My daughter brought home an uninvited guest from Kindergarten this week, and it stayed all week long. Strep throat....group A streptococcus bacteria...a real joy to have around. As any parent knows, a day or two or three spent with a sick child is literally, spent WITH a sick child.
Which means I did alot of emergency laundry, got caught up with Joe and Blue, fixed a fair amount of comfort food, and was awakened several times a night just like "the old days." All this, while still attempting to keep up my other obligations and give due attention to my healthy, 9-year old who still needed to get to and from school, soccer and guitar lessons. Add in the absence of dad, who's been away on business for 11 days and - needless to say - I'm exhausted and my nerves are just a wee bit frayed.
So you'll excuse me if I have NO PATIENCE for this week's outbreak in the so-called Mommy Wars (and for the record, I hate that term). The latest grenade lobbed in this war comes from contemporary media and culture critic James Wolcott in The New Republic's most recent issue titled "The Home Front." Billed as "a strategic assessment of the Mommy wars," the actual headline on the Wolcott piece is "Meow Mix."
I must say, I was prepared to be PO'd by the piece, especially considering the derogatory nature of the title, and an opening paragraph that comes off like a hit piece on parents. "Married and childless, I'm missing out on so much," Wolcott says sarcastically after describing a stereotypical MAD (Middle Aged Dad) kow-towing to his toddler.
But as I started to read the highly caustic and critical (but very entertaining) article...I quickly realized that that this erudite, childless, male east coaster was channeling ME!
You need a subscription to read the whole piece...but let me give you some highlights:
"Armed with virtuous pride and bionic eyes that can spot every moral defect and child-rearing error across a crowded playground, the Working Mother and the Stay-at-Home Mother are convinced that the other is shortchanging herself and the future of her children--letting down the team, not to mention the nation."
"This mutual pact of pity and condescension is crosscut with envy."
"Whatever choice a woman makes, or has foisted upon her by necessity and circumstance, ambivalence digs in its spikes."
"Men are competitive with other men, but less comparison-oriented....We don't understand why so many women are so avid to sit in moral judgment of other women's difficult choices, why they care so much about what other women do (often women they barely know), and why so many of those women are writers."
EXACTLY - and I as much as said so last Mother's Day, when I wrote a story on italknews called March of the Mad Mommies.
"In some form or another, (mad mommy writers) are all talking about the same thing: how unhappy, unfulfilled, unappreciated, underpaid, overworked or overlooked mothers in America are today. They are all mad or miserable about something – and they all wrote a book about it with the assumption that their target market is just as mad and miserable as they are."
Back then, I wrote that I don't read OR buy into all this Mommy War stuff, because
"as a mother myself, I don’t have the time, the patience or the self-pity to read books allegedly written FOR people like me, ABOUT people like me, and BY people like me. Because if they were REALLY like me, they wouldn’t have the time to read them, much less write them."
As you can imagine, the people most bothered by Wolcott's (and apparently) my stance on the Mommy Wars, are the people who put it out there in pop culture in the first place. Leslie Morgan Steiner, who writes the WaPost's On Balance blog also happens to be the writer of the book “Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives and Their Families.”
Curiously, Morgan Steiner took greater umbrage to being compared to a cat, than she did to to the main point of Wolcott's piece that women would be taken alot more seriously if they quit sniping at one another.
"So tell me," Morgan Steiner writes, "am I wrong to be offended? How does it make youf feel to be compared on the public stage to an animal? Ever notice that there aren't many (okay, any) words in our language that specifically compare men to a particular animal species?"
Ape comes to mind, but that's beside the point. And so was Morgan Steiner's reaction.
Also joining the fray is On Balance guest blogger Brian Reid, who writes the Rebeldad blog. He was particularly offended about Wolcott's aforementioned description of a MAD dad - in a uniform of baseball cap, team jacket, cell phone holster and white sneakers - strolling, serving and picking up after a toddler.
"Is there really a meaningful population of men out there who roll their eyes at today's involved father?" asks Reid. "Or is Wolcott as wrong about dads as he is about moms?"
I think Reid is asking the wrong questions. I believe the question should be - why are we wasting time debating this? I'm sure there are women, and men out there, who are frustrated by the perceived slights they receive from other parents who made different choices. But that's just it -- it's about choice (at least for the people who can afford to write books about it and have the time to discuss it ad nauseum online and at dinner parties). And as I wrote in my article last spring,
"You make your choices. You deal with your choices. And if you don’t like your choices, you do what you can to change them. There have always been “Mommy Wars.” It’s just that publishers are preying on hyper-self-aware Baby Boomer moms to literally buy into their escalation of said conflict."
This isn't to say there aren't women out there who feel this way. I'm sure there are many. But I don't believe most of them are letting it define their friendships with other women. As my wise SAHM friend, Martha in Moraga once said, "we're all busy...it's just a different kind of busy."
My suggestion from Mother's Day still stands today: all writers who are wasting their ink (dating myself again) and their breath on this "issue" need to get over being mad and just get on with it. They are fortunate enough to have a forum with a wide audience...so they ought to be using it for more pressing issues (of which I can think of hundreds!).
Now get on with your life, get on with your weekend and enjoy it! You only go around once...don't spend it being mad. There's enough of that going around already.
When people run in circles it's a very, very,
Mad world....mad world.