Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Too Cool for Preschool: A Review of Breeder: Real Life Stories From the New Generation of Mothers

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Edited by Ariel Gore and Bee Lavender (Seal Press, 2001; Paperback, $16.00)

Motherhood gets a much needed makeover in this ultra-cool anthology put together by Hip Mama editors Ariel Gore and Bee Lavender. This book is chock full of real life-in-the-trenches stories by women who, as Gore says in the introduction, chose to have their kids "while, not instead of, following our other dreams."

These are stories by teen moms, pilot moms, vagabond moms, women of color moms, gay moms, fat moms, you name it. And not only is the diversity of the individual contributors a welcome respite from the do-it-all-with-a-smile supermom voices usually put out there, but the topics are original too; the authors delve head first into things usually reserved for the therapist's office: mental illness, infertility, teen pregnancy, sick babies, unassisted birth and more.

That said, I have to admit it was hard for me to get into this book. For one thing, I was pretty sure I wasn't hip enough to be reading it. After all, I am over 30 (!) and married (to a man!) and although "tattoo" was one of my daughter's first words, both of mine are in spots I generally tend to keep covered these days.

I was also immediately put off by the IN-YOUR-FACE, I'm SO wacky, SO alternative, tone that permeates the book. OK, already! I get it! You're really f*ing cool! And I'm about as wild as a shoe. But now what do you have to say?

And here's the thing. Behind all that over-amped, alterna-bravada these mothers really do have something to say. Important stuff! Stuff us regular mothers are interested in! Stuff we can identify with! Good stuff!

That's the irony of this book. Although it touts itself as proof of that famous 70's mantra from Free to Be. . .You and Me, "Mommies can be...anything they want to be," the real meat of this book lies in those pieces that show us not how unique mothers can be, but how similar we are. How we all long for connection, and fear for our children and dream hearty dreams for them, all the while doing the best we can with who we are and what we have. It's a surprisingly hopeful book, coming from such a cynical generation; it's almost as if, gulp, we're growing up.

Gems like Joy Castro's "Edging" and Yantra Bertrelli's "Becoming His Mother" choicely illustrate the universal fear that all mothers face -- that we might one day lose our babies, whether to an accident or to their biological mother. Australia Sims' "Calls from Another Planet" and Allison Crews' amazingly teen angst-less and insanely well-written "When I Was Garbage" show us some very grown-up acts of forgiveness: in Sims' case it's forgiving her mother for her mental illness, in Crews', it's forgiving herself for an unplanned teen pregnancy, giving her a big dose of courage to fight for the life she really wants.

And just when things get a little too serious, Breeder brightens things up with "Similarities and Differences," Kimberly Bright's funny little list comparing toddlers and bad boyfriends, and Gayle Brandeis' laugh-out-loud and eeeeeeww-that's-so-gross, "Pinworm Patrol."

Ultimately, Breeder pays off. The stories are short and easy to read, making it very overworked-mom-friendly. This book would be a great gift for new and expectant moms, especially those striving to be sexy cool mom instead of soccer mom. Don't let the cool factor of this book scare you off. Behind the tattoos and cool grrrl 'tude lie stories about one of the most radical things a mother can do: hope to do better for her kids.

Heidi Raykeil is the author of the books Love in the Time of Colic: The New Parents’ Guide to Getting it on Again (Collins, 2009) and Confessions of a Naughty Mommy: How I Found My Lost Libido (Seal Press 2006). She is a contributor to Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth and to several anthologies, including Unbuttoned: Women Open Up About the Pleasures, Pains, and Politics of Breastfeeding (Harvard Common Press, 2009) and Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined (Seal Press 2006). Her writing has also been featured in Parenting Magazine, Redbook, and online at Heidi lives in Seattle with her husband and two daughters.

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