The Motherload: When Your Life's on Spin Cycle and You Just Can't Get the Lid up!

The Motherload: When Your Life's on Spin Cycle and You Just Can't Get the Lid up!

by Caryl Kristensen, Marilyn Kentz

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060929282
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/07/1999
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.55(d)

About the Author

Caryl Kristensen is the mother of two sons, ages eleven and fourteen.

Marilyn Kentz is the mother of a 23-year-old son, a 12-year-old daughter and two stepchildren, ages 24 and 25. Both women are married (but not to each other) and live in Valley Village, California.

Caryl Kristensen is the mother of two sons, ages eleven and fourteen.

Marilyn Kentz is the mother of a 23-year-old son, a 12-year-old daughter and two stepchildren, ages 24 and 25. Both women are married (but not to each other) and live in Valley Village, California.

Read an Excerpt


Just as with our mothers before us, the "Suburban Code" is well in place. It is ever-changing and ever-evolving. The sooner you crack the code, the less likely it is that you will become its victim. Now, if you live in the city and are thinking, "That's not me!" think again, because suburbia can also be a state of mind. If you have even once lingered on a minivan ad and then checked to see if it had good drink holders, you are there.
The burbs, like every subculture, has its own set of unwritten rules. You must know that if you pull into suburbia and unknowingly veer off in the wrong direction, there are certain red flags that will make you a marked person. There is a group mentality as strong as the Teamsters in suburbia, so it's best to just play along. For example, if you are a woman and show up in anything overly sexy or provocative, you are going to be labeled "Bitch Meat" by your neighbors. If you wear a tube top to the nipple line of your size D chest, like one sorry woman we drove out, the other women will gang up on you. Here's the biggest cul-de-sac rule . . . there will be no tempting of the well-trained "sex-once-a-month" husbands.
The uniform is simple, a T-shirt and jeans or sweats. On days like teacher conferences, you may upgrade with a blazer. (Consult Target if you are confused.) If you paint your dwelling a color other than the preaccepted muted earth tones that surround you, expect to be mocked. And never, ever, under any circumstances, leave your children home alone and unattended with your husband during football season.
In the burbs we travel like packs of dogs. The dominant females lead the social calendar, Tupperware parties and decorating trends.The females also determine the mating season. The males coach the puppies' teams, hang Christmas decorations and burn the meat. All other pack members look out for one another's babies, helping to shuttle them back and forth and parenting in absentia. We live, die and decorate by the code. For those of us in the never-ending quest for a "Cleaver"-esque existence, this is a way of life . . . this is mediocrity at its best. Welcome to our world.
Did you imagine, when you were young and idealistic, a detailed picture of how your life would turn out? And then when you got to that time, not a single thing resembled your fantasy? Well, my first years in the suburbs were just that for me. I was an artist. I had a degree in graphic design. I was supposed to be living in San Francisco on Union Street among the galleries and cafes, talking about art and working for Primo Angeli, the famous designer. My reality, on the other hand, was Petaluma, a farm town north of San Francisco. I drove a minivan, lived in a cul-de-sac and had a baby sucking on my breast. I was torn between being deeply in love with my son and choosing to live like a bohemian artist. I hadn't planned on getting pregnant so soon, but as one of eleven children myself, it's not as if I wasn't aware of my very dominant egg supply. Then I married that cute Dane, with sperm from the lineage of Vikings that ruled the oceans in those big ugly boats. It was stronger than the two of us. We had a baby and we moved to Petaluma because it was affordable and because we wanted our son to have what we had growing up.
So there I was smack in the middle of the "sac." I was isolated, without a car and knowing no one, as my husband went off to work every day with real people. What do people here do all day? Well, it wasn't long before that question was answered. Within the first month of moving in, I received so many invitations from women I had never met, to a whole slew of evening parties/"get-togethers." There was Tupperware and Mary Kay and crystal sales and home decorating and photo album making and Bunko and on and on . . . My curiosity got the best of me. I attended each one the first time around with enthusiasm. It was great meeting so many people like myself. I was also happy to find out that these get-togethers were just a flimsy excuse for us to get together and drink.
There was, however, one interesting invitation I received, one with some substance. One of my neighbors was going to run a book study out of her home on Children: The Challenge, a parenting book by Rudolf Dreikurs. Well, Bryce was four months old and I was certainly feeling challenged. I looked forward to going to at least one pseudo-intellectual neighborhood gathering.

One might wonder how my counterculture, liberal self fit into the suburbs. Before you get too judgmental, though, I just want to say for the record that by the time I had children, I was no longer protesting or chaining myself to any buildings. Please note that I didn't name any of my newborns after a flower, a mountain, a state, a season, a goddess or a slang word. The last time I smoked pot I was twenty-six. My son Aaron was a little baby springing in the doorway all snuggled into one of those boingy jumpers that clamp to the door frame, laughing wildly. Aaron was born to bounce. And for those of you, our President included, who are unfamiliar with getting stoned, things become brighter, more in focus, intensified. I took one unforgettable look at that drooling, leaping, laughing, swinging little sticky-faced thing bouncing in my doorway and said, "What is it?" Then I prayed, "Please get me through this." But I think God mistook my prayer to mean: Please get me through this particular moment. No more mind-altering devices. I knew I was going to need all my faculties for this child. I stopped hitchhiking, tie-dying and astral flying. I threw away my halter top and headband, got me a pair of shoulder pads and a blazer jacket, stopped saying "far out," traded in my Volkswagen Bug for a minivan and headed for suburbia.
As a matter of fact, the change didn't really hit me until the summer of '82, when I was sitting out on my front porch one hot evening in my Kmart lawn chair beside a couple of friendly neighbors, each of us sporting a martini in our hands. The van was parked in my freshly cleansed driveway while my kids jetted past me on their Big Wheels. We were eating this new bean dip recipe out of my Tupperware bowl with tortilla chips in its "Modular Mate," and I believe I was complaining about taxes when I stopped in midsentence. That diminishing little grain of anti-establishment left in my soul made me freeze right there on the front porch. Beads of sweat started forming on my forehead. As if in slow motion, I took a good hard look around me and then ran back into the house, lit some incense and meditated for about twenty minutes. Ah, the burbs.

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