(March 3, 2021) Meagan McGovern writes fierce, funny, and true stories about the American food system, homeschooling, social justice, and the odd quirks of American life. She lives on a farm teetering on the far edge of the country in Washington state, raising beef, chickens, and children. She recently went viral in braids and a Target prairie dress, but her children, 10, 16 and 20, don’t think it’s nearly as funny as she does. She’s just finished a memoir about growing up on the run with a mother who was a con artist. She describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: “Everything is copy.”
FROM THE EPISODE: READING LIST & REFERENCES
Meagan McGovern on Medium
Meagan on homeschooling
Meagan’s viral Facebook post
Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Violence Against Women Act
Black Lives Matter
Every single job that was lost in the pandemic was a woman, and every single mother had to deal with childcare.
If you had said to somebody five years ago, you’re gonna be at the point where Donald Trump is president, you’re fighting over toilet paper in the middle of a plague in the middle of an economic collapse, and there going to be people storming the Capitol … I’ve had enough of the dystopian science fiction novels for one day.
My children are odd birds, all of them. But they’re my odd birds. They’re my little flock, and we do what we do to get through.
I am all over the place. I am out in the garden while I’m also cooking, while I’m also supposed to be writing a book when I’m doing an interview, while I’m also homeschooling. If somebody asks me what I do for a living, I have no idea.
“My kids were challenging, so I stopped working for money and started working for my kids instead.”
I watched my three siblings and took care of them, cooked and cleaned and did all of that and swore I would never have children. I was never going to take care of little kids.
Living with my mother, you never knew which way was up and you didn’t know when you got home if the electricity was going to be on and if you were going to be having a playdate with your friend, or if there was gonna be a moving van in the driveway.
I always wanted to have an adventure. I wanted to do my own life, get away from my family, not be stuck as being identified as the oldest McGovern girl. I wanted to go find myself. I met my husband—sadly and wonderfully, I met my husband—and that was the end of that idea.
“I build all the castles in the air, and my husband runs around under my castles, trying to build foundations.” — @meaganmcgovern
When I met my husband, I said, “It turns out I didn’t want any children, I want your children—you.”
My son was, like, the world’s leading expert on the platypus for seven-year-olds for a long time, and we went to every museum to see every Australian animal we could find, we went to the kangaroo places, we did a marine mammal study because he was into orcas for a while.
I have felt not silenced by Facebook with having more followers, but certainly the depth becomes shallower. I find myself talking about things like gardening and cooking more, which are pretty innocuous topics, but they’re safe and they’re connectable. Gardening is relatable. My politics, maybe not so much.
“Homeschooling is not at home, and it’s not schooling. You are the contractor; you are not the builder. If you consider that an education is a home in the analogy, every child needs something different.” — @meaganmcgovern
“People who think they can’t homeschool think that homeschooling is sitting in front of your kids trying to teach them, and I don’t teach my kids anything. I get out of the way and let them learn what they want to learn.” — @meaganmcgovern
I think school’s old fashioned. School is outdated. The idea that any child can’t choose what they want to learn is horrific to me.
“Homeschooling doesn’t look the same for everybody. If it does, you’re doing it wrong. School is a way to teach 30 kids at once. Homeschooling is customizing an education for each child.” — @meaganmcgovern
Those who are homeschooling during the pandemic don’t get to see homeschooling. They see the worst of it. I like homeschooling when we have park day. In this group that we’re in, we have homeschool skiing, we have homeschool ice skating, homeschool roller skating, park day, archery club, chess club, math club. I ran three different book clubs. We have a homeschool for each group with goats. None of the people who are pandemic homeschooling will ever see the best part.
“There’s nothing wrong with going down 100 different paths to find out what you want to do and follow your passions.” — @meaganmcgovern
You always hear how Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were good friends, and they’d talk about the writing at Oxford and everything, but nobody ever said to them, “When do you feed your kids?” and, “When do you do the cooking and grocery shopping and your laundry?”
“Tolkien had four kids under 10 when he was writing Lord of the Rings, and he didn’t do laundry.” — @meaganmcgovern
“Your life doesn’t have to look like other people’s lives.” — @meaganmcgovern
“The only things that matter are your time and attention. If I put my time and attention to having a perfect house or to making others approve of me, that’s where my life will be spent. I don’t have any interest in that.” — @meaganmcgovern
I don’t have a lot of time for writing, but I do make it a priority. Even if it’s only 30 to 40 minutes of sitting down and fleshing out an idea or working on one chapter, I think it’s worth putting my time and attention into something that has value. Because otherwise, I’m useless. I’m not good to other people. I’m not a good mother, I’m not a good wife, I’m not a good friend. I’m stuck. I am never more miserable and unhappy and grumpy and nasty as somebody who is taking care of others and there’s no light for myself. I would much rather be a happy, easygoing mother with dishes in the sink.
“Just because other people figured out how to use hangers doesn’t mean I’m ever gonna figure it out. I mean, there’s certain things I just don’t want to spend my time doing.” — @meaganmcgovern
Your life doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s, but if you want friends, you kind of have to know what people are gonna think is creepy and off kilter. I do try to do the bare minimum to fit into basic society.
“If Target wants a great outfit to sell instead of the prairie dress, they should sell the Zoom outfit: fancy on top and sweatpants on the bottom with big pockets—stain-proof, wine-proof, coffee-proof.” — @meaganmcgovern
“There are things I’m never gonna do again. I’m never gonna wear high heels. I’m never gonna wear pantyhose. I’m never gonna do false eyelashes. And I’m okay with that. I can live with that as my legacy.” — @meaganmcgovern