Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Welcome Jennifer Richardson and Guest Post on "The Question of Motherhood"

Welcome Jennifer Richardson, author of Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, and a guest post on "The Question of Motherhood".  This post has the potential to spark quite a discussion on the expectations woman face in regard to motherhood.  From my own handful of close friends, motherhood can be defined in multiple ways from twins to starting late in life to adoption to pregnancy complications and, yes, to deciding against motherhood.  I'm thankful to Jennifer for offering an honest perspective as she shares her personal thoughts and experiences.

The Question of Motherhood

In retrospect, the fact that motherhood was even a question should have been a dead giveaway.  It's not that I'm dismissive of questioning in general, which these days seems to be an underused skill when it comes to life's more consequential decisions.  It's just that, apart from finding the right father, motherhood was never a question for any of my friends who are now happy moms.

In fact, it wasn't always a question for me.  When I was a teenager I had the certainty of youth and used to stand in front of the microwave while it was on, proclaiming I was radiating my uterus to prevent impregnation.  While I'm pretty sure I did this because I enjoyed shocking my mother, it turns out there may have been some truth lurking amidst my adolescent sense of humor.  I blame the rest of the eighties for clouding my judgement.  This was a time when well-meaning feminists were still pushing the belief that women could and should do it all: husband, kids, and a glass-ceiling-breaking career where you got to wear jewel-colored power suits with linebacker-worthy shoulder pads. Convinced I, too, could and should want it all, I assumed that one day my biological clock would kick into action.

When said clock failed to commence ticking by thirty-five, the questioning began.  I describe it in my book, Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, this way:

...Only when my birth control prescription ran out was I forced to confront my own  ambivalence on the matter.  And unencumbered by any biological urges, I realized ambivalence was not a foundation that would sustain me, much less my husband, through sleepless nights and chafed nipples.  Still I was ill at ease with my choice.  I envied those women who have motherhood emblazoned on their brainwaves like Manifest Destiny.  I had no tangible reasons to avoid it - good jobs, a home, a willing husband - yet I had no real urge either.  More infuriating was that I didn't fell any particular passion about remaining childless.  I was on no high horse about what a crappy world it is to bring a child into or that I was saving the planet by not contributing another carbon energy-consuming being to the cosmos.  When I held friends' babies in my arms I cooed, enjoyed the baby scent, admired their perfect skin, and marveled at their tiny fingernails.  And then, after ten minutes or so, I was happy to hand them back.

It took me a few more years and one epiphany-producing experience - you'll have to read the book for more on that - to get comfortable with the fact that my answer to the question of motherhood was "no".  Having reconnected with the certainty of my inner-teenager, I am happy to report this is one question I still think I've answered right.

 Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage begins with the simultaneous purchase of a Cotswold cottage and Richardson's ill-advised decision to tell her grandchild-hungry parents that she is going to try to have a baby. As she transitions from urban to rural life, she is forced to confront both her ambivalence about the idea of motherhood and the reality of living with the spouse who suffers from depression. Then, just when she is finally settling into English country life, she is struck by an attack of non-alcohol-related slurring that turns out to be a symptom of multiple sclerosis.

Set against the backdrop of English food, drink festivals and fairs, Americashire includes field guides illustrating walks through the Cotswolds and skillfully depicts a compelling tale of marriage, illness and difficult life decisions. 

Jennifer Richardson is an American Anglophile who spent three years living in a Cotswold village populated straight out of English central casting by fumbling aristocrats, gentlemen farmers, and a village idiot. She is married to an Englishman who, although not the village idiot, provides her with ample writing material. She currently lives in Santa Monica, California along with her husband and her royal wedding tea towel collection.

Find out more about the author by visiting her online:

Jennifer's website:

Twitter: @BaronessBarren

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