Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Wee Rant

It’s quite the catch-22 we mommy-bloggers find ourselves in: if we write about ourselves, we’re self-indulgent, and if we write about our children, we’re violating their privacy. The contradictory nature of these attacks suggests that the oft-expressed discomfort with mommy-blogging arises from something other than the content of the blogs (which, after all, is so diverse as to defy generalization), that it arises, indeed, from the mere fact that mothers are writing.

As I remarked in a comment yesterday,

I think what really freaks people out is the idea of mothers inhabiting the spotlight AS MOTHERS. Aside from a few ultra-conservatives, most people have gotten used to the idea of women in the workplace, women having public lives even after they have children. But the fiction that makes that system work is that their motherhood gets left at the doorstep: while at work, a woman functions as a childless, androgynous WORKER, not as a mother.

The thing about blogging that seems to take people off guard is not just that mothers are writing, but that they can write as mothers about not just their children, but themselves, their politics, their goals: it's the refusal to compartmentalize in the socially prescribed ways that allow our culture to preserve the 1950s ideal of motherhood while simultaneously requiring those mothers to work full-time jobs (and, in the case of the U.S., to return to those jobs at only 6 weeks postpartum).

Having developed that theory in response to Andrea’s post, I was gratitfied to have it confirmed today by this Time Magazine article, entitled "Too Cool for Preschool." The writer, James Poniewozik, takes aim primarily at the new, hip model of parenting espoused by websites like Babble. "Goodbye Baby Mozart; hello, Baby Ramone," he quips, citing Rebecca Woolf (of Girl’s Gone Child) as an example of this new "punk-rock" approach to parenting. All joking aside, however, he assures parents that he does not require them to forgo their own lives: "Subordinating one's self is especially fraught for women, who historically often lost their identities in marriage and motherhood. Moms and dads can be unique, creative individuals after they have kids. It's being a unique, creative individual through your kids that's disturbing."

Having so magnanimously acknowledged that women are entitled to their own lives, Poniewozik explains that the key is to respect the boundary between the woman’s "self" identity (in which she is entitled to be unique and creative) and her "mother" identity (in which she is still required to conform to a cookie-cutter model which precludes things like blogging).

The idea seems to be that parents check their individuality at the door: they can continue wearing their favourite fashions, but their children ought to be dressed in whatever is the socially prescribed Baby Gap uniform of the day. The article is illustrated with a photo of a scantily clad mother (of course it would be a mother, even though the article focuses at least as much attention on Neal Pollack’s Alternadad). The real dig, though, is at the baby, who is garbed in the same plaid uniform, though not in the matching black leather lace-up boots:

Clearly, it would be ludicrous to lament that infants are becoming fashion victims: babies are entitled to love, attention, food, and warmth, but not to a particular style of clothing or music. As if aware of that basic flaw in his argument, Poniewozik changes tacks. What is really wrong with cool-blogger parents who refuse to keep their individuality separate from their parenting is that they are violating their children’s privacy: "I sympathize with the parents. But I sympathize more with the toddlers whose bouts of playing with themselves, feces hurling and projectile vomiting are being recorded, page by gigabyte, for posterity. Someday, one will write his or her own memoir of growing up in public."

Rather than respond to the charge that we are violating our children’s privacy (which is addressed, with brilliant clarity, here), I’d like to point out what a change of topic it is: one can blog about one’s children without embracing the punk-rock ideal touted by Babble, and one can be an "alternadad" (or mom) without having a blog. They’re separate issues, and conflating them is simply Poniewozik’s way of retreating to safer ground. What outrages him (through most of the article) is not the violation of a child’s privacy, but rather the violation of our culture’s norm (touted in every single parenting guide and magazine) that there is one right way to parent – right for all babies, right for all parents – and that the right way is a form of self-annihilation. Mothers can have their own lives, of course – so long as they park them at the office. As soon as they return home, though, to the embrace of their adoring children, the leather lace-up boots come off and the June Cleaver apron goes on. After all, every child is entitled to the same kind of mother, selfless, devoted, and insatiably fascinated by Mr. Potato Head.

Individuality and parenting are a dangerous mix: if we start thinking and writing about parenting through the lens of our own beliefs, values, and personalities, the very foundations of society might shake. The economic impact alone would be shattering, as the sales of Baby Einstein, Dr. Sears, and Baby Gap start to plummet. Just imagine the ramifications if instead of following rules, we developed relationships - if instead of reading about the "7 Ways to Boost Your Baby's Brain" we started communicating with one another about the anxieties that underlie our competitive parenting. First, the mom-tinis – then the deluge.


Mad Hatter said...

Andrea's post yesterday was brilliant and provacative. I am still trying to articulate my troubled stance on issues of privacy vs free speech that it addresses. This post, too is brillaint.

What gets me is this: the schizophenia society imposes on mothers. The world screams out that it is a woman's moral duty to procreate (using such rhetoric as "a stable population base equals a stable economy") and then when we do the world expects us to keep our non-child selves separate from our parenting selves.

Maybe there is someone out there that can succeed with this but not this mom or any of the mom's I know. Having a kid has changed just about every thought I have and just about everything I do--not in an infantalized happy Mommy sort-of way but in a cranium-exploding in a million shards of light sort of way. My feminisim, my socialism, my engagement with my local community and with the world, my librarianship--everything has expanded in life-altering ways since having Miss M. Lace up black punk boots? Give me a break. I am not forcing my child to adopt my sense of style, for crippies' sake. I am moving forward with this amazing human being who has so wholly expanded my worldview that I have been born again and need to write, discuss, and engage with other parents whose lives have also been changed.

One of the things that pisses me off to no end is that the Globe and Mail (the NATIONAL newspaper) refuses to acknowledge parenting as anything but a style issue. Is the world so afraid of children and mothers that any discussion of an integrated self post-childbirth is heresy to societal norms? Will I stop ordering books for my collection if I can't cut the apron strings? Really. It is all too absurd.

I blog my daughter's life. I am sometimes disturbed by the privacy issues that raises but I am certainly more disturbed that the only other option is to shut the fuck up and get back in the kitchen.

Whew, you called your post a "wee rant" and look at that: it begat a big one.

Smooches to you for writing this.

bubandpie said...

Mad - "Having a kid has changed just about every thought I have and just about everything I do--not in an infantalized happy Mommy sort-of way but in a cranium-exploding in a million shards of light sort of way."

I know. I know. I'm sitting here this morning trying to prepare a lecture on Seamus Heaney's "Mid-Term Break" (a poem I blogged about awhile ago), and I'm gasping and sobbing and wondering how to teach this to students who aren't mothers - who are on the other side of the divide that I can only imagine myself across now. I think this poem will be meaningful for them, too - but I'm always aware of a chasm between myself and my (non-parent) students now. Just one small example of how everything I do is inflected by the fact that I am a mother.

Mad Hatter said...

There is an exhibit on at my uni right now about the history of women in the institution: first woman doctor, first woman engineer, 1911 women's hockey team... You get the idea.

Well my friends, this I say to you all: someday our children's children will be hanging our pictures on the wall with a caption that reads, "Dared to be Mothers in the Public Eye."

Mimi said...

Whu-oh. I think this is a really complicated topic, and I've been thinking a lot about the relationship between me-as-full-fledged-human-being and Miss-Baby-as-fledgling-human-being. I'll lay aside the laceup boots and Ramones aspect, and just think about what happens when my autonomy and her developing-autonomy collide.

I don't know.

I do know that my own mother was her own person when I was a child: a teacher, a reader, a tea-drinker, a watcher of TVO, a cook of arcane vegetable casseroles. And these interests had nothing to do with my interests, and she pursued them in our home. And I developed a sense of her as a person, and that I was not the centre of the universe. To be honest, I would have preferred for her to subordinate her life to my own, but ultimately this would have impoverished my upbringing: I would know less of what it means to be an autonomous woman and I would have got a misguided sense of my own importance.

I'm very conscious of blogging Miss Baby, and what it means to incorporate her into what is essentially my own narrative thread: my voice, my interests, my stories, my point of view. Me me me. But it's my blog. And I'm the adult, so I must in this case be trusted to balance my needs for self-expression against hers for privacy. I don't want to stifle her own voice, but honestly, she's an infant right now so my concerns are more philosophical than practical at this point. Ask me again once she can read.

Mommies and daddies have always been people, over and above their roles as parents: isn't this part of what drives teenage rebellion and disillusionment? As kids we become aware at some point that we must separate from our parents, that our parents (omigod!) are their own individual selves, that they have interests and values that we may or may not share.

I think it's dishonest to try to fit to a mommy-mold that will eventually crumble in any case. Better, is it not, to try from the very beginning to balance self-hood (and its necessary and indeed laudable selfishnesses) against mom-hood (with its necessary and shifting self-sacrifices)? Does this not model for our children what it means to be, urrr, people? About balancing self and service?

I'm all for bringing my mommyhood out into the world with me, when that is necessary or relevant, and for bringing my self-hood home with me. This is the whole me.

Yikes. If this comment had a title, it would be 'a not-so-wee rant". Sorry for the length. I'll be back to read the comments!

bubandpie said...

Mimi - As facetious as the Mozart/Ramones remark was, it struck a chord with me, in that music is one of the main battlegrounds in my house right now, with Pie (especially) flexing her muscles lately over exactly how much control she can exert over her environment. Ideally, I will spend my time with my finger hovering over the "stop" and "play" buttons, ready to execute her rapidly changing commands.

Short of that, both my children would like to hear only the music they request, when they request it (and they work hard to ensure that their requests will be contradictory, so as to ascertain which of them has the most power). The other day, I settled the issue by putting on my new DVD of U2 videos, which they both enjoyed thoroughly.

It's a pretty fundamental lesson, really, for them to learn that everybody gets a vote in what music we listen to (which means that all of us, at times, will be listening to music that is not our first choice). I put up with a lot of Hi-5 for the sake of my children; maybe I have not only the right but also the responsibility to ensure that sometimes the children have to put up with the Barenaked Ladies (or, at the very least, with hubby and I bellowing out the lyrics to "Home on the Range" while Bub shrieks his protests in the back seat).

bubandpie said...

One more thing (since epic-length, ranty comments are the order of the day!) - the reverse of this principle holds true as well. If our children need to see us functioning as individuals and not just as parents, the world needs to see us as mothers as well as individuals. If we leave our motherhood at the door when we go to work, we're feeding stereotypes and stifling our voices.

Mimi said...

Does it count that I told my grad class that our long mid-class break made me completely inaccessible to them for questions or impromptu meetings because I need the time to pump breastmilk for Miss Baby? I told them I just can't go three hours at that time of day without pumping. They were a little surprised but very gracious about it.

gingajoy said...

AMEN! There's so much to think about here. You know it's been on my mind lately. I especially like the final part of this post--where you suggest an overturning of the parenting/mothering grand narratives. Huzzah! I wrote on this only yesterday at blogrhet.

I think this discussion--the reaction to the Time piece, etc, speaks to how so-called "mommyblogging" itself is beginning to redefine who "mommy" actually is. Much of the derision of "mommybloggers" comes from deeply entrenched attitudes about domesticity and women--ones that you've touched on so expertly here.

In the mid 1850s, Nathaniel Hawthorn infamously attacked the "damned mob of scribbling women" whose books sold far, far more than his own, and this diatribe summed up the pervasive attitude towards women's writing--that it was trifling and taken up with the unimportant and trivial documenting of daily domestic affairs. It did not belong in the public realm. (Men's writing, on the other hand, dealt with all that was important, serious and profound).

Is this a new mutation of that same old attitude? That mothering, and the lives/experiences of mothers and women in general are not worthy of expression in a public forum? That it at the same time violates some public/private norm which is highly gendered? (because, as you point out--it's mothers that are being singled out, if implicitly, here).

thanks for getting me thinking this morning!

Mary-LUE said...

See! This is why I nominated you for most thought-provoking.

I have to say that I am woefully under-aware of much of what you are discussing here. I've caught the momtini controversy and have picked up on the general disdain for personal blogging in general.

I like what you are saying here. It makes sense to me. I have never been able to remove the mommy part of me from any equation. In fact, I had a reputation for being maternal before I ever was a mommy. I was thinking about this the other day as I pondered my plans to go back to school in the fall. I haven't been a student since I became a mother and I know it will inform my experience. Will it have a positive or negative impact on my fellow students and teachers, though?

Maybe Prof. B&P should submit a rebuttal to Time Magazie? (That's not really a joke. I think your analysis of the article is excellent and worth getting out there.)

Robbin said...

God forbid that we should ever present ourselves as integrated individuals. It's so much safer to view the people you interact with daily as cardboard cutouts of whatever role we want to interact with at the time.

The liberation of blogging is that I can present myself as a "whole" person to an audience that does not necessarily interact with me in any other context. While admittedly, the only get what I choose to present, that's pretty much true of any interaction, isn't it? But I can choose to present myself as a professional, myself as an athlete, and myself as a mom, and people form their integration based on all these models.

I think sometimes that the people that read my blog get a fuller picture of me than my coworkers, or even my family.


A to the Men.

Becky said...

Wow... what a topic. Some of those quotes from the article have rubbed my fur the wrong way. What is so different about blogging about your kids projectile vomiting, pooping in the tub, or even what their first word was or that they took their first step? Yes, it's a public forum... but frankly, no one is forcing my blog down anyone's throat. If someone doesn't want to read about my life as a working woman and a mom, about my kids and how much I love them or how they drive me so nuts sometimes I think I might murder one of them then DON'T! Don't come to blog and read it!

But it's really no different than if a bunch of us were having a chat in the ladies room, or the conversations I have with other Moms that I don't necessarily know while waiting at my daughter's dance class. One of the other dance Moms at the Princess's dance class recently had a baby... so what has our conversations revolved around lately? We're all sitting there together, waiting for our children for nearly an hour, and the baby is there and next thing you know we're talking about glories and gories vaginas and pregnancy and child birth and babies spitting up and meconium poop... all with a bunch of DADS sitting around!! Is blogging about it any different??

And if I didn't blog on a public website (which I could certainly set to be very private if I should wish to), then I would probably write alot of the same things down in a journal or type it in a virtual journal in MS Word or something. Something that my children could pick up and read at a later date and find out all the gory details of their infanthoods and childhoods and also find out how much I truly love them both and how, no matter how crazy they might make me sometimes, I wouldn't trade them for all the gold & riches in the world!

I say BLOG ON, ladies! And be whatever kind of Mom you feel is the best to be for your children!

Becky said...

I just want to add that I am no less outspoken being a Mom (for the past 6 years), than I was as a green 17 year old in high school. I can't change who I am just because I became a Mom... Being a Mom has become a part of who I am.

I work at for a big library system helping to coordinate and plan programs for the entire system. While it's true that during the week I'm "Becky, the Wonder-Woman-Who-Can-Do-Almost-Anything" and on the weekends, if I take my girls to the library for storytime or something, I'm simply "The Princess's & the Peanut's Mom", this has never stopped my co-workers from pulling "Becky" out to ask work related questions when I'm off duty.

I actually find it amusing that there is actually this sort of distinction between my working self and my mommy self with my co-workers. But I think, for the most part, they see a little bit of my mommy self at work and a little bit of my working self in my mommy moments.

And to me, there really is no big distinction between these two selves, other than whether or not I have 2 children hanging off my legs at the moment. I'm pretty much the same person and run my home and my office with the same high-strung disguised as laid back sense of symmetry and organized chaos.

Okay... I think I'm done rambling.

Andrea said...

I was right!

(Sorry. Kind of written out on this one at the moment.)

cinnamon gurl said...

Fantastic post and comments!!!

Off to read Andrea's post.

c4cara said...

Haven't read the other post and am out of the loop on the whole 'motherblogging' thing. I can imagine people have opinions, because don't they always? That whole 'this is my view and you should all do it MY way thing'. Very like, in fact, the way our children treat us on a day to day basis - like your thing with the music Bubnpie - if they could, our kids would have us serving their every whim, ALL the time. And perhaps these people who are having conniptions about 'mothers keeping their identities seperate from their 'mothering' selves were kids who thought their parents did exist as servants to themselves, or wished they had? I know my growing 6 yr old is full of criticisms of me now along the lines of 'my friends mother NEVER shouts at her! why can't you be more like her? and she makes her exactly what she wants for dinner EVERY night!' (to which I heartlessly reply 'this aint a restaurant kid. You want impecable service? Buy a restaurant'.) I am getting to understand that it isn't reasonable for me to expect my kids to have respect for my needs as an individual - they are small animals who will do whatever they can to get what they want, but I feel I have to ensure they are aware that I am a person too. Then, as many of you have said, they won't end up with unreasonable expectations of other people, or of me. I'm a deeply flawed human being. I'm doing the best I can... Thanks for the great topic..

Julie Pippert said...

Aside from the billions of comments I have on this topic, I'll take issue with the mundane first: why doe she assume that kids will be offended, affronted or troubled with their parents blogging bits and pieces of their lives?

In general, I find children intrigued by visions of themselves.

In general, I find adults even more intrigued with outside glimpses into themselves, especially of themselves as children. It provides a view, an insight.

I'll stop there for now.

MotherBumper said...

Never one to express myself clearly, all I can say is: great post B&P. Well said and expressed. I'm off to read Andrea's post...

NotSoSage said...

I've been talking about this with friends a lot lately. I think that, up to about 18 months, I was willing to drop everything for Mme L and succumb to all of her wishes. But now she's old enough to be made aware that sometimes she has to walk because she's too heavy for me to carry when I have other things and she's perfectly capable of walking. I hear a lot of, "Mama, I no like that." And I'm starting to say back to her, "Well, I realise that, and that's fair, but I can't possibly do what you're asking, so you'll have to realise that sometimes you'll have to put up with things you don't like."

To switch gears a little: I'll admit that I've felt pressured, largely because I was one of the first of my friends to have kids, to shy away from talking about Mme L when I'm at work or out socializing. A lot of disparaging things are said about people who can "only ever talk about their kids" and, though I'm certainly not one of those people, it's made me wary of saying anything at all...

Gwen said...

When I read that piece in Time, I was curious as to which blogger I read would tackle it first. I didn't actually expect it to be you, B&P, which says nothing about you at all. First of all, I think it was a badly written op ed piece, either because Mr. P didn't know what he wanted to say or because what he did want to say was edited away.

His final comment, that he felt sorry for the kids whose lives are on display, just felt too glib and throw away, as though he didn't have the space to explain what he really felt. Because in the end, that wasn't the important issue that I think he touched on when he talked about what happens when a generation of people who have been taught that "*You* are the most important" (is that what they called the "me" generation?) procreate and how these parents who were once the center of the universe learn to open that universe in a balanced way to their offspring.

I didn't read his essay as an attack on "mommybloggers" but instead as an attempt (bungled, I think) to discuss a new phenomenon: the alterna-parent. The alterna-parent seems, to me, to be a bit of a hyperbolic reaction to the societal norms of parenting, but not because choosing to live outside the mainstream is hyperbole. It's trumpeting that decision in a way that can appear exclusionary that feels like hyperbole. I guess I have this notion that like intelligent or classy people, the true "punk rock parents" don't need to tell you that they are. You'll figure it out on your own. And the point for them isn't that they are rejecting one paradigm to join another but that they are living freely, according to their values. There's something about the content on Babble, for example, that hints of a superior way to parent, as opposed to just a personal choice. It's not, "hey, this is my life. oh, what? my kid is listening to Moby? yeah, he does that; he also plays with Elmo", it's more like, "hey, I am COOL! And this is WHY! And now my kid is COOL, too! Because my kid is an extension of COOL ME! And don't you wish you could be COOL like US? but you CAN'T!"

I'm not saying you and your other commenters are wrong, but perhaps another way to view that piece exists, to see that it's not only about parents having identities separate from their children but is also highlighting a new kind of helicopter parent.

Julie Pippert said...

OMG Gwen, and THAT right there? Is why I think you ROCK.

(Sorry to step in to your comments B&P and carry on a conversation with someone else.)

Jenifer G. said...

So um..how about that double episode of 24 last night. Just kidding.

Wow what a topic. I have read all of it, both posts and all the comments. Both of you know how to enlighten, inspire and make us think about our own choices at the same time.

I view life through the lens of motherhood and this I cannot change. I could not deny or ignore this if I wanted to, which I don't. I was a woman who became a mother and I will never look at the world in any other way and why should I have to? Why does this bother people so?

I keep my blog for a variety of reasons and in no way feel this needs to be defended in any public arena. Mommybloggers who blog about their children do not need the permission or approval of anyone. The boundaries and rules we set for ourselves are just that, for ourselves and our families.

Is it so shocking that mothers are writing what they want to write how they want to write it? This community needs no permission to write about life, politics, current affairs - whatever - without needing to get approval from anyone. Perhaps this is a bigger threat for some?

I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the reasons I kept blogging was that feeling of knowing you are not alone, and that there are parents all over experiencing the same things you are at the same moment. It draws you in and compels you to keep coming back.

Motherhood is neither my badge of honor or sword to fall on. I don't pull it out as a party trick. Becoming a mother changed me to my very core and if you had asked me about this prior I would have not even comprehended the question.

My thoughts on privacy versus free speech are divided. In this age of identity theft and high-tech fraud it is not not something to dismiss lightly. That said, we are accountable to our own families when we blog and stifling that voice in the name of this debate just takes us ten steps back.

Wonderful B&P.

nomotherearth said...

As usual, you've raised a million thoughts in my head and they've all become so jumbled up that I can only come out with non-sensical comments.

One thing I will say, though, is that I don't seem to have time to scrapbook or fill out baby books. My blog is the easiest, most accessible way to keep track. To remember the good stuff, and learn from the bad. I think the Boy will appreciate it for that reason.

I know that I've wished a million times that my mom could tell me what it was like for her in the early days of parenthood. She says that it was so long ago that she can't remember. I don't want that to happen again.

Momish said...

B&P: I agree with everything you said, and really enjoyed Andrea's post as well. There is not much else to add since most of the comments have already voiced many of my own opinions and "here, here's".

Perhpas I can add one thing, which is one of the benefits of being an older mom. I have witnessed three generations crucified for their parenting style (and know all about how my mother's hippie generation was bad mouthed when I was born). The only real twist I see this time around is that many older women (like me) are having children at the same time the latest "it" generation are, so the whole idea of packaging and sterotyping seems so trite to me. I am sure my parents were frowned upon for dressing me in tiedye and exposing me to the Beatles. Anything new brought to the table of parenting sends people in a tizzy.

Great post.

Kyla said...

Excellent post B&P. Bits and pieces of these feelings have been drifting around the blogosphere, but I like they way you've laid it out here.

Becoming a mother did not negate who I was previously, it added a very deep, very pervasive facet to who I already was...now I'm this bigger version of myself. I can't separate the pieces out again. I am a whole person, and this whole person includes the things I was before having children (although changed somewhat) and this mothering part of myself.

It isn't about tiny Ramones shirts or lace up punk boots or momtinis or alterna-parents, although that is what the media likes to pretend it is about...its really about people who don't understand the metamorphosis of becoming a mother, and their desire to hold on to the preconcieved notion of what they think that SHOULD mean.

We're humans, we're women, we're intelligent, we're individuals, AND we're mothers. That last part in no way negates the previous parts...it just adds to it all.

owlhaven said...

Like Mimi, I had a mom who was at home with us, but also spent plenty of time on her own interests. She read extensively. She sewed. She counseled breast-feeding mothers, taught childbirth classes, and assisted a doctor with occasional homebirths.

Like Mimi, I would have liked her to be more focused on me. And yet, like Mimi, I look back now and think that my own life is that much more vital and interesting because my mom's example made me not fear carving out time for my own interests, even in the midst of mothering eight children.

Oh, and the public diary issue? Not long ago I found a letter that my mother wrote my grandmother about her early months of parenting me. It was a treasure. I would be fascinated to read more of my mom's experience as a mother. I would cherish it, and I don't think I would be especially upset if my mom had blogged illnesses and mischief as a very young child. I would feel differently about my teen exploits, however.... I think the child's privacy becomes a much bigger issue as he/she gets older...

Mary, mom to 8.

something blue said...

I love this post. All these rules to parenting have my head swimming but let's rock the foundation!

I spent all day thinking about your post and decided to have a stab at the Times article myself.

Joker The Lurcher said...

my son has always accepted that he has a mum who has a life around him, whether in my work as a lawyer or when i'm knocking down walls and doing up the house.

i am the mum who used to sit him in the back of the car with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon if i forgot to get his tea before we had to rush out. i am the mum who never irons his clothes. i am the mum who has to set up an e-mail reminder for his cookery ingredients and who even then has to write in his message book that the dog ate the cheese.

but i am the mum who fought to get him into a special school, who has never told him a single lie in his 12 years, who explains everything from gender dysmorphia to chrystal meth when he asks.

he knows that he is the main focus of all my endevours, and that i will fight with every breath in my body to protect him and champion him and make his life better wherever i can.

it took me years to work out how to be a mother. there were a number of reasons why it took so long, but a big one was the crazy messages that society gave out about what a proper mum was all about - a model which i could never fit into in a million years. but i'm his mum, the only one he will ever have and he seems pretty happy with that which is all that matters in the end.

bubandpie said...

Gwen - Yeah, I don't usually jump right in on the blogging hot-topic of the day. This time I couldn't resist because of the fortuitous way in which the Time article confirmed what I had just been thinking about the compartmentalization of the "mommy" part of our lives.

Owlhaven - I, too, find it implausible that our children will be horrified to find their "private" barfs and poops chronicled online. The fact is that barf and poop are two universals of human infancy - there really isn't any reason to become mortified by the fact that one used to wear diapers. I wonder if the assumption that our babies will grow up to be embarrassed by our blogs arises from a general sense that babies are inherently embarrassing: that adults who expect to be taken seriously in the public/professional sphere have to forswear any association with babies (downplaying the fact that we have babies AND that we were once babies ourselves).

penelopeto said...

popular topic lately, and i love your fair take on it.
i worry about extremes - mothers who are so protective of their separate, non-parenting life that their child loses out on their time and attention, and i worry about mothers who spend $70 on baby uggs for their 6-month olds. because that's just stupid.

Mad Hatter said...

OK, one more quick comment.

I must confess I did not see the Times article. My comments were in reply to your post and to trends that I see around me. People do judge bloggers across the board: "get a real life," "why would you think anyone would want to read your diary online," "you put your kid's picture ON THE INTERNET?"...

I try not to get miffed by these sentiments (although clearly my rant above followed so closely by my whimsical self-righteous assertion proves that I do). I try to think back to when I started blogging. I wasn't a blog reader who became a blogger. I started it on a lark and assumed that no one ever would read it. At the time, I no doubt held so many of the opinions that I still hear around me today. So perhaps, in the end, you have to be a blogger to really get the significance of blogging. A journalist or any one else who comes along and reads a half dozen posts from here and there just isn't getting it. This is a complex communications infrastucture that we have operating here. It must be hard to get a sense of that when you are on the outside looking in.

Beck said...

There ARE some children of bloggers that I pity, children who I feel are being exploited or who are being used as props for their parents' egos. I think there's a line and most people know where it is, of what is all right to share and what is too much, although I couldn't really articulate where that line is.
I DO think it's possible that some children will find their mothers' blogs upsetting when they're older - I've encountered a LOT of blogs that are extremely negative about the experience of mothering, that focus almost exclusively on how hard and unpleasant the mothers find it. I think that reading that at some later date would be extremely destructive.
But most mothers who blog do a good job of balancing their children's need for privacy with the need to write about parenting, about the changes parenting brings.

Kelly said...

I read the Times article, and read B&P's response, and all I can say is, I wish I had continued on in college a bit more so I could feel a lot more comfortable crafting an intelligent response.

I don't know a thing about Babble. I live in a middle-class enclave outside of Philadelphia. The reason I started blogging was just to force myself to write more, and to discuss both the joys and difficulties of parenting, pregnancy, breastfeeding, etc.

Reading other bloggers has been the best part of it. We kind of live in a world where mothers tend to be more isolated than before. Being able to read about other mothers' experiences and thoughts, about both parenting and anything else, has sometimes been the one thing to hold me together on a tough day.

mamatulip said...

You know, you should consider submitting this piece to have it published somewhere. You should consider submitting a *lot* of your writing to be published.

Excellent post. Excellent discussion.

Karen said...

You inspired me today, thank you...and for sending me on a wild goose chase of links for more reading than I sometimes make time for.

Lawyer Mama said...

I LOVE this post & just read Andrea's and I loved it too. It's impossible for me to separate being a mother from the rest of my world. Being a mom affects every aspect of my life. How could something so life altering NOT do this? Even though I'm expected to check my ovaries at the door at work, it even changes how I view and handle cases, witnesses, and clients.

Like Mad said "Having a kid has changed just about every thought I have and just about everything I do--not in an infantalized happy Mommy sort-of way but in a cranium-exploding in a million shards of light sort of way." Yes, yes, YES! Why can't I write about the world the way I now see it - as a mother?

Mad Hatter said...

OK, that does it. I am taking that quote and making it the tag line on my blog.

ewe are here said...

I'm just starting to catch up on all the great reading out there this week; I will definitely check out Andrea's post.

I do detest all the societal pressures on women to be the perfect mom (whatever the hell that means!) - oh, but don't ever talk about actually being a mom once you leave the house without the kids! And this apparently includes writing on the web.

I've always just kind of scratched my head and wondered why so many people feel compelled to spew venom at and make derogatory comments about 'mommybloggers', especially those that dare voice opinions that differ from their own. Because it's always seemed to me that these are the same people that used to complain about women who just 'disappeared' once they had kids. Well, now many moms have found an outlet to keep in touch with themselves and the world as individuals and moms -(as well as an audience and a support network)- and we're supposed to feel bad about this? I think not. And I think our kids will understand as long as they're feelings and identities are treated with respect when we talk about them.

Great post and comments.

Her Bad Mother said...

Parenting, and especially motherhood, have been written about and portrayed in art (high and low) for a gazillion years (I can only reach back as far as Herodotus, because that's as far as my education goes, but I'm sure that there are cave drawings of parents with children.) What's different now: parents have more control over how they are represented because they are representing themselves. This is essentially what my Motherlode paper addressed: we are living motherhood out loud, publicly, and this gives us an unprecedented amount of control over our own representation. We can be hipster, we can be suburban, we can be Anna Nicole - sharing our stories (and, as I blogged about the other day) is how we build identity, a multiplicity of identities, and community, all at once.

Privacy, meh. One wants to keep one's attention on it, sure but hell: someone has to step out there and say 'this is me; who are you?' Should it just be the Annie Leibovitzs, the Sally Manns, the Ariel Gores... the Anna Nicoles.

(Dutch of Sweet Juniper made the very interesting - and provocative - suggestion in a comment to my post that excessive concern for privacy is fundamentally bourgeois - my word - or suburban - per a mini-van model of family life, his term. Interesting suggestion, I thought, and worthy of further consideration.)

lildb said...

your mind hurts me with its sharpened dagger of brilliance. and genius. I almost can't look at you.

marla said...

While I'm about to be called away to play with fiftyhundred plastic animals, I just wanted to chime in with something I feel is at the root of all of this.

With only a high-school education, I have a hard time articulating my response to the articles and posts, let alone providing facts and references. But my work experience and studies to support it for my former job of handling antiques told me a different story of parenthood and childhood previous to the current climate of self vs. child-centric state of parenthood.

If I had to sum it up, I'd say that this largely white middle class issue (that again) is based on a few things (and if I had more time, I'd find a better word than things). In part, that we're coming to parenthood later in life, having had more time to form our own strong identities. As well, a
consumer-driven culture targets those able to afford luxury items for our children that reinforce our desire to further express our identities. In
addition, we have years of child-centric culture to react/rebel against.

How I came to this is my (quickly evaporating due to under use) knowledge of Victorian and pre-WW child rearing - there were entirely different
expectations of parenthood and identity, for both adults and children. It was only in the affluent mid-century, with the onset of credit, affordable
platics and changes of clothing in everyday life, Disney, and children as the largest emerging target market that we begin to really see the erosion of the parents' individual identities and subjugation to the cult of child-rearing.

While women have always had their own particular issues about being heard - within the enclave of womenhood there has always been room for expression - storytelling, art and crafting were part of daily life. Blogging, as I believe, is merely a new folk art for the modern mother to practice. (BTW - the Subversive Knitting project I just visited in NYC had some awesome work that pertains to this and I'll post about it soon).

It's right to say that tying blogging in to this is a cheap shot - but it's just the current scapegoat.

I found this article which explains the root of some of this pretty well, and there are others out there; but this gives a fantastic outline as to how
parenting changed in reaction to the cultural and political climate at one point in time.


Now, I will also say this - Josie an I learned this visiting the ROM's bat cave the day before yesterday. Bats only have one baby every two years. The teacher was telling her class (that Josie sat in on) that the fewer children an animal in the wild has, the more they're valued and the better the care they take of them. The attention being paid to motherhood, blogging and our
children is an indulgence that follows this, in line with all I said before. It's just one part of taking care of ourselves and our children that we can
indulge in because we can.

bubandpie said...

Marla - When I read comments about the "me" generation not knowing how to put their children first, I always respond exactly as you have: I remember how Agatha Christie left her infant daughter for several months to go on a trip with her husband - and this decision wasn't questioned by anyone, including herself. It was just understood that the husband's interests trumped those of the child.

The Victorians, for their part, not only considered it obvious that children were less important than their parents, but also considered it morally necessary for children to be frequently reminded of that fact. That's not to say that things were better then, but rather to show that this generation is not somehow reinventing parenthood to make it more selfish.

Our culture worships children on the one hand (demanding that parents, teachers, and day-care workers subordinate themselves to whatever is "best" for the children), but also makes less room for them in adult life than most other generations. Rhetoric about the value of children abounds; concrete support for children and parents is much more difficult to find. Perhaps both trends can be traced to the availability of birth control: children are now a "choice," rather than a fact of life, and that raises the bar for parents (who chose to have them, and therefore owe them everything from our undivided attention to a fully-paid college education) and lowers the bar for everyone else (who shouldn't have to pay for somebody else's choice).

Marla said...

Thanks! And I did, but it still didn't like me.

I agree with your reply, and yes -- it's funny. At one point in time, children were treated like babies until one point, then quickly transitioned into little adult-hood (especially in poor families, where they had to leave school to work sooner). Now there is all this talk about "keeping them children - they grow up so fast", when it seems like we also want to see them as little persons from day one.

Writing about it is one way that we can sort it out - after all, it's a muddy process, this re-inventing parenthood and childhood.