Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
We’re Nuts; They’re Wrong: Let’s Get Some Perspective

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Because I was too busy working and taking care of my kids, I only recently caught up with Rebecca Traister's Salon interview with Debbie Klett, editor of Total 180!, a new magazine for stay-at-home moms, or, as Total 180! terms them, Chief Household Officers. The interview is of course accompanied by the usual flood of epistolary vituperation as the childless damn the parents, the stay-at-homes attack Traister, and the working defend their choices, blah blah blah.

It should be obvious I'm a little sick of the motherhood thing, on all fronts: working, staying home, attaching, Ferbering, Judith Warner, Linda Hirshman, David Brooks, etc., ad infinitum. (Note that I am sick of motherhood, not mothering, or perhaps I should call it Motherhood to distinguish concept from practice, that is, what people argue about, rather than what people simply do.)

One thing did strike me as remark-worthy in the interview, though. It was the predictable (and predictably unconvincing) moment when Klett tries to say that it's ok for other mothers to work, it's just not for her. You know, that everyone-has-the-right-to-make-her-own-choice-and-I'm-not-judging-anyone moment. To which I say: yeah, right.

Let's face it: we think they're nuts, and they think we're wrong. We think they are losing their minds and smothering their children. They think we are doing a bad job of everything and shortchanging our children. Come on, admit it. Stay-at-home moms, don't you look at those poor little kids heading off to afterschool and think they'd be so much better off if their mothers were picking them up and taking them home for nutritious snacks? Working moms, don't you look at those women chasing their toddlers around the coffeeshop and think that their brains are turning to mush?

And you know what? It's ok to think that. Just like it's ok for me to think that my friend is overprotective of her kids and for her to think that I give my kids too many treats. The thing is, there's no need to tell other people what we think. Civility is about what you do, not what you think. It's ok to want to sleep with your best friend's husband; it's not ok to sleep with him. It's ok to wish your boss would fall off a cliff; it's not ok to push her. I might think that only children are spoiled and three children are too many, but I certainly would never tell my sister-in-law or my best friend. Instead, I love their daughters (only and third child, respectively).

Here's the thing about parenting. Most of it works. Nursing, formula, family bed, crying it out, staying home, going to work: whatever parents choose to do, most kids come out ok.

Of course there is such a thing as bad parenting. Putting out a cigarette on your kid's arm is bad parenting. Having sex with your kid is bad parenting, as is letting your boyfriend have sex with your kid. Locking your kid in a closet: bad.

The rest of it? Some better, some worse, largely depending on your perspective, but your perspective is just that: yours.

So can't we all just take our perspectives, get a little perspective, and shut up already?


Rebecca Steinitz has written for The New Republic, The Utne Reader, Salon, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, Hip Mama, Inside Higher Ed, Publisher’s Weekly, BookPage, and The Women’s Review of Books, among other places. She is a contributor to the anthologies It’s a Girl and Mama PhD and her book Time, Space, and Gender in the Nineteenth-Century British Diary will be published by Palgrave Macmillan later this year. In her previous life as an English professor, she taught nineteenth-century British literature, feminist theory, and writing. She now works as a writing coach in the Boston Public Schools. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters.


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