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Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We're Saying Now
     

Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We're Saying Now

5.0 1
by Ann Imig
 

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Irreverent, thought-provoking, hilarious, and edgy: a collection of personal stories celebrating motherhood, featuring #1 New York Times bestselling authors Jenny Lawson and Jennifer Weiner, and many other notable writers.

Listen to Your Mother is a fantastic awakening of why our mothers are important, taking readers on a journey through

Overview

Irreverent, thought-provoking, hilarious, and edgy: a collection of personal stories celebrating motherhood, featuring #1 New York Times bestselling authors Jenny Lawson and Jennifer Weiner, and many other notable writers.

Listen to Your Mother is a fantastic awakening of why our mothers are important, taking readers on a journey through motherhood in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor. Based on the sensational national performance movement, Listen to Your Mother showcases the experiences of ordinary people of all racial, gender, and age backgrounds, from every corner of the country. This collection of essays celebrates and validates what it means to be a mother today, with honesty and candor that is arrestingly stimulating and refreshing. The stories are raw, honest, poignant, and sometimes raunchy, ranging from adoption, assimilation to emptying nests; first-time motherhood, foster-parenting, to infertility; single-parenting, LGBTQ parenting, to special-needs parenting; step-mothering; never mothering, to surrogacy; and mothering through illness to mothering through unsolicited advice. Honest, funny, and heart-wrenching, these personal stories are the collective voice of mothers among us. Whether you are one, have one, or know one, Listen to Your Mother is an emotional whirlwind that is guaranteed to entertain, amuse, and enlighten.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/02/2015
According to blogger Imig, Mother’s Day has been turned into another overly commercialized holiday. She thus launched, in 2010, a movement called Listen to Your Mother, which aims to return Mother’s Day to its original focus on mothers and motherhood, principally by gathering women to write stories and engage in live readings. The book of the same name gathers together 56 of those stories. Topics range from adoption to adolescence, from losing a spouse or a child to the most lighthearted aspects of parenting. The stories in the collection run the gamut, and the result is varied enough to ensure that readers who don’t identify with one tale will easily find resonance in another. Some will leave readers laughing out loud, while others will leave them crying. All of this collection’s stories, however, have one thing in common: readers will be left planning to call their mothers. Agent: Elizabeth Kaplan, Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency. (Apr.)
Good Housekeeping
Writers reflect on wisdom gleaned from the women who raised them, motherhood and more in this charming, often funny essay collection.
Family Circle
Mothering takes many shapes and forms, and so does the wisdom that comes from it…Ann Imig's touching and humorous anthology celebrates them all with stories from a diverse mix of mamas. We're all ears.
Cosmopolitan
Lively and personal.
Parents
Brimming with essays from quick-witted, unique writers-ranging from new voices to established ones like Jenny Lawson and Jennifer Weiner-this book covers all parenting territory. Part of it is funny and a lot of it is tear-jerking... You may find yourself staying up way past your bedtime because this one is so hard to put down.
From the Publisher
Named one of POPSUGAR's Best Books of 2015!

"Presents motherhood in all its multitudinous iterations..." —Elle

"Touching and humorous anthology."—Family Circle

“Brimming with essays from quick-witted, unique writers—ranging from new voices to established ones like Jenny Lawson and Jennifer Weiner—this book covers all parenting territory. Part of it is funny and a lot of it is tear-jerking… You may find yourself staying up way past your bedtime because this one is so hard to put down.” —Parents magazine

"Lively personal stories."—Cosmopolitan

“Writers reflect on wisdom gleaned from the women who raised them, motherhood and more in this charming, often funny essay collection.”—Good Housekeeping

“This frank, funny, and touching anthology…discusses the complex and diverse array of parenting experiences, from step-motherhood to infertility, and everything in between.”—Real Simple

"[Listen To Your Mother] proves absolutely that there is no exclusive definition of ‘mother’…[and] is nearly guaranteed to shake up your preconceptions of motherhood…There’s a mother for everyone in this array.”—BookReporter

“A collection of hilarious, sometimes-raunchy, and always thought-provoking stories about personal experiences with race, gender, and motherhood.”—PopSugar

“A fascinating glimpse into what motherhood means today for families with vastly different backgrounds and experiences.”—American Way

“This collection serves as a significant contribution to literature on and about motherhood because it breaks down the isolation that so often surrounds the topic…. These candid writings feel like a dinner date with a group of smart mothers who share their successes and failures with wit, fear, melancholy, playfulness, and all of the emotions that surround the reality of parenting.” —Library Journal
 
“The stories in the collection run the gamut, and the result is varied enough to ensure that readers who don’t identify with one take will easily find resonance in another. Some will leave readers laughing out loud, while others will leave them crying. All of this collection’s stories, however, have one thing in common: readers will be left planning to call their mothers.” —Publishers Weekly

“A collection of personal essays about the importance of connecting mothers to each other for support…. The essays are short, which enables the book to cover a lot of ground, but they also pack a strong emotional punch—and they're almost certain to leave any mother feeling less alone.” —Kirkus Reviews

“With their authentic glimpses into this hard, beautiful thing we call life, the essays between these covers led me to fresh perspectives on mothering and being mothered. I savored the open vulnerability that met me with each turn of the page. From the hilarious to the profound, and not bound by gender or geography, these stories generously plumbed the depths of all that is motherhood.” —Anna Whiston Donaldson, New York Times-bestselling author of Rare Bird

“I’ve been a longtime fan of Ann’s Listen to Your Mother movement, and I just adore this collection. The stories are diverse, yet bound together by Listen to Your Mother’s trademark rawness and honesty. A perfect gift for any woman in your life . . . or yourself!” —Jill Smokler, New York Times-bestselling author of Confessions of a Scary Mommy

Listen to Your Mother manages to do what few anthologies do: it makes us see ourselves clearly through the eyes of many different writers—all gifted and many wickedly funny. These writers voice the things that everyone thinks and no one says. Long live the mothers!” —Suzanne Finnamore, award-winning author of Split

Library Journal
02/01/2015
Editor Imig expands upon the conversations about motherhood she has helped develop in the blogosphere and on social media via the performance movement Listen to Your Mother. This collection serves as a significant contribution to literature on and about motherhood because it breaks down the isolation that so often surrounds the topic. Imig has selected essays by writers whose identities as mothers or their interactions with such women reflect the diversity and complexity of the responsibility. There are stories from gay and lesbian families, military moms, widows, and even single dads discussing issues such as adoption, surrogacy, and disabilities. Unfortunately, a few essays suffer from an undercurrent of feminist misogyny. Amy Poehler's Yes Please mentions this phenomenon in a hilarious yet accurate way (e.g., she identifies how stay-at-home mothers and working mothers often say cruel things about one another's choices in the guise of compliments). Even though the material is funny, humor at the expense of different models of motherhood tears down the idea of community that a collection like this can and should generate. VERDICT Despite a few problems, these candid writings feel like a dinner date with a group of smart mothers who share their successes and failures with wit, fear, melancholy, playfulness, and all of the emotions that surround the reality of parenting. [See Prepub Alert, 10/27/14.]—Emily Bowles, Building for Kids Children Museum, Appleton, WI
Kirkus Reviews
2015-01-28
A collection of personal essays about the importance of connecting mothers to each other for support. Research points toward the myriad benefits for the children when a parent stays home while a spouse goes to work. Most parents look back on having had that opportunity as a blessing, a connection with their children that is worth more than anything. It's also true that, when it's happening, that blessed feeling is leavened with the insane conviction that you've worked nonstop all day and have nothing concrete to show for it. Enter the Internet and editor Imig. Five years ago, she was right in the thick of it, with two preschool-aged children and a husband frequently away on long trips for work. Imig began blogging about her life, which connected her to similarly minded women looking for comfort, advice and a way to laugh at it all. The author eventually started the Listen to Your Mother network, which has branched off into multiple websites, a live stage performance and this book. For a collection of writings with an ostensibly narrow focus, the range of material is impressive. A first grader collapses, and the medical tests offer no conclusions. A teenager, worried about becoming pregnant, finds an unexpected ally in her own mother, who says, "If you get pregnant, don't get married because then you're making two mistakes instead of one." Daughters that hate pink; a mother's rage at being left behind by a husband on deployment; tiny tots, their eyes aglow, eating the tiny slips of paper mother wrote her daily gratitude on—these and countless other experiences demonstrate the wide range of the ups and downs of parenting. The essays are short, which enables the book to cover a lot of ground, but they also pack a strong emotional punch—and they're almost certain to leave any mother feeling less alone.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399169854
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/07/2015
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
378,034
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Forward
By Ann Imig
Founder and National Director
 
Listen to Your Mother: It’s a cliché, it’s the sixth commandment, and it’s an imperative for curbing children young and old from poor life choices like jaywalking and sixty-four-ounce sodas. As a mother myself, the word “listen” looms largest in the phrase, and not only due to my constant attempts to redirect my children’s faces from a screen to my eyes, to hear my words, for the love of God. I listen for and seek out the wisdom in my moth- er’s words. In the glorious moments when my mom friends and I get a reprieve from patrolling our young, meting out sustenance, and Tetrising our family schedules, we listen to one another’s truths, and to the experiences we share as women navigating motherhood, daughterhood—and, well, peoplehood in general.

Listening, in fact, makes for effective mothering—whether we heed advice passed down from  our grandmothers, obey a parent, attend to a child, companion a loved one through a difficult time, or expand our experience of the world through the simple act of  hearing someone else’s  story.

Listening forges bonds between people, strengthens connections, and builds community.

Listen to Your Mother is also a spoken word phenomenon—a live-staged reading series born of women who write online and now sweeping the nation’s stages—leaping from the Internet to podiums across the country in community celebrations. Listen to Your Mother gives motherhood a microphone, giving voice to the realities of mothers and mothering, of non-moms,  and caretakers—of sons and daughters, with stories so urgent they press from the hearts of people—many  of whom never considered themselves writers or performers—to the page and then to the LTYM stage—a small selection of which return again to the page, here in this book.

Geographically speaking, modern motherhood has become more isolating than ever, finding many parents without the benefit of extended family living under one roof or even in the same city. For some, the Internet likely feels as revolutionary as the first long-distance  calls must have felt two generations ago— connecting us with catharsis, commiseration, information, support, and, best of all, laughter, at any hour and from the comfort of our own homes.

Thanks to the Internet, however, now we need only Google parenting keywords like “special needs,” “single parents,” or “my four-year-old growls at anyone who says hello to him,” and might find ourselves less alone, by forming connections through read- ing blogs as varied in topic as the aisles in any bookstore. We create online peer-support networks, chat over virtual cocktails, and collaborate in online writing groups. Some of those connections bloom into confidants and friendships.  For some of us, writing through our days and nights, we make not only pen pals, we also find encouragement and inspiration, sometimes leading to professional connections and even careers.

My mothering coming-of-age coincided with the mom-blogging boom. My husband traveled constantly for work, and parenting a baby and preschooler alone through six-month-long Wisconsin winters (plus crib sheets, times stomach viruses) drove me to desperation. I took solace in squeezing humor from my sleep-deprived stay-at-home existence, and found comfort in writ- ing through the chaos of a daily obstacle course that often started with a child poking me awake by my armpit stubble before 5:00 a.m., and by 5:00 p.m. found me laid prone on our Lego-strewn shag rug, allowing my darling sons to quite literally walk all over me. I shared my stories first with friends over e-mail, and then by staking out a little Internet carrel of my own—a blog that I named Ann’s Rants.

For me, blogging reconnected me to an audience I didn’t even realize I missed from  my young-adult  life as a stage actress. Instead of memorizing scripts, I found my own words to make sense of my experience of marriage and parenting in our over- whelming world. The richer my online life became, the more I wanted to bring all the creative vitality and peer support of the blogosphere to my real-life community, and spring the literal voices from those online voices. I created LTYM to give voice to those words, and to make room for the voices of other mothers and men and women making sense of their worlds through writ- ing. What started with one show at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin, exploded into a national live storytelling series and social media phenomenon, and has now leaped to the pages of this book. Apparently, the voices of motherhood beg to be heard! As you read these essays about moms—from the executive to the stay-at-home dad, from the shtetl grandma, to the rock and roll mama, from the Maya Angelou texting matriarch to the reclusive wanderer to the grieving young widow, from hope to hilarity and heartbreak and back again—think about your own story. Consider writing it down. You don’t need a blog, a book, or a show to find your motherhood voice—you need only listen.

 
 
What Matters Most 
By Zach Wahls
 
Mother’s  Day has always been a big deal in my family’s household. Or, as we like to call it, Mothers’ Day. It’s one of the notable differences of having two moms. During my work as an advocate for marriage equality, people will often ask what it’s like having gay parents. The reality is that, just like most of you don’t think about having straight parents, I don’t get home for a weekend visit, walk in the door, and say, “Oh, look! My gay parents!” Just like you’ve probably never heard someone exclaim, “Oh, look! My straight mom and dad.” After all, my moms don’t live in a gay house, or drive gay cars, or gay park their gay cars, eat gay lunch or have a gay dog—as far as we can tell. It’s still a puppy, so I guess it’s hard to say for sure.

But the point is that they aren’t my gay moms. They’re my moms. But they weren’t always my moms—at one point, it was just my mom, Terry. In the late 1980s, she was a single lesbian physician living in rural Wisconsin who decided that she wanted to have children. This is not the setup to a sitcom or a punch line. A lot of people told her that she was crazy. But, between you and me, that was nothing new for Terry Wahls.
 
Now, most babies are conceived in a climactic moment of pas- sion fueled by love and/or one too many tequila shots. But for those of us conceived using artificial insemination or in vitro fer- tilization, the process is much more clinical.

I was born in 1991, my little sister was born in 1994, and my mom Terry met our other mom, Jackie, in 1996. It was a whirlwind romance. They were married that same year. Or, well, not really married per se, but they had a commitment ceremony in a beautiful Wisconsin church, and invited friends and family to watch them exchange rings and vows. We all watched as they walked down the aisle to the theme song of Star Trek: Voyager— to boldly go where no man had gone before! Literally. I was a lot shorter then, so I was the ring bearer—the Frodo, as it were. Thirteen years later, I would be their best man when they offi- cially tied the knot after Iowa became the sixth state in the union to recognize marriage between couples of the same gender.
At the time, though, the difference was lost on five-year-old me. Lots of differences were. Despite the normalcy—or boringness, depending on your point of view—of my family, I still got plenty of questions about having two moms. “Well, gosh, Zach, you didn’t have a dad, who taught you about things like courage and strength and discipline?” Now, the guys who asked this ques- tion clearly don’t know much about the women in their lives. I’m not even going to dignify that with a response. “Oh, well, okay, sure, fine, but who taught you how to shave?” No contest here. My moms didn’t teach me how to shave.

I learned how to shave when I was in junior high. I was staying with my buddy Mike for a sleepover and in the morning his dad, Cliff, noticed that I had a little peach fuzz on my lip. And he’s this big hairy guy, you know, so he goes, “Hey, Zach, want to learn how to shave?” And I’m in the eighth grade, so I’m all like, “Dah, sure!” So he gets out a razor and some shaving cream and he shows me how to shave. Yeah, it was actually pretty anticlimactic. I’m not sure what I was expecting but it was not this moment where the music swelled, my shoulders broadened, my voice deepened, and I became a man. I cut myself, and I learned how to shave. It really wasn’t so different from learning how to drive a stick shift—an important skill, but not all-defining.

“But, Zach, you didn’t have a dad! Who were your male role models?” Just to be clear, after their commitment ceremony, my moms did not relocate us to some all-female compound in Lesbia- stan. There were plenty of great male role models in my life growing up. The aforementioned best friends’ dads, male teach- ers in my public school, great mentors in my church, and, speak- ing as an Eagle Scout, incredible male role models in my Scouting units. There was no shortage of positive male role models in my life when I was a kid.

This isn’t to devalue the importance of fatherhood, it’s to highlight the importance of good parenting: At the end of the day, what matters most to kids is not the gender of your parents or the sexual orientation or even the number of parents that you have. What matters most to kids is whether or not you have a parent or parents who is or who are willing to put in the blood and sweat and toil and tears that it takes to sculpt little hellions into well-adjusted young adults. And if your parents have that—that love, that commitment, that dedication—if they have truly earned the title of “mother” or “father,” the kids will be all right. I promise.

Now was it different having lesbian parents? Sure. Are lesbian women different from heterosexual women? In some ways, yes, and we do ourselves a disservice  if we bother to pretend other- wise. Growing up, like any other kid would have been, I was well aware of the differences that existed between my family and oth- ers. And like any other family, mine was different from every other. My mom Terry was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis when I was eight. We attended a Unitarian Universalist fellowship instead of a Christian church. My moms—both medi- cal professionals and former athletes—put a large emphasis on healthy eating, physical exercise, and on not letting TV and video games rot my brain. Moms.

The fact that I had two moms and that they were both gay was certainly noticeable but in no way all-defining. This was due partly to my mom Terry’s explanation of our family situation to me at a young age and due partly to the sheer normalcy—as far as I could tell—of everyday life. My moms still had to buy grocer- ies and take me to swimming practice and balance their check- books and unfortunately gay cars don’t run on rainbows yet, so they still had to change the oil. Life with two moms, though cer- tainly in some small ways different from the lives for those with a mom and a dad, was defined not by how others viewed us but how we interacted with and valued one another. We were defined not by some external perception, but by love, strength, and the commitment we made to one another to work through the difficult times so we could enjoy the good ones. That’s what makes a family. And that’s what matters most.

 

Peanut Butter and Jelly
By Taya Dunn Johnson 
 
In my world, motherhood and fatherhood go hand in hand, kind of like peanut butter and jelly. I was raised by my married parents, all my aunts and uncles were married, and marriage was all I knew growing up.

Things in my life proceeded in the way that I felt they should. I fell in love with my high school sweetheart. We fit together just like peanut butter and jelly.

We dated.

We went to college. We got married.

We bought a house.

We decided together to start a family. We had a son.

Then my husband died.

And my perception of motherhood changed.

Back in 2008, the moment that my husband and I found out I was carrying a baby boy, we experienced a set of emotions that we couldn’t voice. Tremendous joy on the surface, but something else was there. I had secretly prayed for a boy, thinking I’d not be able to handle a prissy, frilly, pink, emotional little lady. I had been a tomboy nerd, so I thought that being the mom to a boy would be perfect. Of course, I welcomed whatever child we would be blessed with, but secretly, yep, I wanted a boy. My husband would later say that he was secretly pulling for a boy as well. However, our joy of the moment was tempered by the reality. We, an Afri- can American couple, would be bringing a little black boy into the world. The magnitude of that conclusion nearly took our breaths away. Although this was September of 2008, I remember the moment as if it were yesterday. Our eyes locked over the head of my perinatologist and I saw every emotion that I was feeling ref lected in his eyes. We didn’t discuss “it” for a couple of weeks. We pushed it to the backs of our minds as we happily attended several baby showers in our honor, tried to agree on a name, and basked in the general happiness.

Late one night, as my husband was rubbing my expanding belly, he began to cry. He spoke to the new responsibility that we were undertaking. Welcoming a child to this world is both beautiful and terrifying. And our fear was doubled, as raising an African American boy presents a unique set of challenges and concerns. Although this country has made great strides in regard to race relations, racism and discrimination still exist. And unfor- tunately, much of that which bubbles under the surface—anger, fear, ignorance, and hatred, is often directed to and acted upon black boys and men. One saving grace from our conversation was the fact that we were a family and my husband would be present to raise our boy into a man. That gave me great comfort.

Our joy, Marcus, was born January 13, 2009, and he is the spit- ting image of his father. At the age of two, Marcus was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Parenting our son for three and a half years was amazing. Every day as we watched him grow and develop, we embraced the little moments. We each relished our roles as mother and father. We loved and parented in two very different ways and the partnership worked wonderfully; just like peanut butter and jelly.

Then, on June 9 of 2012, my world shattered and my peace vanished. My husband passed away unexpectedly from a massive heart attack. Peanut butter with no jelly is hard as hell to swallow.

Not only was I a widow at the age of thirty-five, but I was left here to parent alone. I am a widowed mother to a little black boy with special needs. Each passing day, I must temper my grief and try to remain gentle with myself while attempting to be as “in the moment” as I can with our son. I am his mother and I must do everything within my power to instill in him the tools he needs to grow, thrive, and f lourish.

Motherhood means that I must give of myself unselfishly while putting every ounce of love that I have into our son. Moth- erhood means that I must surround our son with uncles, cousins, and male family friends so that he will understand the kind of man his father was and the kind of man that we expect him to become. Motherhood means that in this moment, I don’t have a partner or a physical father for our son but I must make sure that Marcus does not suffer from  this absence.

Motherhood is my charge and I have accepted the call.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for Listen to Your Mother

“With their authentic glimpses into this hard, beautiful thing we call life, the essays between these covers led me to fresh perspectives on mothering and being mothered. I savored the open vulnerability that met me with each turn of the page. From the hilarious to the profound, and not bound by gender or geography, these stories generously plumbed the depths of all that is motherhood.” —Anna Whiston Donaldson, New York Times-bestselling author of Rare Bird
 
“I’ve been a longtime fan of Ann’s Listen to Your Mother movement, and I just adore this collection. The stories are diverse, yet bound together by Listen to Your Mother’s trademark rawness and honesty. A perfect gift for any woman in your life . . . or yourself!” —Jill Smokler, New York Times-bestselling author of Confessions of a Scary Mommy
 
Listen to Your Mother manages to do what few anthologies do: it makes us see ourselves clearly through the eyes of many different writers—all gifted and many wickedly funny. These writers voice the things that everyone thinks and no one says. Long live the mothers!” —Suzanne Finnamore, award-winning author of Split
 

Meet the Author

Ann Imig is the founder of the live-reading series Listen to Your Mother, which is a rapidly growing national movement with shows in dozens of cities. She writes the blog Ann’s Rants, which was named to Babble's Top 100 Mom Blogs and Top 50 Twitter Moms, and was honored as a Voice of the Year from 2010-2013 by BlogHer. Ann lives with her husband and children in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Listen to Your Mother: What she said then, what we're saying now 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Peyton_Price More than 1 year ago
This is not a collection of essays to scarf down. This book is delicious, but rich. Read one or two of these honestly and well told stories, then spend the afternoon or evening with them, swish them around a bit. They take a little time to digest. Even the ones that go down easy have a surprisingly sharp and complex aftertaste. Read one before bed, and you’ll have vivid dreams about mothering and being mothered.