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306.8743 HAR Book Adult General Collection

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An emotionally honest, arresting, and funny collection of essays about motherhood and adulthood...

"Being a mother is a gift."

Where's my receipt?

Welcome to essayist Kimberly Harrington's poetic and funny world of motherhood, womanhood, and humanhood, not necessarily in that order. It's a place of loud parenting, fierce loving, too much social media, and occasional inner monologues where timeless debates are resolved such as Pro/Con: Caving to PTO Bake Sale Pressure ("PRO: Skim the crappiest brownies for myself. CON: They're really crappy.") With accessibility and wit, she captures the emotions around parenthood in artful and earnest ways, highlighting this time in the middle--midlife, the middle years of childhood, how women are stuck in the middle of so much. It's a place of elation, exhaustion, and time whipping past at warp speed. Finally, it's a quiet space to consider the girl you were, the mother you are, and the woman you are always becoming.

Author Notes

Kimberly Harrington is a regular contributor to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, the cofounder and editor of the parenting humor site Razed, and a copywriter and creative director. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, and Medium. She lives in Vermont on purpose.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This funny, angry, and moving essay collection from Harrington, a copywriter and regular contributor to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, considers life for women dealing with motherhood, work, marriage, self-image, expectations, ambition, fatigue, and everything else. "Our culture has set the bar so high that it's hidden in a place where we'll never find it," she writes. Per the subtitle, the writing is often profane, but just as often poignant, as in Harrington's opening salvo, addressed to her children and titled, "I Don't Want to Be Dying to Tell You These Things," which states "you will be disappointed to learn that parents, and adults in general, do not have all the answers." Full of "righteous anger" about how quickly new mothers are expected to leap back into full-time work, nostalgia for the "nowhere-but-here" days spent with toddlers, and grief for lost loved ones, Harrington is at her best in the most personal pieces, including discussions of working from home ("The Super Bowl of Interruptions") and of trying to parent without overpraising children ("Your Participation Trophies Are Bullshit"). The collection also has short throwaways ("Your Cute Wedding Hashtags 20 Years Later") and clever humor pieces, such as an essay presenting motherhood as a job description. All of the topics covered are familiar, but Harrington's approach to them is singular, and readers-particularly those who have been in the motherhood trenches-will smile, laugh, and maybe even shed a tear.(May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New York Review of Books Review

Harrington's first book of essays explores parenting, marriage, childbirth, education, unemployment - and the special slice of hell that is navigating two toddlers through a rest area bathroom. Harrington is a veteran of the mommy wars who, fascinatingly, has fought on both sides. She worked 60hour weeks with a newborn and later took time off to stay at home with her family. She has had her 3-year-old daughter literally cling to her coattails to try to stop her from leaving for the office; she has experienced the brain-splitting act of making a conference call while her children roughhouse unsupervised in the next room; and she understands that staying home with small kids means you "coordinate, plan and do almost everything," yet "crash face-first into bed every night feeling like you've accomplished basically nothing." She has felt the sting of scorn that comes after telling a guest at a cocktail party that you're a stay-at-home mom, or that your kids are in day care: "It's an awful word; it's a hard one to get out. It's where babies go to die on their first day." She knows that working mothers are always apologizing to their children: '"I'm sorry I'm away from you. I'm sorry I have to make money, even though sometimes what I'm doing is stupid and utterly pointless.' But also 'I'm sorry that I'm probably really enjoying at least part of it.' " In trying to justify both sides of the conflict, Harrington occasionally ends up sounding mad at the world. Her point is that the world of child rearing is unfair - mothers have no guilt-free options - but she sounds vitriolic rather than vehement. Harrington excels in the short, funny lists that punctuate the book (i.e. "Radiohead Song or Accurate Description of My Parenting?") and conveys true heartbreak in longer, more personal pieces on topics like her miscarriage and having a child with Asperger's. Other chapters, like "It's Complicated" and "As Young as We'll Ever Be," are more generic and feel like filler. Too often Harrington's crisp, perceptive sentences are followed by three or four more that say pretty much the same thing, dulling her otherwise stylish prose. Even so, the book is thought-provoking and memorable. The chapter about the day she finally made good on her threat to turn the car around if her children didn't start behaving will stay with you for a long, long time.

Table of Contents

I Don't Want to Be Dying in Order to Tell You These Thingsp. 3
Fuck. This. List.p. 9
Job Description for the Dumbest Job Everp. 17
The Super Bowl of Interruptionsp. 23
I Am the One Woman Who Has It Allp. 33
Undonep. 37
Dear Stay-at-Home Moms and Working Moms, You're Both Rightp. 45
Just What I Wanted, a Whole Twenty-Four Hours of Recognition Once a Yearp. 55
"If Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy": Revised and Expandedp. 59
Tiny Lossesp. 65
If You Love Your Grandparents, Go Visit Themp. 81
Let's Have the Wedding Laterp. 89
It's Complicatedp. 95
Your Cute Wedding Hashtags Twenty Years Laterp. 105
Kids, It's Time You Knew the Truth-Your Mother Is a Real Piece of Workp. 107
Oversharep. 115
Thank You for Including Me on This Meal Train but Unfortunately I'm a Horrible Personp. 125
Your Participation Trophies Are Bullshitp. 129
September 17, 2010: The Day I Turned the Car Aroundp. 137
The Ghosts of Halloweens Pastp. 147
Radiohead Song or Accurate Description of My Parenting?p. 155
Are You Sure There Isn't Something Else I Can Do Before the End of the School Year?p. 157
The Walls That Define Usp. 163
Pro/Con: Caving to PTO Bake Sale Pressurep. 169
The Punching Seasonp. 173
Please Don't Get Murdered at School Todayp. 179
I Don't Care If You Go to Collegep. 183
What Do You Think of My Son's Senior Picture That Was Shot by Annie Leibovitz?p. 189
Anne-Marie Slaughter Is My Safe Wordp. 193
Who Does That?p. 201
If You Can Touch Itp. 209
As Young as We'll Ever Bep. 219
Hot-Ass Chicksp. 225
Ashes to Ashesp. 237
Fifty-One Things You Should Never Say to a Mother Everp. 251
Is There a Parenting Expert on This Plane?p. 257
Do You Have Faith in Me?p. 263
Thirteen with Dudesp. 269
Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Shouldp. 281
You Are All the Joyp. 289
When I Diep. 301
Acknowledgmentsp. 305