Best of 2012: Happy Birthday, Mary Tyler Mom!

Two Januarys ago I started Mary Tyler Mom.  I had just returned to work after four years of being at home after moving to Cancerville.  I was adamant that I would not be writing about cancer or grief with Mary Tyler Mom.  My vision, if you will (as all good blogs start with a vision that gets quickly tossed aside, right?), was to write a blog about working and mothering.  Ha! Two years later, I quit my job, am in the middle of the adoption process, and somewhat gainfully employed as a writer.  That is simply crazy to me and nothing that I would have imagined two years ago.

This here blog is one of my greatest successes in life, unexpected as it is.  I write my words and people read them.  For criminy’s sake, SheKnows.com named me one of the Top 10 Inspirational Bloggers.  I mean, SheKnows knows, you know?  And you readers voted me as one of the Top 25 Family Blogs by Moms (No. 2, yo) through Circle of Moms.  What a dream.  Seriously.  I feel lucky, lucky, lucky for that.

That said, anniversaries and birthdays always make me want to take stock.  I am one that likes to look backwards before I look forwards.  Mary Tyler Mom is evolving and I am still not quite certain what my blog wants to be when it grows up.  A book?  A newspaper column?  A Bravo reality series?

I don’t know, and that is pretty damn exciting.

In the spirit of looking backwards before I look forwards, here is a collection of my twelve favorite posts of 2012 — one from each calender month.  Turns out, I write a lot about emotions.  Pfffft.  Go figure.  For someone who didn’t want to write about cancer or grief, well, five of my top twelve posts are about cancer and grief.  They say to write what you know, so I guess I’m following that piece of advice.  And a reader turned friend once told me that my best writing comes when I have a bee in my bonnet.  There are no less than four bees that made this list, buzzing around those bonnets.

Without further delay (cue drum roll, please), I give you my own Best of 2012 list.  If you’re new to me, check them out.  If you’ve been around a while and feel taken for granted, this list is for you, too, as great blog posts are the gift that keep on giving.

January:  Barbie v. Cancer – the post that resulted in strangers saying I should be shot dead just for suggesting kids with cancer needed research more than they needed a bald doll.  Not to mention the American Cancer Society exploiting my words as justification for why they so shamelessly ignore pediatric cancer.  And I’d show you that post, but they deleted it.  Bastards.

February:  Toddler Ten Commandments – just a fun piece of humor about how raising a toddler is infuriating.  And exhausting.  And for the birds.  And one of the sweetest privileges I’ve ever had.

March:  Live Organ Donation:  A Tale of Two Kidneys – when my friend Andy opted to donate his kidney, he asked me to write about it.  That was pretty cool.  I learned a lot about kidneys with this post.  And what it means to be a decent human being.

April:  Easter for Heathens:  Religious Holidays When You’re Not Religious – I am so damn proud of this post.  I broke the rules and wrote about religion here, or more specifically, my lack of religion.  That took guts.  I remain really proud of the results.

May:  The Good Enough Mother – Ha!  This is a more thoughtful post than it seems about how my parenting and most everything in my adult life has been influenced by a mid-century psychoanalytic theorist.  Winnicott rules.  It’s also the very first thing I published under my own name on The Huffington Post, which made me feel like a real rock star.

June:  RIP Children’s Memorial Hospital, 1882-2012 – potentially one of the most meaningful and important things I have ever written.  I started the post with a bit of an axe to grind, as I was truly sad about the closing of Donna’s hospital.  In the end, it was cathartic and almost universally praised and featured in both The Huffington Post and the Chicago Tribune (online edition).  I still hear from doctors, nurses, and fellow families from Children’s Memorial about how meaningful it was to them.

July:  Yin, Meet Yang – This might morph into an annual tradition, posting on the eve of Donna’s would be/should be birthdays.  It helps to get the sadness out, to grieve what should have been, but never will be.

August:  Adoption 101:  The Visit Ends – Sigh.  This was tough to write and tough to read, even five months later.  And while most folks who read this short series that chronicles our first visit with a potential birth family were supportive, some weren’t, including close family.  It still stings to read the raw power of so much sadness.

September:  Donna’s Cancer Story:  One Year Later – I am so glad I thought to write this exploration of what it was like to write about something so wrenching and emotional.  It still puts things in perspective for me.

October:  A Walk in the Woods:  Finding the Teachable Moment – I am still learning how to do this whole mothering thing.  Ain’t no way I have it figured out.  This post is about doing just that — learning in the moment so that our kids can learn from us.  I also just adore the photography in this post and hope to include more of that in 2013.

November:  Mommy Bloggers and Douchebags – well, I just love the headline and it goes from there.

December:  It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine) – written at the request of my dear friend, Nikki, from Moms Who Drink and Swear, who gave me my first big break in this here blogosphere.  A thoughtful post about a bottle cap and a life’s philosophy.

Thank you for keeping me company, reading my words, sharing my words, and sticking with me through the Terrible Twos.  Can I get a collective WOO to the HOO for 2013?

Ummm, cake.  Nom, nom, nom,
Ummm, cake. Nom, nom, nom.

Mommy Bloggers and Douchebags

My name is Mary Tyler Mom and I am a mommy blogger.

It’s true.  I am a mom and I blog.  It stands to reason that I am, therefore, a mommy blogger.  Except many folks do not think that is a good thing.  Many, many folks think being a mommy blogger is a bad thing, in fact.  And full disclosure, more than a few mommy bloggers hate the term and probably hate me for using it.

Par for the course.  I tick people off without even trying.  It is a special talent to tick people off when you’re not even trying.  People either love me or hate me for that.  They stand around shaking their heads and saying, “That, Mary Tyler Mom!  Just look at the nonsense she’s gotten herself into now.”  Or, conversely, “That Mary Tyler Mom.  What a self-righteous bitch.”  I know where I stand, and it’s all good.  And full disclosure, it even happens within my own family, except they don’t call me Mary Tyler Mom.  Ahem . . .

I took a completely unscientific poll on my Facebook page last night, asking my readers what comes to mind with the term “mommy blogger.”  Here is a sampling of the negative connotations of the term offered by my readers.  Of my mommy blog.  Hold on, folks, this gets a little rough:

  • overdone
  • tired
  • ranting
  • self-absorbed
  • irritating
  • eye roll, please
  • depressing
  • messy
  • unnecessary
  • annoying/annoyed
  • marginalized
  • wannabe
  • angry
  • trouble
  • ick/ugh/blech
  • dumpy
  • bored/boring
  • nag
  • no real sense of the world
  • vulgar
  • pretentious
  • disconnected

Honestly, I am a bit confused as to why “mommy blogger” has become such a divisive term.  I mean, I get it, “mommy” is a diminutive word and certainly the work of moms is devalued in our culture, as is parenting in general.  What I don’t get is why we moms not only allow that to continue, but buy into it hook, line, and sinker.  Think about it.  Is there anything MORE POWERFUL than a mom?  We are the bomb, my friends, and need to embrace that.  To diminish something so central to being a woman, motherhood, is nothing more that veiled misogyny.

Now that I’m up on my high horse (“Hello, down there!” she typed, waving frantically), I want to make another argument that proves my point.  Think about some of the worst things you can call a man.  Sissy, bitch and douchebag come to mind, don’t they?  Those are all things associated with being a woman, right?  “You run like a girl/You throw like a girl/You (insert verb of your choice here) like a girl.”  These are taunts our boys hear frequently, some probably from the adults who surround them.  That shit ain’t cool.

And let’s talk about douchebag for a moment, shall we?  I am having a fond flashback to a Facebook argument I got caught up in a few months ago.  Basically, I made the point, to a virtual room full of men, that I refused to use that word as an insult, as who it was truly insulting was women.  A literal douchebag is a device most commonly associated with rinsing out and cleaning the vagina.  THE VAGINA, my friends.  And please, don’t even get me started on the premise that our vaginas are dirty and require cleansing in the first place.  That is a whole ‘nother post.

I don’t choose to insult the men in my life by referring to them as a device used to clean out a vagina, as if anything associated with the vagina would be the worst possible thing imaginable you could call a man.  Nope.  I’m not gonna do it.  Especially when asshole works so well and is positively democratic.

The point, my friends, is straight out of one of my women’s studies courses from 1990.  Feminism 101, if you will, and why yes, I am a feminist.  Our culture universally and systematically devalues the contributions women make.  I could go on a litany of ways in which women are devalued and persecuted, but I don’t feel like it.  Instead, I will make one more point that I was first introduced to as a young woman of 20.

The things that are most closely associated with womanhood, and mind you, I do not mean to start a gender war here, as I know not all women are the same, but those things most closely associated with womanhood — empathy, caring, nurturing, compassion, understanding, connection — these are the things that are devalued in our culture.  The helping professions for one, capitalize on these traits.  I am trained as a clinical social worker.  I figured that I was already all of those things and people seemed to seek me out for those things, so I may as well make a profession of it.  And I did.  Just didn’t make any scratch.  Emotions are seen as weak; vulnerability is not an asset, it is a detriment in many cases.

My wish is that mommy bloggers would turn that mother out.  Re-claim the term “mommy blogger” as an asset — a powerful attribute that suggests great strength.  As women, we have sought to do this with the term “bitch,” right?  It is common now to use that as a term of respect.  Do the same for mom, mommy, mother.  Own your power, whatever that may be.  Be proud of who you are in the world and what you contribute.

Just as I shared a list of negative connotations for mommy blogger, let me share a list of the positive connotations that both surprised and gave me hope:

  • honest
  • connection
  • humorous/funny/hilarious/hi-fucking-larious
  • passionate
  • sassy
  • informative
  • enlightening
  • intelligent/smart/brilliant
  • comrade
  • wise
  • lucky
  • ambitious
  • helpful
  • clever
  • articulate
  • truth tellers
  • inspirational
  • organized
  • confident
  • courageous
  • proud
  • free
  • invested
  • supportive
  • hard worker
  • fan-freaking-tastic
  • daring
  • thinkers
  • writers
  • badassmotherfuckers

See now?  I recognize myself much more in this second list, as well as the cadre of mommy bloggers I read.  We are, so many of us, badassmotherfuckers.  We are courageous, and daring, and inspirational and honest and ambitious, and writers and thinkers.  We are all those things.

So, yeah, my name is Mary Tyler Mom and I am a badassmotherfucking mommy blogger.  What of it?

Oh, and for the love of God, if you like what I write, throw me a bone and vote for me to be a recognized Top 25 Mommy Blogger with Circle of Moms.