Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dumb Mommy Wars?

Over on Jezebel there is an article that perked my interest. Stay-At-Home Mom Would Like Other Stay-At-Home Moms to Shut Up. (Thanks Dayna for sharing, btw.)This article is basically responding to another article written on, (Susannah Lewis, author of "Dear Stay-At-Home Moms, Shut The Eff Up") which also generated another public response (author S. Janesse who wrote "I'm A Stay-At-Home Mom Who Can't (And Won't) STFU, Thanks!") on the same website. Is this hot or is this hot?

Let's see if I can keep all these lovely mother/writers straight. It's Tracy Moore in her Jezebel article that says "This just in: From deep inside enemy lines, proof that the Dumb Mommy Wars rage on in the hearts and homes of women in spite of our best efforts to move on."

Is that what's been going on? Who's best efforts and what are we moving on from? And guess what, an acronym has finally been created - SAHM (stay-at-home mom) - to make sure that we all understand that this is a lifestyle and professional choice, a quick way to identify yourself to friends and associates.

If I count the years that I didn't have to put any children in daycare - from infancy to about eleven when they could be latchkey children legally - I'd figure that number is somewhere around twenty. Twenty years that I was the primary care giver for my kids. That's what I get for having my last pregnancy a bit farther out from the other two.

Please note my language of choice. Please take note of how I carefully skirt the whole SAHM identifier. Like a lot of parents - women and men both,  I worked odd jobs (paid and unpaid) while also making sure that my kids were not left as toddlers in a room full of sharp knives. This was done while also tasked with the maintenance of house (and apartments over the years) and the people who abided there. I did not do this work alone - it took a hell of a village to raise my kids with lots of credit going to their father, my parents, a sister, teachers and many friends. I don't like labels because they distract us from the incredibly unique circumstances that each of us face as parents.

We - as human beings - love making our experiences everyone else's. And while Tracy Moore attempts to debunk the patronizing rant that seems to be the favorite flavor of Lewis' type of article (and I use the word 'article' loosely) - she ends up clobbering her readers with her own holier than thou attitude. Dumb Mommy Wars, anyone? What mommy wars? Who can make me feel less than someone else? Who makes me feel less accomplished, equipped or competent?

And why are we still trying to justify our choices when it comes to how we choose to be a family? Each author is judgmental and more interested in shutting down the 'other side' than listening to the obvious underlying tensions that come with managing relationships - with children, spouses or the other parents that circulate through their lives. Lewis claims that she is an expert SAHM (there are levels to this role, you see) and therefore is qualified to make certain observations on her kind. This opened her up to all sorts of commentary on her stand about privileged women whining about being home with kids. She's sick of the whining and I hope she found a tactful way (other than sending her editorial piece to friends via email) to set some boundaries for herself.

No one has to sit and listen to someone else vent. Why does that become the problem of the woman who feels the need to moan, vent or whine?  Why is the venter vilified when in fact the listener isn't skilled at communicating her inability to be present for this supposed friend? God, I've been there as ranter and listener. I've needed to vent like a proper pressure cooker and I've stumbled through telling someone that I can't hear another word about their problems with their housekeeper. But here's the kicker - why, then, is this cranky listener (Lewis) vilified for not wanting to hear the whining of her fellow privileged SAHMs? Probably because she mocked their dreams and yoga pants. Mocking, contempt and scorn often come back to bite one in the end. It masks her own pain.

The three articles taken together perhaps define the dumb mommy wars better than anything I could come up with. There is a noticeable lack of compassion for the varied perspectives of parenthood. It is one thing to point out how I may have a different experience than someone else, its another to use ridicule and scorn to dismiss someone's point of view. (Janesse stayed away from that - kudos to you.)

I can't help but move into a dose of empathy for each of the various stories:

"I don't know how to tell other people that I have my limits when it comes to listening."
- or -
"I have a different experience and like sharing my feelings with others because it helps me be more present with my kids."
- or -
"I need to talk about my ambivalence, my love of family and work, so I can keep making sense of the choices I make."

What a different conversation would emerge to have these three voices of motherhood simply speak for their varied experiences. No right, no wrong - just what I can do to make sense of where I'm at right now.

What a richer, messy, complicated picture gets created which opens up the conversation for the rest of us to share our experiences in.

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