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Sunday Morning News

Author Discusses Book Examining Modern Motherhood

Aired May 14, 2000 - 8:42 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Whether you're a mom enjoying a traditional Mother's Day or you're demonstrating for or against gun control, it's a good bet that you don't quite fit the old June Cleaver definition of mom.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, the times are a changing, aren't they? Camille Peri of Salon.com has taken a close look at modern motherhood, co-authoring the book, "Mothers Who Think." We're going to get her views on how motherhood has changed and what's in store for moms in the new millennium.

Camille Peri joins us from Washington, where she'll be taking part in today's Million Mom March also. Good morning.

CAMILLE PERI, CO-AUTHOR, "MOTHERS WHO THINK": Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Good morning.

PHILLIPS: Why don't we talk about where the idea came from. You were frustrated as a journalist, weren't you, with regard to how the issue was being covered of mother hood?

PERI: Exactly, yeah, as a journalist and as a mother I was frustrated with the kind of depictions of motherhood that I saw. It seemed either motherhood's either treated as a lifestyle issue or in the parenting magazines there's kind of an obsession with potty training and conquering clutter and, you know, the busy work of motherhood and I think motherhood is much bigger than that.

O'BRIEN: The big picture is important. Now you managed to get some fairly illustrious writers to weigh in on this subject. When you approached them, were they all eager and willing?

PERI: They were very eager and willing because, as I said, there aren't very many outlets to write about motherhood seriously and honestly and all of them had things they wanted to say as a mother. So they were very happy.

PHILLIPS: You talk about a lot of honest coming out of this book. An interesting chapter that I found was Raising Biracial Children. Talk a little bit about that.

PERI: Yeah, that was a piece, well, we actually have other, several pieces that touch on that but by Karen Grigsby Bates (ph). Well, actually, a piece that she did was on raising, worrying that her black son was becoming too white, her privileged black son was becoming too white and yeah, there are other, other stories that talk about raising biracial children and the problems that come with that.

O'BRIEN: What, if you had to come up with a common thread which runs through these stories, if that's possible, what would you say it is?

PERI: You know, I'm not sure that it's really possible. What we tried to do was get this whole wide range of emotions that are part of motherhood. I think that it's, you know, it's this wonderful, intoxicating, delicious experience and it's also really difficult and trouble sometimes and mundane and I think, you know, we really were after that huge range of feelings.

PHILLIPS: What moved you the most as you put this book together and you read everything, obviously, all the different opinions? What touched you the most, do you think?

PERI: I think possibly Susan Straight's (ph) piece about being a single mother of three young girls and just how difficult it is with no backup. I think that just the way that she, you know, beautifully describes how hard that is. I also, what touched me in a different way was Ann Lamotte's (ph) piece on -- Ann Lamotte was a columnist for "Mothers Who Think" and her pieces on mother anger, which she treats very humorously, but it's something that all mothers feel and nobody can talk about.

One other piece that touched me a lot was Sally Tisdale's (ph) kind of tribute to teenaged boys. And I have two sons of my own. But it was, you know, teenaged boys don't get a lot of good press these days and it's really a tribute to them and all their kind of gawky, smelly wonderfulness.

O'BRIEN: All right, briefly, we don't have much time, but how much has motherhood changed since the days of June Cleaver?

PERI: Oh, I think it's, you know, the changes are huge. I think that, I mean the biggest change, of course, is the majority of mothers work outside the home and I think we've kind of gone from, you know, the idea that you can have it all to having to do it all. And there's no generation of mothers has ever had more expected of it than this generation and I think that's, you know, having a huge impact on society and we haven't quite caught up with it yet.

O'BRIEN: So maybe the common thread is utter exhaustion, who knows?

PERI: That's definitely a thread that runs through everything we do, yeah.

PHILLIPS: We exhausted our mothers, that's for sure.

O'BRIEN: All right.

PHILLIPS: Camille Peri, co-author of the book "Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real Life Parenthood." Thanks for being with us this morning.

PERI: Thank you.

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