At the crossroads
Hello, friends. I hope that you all enjoyed your Christmas, New Years, and other celebrations. And flatter myself that this hiatus has left you aching with longing for my prose.
Now that we’re back together, I’d like to have a little chat with all of you.
For the past nine months, I have been writing about what I see as a different, somewhat rebellious view of parenting: parenting well enough. It started as a reaction to my observation that parents—especially mothers—are being crushed by a staggering and growing load of requirements our mothers did without:
- Wearing one’s baby – not only for convenience but to prevent “attachment disorder;”
- Introducing academic enrichment from birth or even before;
- Staying home – always an option, once the only option, once again the most virtuous option for our sweet babies;
- Making herculean efforts to continue breastfeeding no matter how difficult and time-consuming it becomes;
- Loving every freaking minute of it more than anything else we have ever done, as any sane, well-adjusted woman should;
- Understanding that motherhood is the greatest blessing of all—and the most important job;
- Loving our children more than our spouses—a biological imperative from which only deviants deviate.
We are a generation of women whose mothers smoked and drank coffee with their friends while we played under the coffee table—usually replicating their own upbringing. They ironed while we tried to decode “All My Children” from under the ironing board. And thenwe figured out what mothering really is. It is not only intense and relentless—it demands more emotional and intellectual loyalty than any other job, including marriage. It is not what we received.
Somehow, we children of such uneducated parenting became much smarter than they were. Somehow, our superior judgment emerged without Gymboree, but our children’s futures depended upon a reinvented, institution—motherhood on steroids.
That was my observation, and it is a true representation of a small subset of Americans, many of whom walk their $700 strollers through my lovely neighborhood every day. My hypothesis has always been that it doesn’t have to be that way, and that if I started saying this out loud, many sane and perfectly good parents would come out of the woodwork with an “amen, sister” and we would rejoice in our shared good-enoughness.
You did come out. You made me laugh, and I hope I’ve made you laugh. It’s been an education so far, one that could only be possible with the help of the internets and large quantities of Coke Zero™ (ß advertising opportunity available!). And now, 2011 is here. What to do with it?
You know that I tossed my Sears Baby Book; that I’d rather have sex with my husband than share an intimate nighttime bed-sharing world with my child; that the DC Urban Moms are a reliable source of entertainment, schadenfreunde, and a smug sense of our own sanity; that this lapsed Jew loves Christmas and hates to be called “a mom;” that your babies are boring; that Magna Doodles are the only acceptable birthday gift; that I never shower before dropping my daughter off at school. And so on.
I originally felt very liberated by self-identifying as a rebellious parent. I took out the biggies: intensive mothering, baby worship, feeding your kids certified organic fair trade BPA-free oxygen supplements. I still love to do that and as I talk to other parents I find that they, too, take a perverse pleasure in copping to subpar parenting moments.
The thing about a rebellion, though: It’s only authentic if you are rebelling against The Power. Luke Skywalker did not rise up to criticize the inferior food on Tatooine. The Prague Spring was not about how difficult it is to spell most Czech words.
Rebellion topples the man, man.
The Queen Bee sanctimommy at Kale’s and Charden’s preschool is not The Man. Dr. Sears is not The Man. La Leche League is not The Man. And while the staffs of the New York Times and most other media are hopelessly misguided about the problems that face high-achieving mothers, they are not The Man either. The Man is not interested in the Mommy War.
The Man is poverty, shitty schools, rising health care costs, the worst social safety net among the ever-expanding G-something countries, a terrible economy, and leaders who don’t want children to get “handouts.” Like heated schools and health insurance.
If you are reading this, chances are that even if any of the above problems affect you more significantly than two years ago, your children still have a chance to live the American dream. If you are reading this, the attaching and staying home and organic wheat grass could be beyond your means—but moving to a safe neighborhood probably isn’t. If you are reading this, chances are that you don’t want to enlist in the mommy war—but you could.
So here we are, choosing not to participate in an undeniably stupid argument between decent parents and other decent parents who are sure that they are the only decent parents. No thanks, we say.
But then what?
I am at a crossroads. I like to think I’ve amused you as my thoughts have gestated these nine months. More importantly I’ve amused myself, at very little cost (thanks Webmaster Lori). I like amusing people.
On the other hand, along the way I’ve concluded that although Everyone Who Doesn’t Think Like us is an idiot, Everyone Who Doesn’t Think Like Us is also a fairly insular, not-so-important group of people. True, the sanctimommies have managed to spark the media’s imagination and create an insatiable lust for Mommy-on-Mommy wrestling (in homemade, organic baby food). But on the other hand, by shackling themselves to their babies and declaring the outside world to be less important, the sanctimommies might have marginalized themselves to completely to become The Man. Why, then, should any of us care about them? In the past nine months I’ve concluded that we probably shouldn’t. Unless we’re drunk.
I could go many ways from here: I could keep on making fun of ridiculous people; I could shine a light on the distance between the media’s obsession with “today’s moms”—really 15% of today’s mothers—and the majority of American parents; I could start writing about the things that are really troubling families and children today.
Or I could hang it up. From my place at the crossroads, I see all of these things as possible. You are the ones who made this so much fun—so please let me know what you think.