No doubt about it, we're in the thick of the overshare age. TMI is a risk many of us who put ourselves out there online take willingly and daily, outing our personal demons for virtual strangers to see. We relish the support we find at the other end of a computer. Yet Drunk Mom, a new memoir about a mom's battle with alcoholism, has me wondering how much is too much. Are some areas of our lives simply too private and sacred to divulge? Should they be?
Author Jowita Bydlowska claims the book is essentially an extended mea culpa to her son Hugo: "a form of my amends to him." As a blogger who has lain bare some very ugly and very personal truths—about autism (my son) and post-partum depression (mine)—I'm hardly one to throw stones. Any time I have shared my experiences, I’ve done so in the hopes that my candor would benefit others. And I’ve been mindful of my loved ones, all the while striving to remain honest. It’s not always an easy balance to strike, as Jowita must have known when she started out.
Remember how it used to be almost trendy for bloggers to brag about being 'bad' parents? As if all those mom fails were badges of honour. Yes, we’re all human; we all err. But I'm not talking about burning the meatloaf or letting your kid watch an extra episode of Dora. I'm talking about publicly voicing your resolute preference of one kid over another. I’m talking about standing on the pulpit and declaring—before your own children—that you wish you never had them.
I’m talking long-term emotional damage kind of stuff. It's one thing confiding to a fellow mom in the park that little Jonny's been a real a-hole all morning, quite another to disseminate those words via mainstream media. It begs the question: what happens when those kids read their parents’ missives? What are the odds that Hugo will be mature and objective enough to get past his mom’s drunken legacy? Will he hate her for it? I hope for her sake he doesn’t.
Personally, if my mom was snorting cocaine and constantly getting off her rockers, if she kept passing out when she was supposed to be looking after me, I would count my lucky stars that I was too young to remember those dark days with any clarity. And I probably wouldn't want know five, ten, or even twenty years later.
Which leads me to wonder at Jowita’s motives for writing this book. If it’s catharsis you’re after, you keep a journal. If you want to help other addicts, you become a public speaker or an AA sponsor, etc. You don’t necessarily write (then promote) a controversial memoir. Today she is described as “present, selfless and sober,” so I suspect the motive is one of celebration. And that’s awesome, truly. I just hope that in the long run the book helps more people than it hurts.
So I put it to you: how much is too much?
After a near miss faux pas (whereby I almost signed off an email wishing a Jewish acquaintance a 'Happy Easter'), religion is at the fore of my thoughts.
Though we were both raised Catholic, my husband and I made a conscious decision to eschew religion when raising our son. At the risk of facing the ire of in-laws, we decided not to christen him or to subject him to regular mass or sacraments. He is attending a public school.
Like many parents, we do not want to force a particular faith onto our child. Rather, we want him to make an informed decision about his own spirituality when he is old and mature enough to do so. Until then, we try to impart our Christian values in a loose, fairy tale way. While it may be naive of me to think you can cherry pick parts of a given religion and discard those that leave a bad aftertaste, so be it. Yet part of me wonders if agnosticism is truly the right move.
I wonder whether he is missing out on a distinct sense of community and tradition. When you don't belong to a religion, you are adrift. You have friends and family, sure, but no spiritual raft. Are we doing our son a disservice by leaving him fledgling out at sea with no oar?
For those who staunchly believe, faith creates order out of chaos, meaning out of meaninglessness. But at heart I'm a Lennonist (not to be confused with Leninist!). As in John Lennon, of Beatles All-You-Need-is-Love, fame.
I'm a big believer in love over rites and rituals. Given the choice, I'll choose human kindness and acceptance over doctrine and dogma any day of the week. Jesus loved sinners. However, I've come to the sad conclusion that the Church does not. But who knows what will happen with a fresh new pope in situ.
Though I wouldn't liken a religious upbringing with child abuse, as some atheists famously do, I question whether it is selfish to blackball my son's spiritual education. If we don't teach him, how will he know what he's missing? Will he resent us for not versing him in the ways of the Bible or introducing him to God, Allah, and Buddha?
Or in leaving the slate blank, are we giving our son the greatest spiritual gift of all—that of choice?