liz windhorst harmer’s 
“Top Ten Things that Made me Panic 
Less as a Parent in 2014”
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I am a mother of three girls as well as a writer and a person prone to worry. Here are ten things (or people) that made me feel better about being a parent in 2014. 
1. David Sedaris’ Mother
I am always looking for proof that flawed and interesting people can raise fine human specimens. Sedaris’s very funny mother as depicted in his collection Naked scratched that itch this year, though there were people in my brand new book club concerned about her dark side. She’s a chain-smoking, sarcastic, beleaguered, weird, beloved mother of six. I adore her. 

2. Jenny Offill on motherhood
Offill’s gorgeously ruminative Dept. of Speculation is one of the best books I read in 2014, so good that after reading my library copy I went out to buy it so that I could revisit sentences like this: “Of course it is difficult. You are creating a creature with a soul, my friend says.” 

3. Jenny Offill on motherhood part 2 »
And because it is good to have company, read this rich interview between two mother/artist/thinkers filled with book suggestions and sentiments for the lonely or panicked parent: Mothers are “allowed to talk about how chaotic and nutty it is. But not about how lonely it is? Or how strange or how sublime even. I feel like a lot of the conversations stay at the level of how logistically hard it is but don’t really touch on how emotionally or intellectually hard it is.”

4. The M Word, an anthology edited by Kerry Clare »
The essays in this collection are beautifully written by a wide variety of Canadian writers. I was particularly moved by Alison Pick’s account of miscarriage and Heidi Reimer’s adoption of a spirited girl, whose traits were very close to my own very spirited young ones. “Our eldest daughter is filled with pain. It surfaces at every provocation”, Reimer writes. Clare gets that it is more important to hear stories than be given advice. 

5. Leah McLaren: The Secret of Working Moms »
“Women with two or more children were markedly more productive throughout their career than anyone else in their field, both before and after they had children”. I will vouch for this: the ambition, the panic, the adrenaline. 

6. The decision to make my kids not do homework
For a while after our big move to the US, I was in a tizzy about homework. They had not had it in Canada, not yet. I could hardly get my second grader through the doors of school without a fight, and getting her to do homework was impossible. My kindergartner needed time to play. My new hairdresser told me “just wait till they get to third grade—ninety minutes every night.” Then we found out that it wasn’t even necessary or beneficial. We told their teachers they would be playing at home instead of doing homework. For further reinforcements of this nature, see Tom Hodgkinson’s The Idle Parent. 

7. And, for that matter, Tom Hodgkinson’s The Idle Parent
It has been a while since I read this book, but every time my husband is drinking a beer and I’m sitting back while the kids are thumping down the stairs for fun, I remember it and decide against guilt: “Do less! Passive parenting is responsible parenting.”

8. Zadie Smith
Find Your Beach, this essay by Smith, is not ostensibly about parenting, but because I admire her so I look for clues about her domestic situation whenever I read her. “I walk a ten-block radius every day, constrained in all the usual ways by domestic life, reduced to writing about whatever is right in front of my nose. But the fact remains that here I do write, the work gets done”.

9. The Road
In 2014 I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road again. (I hope not to have to do it again, maybe ever). And though it is very sad for parents, being the gloomy and doomed post-apocalyptic trek of one father and his son, it always allows me afterwards to see vividly how much worse my own parenting options could be. It’s not the end of the world until it really is the end of the world. So far no cannibals, and I shouldn’t have to worry about rickets.  

10. Moving to a new country, in a new climate, far away from everyone I know
My children adjusted insanely quickly to our move from Southern Ontario to Southern California. They are blissful; they bounce. Meanwhile, I am still homesick. Maybe it’s me I should be worried about.
We’ve had the pleasure of publishing Liz twice — once with LITTLE FICTION, and once with BIG TRUTHS. 
Both pieces are so great that we can’t decide if she’s a better fiction writer or non-fiction writer. Either way, we’re jealous of her talents. Also she just moved to sunny California and it’s winter here. So we’re jealous of that, too.
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