Fleeing. Dropping every responsibility and just leaving it all behind. It’s the secret dream of all of us, even of mothers who, if only for a second, wonder what it would be like to ditch the house in the suburbs, the husband, and the 2.5 kids for something else. Something unknown. Claire Dederer felt this itch. And so did her mother. The different paths that they chose are explored in Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses (2012, Picador). In short, it is a memoir about motherhood. About easing into that role. A role that, much like the poses of yoga, reveals to us our hidden fears, stresses, and histories without any warning and irrespective of our desire for such information.
Yoga provides the narrative structure of Poser, but Dederer fleshes it out with so much more. She offers us her life’s story, from her parents’ separation and non-divorce that set the tone of her childhood, to her own birth as a mother, struggling to do right by her children amidst her perception of a social pressure to be perfect, to the evolution of her marital relationship. She gives us a history of yoga–its terms, its gurus, and its enthusiastic embrace by pop culture. She shares with us a touching reflection on how the choices made by our mothers’ generation impacts us as now-mothers, as working women, as wives, and as feminists.
But, most importantly, she shows us that it’s okay to come home. After all of our searching and finding our answers we can gather those we love into our arms and chose the life that we want to build with them.
Dederer is a very skilled writer and has lived a fascinating life. At times, her fretting over keeping up with the Joneses may come across as a bit of middle class self-indulgence, but her concerns are real and are shared by many. Self-doubt and hyper-awareness of the parenting choices of others is the diet of most new mothers. She avoids wallowing, though, and the careful observations and life reflections make this an inspiring read.