not driven by the story and it often left me emotionally hanging. The best I could do is accept that this book, like life and motherhood, is complex, and like life and motherhood, it cannot be tied up neatly in a bow.
Get Prepared for the Discussion: That Kind of Mother further reading
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