Partum Me?! A rough week to be a mama

By Laura |

I don’t know about the rest of you, but now that I’m a parent I think I read the news differently.  Stories about children, family dynamics, and the state of motherhood just seem to strike me in a different way now.  I empathize more, which probably comes with being a mom, but I also tend to think of how I would react if it was my child, my family, or my career that was in question.  Four stories really stood out to me this week and I thought I’d share my reactions in the hopes of starting a conversation with you, dear readers, about how you read them.  But first, a gratuitous shot of Charlie, at the offline request of a few readers who reminded me that I haven’t posted one in a while…

Mastering the slide...

Mastering the slide…

Carrying on…

1.  The New York Mag article on SAHMs – First, I hate the title of this piece, “The Retro Wife.”  What does that even mean?  A woman making the very commendable choice to work in the home as a mother and caretaker does not make her some Mad Men-esque kitschy throwback.  And this article seems to ignore two big realities that impact many women’s decisions to either work or stay home – 1) Most American families out there, today, are simply not in a financial situation to even think about losing one income.  You can talk to me all you want about how you made the financial sacrifices and it was worth it, but it’s just plain impossible for some people and that’s that.  2) In certain industries, leaving for even just a couple years can doom your career forever, especially if you are a woman.

This article seems to make it sound like it’s just so easy to take yourself out of the game and then just go back to work if you feel like doing it later.  Um no, so sorry.  It doesn’t really work that way.  Is it cool that women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t?  No!  But it’s the state of things right now and I think it was really irresponsible journalism to just sort of ignore it here.

I do agree that there is nothing un-feminist about staying home, having a piping hot dinner on the table for your husband when he gets in from work, and even giving him a nightly massage to calm his frayed nerves after a hard day at the office.  But there is nothing serene and perfect about tending to a household all day, either, and the author seems to make it seem like being an at-home mom is just some dreamy wonderland.

Most of my friends couldn’t manage to get beyond the first couple pages of this article, but I read it all the way to the end for the purposes of writing this post and was impressed that they finally imparted a bit of realism in the final two pages of the piece.  Some of us working moms sort of thrive on the stress of balancing everything, while also learning what’s important and what we can let go.  I say that while also being jealous of the time my SAHM friends get with their kids.  I guess this piece just touched off my usual issue with these sorts of things – that we can’t support one decision without taking little digs at the other.  Is it so hard to say that there are choices out there for moms, these days, and that both of them have pros and cons?

2.  The Steubenville Verdict – Yeah, you knew I was gonna talk about this one.  I feel as if I read hundreds of pieces about this case, but the ones that really resonated with me were the one that encouraged us to explore the idea that these boys should be punished but that it’s okay that we also feel sad for them and the one that asks us to think about all women as people, none of whom “ask for it” when they are violated.

So yeah, I think the mainstream media coverage of this case was despicable because of all the sympathy that was given to these two young men, but I also think it’s sad that they were raised in a culture that made this sort of behavior seem even remotely acceptable.  At the same time, I’ve found myself wondering about their parents and how they are coping through all of this.  I’ve wondered about the victim’s parents, too.  We all know that even the best parents can end up having kids who drink to the point of passing out at a party, or who end up violating someone, or who do nothing to stop such an attack.  One of my greatest fears as a parent is that I will do everything I can to raise a thoughtful, good person, but all those efforts will go to the dogs because of outside pressures that I can’t control.  I’m not excusing these guys for what they did…ever.  But I wonder about their families and how they will move forward after this.

And in a sea of articles that seemed determined to make me eternally depressed about the state of parenthood in this country…

3.  there’s this guy.  Now this, right here, is the type of person I hope my son grows up to be.  Peaceful but activist.  And with a sense of humor!  Exhibiting his First Amendment rights, while never questioning the same rights held by the guys across the street.  This guy is awesome.  I bet his parents are like, “That’s our boy!”

Lessons learned this week – I still want all mothers to just support each others’ choices instead of finding reasons to condemn them in order to feel better about their own.  Parents of children who do bad things are not always bad people themselves; we need to start looking at society as a whole and not just the two people paying rent, bills, and tuition.  But it’s that same society that is turning out some really amazing people, too.  Even though our media would sometimes like us to think otherwise, there are kids out there who grow up to do good, kind, and important things in this world.

What did these articles say to you?  Share your stories here!



Laura is mommy to Charlie, who was born in April 2011. If you are in Philadelphia and spot a woman on the bus who is balancing an active toddler and the largest canvas tote that L.L. Bean makes, you've probably spotted her. Always up for a challenge, Laura enjoys her day job as a fundraiser, cooking healthy meals at home for her family, and her new workout hobby - running.

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  1. 1.

    I couldn’t agree more about your third comments. Parents should just support one another and not condemn their decisions. Our only responsibility to our kids is that we grow them up safely. Otherwise, we all do our own thing!

  2. 2.

    The Retro Wife piece: Ugh. I feel like this piece manages to offend everyone. I think there will be a lot of SAHMs who are offended by the way they are depicted, and as a working mom, I was bugged by the degree of judgment directed at working mothers. We’re trying to be boys, we have something to prove, and we’re allowing someone else to raise our children for us. Anyone who thinks I’m letting someone else raise my kids has no idea what my life is like, and nothing makes me angrier than people who insist I’m not as much of a mother as they are because I have a job.

    Beyond that, I was bothered by the implication that feminism has failed women by giving them hopes and dreams and then failing to deliver on helping them realize them. This is assuming that feminism was ever the dominant ideology or that it gained traction among the most powerful and the policy-makers (it didn’t) necessary to make changes to support their ideas. If feminism failed (I still see it as a work in progress), then it’s not because feminism betrayed women. It’s because we live in a sexist society, and there’s only so much one movement can do. I was also irritated by the way the author cherrypicked facts. I mean, I understand why they did it–without this, they wouldn’t have a story–but as someone very well acquainted with this body of research, there was a lot left out, and it left with this picture that there’s only way way for women to be happy. (Note: studies on mothers and happiness show that the least happy mothers, statistically, are those who don’t work at all. You would never find that study cited in an article like this.) Even the reference to Obama…because he said women should be able to work and have kids, but then he also later defended SAHMs, the authors implies that means he must have changed his mind instead of just supporting, I don’t know, women’s ability to choose their own paths and have the support required to make those choices work? The whole thing was so clearly geared toward raising hackles (and it succeeded!) for page hits and revenue, I understand why so many women stopped reading. It’s insulting the way publications put out these purposely offensive pieces, twisting women’s REAL LIVES and REAL EMOTIONS, insinuating that somewhere in all of this there is a bad mother and a bad wife or a doormat who has allowed herself to be railroaded by a man, all so the publication and author can make money. I don’t want to keep clicking through these, because I don’t want the publication to have the satisfaction of knowing their strategy of demeaning and dehumanizing me and other moms worked.

    So those are my thoughts. I’m sick of the media making some big to do around the Mommy Wars that, frankly, I think are mostly made up. Yes, there are some women who do judge people based on their choices, but there aren’t that many and I’m willing to bet most of those who do are deeply insecure about their own choices and attach moral superiority to themselves and character flaws to others in order to bolster their own choices, whether that’s to work or stay at home. It’s just because we all want to be the best we can be, and we worry that maybe we’re not. It’s wrong for anyone to prey upon these fears, which are really about just trying to be good people and that’s not a bad thing, for profit.

  3. 3.

    Retro Wife: That title really gets under my skin. I don’t work at home but honestly, if I had the choice I would…although the thought of 20 first graders running around my house is mildly scary haha. A career is something that you can’t just turn on and off like a light switch (I feel) especially if you are a woman in certain fields. Careers need to be built and the professional world doesn’t always take kindly to the “I was having a family” thing. That whole women are trying to be men thing is also unkind and judgmental, what if I simply love what I do? and I am not letting other people raise my daughter for me, I might be at work for a part of my day but that doesn’t mean that I am not a parent that part of my day and I don’t parent when I get home. Goodness, you would think this argument would be over with already!

    2. I agree with your opinions on the second article as well, I cannot stand it when they take the whole ‘we should feel sorry for them anyway’ approach. What about their victims? It seems sometimes when people report the story that they forget about the victims and focus on those committing the crime and that is one thing that bugs me about the media.

    3. I actually enjoyed reading a happy story of people accepting one another for once 🙂 it is refreshing when all you read is horrible tragedies.

    And on another note, I do think that once you become a parent news affects you in a different way. It all of the sudden is harder to accept, and a part of me feels like it is because some of the stories strike a chord in my heart. And the way that you love changes when you have children, which I think ultimately affects the way that you see/percieve the world.

  4. 4.
    Janet W.

    There is definitely a lot of criticism amongst parents. I also think that social media has played a huge part in that. I don’t know if I’m getting off topic, but I think some parents use Facebook as a way of bragging and showing they’re “better” than other parents.

  5. 5.

    Like Katie mentioned, I think I absorb news stories in a way that I didn’t before I had children.

    I remember a conversation in a book club before I had kids. We were discussing our next book selection and I suggested one that included a child molestation story line. My friends with kids flat out refused to read it and, at the time, I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t read it, knowing it was fiction. Now, I totally get it. and I wouldn’t want to read that book now that I’m a mom.

    Another more recent example is Sandy Hook. I know everyone, parents or no, was heartbroken by the murder of those kids, but I simply couldn’t separate myself from it. It was too easy to understand the pain of those parents – and it was all consuming.

    And, holy crap, don’t even get me started on Stuebenville. The news coverage of the entire story was disgusting. A girl was raped and abused and people are showing sadness for the rapists? Gross.

  6. 6.

    You mention that some SAHM mothers thrive on all of the busyness and chaos. I never thought that some people enjoy that part!

    I am much more affected by the news now that I have a baby. My husband just pointed out a story where some teens shot a baby in the head in Georgia. It made me want to spit.

    I purposely chose not to learn anything about that rape trial and I am keeping it that way.

  7. 7.
    Elizabeth P.

    I too was annoyed about “The Retro Wife” as well. I too am a SAHM ( and military wife) it annoys me when friends call me ‘June Cleaver’.
    I do have to agree, that I think mothers should support each other no matter what we decide. What works for us may not work for others.
    As for the rape case I honestly haven’t been following it; mainly because it makes me angry and sad at the same time.

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