Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is the True Mom Confessions trend already over the top?

Wow, after last week's Oprah about "The Secret Lives of Moms," it seems like everywhere I turn there is a new development in Bad-Mommy-lit or True Mom Confessions.

I'll confess, The Wall Street Journal article, "Bad Parents and Proud of It: Moms and a Dad Confess" gave me the creeps:

When her two young sons first started walking, Lisa Moricoli-Latham, a mother in Pacific Palisades, Calif., would gently push them over. For the sake of their development, she thought it would be better for them to crawl first. A physical therapist had told her so. She kind of enjoyed it, she says. "It gave me this sort of nasty thrill..."

Okay, they lost me at "nasty thrill." A ton of books seem to be coming out in this genre, including Heather Armstrong's It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Margarita, Ayelet Waldman's Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace and a compilation of True Mom Confessions.

It raises questions about what it means to be honest about motherhood. Do we want to or need to share all of our dirty laundry and bad feelings? Are there some things better said to a therapist than to the world wide web? If I were ten years younger and had grown up on with the internet, would this all make sense to me?

I haven't gotten into these websites or read these specific books. Maybe someone who has can explain their allure.

While it would be cooler to align myself with this trend, I've never gravitated toward this style of writing, ever since Perfect Madness came out. I thought I'd really like that book, but it left me feeling frustrated. I believe that continuously rehashing the difficult parts of motherhood can keep us almost as stuck as ignoring them.

I read a comment yesterday, and I apologize because I can't remember where, that expressed the concern that some of this confessional approach ends up infantilizing Moms, like the woman on Oprah who told the story about peeing into a diaper when she didn't want to wake her sleeping kids on a cross-country road trip. Those zany Moms, no wonder we never get anything else done!

I've also heard from a number of mothers of older kids, say age 9 and up, who validate my personal experience that even though parenting is still intense, when the kids get older it's easier to "mother while multitasking," developing creative, career, and family aspects in one's life.

As for my writing, I get as real as I need to in Mojo Mom. My best venting is done through tennis and improv comedy rather than Bad Mom lit.

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Blogger Florinda said...

You raise some good questions. My general impression is that a lot of this mom-confessions/secrets lit is somehow both shocking and trivial at the same time.

As it happens, I have copies of both Waldman's book and yours to review, and I'm beginning to think it could be an interesting juxtaposition.

3:35 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

That will be interesting! Please post a link here when you are done.

I know Waldman has an interesting history with this topic, since she was roundly criticized and even threatened after writing that she loved her husband more than her kids back in 2005.

There is definitely a meaningful discussion here, waiting to be had, but I am still uncomfortable that the confessional trend seems to be going in the direction of "bad and proud of it." Of course the definition of "bad" can just mean refusing to subscribe to an unrealistic standard of perfection.

The description of Waldman's book says, [with criticism lurking around every corner no matter what you do] "Is it any wonder so many women refer to themselves at one time or another as 'a bad mother'? Ayelet Waldman says it’s time for women to get over it and get on with it, in a book that is sure to spark the same level of controversy as her now legendary 'Modern Love' piece, in which she confessed to loving her husband more than her children."

I agree that it's time to get over it and get on with it, and maybe it's because this all came about after I had already grappled with it myself, it feels like a step back to me. But I understand that women are in different places.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is always what happens right before Mother's Day, the sales season, when shock and awe is the order of the day. You're right. Real moms need more than a nasty thrill, a naughty laugh, to make it through. No matter how sidesplitting the read is, we always end up crying. And then what?

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Colleen said...

I find this new trend completely distasteful, maybe because like you, I'm at a different stage of parenting now. Unfortunately controversy sells - I've always thought that was the main reason for the offensive tone of many of the so-called "mommy wars" articles.

5:08 PM  
Blogger bianca bean said...

Well-put and greatly appreciated.

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

You say it well. These 'isn't-motherhood-horrible?' posts may allow moms to vent a bit, but they certainly don't solve any problems in the long run. We shouldn't have to sugar-coat parenthood or pretend it isn't hard, but we needn't go to the opposite extreme and reduce ourselves to complaining or wearing our martyrdom like a medal either. I'm always one for solutions - which is why I appreciated the original Mojomom book so much many years ago. And why I ultimately felt such a strong pull to offer my own solution to the world in equally shared parenting too.

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Forty Weeks said...

To be brief (as my brain is about cooked) -- we mothers are not all one thing - rather an ever evolving woman prone to a wide and fascinating range of feelings, behaviors, moods, passions, etc. This is just another low point, as I see it -- a meaningful conversation turned to meaningless rants on the part of a few moms who have done well in capturing the spotlight. I can't imagine that the concept of whole being is truly lost on these women, but just in case...We are women, we are mothers, daughters, partners/wives, and a host of other important and demanding roles. We are neither good nor bad, neither Madonna nor whore, neither criminal nor innocent. Bottom line -- live this mama thing a little longer, open your ears, eyes and heart as much as your mouth and maybe things will appear in a new light. PS And yes, yes -- I agree older kids breeds a different world view!

9:24 PM  

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