Great Piece in the NYT on Mom Shaming

I was hoping to find a stock photo image of “mom shaming,” but came up short. Instead, here’s an image from “Bad Moms,” a movie that really does seem to respond to some of the same pressures on contemporary parents.

There’s a great op-ed about mom shaming in this Sunday’s New York Times. Kim Brooks makes some great points.  This passage, in particular, gave me pause:

These women’s critics insist that it’s not mothers they hate; it’s just that kind of mother, the one who, because of affluence or poverty, education or ignorance, ambition or unemployment, allows her own needs to compromise (or appear to compromise) the needs of her child. We’re contemptuous of “lazy” poor mothers. We’re contemptuous of “distracted” working mothers. We’re contemptuous of “selfish” rich mothers. We’re contemptuous of mothers who have no choice but to work, but also of mothers who don’t need to work and still fail to fulfill an impossible ideal of selfless motherhood. You don’t have to look very hard to see the common denominator.

Because it is gendered, isn’t it? Women have their parenting practices policed far more than men. Part of that is, I’m sure, due to the fact that men still don’t do their fair share of active day-to-day parenting, and other parts are doubtless due to the fact that “motherhood” is seen as something intrinsic to  what it means to be a woman, where for men, being a good father is seen as almost extra credit. I mean, the shaming is not exclusive to women. I have definitely felt some eyes on me when out in public, have been chided for things that are not the business of anyone but myself, My Colleague, and Test Subject V.

But women get it worse. And women get it earlier on—so many mothers I’ve known have had trouble breast feeding and not one of them has ever said “well, thank god that random woman from the mom’s group made me feel guilty about my choices! The baby would have starved otherwise.” A friend has actually described the urge to shout out to strangers  at Target that the bottle she was feeding her newborn was breastmilk, not because anyone was even giving her any grief, but because there’s a panoptic quality to the shaming that mothers get today.

So yeah, while I might feel the eyes of judgemental parents on me, that pressure is demonstrably worse on women. To whit:

At this point you might be wondering, “What about the dads?”

Dr. Sarnecka, the cognitive scientist, has an answer to this. Her study found that subjects were far less judgmental of fathers. When participants were told a father had left his child for a few minutes to run into work, they estimated the level of risk to the child as about equal to when he left because of circumstances beyond his control.

I love the way this finding makes plain something we all know but aren’t supposed to say: A father who is distracted by his interests and obligations in the adult world is being, well, a father; a mother who does the same is failing her children.

This is so messed up. And it puts me, as a stay-at-home father who considers himself a feminist and has aspirations to raise his daughter in as “free range” a manner as possible, in a position where I have to ask myself some questions:

  • If I, as a male parent, benefit from male privilege in being less likely to be shamed or even arrested for perceived “neglect” of my children, how can I use that privilege as a responsible ally to women to try to change this situation?
  • How is that made more complicated when the people shaming mothers or calling the cops are, themselves, women?
  • How does all this relate to the idea I’ve been struggling to define—that of “parenting in public?” Does it help to subvert or subdue this urge to police women’s parenting? Or does it just result from my own inherent privilege?

I don’t really have answers, here—I’m just hoping some readers might be able to give me some guidance, or help start a conversation.

Today’s Activities, And Two Takeaways

Test Subject V kept me company today through a variety of tasks

Just for the sake of brevity, I’ll only account my activities between noon and 8pm today:

  • Took Test Subject V to the new mom’s group I’ve been attending: socialized, played, and empathized.
  • Went to the grocery store to pick up a few items.
  • Fed the baby once I got home.
  • Did the dishes.
  • Cooked Dinner.
  • Ate said dinner with the wife and the baby.
  • Cut my wife’s hair.

Two takeaways from this:

  1. Being a stay-at-home parent is a full-time job. And it doesn’t just end after eleven hours when your spouse finally comes home. So many of the moms I talk to are reluctant to ask their husbands to help out because “he’s been working all day.” Yeah, well, so have you. Own it.
  2. There is something to be said for marrying someone who isn’t super-invested in traditional gender roles. Just ask my wife: she got home from work with dinner cooking and got a free haircut after.

Most North Shore Thing Ever

When My Colleague and I first moved to the North Shore, we were surprised and confused at the region’s obsession with Roast Beef. Every pizza place sells not just pizza, but fried seafood (makes sense, it’s the coast) and roast beef sandwiches (what?). Every little town has a few Roast Beef shops.

I still don’t know why it’s so big up here, but I have learned the joys of good three way roast beef sandwich. (For people not around here, that’s a giant pile of roast beef, topped with melted cheese, mayo, and barbecue sauce between some onion rolls.)

ANYway, all this is just a lead up to saying that this shirt may be the most North Shore thing EVAR:


Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell, declares bankruptcy on NBC's "The Office"
Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell, declares bankruptcy on NBC’s “The Office”

I’m declaring bankruptcy.

No, we haven’t gotten to that point financially—not yet. But in terms of my online identity.

Primarily, this is in the form of email bankruptcy– I just either archived or deleted over two thousand emails in my inbox. I am now at Inbox: 2.

Inbox 2 feels amazing.

And beyond that, I’m declaring bankruptcy for myself when it comes to this blog. No, that doesn’t mean I’m quitting it, it means that I forgive myself the “debt” of the dozens of half-written blog posts that I have accumulated over the past several months.

Enough with the guilt.

Enough with the paralysis.

I’m moving on. Moving forward. Renewing my commitment to this project.

Test Subject V is doing great. Recently, over less than two weeks, she suddenly learned a military crawl, a regular crawl, discovered she could pull herself up to a standing position, began cruising, and learned to pull herself into a sitting position from lying on her belly.

And I am completely fucking exhausted.

Buckle up, readers. I’m back, and the ride is even bumpier. Higher highs and lower lows and the shocks gave out a couple months ago.