Map-maker, map-maker, make me a map

[A slice of Saul Steinberg’s endlessly riffed upon 1976 New Yorker cover, in which he depcits the westerly view through the prism of a stereotypically myopic New Yorker. Or, depending on your vantage point, through a good clear set of binocs. Nice little bit on it here on strange maps.]

Those of you who frequent the lesbian familial blogosphere — and I won’t make any presumptions; I know many of you do, but some of you probably don’t — will know that we’ve been having fruitful chit-chats of late about motherhoods, bio- and otherwise. I mean, we always do. We talk about motherhoods, bio- and otherwise, and about our kids, either hoped for, or in the hopper (whosever’s hopper that may be), or running around underfoot. What with the whole lesbian parenthood thing being defined by two women, in a couple, being parents together, you can imagine that the ongoing project of defining and supporting our motherhoods crops up often as a topic of conversation.

To this end, Trista posted a pithy piece, Advice for Bio Moms, on An Accident of Hope. I thought it so valuable a catalyst for thought that I couldn’t help but point at it from my Friday berth at (Fridays I assay a little chit-chat over there). Then Trista (a fellow contributor to, followed with this post rounding up more related conversational themes in blogs that list on LesbianFamily. If you’re a parent like me, reading these stories is just necessary. Like looking up and checking road signs as you drive. You do it all the time, so often you don’t even notice when you do.

Common themes emerge, helping us to separate what’s idiosyncratic from what’s lesbiansyncratic about our families. That stress and tension we’ve been having lately? Ah! Not alone! Happens to X, and Y, and Z lesbo families, too, when they confront the same issues. Hey, they get that crap, too? (/fall into that trap, too?) I thought we were the only ones. Oh, now there’s a great idea. Next time I run across that problem, I think I’m going to ______ (fill in wise notion or cunning hack culled from lesbian parent comrade’s blog, or the commentary thereon).

Online communities of all ilks engage in this stuff; at their best, they break down our isolation. Ours also feeds us vital coordinates. Watch out; the continent drops off there! Hey, don’t overlook the oaisis, tucked over there behind the stand of trees! Things of this nature.

Because the arrival of kids, whether they come pint-sized or prepubescent into our lives, is like the emergence of a big huge volcano where there once were only rolling hills at most. That, or like one continent bashing up against another. All of parenthood entails re-surveying and re-mapping the dramatic new contours of our lives. But the work of the lesbian parent — and any alternative, non-normative parent, for that matter — at this point in the history of the family includes some extra bushwacking. If the maps to our quasi-pioneer lesbian family lives were compared to maps of the known world, I think we’d find most are still no more accurate than those thought up by, say, Ptolemey. Or maybe a little more advanced. Columbus knew perfectly well what he would find if he sailed due west across the Atlantic from Europe (India, of course, you ninny!).

Which is why I so value our cartographic project here (online, through hundreds of conversations short and long, half-baked and well thought-out). Slowly, what’s emerging are maps of new, lesbian parent cultural practices, new language, new traditions or rituals, common refuges. If all goes well, our kids who go on to form their own families — lgbt or straight, nuclear or extended, traditional or non- — will find some of our maps useful, perhaps even take them for granted. Which, to a cartogrpaher, may be one of the most complimentary things they could do.

4 Responses to Map-maker, map-maker, make me a map

  1. Trista April 25, 2007 at #

    I love this post. (and not just because you mentioned me again) I love it when the blogosphere all starts talking about a subject and everyone approaches it from their different perspectives and experiences and theoretical backgrounds and it becomes a multi-textured weave of a conversation. This is why I blog and read blogs.

  2. Vikki April 26, 2007 at #

    Sometimes we make the maps. Sometimes we help each other figure out how to fold them back into their original forms so that they can fit into the glove compartment.

  3. Malkaseemah April 27, 2007 at #

    Phew! I’m in! My g-mail wouldn’t work for some reason, odd. So I’m signed on from work….

    I have loads to say about this, but I just wanted to share that I made it in…

    Shelli, aka Malka’s Eemah.


  1. Filling in the Negative Space « Fumbling on Track - November 1, 2007

    […] I think I’ve come to realize my role as the non-bio mom perhaps more quickly than most because of our exposure to the children in our lives.  I’ve slowly been able to piece together what I’ll uniquely have to offer our child, which has been a great comfort to me.  After all, if we are non-traditional families, we are creating our own maps, and thus the creating can take quite the time and effort.  For example, I’ve noticed that when our nephew pics up a book and is asking the group of us to read it to him, I’m usually the one to happily agree.  I’ll read it to him 5 times if he’s into it.  I just can’t say “no” to reading a book to a child – I’m that passionate about reading.  Not surprising, since I’m also usually the one to usually take an extra second to try and explain a new idea to him, trying to catch a “teaching moment” if I can.  I think I’m also more the “rough-houser” in terms of play than E.  Sometimes I think these all add up to being more “dad-ish” qualities, but I think they just happen to be what I’m more interested in. […]

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