Newsweek's "Yummy vs. Slummy"--what a missed opportunity
I happen to personally agree that mommy lit is tiresome, but it's important to keep in mind that both Deveny and I have 7-year-old kids. We've been through the transition of motherhood and come to terms with what it means personally. I can see how mommy lit would still appeal to new moms just as I Don't Know How She Does It gave me a good laugh and cry back in 2002.
The glaringly missed opportunity in the Newsweek piece was to talk about significant nonfiction works. Deveny cites Leslie Bennetts and interviews Camille Paglia--hardly representative of the many thoughtful discussions about motherhood that go on these days. You know my favorites: MomsRising.org and Opting Out? are two of the resources I wish Newsweek had consulted, with a shout-out to the many thoughtful Mom bloggers out there for good measure.
Deveny says that "I am bored to death with talking, reading, and hearing about motherhood. We didn't exactly invent kids." The danger of Deveny's approach is that she dismisses the entire discussion about motherhood as narcissistic and obsessed. I maintain that each new mother does need support for her own transition (it doesn't feel narcissistic when you are going through it, that's for sure) and once you progress beyond the individual level to look at the ways that a new generation of mothers are grappling with the challenges and opportunities of motherhood, there is a lot of very interesting and important work being done.
As Deborah Siegel explored in-depth in her thoughtful book Sisterhood, Interrupted, the mantra "the personal is political" is still relevant today. I maintain that for our generation, as the inheritors of feminist progress that opened doors to school and employment, motherhood is the watershed event for many of us that brings gender roles and work issues to the forefront of our awareness. Employers may not be able to discriminate as blatantly against all women as they once did, but the unfair treatment of mothers in the workplace is one of the many battles that still need to be fought and won.