Friday, June 09, 2006

Legitimate Mothering (or VOTE FOR REB!)

A year before Gideon, there was this Dr. Phil episode -- a studio audience full of mothers: "stay-at-home" moms versus "working" moms. The "stay-at-home" moms were "lame losers with nothing going on in their sad little lives except their children -- these women weren't good at anything and lacked ambition and that's why they had kids" and the working moms were "selfish, uncaring, unloving and treated children as if they were fashion accessories -- these women loved themselves more than they loved their children."

Simple.

You know, cause if you're not conducting your life exactly like I'm conducting my life or how I think I would conduct it if I was in your position, you're my enemy or at the very least, deserving of my scorn. Cause not only do I have an opinion, I think its OK to impose my judgement on others -- especially strangers because I know much more about their personal situations than they do.

While I watched what is probably my least favorite episode, all I could think was what the fuck is wrong with these people? Why does the existence of one have to be so threatening to the other? Why all or nothing?

One of the painful lessons motherhood has taught me is that everything is political and try as I might to avoid it, I can't. I had no idea of the extent. It's not merely whether or not you work, it's are you breastfeeding and if so are you really breastfeeding or are you taking the easy out and supplementing with a bottle of formula once in a while or pumping and how long are you doing it, a month, six months, a year, two years, longer? After three nurses and two lacatation consultants, I decided (to the last consultant's chagrin) to exclusively pump and her response, "Well, you're still technically a breastfeeding mom." Um, fuck you, I don't care if I get to be part of the club or not. I'm just trying to do a good job under difficult circumstances.

Then there's the whole how you birth your baby political lines. No, we can't just accept that a successful birth is one done as close to the mother's wishes as possible and resulting in a healthy child. No, we feel it our duty to try to convince others whether or not they should use any pain killers or if its more appropriate to birth in a hospital or at home. No, no, we can't even let this most personal of decisions go by without our outsider know-it-all judgement. We got to get as many people on our "side" else we might lose the Top Mommy election.

Omigod, I can't believe Beverly made it to the final round. She took Tylenol with Codeine while in labor AND she only breast fed for six months. What's wrong with America? She's practically Mary Kay Letourneau!

And there's organic vs. processed foods, TV versus none, public school vs. private vs. home, cloth vs. disposable, co-sleeping vs. crib, one vs. four, soccer vs. football, spanking vs. caning, immunizations vs. the plague . . .

These aren't personal choices. You'd think they were, well I thought they were, but no they're something we have to furiously advocate for, argue and condemn. Apparently this is what sets us apart. This is us versus them. We can't simply listen and consider somebody's experience and perception -- it's a snippy Well then, if you're not going to agree with me we'll have to agree to disagree. Harumph!

Just like politics, it's the moderates, the majority, who suffer the most insult -- I guess cause we're swing voters?

Working from home while raising a small child -- let's see, it's lame and not really working because it's not going someplace and interacting with adults and it's not like I have to write and edit and publish. Oh wait, no, it's selfish because that means I'm taking away a certain amount of time from my son and lord knows if I give him so much a minute to play solo amongst his toys or let someone else watch him on occasion, it's neglect. If he ever catches on that I have additional interests and priorities, other things going on in my life aside from him, well, he'll probably grow up and shoot the president to impress a girl. (Which we all know is really just a metaphor for the absense of a mother's love.)

So dear strangers who know better than I (and take heart, there have been quite a few of you), when my son is that deranged psychopath sobbing on the therapist's chair If only my mother loved me instead of her poems and projects. If only she brought me along everywhere she went, tended to my every desire of my every waking moment instead of abandoning me with my father and aunts and grandmothers and the neighbor who ran that home daycare. . . I could have been a contender! -- THEN make your obnoxious unsolicited comments.

But until that time arrives, keep it to your God damn self.

27 Comments:

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Jimmy said...

I just called Child Protective Services. They will be there shortly to cuff you, take you away, and find an acceptable home for Gideon. Trust me, it's for the best.

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger Suzanne said...

The US vs THEM among moms arises because our society doesn't value or support mothers--no matter what side they're on--and it always ends in finger-pointing--Well, look at her, she's doing this or that, at least I'm not, so I must be a better mother. It's such bullshit. If more mothers would put that crap aside and support each other a lot would change in this country. A LOT.

 
At 2:46 PM, Blogger Harrlynn said...

fist of all, never watch dr phil. second of all, my questions were not unsolicited. you have a blog with a comment box. if your decision was so personal, why the public announcement?
after all, i'm only actually jealous that you can afford (in consciousness and cash) to "neglect" (your words) your child.

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger Laurel said...

You know I think you're a rockstar!!!

I feel for harrlynn, whoever she is, that she wants to stay home and write/mother,esp. Esp. if she's a single mom, which would be hard as hell...

But I'm inclined to suggest, when I meet working moms who "wish they could stay home" that if they have a working partner, there are ways of making it work... just most people refuse to scale their life back.

Usually the person who envies me is shocked that I'm willing to live where I live, skip vacations, , budget for groceries, buy all our baby gear used on craigslist, etc.

Which I think is weird, but we all make different choices.

Now single parenting would be hard as hell. But that doesnt make it nice to judge...

 
At 5:08 PM, Blogger jen said...

I am baby-less, but all my friends are having them these days, and it seems like "advice" from other people (usually other women) about how to do it is wearing them out and working them up almost as much as the pregnancy itself. Advice can be good, of course, but yeesh. Whoever imagined women are less apt to compete than men should listen in on some of these nasty "this is the only way to be a good mom" lectures.

 
At 7:29 PM, Blogger Helen Losse said...

Hi Reb,

Please count me among those who actually believe these ARE personal choices. Your whole blog screams "I love my Baby!" and I want to do as good job as a poet and editor. Some days you will have to choose between the two, but not every day. Don't waste your time justifying your position to critics. Your choices are NOT other people's business.

 
At 7:52 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Harrlynn, with that logic every time I post a picture of myself -- I'm soliciting "you're fat, you need a couple more trips to the salad bar" and "oh baby, I'd like to eat a plate of spaghetti off dat ass" comments. Sure, discussing daily going ons and having comment boxes makes it possible for others to say pretty much whatever they want --but I don't see where mentioning that my son started part-time daycare is soliciting the very clear response of you shouldn't be doing anything else with your time other than minding your child.

As for "jealousy" of my situation -- I can't tell if you're being sincere or ironic -- mostly cause I know little about you except your clear dedication and interest in your own profession I gleamed from reading your blog. And trust me, if you only know of me via this blog, what you know is a small fraction of what's going on in my and my family's lives.

To everyone else, thanks for your comments and reminding me that there is some compassion for parents.

 
At 8:58 PM, Blogger 32poems said...

For this most recent post, hear hear!

My child is also sometimes watched by others, and I think she benefits from all the people who love her.

 
At 9:19 PM, Blogger shann said...

hey- if momma's not happy, nobody's happy-

the best advice I know is -yeah-cool-

(my baby girl graduates from high school Monday- I was an awful mother and she's GREAT!)

((actually I am a great mother but I'm not always sure why))

 
At 9:34 PM, Blogger Laurel said...

What is Harrlynne's blog? Is she really suggesting that all stay-at-home-moms should NOT use day care to accomplish other things? For real? By that rational, people who "work" shouldn't take the day off to work in the yard, go to the dentist, etc....

Work to live, people...

 
At 9:48 PM, Blogger Phatback said...

Does this have something to do with why so many wymmynz I've worked with say they hate to work with other wimminz?

 
At 9:49 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Wait, I misspoke -- I was referring to comments I read that Harrlyn posted on another blog regarding her profession. It wasn't her own blog.

 
At 12:03 AM, Blogger Laurel said...

So I went and read her comment in the other post, and I just didn't understand what prompted it. It doesn't seem a conflict to me... unless someone thinks daycare is evil or something...

Speaking of which, I heard on the radio today that long term allergies and immunity-issues have been proven to be higher in kids who don't go to day care! Specifically, kids exposed to lots of germs at an early age AND have a fever before age 1 are healthier in the long run!

 
At 12:15 AM, Blogger Harrlynn said...

y'all sound pretty silly to me, defending the amount of time you waste creating virtually nothing to keep yourselves happy.

reb, you're not fat. you're just silly is all.

p.s. according to bill cosby, you're not really a parent until you have at least two children. apparently, dabbling in motherhood doesn't count for much.

p.s.s. such creative women could figure out ways to socialize their children without having to send them to daycare, especially if they actually enjoy being mothers.

 
At 12:34 AM, Blogger Reb said...

Laurel, Damn it, too late, I didn't get Gideon into daycare until 16 months. One more unconscionable error on my part -- unloved, neglected AND sickly.

------------------

Oh my guilt is overwhelming. Can anyone point me to an appropriate mom blogger where I can assert/insert my moral parenting superiority in her comment field? I wanna feel better about my own choices and can only do that by putting somebody else's down. There has to be somebody out there who's less mom than me.

your friendly fake, part-time, baby-hating, selfish, self-absorbed, uncreative, nothing-creating, wanna-be mom

 
At 12:37 AM, Blogger Abulsme said...

OK, this is sounding more and more like someone just intentionally trolling for conflict.

 
At 12:40 AM, Blogger Reb said...

Abulsme, I think you're right.

Baiters. (heh heh)

 
At 1:05 AM, Blogger Phatback said...

I'd like to insert something into some mom bloggers if they weren't all catty and fat.

 
At 8:06 AM, Blogger Pamela said...

My parents think I am wrong for staying home with my daughter (eight years old now) and not working outside the home. (It's all about the bucks for them). Most of my in-laws think at first I was well nigh unto the antichrist for having a paying job I can do at home while my daughter is asleep or at school or in the kitchen with her art supplies. (I think they're jealous that I can work at home in my bathrobe). I know we've made the right decision for our family, and my husband backs me to the hilt (and does lots of cooking and cleaning). I had to tell my parents and my in-laws to shove off.

With my first child (son, now age 21) I was a young single mother, and it was hard, hard, hard. I worried over how to be the best mother and father I could--figured out that I could not be father and mother, I could only be the best mother I could be THAT DAY.

I'm with Suzanne--motherhood is not valued by our society. We need to value ourselves and one another more, and I think society would change. Pro-choice should apply to motherhood, too.

 
At 12:13 PM, Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Why is it that to legitimize our own situations, we have to put down others?

There are very few mothers these days who have a choice to stay home or work, the choice is made for them. Very few "working partners" can be the sole breadwinner in this society.

To say that women can afford to stay home if they make more sacrifices, clip enough coupons, think their children are "necessary" enough, and/or wish hard enough is very narrow minded.

My 2 kids have been in childcare since they were infants, so I guess theire damaged for life.

& since I have 2 kids, I guess that makes me a "real mom" not just a dabbling mom. What a load . . .

 
At 5:25 PM, Blogger Harrlynn said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 5:32 PM, Blogger Harrlynn said...

i think what i'm arguing here for is personal responsibility and good fiscal sense.

there's no way reb is making any money writing--and is probably, in fact, spending quite a bit on her poetry habit. and now she's made the decision to invest more money in her poetry habit, at the expense of having an actual--and usually available--parent care for the child in question.

there's nothing wrong with daycare when you're feeling overwhelmed by 3 or 4 young children, or if you're a single mother struggling to make a life for you and your child. or, if both parents are working, your careers more than cover the substantial costs of daycare.

in reb's case, the case of the unknown writer, paying somebody else to take care of her kid, when she's already home, seems like a terrible investment--spiritually, financially, cosmically, and karmically--or at least an affront to hard working people everywhere who don't have the luxury to make the decision that reb so proudly announced.

 
At 8:40 PM, Blogger Radish King said...

Shann's right, if the mother isn't happy, the child suffers. That's why you put your own oxygen mask on first. I was a single parent who raised my child without a "real" job until he was 2, by playing gigs with musicians at night. I put him in daycare as soon as I could, to support my music (and poetry) "habit". He never had a single play date, but met other children in the neighborhood accidentally and played with them!

I'm really surprised he isn't dead.

p.s. I'm going to make Reb filthy rich.

 
At 11:36 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Seems like what you do with your money is yours and hubby's decision -- a PRIVATE decision. Harrlyn has mucho cahones when she judges the right or wrongness of you investing in a part-time sitter.

As for actually using daycare and sociallizing, I am a product of the drop off nursery schools and look how freakin' cool I turned out. Who's to say what the proper method of socializing should be? I've heard horrific stories of gossip mongering and backbiting in relation to those mom clubs that purport to socialize their children the 'correct' way whilst they spend every waking and sleeping inch of their lives at the child's side. That kind of attentivenes is just not healthy. I don't care what lalalala planet Harrylyn inahbits where all things might seem fluffy and happy -- sounds like an insular kind of small-minded community, the kind that breeds conservatives who are afaid of change or encountering anyone who isn't part of their world (you know, the big bad "other"). Yikes, I say.

 
At 12:09 AM, Blogger Harrlynn said...

amy, not a private decision on a public blog. but you're right, i have very large and saggy cohones. perhaps you'd like a teabag?

 
At 12:59 AM, Blogger Jilly said...

I can't comment in an informed way until I know your views on spanking.

So?

/kidding

 
At 1:04 AM, Blogger Reb said...

Oh Jilly, I pay somebody else to do all my spanking. I just don't have the time to be bothered.

Oh, sorry for being so proud and flaunting that luxury.

 

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