Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bucking trends

It's been a while since I've taken up a call from the mavens of the interwebs, the virtual community of which I've found myself at times adoring and feeling oddly estranged, but her bad mother's recent manifesto -- followed by some other posts about what we feed our kids ... how we introduce them to the world ... or how others perceive us as we traverse the sometimes tragic path parenthood leads us down -- has my head spinning.

I can't help but think that while I agree with most of what has been articulated, any lable we put on it will subtly miss its mark, or worse; set up an entirely new layer of ways to compare ourselves to each other, when maybe we should be trying NOT to compare.

We can call ourselves Bad parents with the smugness of knowing we aren't; and as such try and snatch the word back from the media that we think has sold us some bill of goods we didn't need. A collection of To Do Lists that suggests the only way we will be Good parents is to follow their reporting on their Attachment Parenting protagonists hell-bent on turning the universe of parentbots into breast-feeding, baby-wearing hovercrafts who never even wrapped their babies butts in cloth diapers because the water to wash them is wasteful. Instead they dangled their little dewdrops over the composting toilet.

Meanwhile, we sit rapt and judgemental while the station break allows us to drool over the latest eco-friendly brain-food toys waiting for the gleaming white-toothed and visibly pregnant broadcaster to return and tease the next story about the hip parents in our neighborhoods currently enrolling their infants in Mandarin lessons at the Montessori school where they also practice violin and tai-chi.

Of course, we could switch the channel and hear from the Ferberists who would like to reintroduce the scientific proof that formula is nutritionally superior to breast milk, and that mothers who leave the home really don't love their children, or perhaps if they don't leave the home they are traders to their gender. They might be pushing the agenda that we should all be enrolling our kids in public school, lest we unwittingly flush society down the crapper.

Then there's the conundrum of fear. Should we be letting our kids have more freedom or less? Is junior too fat? Are they spending too much time in front of the television. Is school too demanding? Not demanding enough? Are they usurping our authority?

Good parents will know, infallably, what to do. They will be the deciders. Of course the BAD parents we're talking about were never REALLY bad, they were just judged.

The gyst is that in realizing the impossibility of adhering to all these influences we must accept that there are just too many books to live by and what seems intolerable to me isn't tolerated by you. So we should do our best, what speaks to us, and accept our collection of quirks under the moniker of "bad," put it on our chest and wear it proudly.

Bad is the new good.

... but I just can't get behind that either.

It's just another slogan. Another option to confound us.

Mothers have been the scapegoats since Eve. Freud cemented the notion in modern psychology, and every damn Disney film of mass appeal has done away with us to acheive a better arc. We pit ourselves against one another, we wallow in our own insecurities and then we blame media for making us feel demoralized and disappointed when our expectations of ourselves are not met. Then we chastise each other for giving us a "smack down."

And with so much time to fill, the media can hit every damn one of us (if we let them) just because it has to fill air time. And let's not forget the market, because they pretty something up and sell it to your friends and all of a sudden you HAVE to have it. But even if we fall for all of this hook, line and sinker we have to admit, if we're going to be honest, it's not their fault. It's ours.

We all are horrible. We are all amazing. We are all human and we always have been.

And no matter what we do, whether we accept any particular mantle - bad or good - our children will all blame us for each decision we made, no matter what it was. Sometimes they will be justified. My hope is that if we truly were good parents, our kids will forgive us when they've matured enough to realize it.

Like my mother before me, I am a human being doing the best I can at any given moment of the day. Some days I fare better than others.

So. ...



*shugs shoulders*

I don't even know what that means in the wide world of parenting these days.

My guess is I shouldn't judge.

But not judging doesn't mean I can't disagree.

Or does it?


Mommy Project said...

"...never even wrapped their babies butts in cloth diapers because the water to wash them is wasteful. Instead they dangled their little dewdrops over the composting toilet."

--Ba-ha-ha-ha! I'm sorry. I realize this isn't the point of the article (another very well written and thoughtful post), but that is darn funny stuff.


jasi said...

We (the media, other mothers, outsiders) cut Mothers down because we (Mothers) are powerful. We're influencing the next generation and- in most households I'm familiar with- also the economy. Our position is daily inspected beneath a cruel lens clouded with confusion, jealousy and awe.

It's one of the most important and common "jobs" out there. Anyone can do it but "no one" can do it right.

toyfoto said...

I agree, Jai, I just wonder who's really hardest on us ... society or ourselves.

Mrs. Chicken said...

Isn't it all just labeling? Good, bad or indifferent? As I said on HBM, I really look forward to the day when we no longer feel the need to put an adjective in front of "mother."

Great post.

supa said...

"We all are horrible. We are all amazing. We are all human and we always have been. "

Ding ding ding.

Another wonderful post. I don't know how you articulate these things so well.

Natasha said...

I agree and I'm more annoyed because, in light of her post on BeliefNet today, I'm more convinced that a good marketing idea, a good controversial topic was chosen, then words built around it, then emotion thrown in and adopted to be real to sell it all. It's not an opinion based on one or two posts, mind you.

I feel like Latin, philosophers, and tangents about the language that defines us and the power that is robbed from us from that language was included in the argument to distract from how illogical it actually was.

I feel strongly that in order to change behaviour and make it stick longer than one day, we need to change our thinking, not just our behaviour. Changing the way we talk is superficial. I believe that Catherine and all women who rah rahed that post, need to start within themselves. And I explain how to do it here:

I see no integrity here.

toyfoto said...

I'm not willing to completely adopt the idea that she was trying to court or market controversy for the sake of the "business" of HBM, but I also see the argument as having some legs.

But the beliefnet post made me wonder if in giving the Bad Mother Manifesto, it was giving her the "keys to the universe," as I like to say: Admit to being imperfect then using that as your get out of snark card. The whole, "See, I told you ... it's your fault you don't understand."

And AS a business model ... that's not why I read Her Bad Mother. That's not how I think of Catherine.

Of course ... I'd like to think she just made a boneheaded blunder. She's only human, right?

Binky said...

Natasha--I don't feel that a discussion about language and history is ever tangential. Language isn't superficial. I don't know how common this is, but my thinking and behavior is INEXTRICABLY connected to words. I figure things out through writing about them. I find context in the organized expression of ideas. The stuff floating free-form in my head is meaningless until put into words outside my body. Therefore, everything is about words as far as I'm concerned.

I don't think I am on either side of this debate. I'm just happy it's happening. The words have been put out there. People can do with them what they will.

toyfoto said...

i agree that words shape our thinking, too, binky ... and may be inextricably linked. But I think the debate shows we all interpret our own words so differently. I can hurt someone's feeling without intending to, and in essence, my only way to ensure I'm not misunderstood is to stop talking.

Natasha said...

Binky-- I do agree that words are powerful but I take many issues with the changing of such commonly used, straightforward words as "good" and "bad". And I've explained them many places.

What I meant about language being superficial was that the thoughts come first. You can't speak words that you didn't first think. You can change your words but that doesn't mean you've changed your core beliefs. Whereas, if you change your core beliefs, your language follows. Catherine is trying to address the problem of judgment superficially. I wanted her to consider the argument that it should be a more personal, deeper change, a change within. But she never once said, "Good point" or "I can see your point". Doesn't hurt my pride any, just makes me second guess the integrity of the whole argument and post. Does she really want to create change or a movement that coincidentally brands her blog for her every time someone adopts the movement?

It is BECAUSE I think words are powerful that it really bothers me that Catherine is throwing them around willy nilly and then AFTER a number of people are all confused, says "I was just examining and questioning", when no question marks were used. (Until after I brought that to her attention, then she edited the post and didn't make not anywhere that she edited, which also seems dishonest to me).

It bothers me when bloggers expect everyone to read their minds and then when they fail to do so, complain that they are misunderstood or that the readers aren't smart enough to get the point. SAY your intentions. Say why you're writing to criticise Kate Gosselin. Say it right in the post, not afterwards, all exasperated.

There are a few major things that are bugging me about the mom blogosphere, where I see little integrity, as I said, and this whole flurry of activity was like a magnifying glass. And I have thought of writing a post about what I"d like to see change but frankly, I can't do that without using specific examples and I don't want to attack anyone (believe it or not) and I don't think it would make a difference anyway. It depresses me. I guess I'll just go back to avoiding the mom blogosphere for the most part.

Jaelithe said...

Hey, great post. I'm sorry that I didn't read yours before I wrote mine, because I would have found a way to tie yours in. I think you and I agree on the fundamentals here despite our quibbles over the window dressing. "We are all human and we always have been." That's the crux. I wish it were easier for ALL of us to accept.