An Open Letter to Rachel Maddow
By Lynne Marie Wanamaker, HF Guest Blogger
Dear Rachel Maddow,
It’s been a few years now, and I know you’ve had a lot of exciting experiences in the intervening time. But you might remember me as the listener who brought her puking baby into the radio station way back in the day when you were a morning dj and I was a stay-at-home mom, hanging on your every witticism to get me through those early daylight hours. Whole Foods had sponsored a free breakfast buffet at the studio that morning; you know a little spit-up wasn’t going to keep this nursing mama from all the wheat-free vegan French toast she could swallow.
I also called in a few times; once I told you my birth story, saying childbirth was akin to sexual and religious ecstasy. You seemed shocked to hear that. I was a little surprised that I said it out loud, let alone on the radio, but the combination of prolonged sleep deprivation and the lactation hormone cocktail sure does a number on a person’s verbal inhibitions.
I misplaced the baby once when we were on the phone too. I put her down and then she crawled away and I had to run through the house looking for her while trying to answer the quiz questions. I won the coffee mug though. Right from the start of this parenting adventure I’ve been a mean multi-tasker. I’m sure you can relate.
Your meteoric—and completely well-deserved; I mean no disrespect— rise to fame has given me pause to consider what can happen in different human lives over the same span of time. For example, one person may experience tremendous professional success and find herself on the covers of magazines, while another may spend the same five years periodically drenched in disgusting bodily fluids. One person can enjoy frequent and stimulating conversations with the likes of Ted Coppell, Barack Obama and John Stewart, while another can go weeks without speaking to another rational adult.
Sometimes the mind just boggles at what can be accomplished within a five year span: Get your own TV show! Influence the political thoughts of an entire nation during an historic election! Become a Jeopardy question! My job, and I’m proud to call it that, is a little less quantifiable. But I can accurately conclude that I’ve done at least 1500 loads of laundry in the past five years, and washed dishes by hand for the equivalent of 22 straight days. Such diversity in the human experience, even among women of the same nation, region, generation and sexual orientation! It’s downright inspiring.
It’s not like I haven’t been doing something important, though. I’ve been nurturing the soul of the next generation! Enriching my child’s life with my motherly presence! I’ve had some set-backs, but I’m sure that’s true of anyone. I know it took you a while to get that MSNBC gig. So I’m not going to feel bad that I forgot to teach my kid how to hold a fork properly. There’s no reason she can’t learn now; someday she’ll be able to eat a whole meal with utensils without biting her own hands. I can feel proud of my contribution to society, especially if I choose to forget reading that study that said kids actually want to spend less time with their parents, and the other one that said kids who go to daycare do just as well as kids who have a stay-at-home mom. And also if I disregard the economic predictions that college tuitions, currently at a dollar figure curiously close to my household income, will continue to skyrocket throughout my daughter’s adolescence.
Fortunately forgetting is not challenging for me. I seem not to have recovered the brain cells lost in the first three months of my child’s life, a time that I fondly call baby boot-camp. Just this week I lost an entire basket of clean laundry, which inconveniently contained all my underpants. Right now I can’t find the pile of handkerchiefs I painstakingly ironed yesterday. I draw a direct connection between events like this and that long-ago night when I couldn’t remember how a person could possibly tell time if they were far from a clock, pinned in an armchair by a suckling parasite. I knew there must be a method; maybe I could invent something that would be helpful, a little later, when I was not so tired? (Hint: wrist-watch.)
Motherhood is indeed transformational, and it transformed me into the kind of person who can’t recall the basic technology of modern life or keep track of inanimate objects. It was a little rocky adjusting to this seismic life change in the beginning. The nights were long but they always ended, and then your show came on the radio! You were there for me in those first days of stunning stupidity, and I’ll always be grateful.
Things are a little different now that my kid is more of a person than a parasite. Sometimes I can even form a thought, although she usually makes sure that I lose track of it with a well-timed interruption. I’ve read that you use earplugs at work so you can focus your brilliance on what you are reading and writing. If you ask me, your staff is a bunch of light-weights if they are bested by the equivilent of cotton-balls; a champion interrupter like my little darling could easily bypass a technicality like that. Have they tried climbing on your lap or breaking things around the studio? Jumping up and down right next to you is another tried and true strategy. I’m just saying.
I know you’re awfully busy now with all those radio and television shows, not to mention the book you’re writing. And I read in the New York Times that you still take the trash to the dump yourself. That’s nice. I still take out the compost most of the time, but sometimes my daughter helps now. She says it smells bad but I make her do it anyway. How many bad smells have I endured for her sake, I ask you? But I do have all that laundry waiting for me, and the disappearing handkerchiefs.
Thanks for this trip down memory lane. We should touch base again sometime, maybe five years from now? I’d love to hear what you’re up to.
Your friend and loyal fan,
About the Author
Lynne Marie Wanamaker is a karate black belt, a certified personal trainer and a feminist mama. She holds a B.A. in Women’s Studies and American Literature from the City University of New York. Lynne Marie blogs at www.mindbodymama.com, where you can also learn more about her personal training practice. She lives in a dilapidated house in western Massachusetts with her wife and daughter.