Wednesday Martin describes how she scientifically studied, sort of through participant observation, the lives of women living on the Upper Easy-Side of New York: the mothers of Part Avenue. An account that to me as both a mother and academically trained sociologist was more enthralling than any crime novel. She actively uses academic terminology like “population” and “species” and draws humorous and precise comparisons to indigenous tribes and numerous ape colonies to explain and exemplify human behavior.
It is through this relationship between primates and the housewives of Park Avenue in terms of breeding and foster of their offspring and the description of the hierarchies and the importance of beauty from the biological perspective that the “Primates of Park Avenue” becomes such an enjoyable popular scientific book that has you smirking and rolling your eyes with every page turn.
One must inevitably think about what codes the author might have decoded upon witnessing the mothers in placid Augsburg if she had spent a couple of years amongst us on our playgrounds and in our WhatsApp groups.
The reading matter does not fail to leave its mark. The long descriptions of the levels of regard and disregard sent by mothers in the way of other mothers during their early morning encounters in the preschool and the reasons for this behavior rub off on the reader. I myself suddenly notice how some mothers seem to always greet me in a friendly manner when picking up our children while most of them simply do not. This probably also conceals a code of affiliation of sorts. Who has been around the longest? Whose children have an afternoon date for fun and play? Who can bake the best birthday cake?
And all of this while we are finding ourselves in a quite heterogeneous environment and institution. In our son’s preschool are a lot of children from foreign countries, different skin tones and originating from diverse social backgrounds (social status). The woman on Park Avenue only seem to differ by the fact wether their husbands are rich, very rich, or extra super rich. Nevertheless or even therefore they constantly strain themselves to establish the hierarchy between them.
When Wednesday Martin goes on to describe the Birkin bag over the course of 34 pages and no word is too much or too exaggerated (from my point of view of someone who will never afford a Birkin bag) than it begins to dawn on you how defining your wardrobe is inside this social fabric. I am familiar with the names of most designers mentioned by Martin only from watching the “Sex and the city” series. My wardrobe originates mostly from second hand shops and mail orders. But I ask myself which codes are in effect amongst the mothers of our neighborhood.
Of course your are tempted to search for such codes in your own surroundings after reading. But when having fulfilled your role in society for a long time already you are unable to tell wether you act like you will or how the social norms dictate. This book could as well put you into an identity crisis.
But one thing is for certain: after reading no single woman on earth could desired to change place with this mothers of park avenue. Money alone will not make you happy. This fact has not been dissected in such glorious fashion as by Wednesday Martin.
Take for example the critique of capitalism carried by her observations on the stress caused by having a choice. Wether it is handbag or private preschool each decision influences your social status. There is no relaxation. The whole existence means stress and stress leads to sickness and discontent. Stress might even delay ovulation. I mean…wtf?
The feminist in me of course cares most about the role allocation on park avenue. Wednesday Martin observes: the women are totally dependent on their husbands - not only money wise but socially since their husbands career governs the weal and woe of the family while her career consists of raising the children. Divorce is a kind of social stigmatization that these women are unfit to survive since their whole existence is targeted on playing by the rules of hierarchy. Therefore divorce is not even an option. Period. You can imagine how this affects the quality of a marriage.
I can most warmly recommend the book and anticipate the codes you will detect amongst the parents of your population.
PS: Content Note: the book contains description of miscarriage
“Daddy, daaaaaaady” [moves from the kitchen to the bedroom door, glances around the corner]
“Yes, son?” “Can we talk?”
“Yes…“ “Not like this”
“Pardon?” “Closer, you have to be closer”
“..ok, like so?” [moves to the bedside] “…can you move a little closer?”
“..ok, like so?” [kneels down by the bed] “…can you move a little closer?”
“Yes, like so…?”[leans into the bed] “Not this closer, another closer. Can you move a little closer?!”
“I see…” [rests his head on the edge of the bed] “…”[moves around the bed for the best part of a century]
“Now this is close enough I would imagine…“ “Ok, now talk”
“What do you want to talk about?” “…”[a silence as deep as the deep blue sea]
“What do you want to talk about?” “You tell me…yes”
“Oh, well, you wanted to talk to me, son…“ “You say, you say”[the biggest and brightest eyes you will ever see]
“Ok, ok, so…how was your day?” “…”[a galaxy collapses, dies, and is reborn]
“…ahm, did you have a nice day at the kindergarten?” “…“
“Well, what did you do today?” “…everything”
Guest post on pregnancy and delivery and the role the midwives play in Germany by Dr. Katja Heumader. Katja is a close friend of Lisa. Her kids are the same age as ours and we spend at least one afternoon per week. The late night WhatsApp messages about the hard/stupid/crazy moments of parenting have saved the day more than once.
My Brazilian friend got pregnant in 2013. The first question she asked was: “I don’t understand this whole midwife-thing you have in Germany. What do I need a midwife for? And how do I find the right one?” In Brazil, children are born under doctoral supervision in hospital, many of them via c-section (in cities up to 90 per cent). For comparison: In Germany the share of c-sections is about 30 per cent. Of course, the absence of midwives is one of the reasons for the high share of c-sections in Brazil.
Midwives care for women during pregnancy, birth and childbed
For women from abroad the role midwives play in Germany might be stunning. They might even be puzzled about the various midwives a pregnant woman needs. Each woman has the right to get help from a midwife during pregnancy, birth and the time after (Recht auf Hebammenhilfe). Midwives attend each birth, even c-sections. They have a broad medical knowledge about all issues concerning pregnancy, birth and childbed.
What midwives in germany do in detail
Instead of seeing a doctor, a pregnant woman can get all examinations from her midwife. Apart from the medical knowledge midwives offer a different perspective from the one doctors have. They consider pregnancy and birth as something natural whereas medical staff in hospitals tends to see pathologic aspects and eventual risks in the first place. Of course, pregnant women profit from medical achievements. But quite often they are alienated instead of encouraged by gynecologists and nurses.
Midwives can be a corrective and give women the strength and help they need during that special time. A midwife might choose other means or set aside some technical devices. Women who don’t want to relinquish those modern medical methods can also choose a combination: They can see their midwife for some appointments and their gynecologists for others (for example ultrasonics).
Midwives also offer prenatal classes in which women or couples can learn everything around birth and the first time with the baby. Many women get to know the midwife who looks after her in childbed in those classes. And of course, a midwife helps the becoming mother to give birth to her child, in hospital, birthplace or at home.
During childbed midwives come to see mother and baby at home after the two have left hospital. They check if the baby is gaining weight, look after the navel and control the wound healing of the mother, look after wound nipples and after nursing in general. But most importantly they give advices for the everyday life with the baby. Everyone who has children knows: The first days with the baby are exhausting. Mothers suffer from baby blues. Babies don’t know any difference between day and night yet and keep their parents awake for hours. Sometimes babies cry a lot – without a specific reason. Parents feel helpless in those situations. A midwife can strengthen parents and the relationship to their children by giving mother and father the necessary self confidence that they do the right thing for their little child.
Midwives in germany face financial problems
Unfortunately, midwives have been facing huge problems in recent times. As courts tend to adjust big amounts of compensations to families who suffer from damages they gained during birth (which is per se a good thing), insurance fees for midwives have increased significantly. This leads to the fact, that many midwives have to resign from their job because they can’t work profitably any more. Furthermore, house birthing has become nearly extinct. Unfortunately, political solutions have had only temporal effects so far Haftpflichtversicherung für Hebammen steigt erneut .
My daily routine starts with coffee. In a way I am in a automatic mode before I had my first cup. Especially winter mornings are tough. The darkness seems to crawl through the windows and tells me: “go back to bed, it is still night!” If I didn’t have my wife and my kids, I’d most likely listen to it. But the family schedule forces me into my daily routine.
Hello, my name is Nina and I am transgender. Being trans isn’t really unusual, but being trans in a small town is very different. And we live in a German small town. Well, to be precise: we live in the train station of this small town. If you have never seen a German small town, try to imagine Stars Hollow having a train station. It is a three storied brick-stone building. Every hour a train passes through, stops to drop students, workers and a few tourists and returns a few minutes later to pick up passengers to the next major town.
There isn’t such a big difference between living in a station
and a normal house. Except that there is
always lots of people in front of the train station.
Every morning, when I go to the bus with my
sons, we have to pass through strangers. Honestly, I usually think about a lot, when I leave the house. What should we have for dinner? Did I fill the lunch boxes? Did I forget my keys or wallet? But I hardly ever think about being trans, until other peoples reactions remind me.
It might be hard to understand, but most the time I do not think about gender at all. That was way different, when I had my coming out. In the first months and years it felt new to go out into the public, without hiding in my male costume. But after several years living full time, a lot of it became daily routine.
A lot of things became easier, when my name and gender were legally changed. It was quite a lot of bureaucracy I had to face about two years ago. It all became complicated, because I am still Austrian citizen. One would think the medical certificates I already had, would be enough to get the birth certificate changed. But it was way more trouble. I had to go to a psychologist – specialized on working with transgender – to get an expertise, sent it to the Austrian Embassy with a whole bunch of papers and then I had to wait. It took some months till I finally got my papers and my legal name change.
For me it was never a question to leave the small town. My kids go to Kindergarten and school here, their friends and my friends life just around the corner. A lot of people have an illusion that small towns were less tolerant and maybe in a way this isn’t so much an illusion at all. But
whenever I have to go to a big city I realize: people aren’t really more open, tolerant or accepting, they’ve only seen enough odd things, so they don’t notice me as very unusual. While this avoids certain conflicts, it is in fact just a form of ignorance.
My family and I are kind of famous in our town. We cannot really go anywhere without being noticed. Yes, we’re outstanding. A transgender woman, her wife and their kids will always attract attention. But most of the people got used to us.
After a while they realized that we are just a family like all the others. It was a lot of gossip a few years ago, but after a while a certain routine took
over. We’re a not so normal family living a pretty ordinary family life.