Monday, July 23, 2007

Mommy vs. Non-Mommy Wars in a nutshell

In last week's Newsweek "My Turn" column, a young woman named Carrie Friedman wrote an incredibly annoying piece titled "Stop Setting Alarms on my Biological Clock" in which she told us, "If I'm ever going to fulfill my dream of becoming a mother, I'm going to need some better role models."

Her entire premise is flawed. She addressed her grievances about the pressure to have kids to her perception of us current mothers:

"So why don't I have kids or even the inkling right now? It's because of you. Yes, you: the fanatical mothers of the world. It may seem like ages ago now, but you weren't always like this. You, too, were sneering at the obnoxious parents who brought their infants to fancy, adult, nighttime restaurants or R-rated movies and let them carry on, ruining things for other patrons. You've been terrible advertising for the club that you so desperately need others to join."

I just really hated this whole idea. The truth is that the rest of the world really doesn't care whether she becomes a mother or not. I have enough on my plate without worrying about being "a role model" for her, which incidentally means opening myself up to her judgment about my parenting.

If she were my friend, maybe we could have a conversation. But she's labeling the whole world of parents in an unfair and uninformed way. Yes, she has had people act obnoxiously toward her. Haven't we all.

Despite admonishing us "Finally, don't make your kid an extension of your own narcissism," She continues her own narcissistic narrative when she says:

"If you want me to join your ranks—and you've made it clear with your cold, clammy hands on my stomach that recruiting my uterus is of paramount importance to you—I need to set some ground rules."

Maybe this is all supposed to be funny or ironic but she caught me on a bad day when I had no sympathy whatsoever for her.

After reading the piece I went through several reactions:

Reaction #1 My buttons were completely pushed in the least productive way possible. Emailed my friend Sheryl to say "I really just want to tell this woman, F*** this sh**. The rest of the world doesn't care whether you have a baby or not, so just get over yourself." (I am currently reading Full Frontal Feminism by Feministing blogger Jessica Valenti. I can only hope that I pick up her good ideas and not just her reflexive swearing.)

Reaction #2 Since my better instincts were failing me, I tried to channel Pundit Mom. There must be something useful in here.

Reaction #3 Breathed deeply and tried to channel Momma Zen. There must be a life lesson in here somewhere.

Reaction #4
[Time passes] Okay, I think I see through my initial reaction to a more useful general truth. This is going to take a while to write down, so please hang in there with me, because it won't be until tomorrow at the earliest.

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Blogger PunditMom said...

I, too, was pretty amazed at this young woman's perception that any of us care whether she has a baby. I'm not sure who she's been hanging around with, but maybe she needs to take herself less seriously.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Hey, reflexive swearing can be useful, too.

Seriously, though, I think she can get away with this kind of nonsense because parents, and especially mothers, are such easy targets. I mean, the non-parenting crowd is often all too eager to pass judgment (this article itself being a good example), but even mothers themselves are willing to critique each other's parenting openly.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Robyn said...

Don't hate me. I can see a side to her rant. I used to ask to be sat in non-kid sections and get annoyed with school aged boys in women's public bathrooms- before I had a kid of my own. I think this sort of hostility might be indicative of all of the anxiety surrounding motherhood these days. AND, you have absolutely no perspective about being a mom until you are a mom. Please do not mistake this comment for empathy. I, too thought Ms. Friedman's article was beyond self-indulgent and annoying.

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Lisa Giebitz said...

I read that article and thought, "Oh God, she must be closer to my age."

Why? Because a lot of people closer to my age can't stop thinking about themselves first all the time and assume that the WHOLE WORLD cares deeply about what they do. Or in other words, they won't grow the %$*@ up.

Ugh. Reminds me why I avoid most "people my age" - too many are just irritating and way too naive.

12:03 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Hi Everyone,

I was possibly just as clueless as she is when I was in her position. But now that I live on the other side of the life transition of parenthood, where she can't see, her rant seems shallow.

I think there is an element in all of us that looks at parenthood and thinks "I am never going to be like that," when in fact...we will. We are not as special and unique as we would like to believe, and more to the point, we are not the one exception to all the rules and pressures that govern life. That's one of the themes I have been interested in exploring in my work. How do we cope with the gap between expectation and reality once our illusions are shattered and we find out we are normally flawed people after all?

I'd love to hear an update from the My Turn author 5 years down the road...

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How this for a direct channel: she's clueless, of course, about anything except how to attract attention to her cynical, egotistical rant. Let's all change the world by giving no more attention to cynical rants!

1:29 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

I actually did learn something by observing my reactions to this piece. If I can get my thoughts down it might end up being a useful experience after all. Right now I am carving out time for an important, long-neglected project but I will do my best to write up my insights when I can.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Expecting Executive said...

I was worried that this article was going to receive a flurry of immediate reaction. I might offer my observations and suggestions.

I have been there. Over 30 and more than a little obsessed with the possibility of motherhood. If she was your kid, what would you say? What suggestion would you offer? Her feelings have been hurt and some of her social interactions have left her uncomfortable and obviously worried.

I suggest that we, as a collective, understanding and mature community cut her some slack. I might also suggest that this is a wonderful opportunity to extend her the invitation to interact with our community of thoughtful women and mothers. She clearly observes that she is in search of positive role models, why not rise to the occasion?

Her frustrations are real and of enough personal concern that she would bravely voice them using a nationally popular opinion platform. Let's respect her feelings (even if you believe she has offended you), applaud her bravery, offer our support and assure her that the positive parental role models she seeks are out there. They are just more difficult to spot because they don't bring their kids to the cocktail parties she is attending.

Erin @

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Jeanne said...

I just felt sorry for her! If she doesn't like and can't handle rude and obnoxious comments from friends, acquaintances, and cashiers, then she should definitely never have children!

6:12 PM  
Blogger Trin said...

Though I appreciate your right to disagree with Ms. Friedman I would be inclined to stand in her defense, even if I did not agree with her myself, just to attempt to balance the overwhelming opinions against her on your blog/comments. Coincidentally enough, I happen to wholeheartedly agree with the frustrations of her sentiments.

I sympathize with Ms. Friedman, even while acknowledging that her statement of “the whole world” having interest in her childbearing is an exaggeration. When everyone in your sphere of married acquaintances is convinced of their right to nose around your procreative choices, like the right to do so came with their child’s birth certificate, it sure can feel like the whole world. What’s worse is the predictability of the defensive stance that most overindulged mothers take when confronted with the inappropriateness of their actions. It’s like they morph into a pack of mother bears, clanlike, defensive and grumpy after the cubs have sucked them dry through months of social hibernation.

Go ahead and say what you want, but for the single, professional, and childless among us, it was refreshing to hear someone stand up and say “Enough is enough”, when so many of us just quietly bear the hands on our stomachs. Good job Ms. Friedman!

1:49 PM  

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