Mommy Wars: You Win, We All Lose

Yesterday I posted an e-card that another Facebook page had created.  I was surprised by the vitriol it generated, but wasn’t familiar with the page, and assumed it was the crowd that hung out over in that neck of the Facebook woods.  I shared it on my own page with the caption, “I’ve seen this on a few walls today. It generates a lot of whining about who has it worse — SAHMs or working moms. Sheesh. Can’t we all just get along?”  I am grateful for the community of readers that follows Mary Tyler Mom on Facebook.  The 90+ comments on my thread were, for the most part, positive or neutral.  That, my friends, is like an oasis on the Internet, the Holy Grail of social media.

Working Mom ecard

(Graphic courtesy of Mommy Needs a Beer)

The other pages were very different from the Fairy Forest that I work hard to cultivate over at Mary Tyler Mom (think about an internet version of Snow White with the forest animals trailing after her, “tweeting” birds flying above, blue skies and flowering trees.  Yeah, that is exactly what my Facebook page is like.).

There was hate and jealousy and meanness and ugly, ugly comments on many of those other pages.  Sigh.  The Mommy Wars are boring, yes, but they do exist and they are real.  Would that it were not so, but, alas, it is.

The thing that gets to me is that at the crux of the Mommy Wars are two factions of women trying their very best to win at the competition of having it the hardest.  Seriously?  I mean, who wants to have it the hardest?  I don’t.  No siree, Bob, not me.  I want to win the competition where I have it the easiest.  Wouldn’t that be sweet?

Ugh.  I find it so disheartening, discouraging.  I was raised in the 1970s.  My idols were all feminists — Gloria Steinem, Marlo Thomas, Jane Bryne.  My favorite Charlie’s Angel was Kate Jackson.  Jiminy Crickets, I named my blog after a 1970s feminist icon — Mary Tyler Moore.  She was my ideal woman — strong, smart, funny, sexy, single.  She was gonna make it after all, you know?  My point is that feminism is about choice.  Choice, people.

In this new millenium, some of us are lucky enough to have choice; it is a luxury these days.  When we exercise that choice, though, those of us who have it, we are excoriated no matter what we choose.  SAHMs are lazy and boring.  Working moms get off easy and don’t have to deal with the house or family.  Poor WAHMs just get lost in the shuffle.

Give me a freaking break.  Mothering is mothering.  It is a full time gig.  You don’t stop being a mother in the hours you work outside the home.  And you definitely are working inside the home if you are a SAHM.  Why the need to identify ourselves as having it worse than someone else?  You know who my favorite moms are?  The ones who are too busy to care what the other moms are doing; they are satisfied with their life and support the other moms around them.

Can you imagine if each of us mothers saw our kids engage in the animus that we engage in on a regular basis in social media?  The pelting with words is horrible.  We are so divisive.  I breast feed my three year old.  You freak!  I opt for disposable diapers.  Why do you hate Mother Earth?!  My car seat got left at the mechanics and I needed to get to the airport, so my son had to ride with only a seat belt for a few miles.  You are a terrible human being and I hope your son dies so you learn your lesson!

Honestly, as a mom, would any of us condone this behavior in our homes?  Not a chance.  Somehow, we have made the opposite of what we teach our children acceptable when it occurs on a keyboard.

Shame on us.


For those of us who require the demeaning of another to feel better about ourselves, this trophy is for you.  It is hereby decreed the YOU WIN trophy.  YOU WIN at having it the hardest.  YOU WIN at making others feel less than because of choices they make that have nothing to do with you.  YOU WIN at tearing down your sisters.  Hooray!

You lose at life, but who cares what I have to say?  I’m probably just jealous of you anyway.

Hey!  If you liked this, vote for me in the Circle of Moms 25 Best Family Blogs contest.  It takes two seconds and I will give you your very own trophy!  Voting open through 11.29.12.

My Gwynnie Epiphany

Gwyneth Paltrow and I have a history together on this here Internet. Basically, I’m not a fan, as I’ve detailed publicly on two very well-received occasions. Her acting is inoffensive, often pleasant.  It’s the other stuff — the cookbooks and GOOP and her singing and hanging with Beyonce and Jay-Z that get to me.  If she stuck to the acting, she would get a great big whatever from me. But she doesn’t stick to the acting, does she?

Like me and most women I know, Gwynnie (what I would call her if we were BFFs) is multi-faceted.  I mean, of course she is.  She is married to a rock star and Steven Spielberg is her godfather.  Gal’s got an Oscar, an Emmy and a Golden Globe.  She’s got it going on, clearly.

So why does she annoy me so much?

The answer to that question is immaterial and inconsequential.  Who cares why she annoys me?  I’ve detailed the whys in my previous two Gwynnie posts, that honestly, I have benefited from.  They are funny and passionate and great writing and clearly struck a nerve with a lot of youse.  But truth be told, the things I said with my keyboard are things I would never have said to Gwyneth’s face.

That is cowardly.

I am a lot of things I am not so proud of, but I am not a coward.

The posts were published in February and May, 2011.  I have not dedicated a post to Gwynnie since then.  There’s a reason for that.  It doesn’t feel good.  While the moments of typing on the keyboard felt good, like a rant that just needed to come out, the mirroring of hate and intense dislike for Gwyneth that I saw in the comment threads they generated never felt good. Full disclosure, I was ashamed that my words resulted in other words of hate and dislike.  I was the catalyst of a lot of yuck and I didn’t like it.

In February of this year, I got a taste of Internet hate and it was bitter.  And scary.  A group of strangers targeted me on Facebook for something I had posted in complete innocence.  What I had posted was twisted and manipulated, then circulated on several other Facebook pages to demonstrate what a horrible person I was.  It didn’t feel good.  Not one bit.

That experience was sort of a wake up call for me about the power of the Internet and social media.  It’s all fun and games until you see your kid’s photo, his innocent face, sweet and vulnerable, splashed on a bunch of pages with hateful things attached to it.  Yeah, that was no fun at all.

That experience taught me what cyber-bullying was all about.  It only lasted a day, really, my being on the receiving end of some mean girls’ hate, and then like most things in social media — POOF — it was gone.  The mean girls had moved on and found another target.  But there I was, shaken and sad and not quite so innocent.  Hadn’t I done the same thing to Gwyneth?

Gwyneth ecard
e-card I created in February 2012.

And then there was the dream I had last week (cue swirly camera work here).

Gwyneth had invited me over to her home.  It was a NYC apartment, big, but not garish.  It was interesting, with lots of books and art (a lot like a fancier version of my own home).  I got there early and was left alone to explore.  After a while other people started arriving — 5, 10, 20, 30 people. Hey!  There was Chris Martin!  And, OMG, is that Gwynnie?  It was.  We were in the living room and her kids were getting ready for bed just down the hall.

I was in Gwyneth Paltrow’s home and she was holding a salon.  A salon, people.

Gwyneth was lounged on a sofa, listening intently, and contributing sometimes.  At one point, she asked me what I thought about a topic.  I gladly jumped in to the conversational fray.  It was about working mothers, so you know I had some thoughts to share.  

A few minutes later, I got up to stretch my legs and ran into Chris Martin.  I started gushing about how one of his songs — I was embarrassed to realize I don’t know the names to any of them — was something I would listen to over and over when I was sad about my daughter dying of cancer. He seemed moved.  I was dream mortified that I didn’t know the name of his work.

Then I walked into the kitchen, and there she was:  Gwyneth.  My Internet nemesis in the dream flesh.  Except in my dream, she was just a lady in her kitchen, not so evil, and looking kind of fabulous.  My brain was going a mile a minute.  I was scared out of my skivvies that she might have read my rants about her.  Should I bring it up?  Should I play dumb?  In the end, this is what I said:

MTM:  Hi, I kind of can’t believe I am in your home.  

GP:  Here you are.

MTM:  Well, people are probably always wanting something from you, and I am no different.  I want you to know I am very sorry and ashamed that I have written about you in my blog.  And I want to know if you would let me tape you saying, “What’s your Good Thing?” for my charity.  

Cut to black when I woke up.  

Wow.  You know you are grappling with Catholic guilt when you dream about guilt.

So I think my Gwynnie days are over.  Truth is, she will probably continue to annoy me, just as I annoy some of you.  And as much as I like to rant and rave about how she is so out of touch with the average working mom, Gwyneth and I probably have more in common then I am comfortable admitting.  Two privileged white girls living the dream.

Forgive me, Gwyneth.  Mea culpa.  Truly.  I am sorry to have targeted you with my snark.  I am sorry to have made fun of your lifestyle, your children’s names, your right to live your life the way you see fit.  That was wrong.  And mean.  And it won’t happen again.

Oh, Gwyneth, My Gwyneth

Another archive hit from Mary Tyler Mom.  And if you’ve read Donna’s Cancer Story, now you know why I feel a moral superiority to Ms. Paltrow.  Hope you enjoy!

Last week I wrote about the cruelty of mothering and working, the judgment that goes on, the thanklessness of it all.  This week?  Sorry, but I’ve got to judge.  I can’t stop myself.  Huff Post did a piece on Gwyneth Paltrow a few days ago, I can’t even remember what it was about, but there was a link to Goop, her weekly online “newsletter” about “lifestyle.”  Specifically, a link to her posting about “A Day in the Life” of busy working mothers.  I’m a busy working mother, I says to myself.  I write about working mothers, too, I says to myself.  So I clicked on the link.  I laughed.  I cried.  I wretched. 

At reader request, Gwyneth, or Gwynnie as I like to call her, thought she would solicit a slice of life, day in the life guest blog from two “extremely busy working mothers.”  To best relate to her readers, she chose Juliet, a partner in a California venture capital firm, and Stella, daughter of a Beatle and famed fashion designer.  You know, just two average working Joannas.  The intent was to have the three working moms, Gwynnie included, detail a day in their “manic” lives to see how they fit it all in, how they do it all, if you will, and to share working mom tips for the rest of us.  Ugh. 

How Wealthy White Women Who Work Make It Work:

  • get up b/w 5:30 to 6 am daily to exercise as it will “make you happy”
  • have a personal trainer come to your home on Monday mornings to ensure a healthy start to your work week
  • “curate” your social media and personal web
  • get an amazing assistant
  • commit to a weekly blow out to save time in mornings
  • enjoy 90 minutes of “family time” from 6 to 7:30 pm, as “many nights of the week as you can make it”
  • schedule your acupuncture at 9:30 at night
  • spend your time “impacting the highest upside situations”
  • have dinner with your kids at least 3x/week; read to kids 5x/week
  • find a “great alteration person” to help you “review your looks, sort out closet, and plan key looks for travel, weekend, evenings, holidays”
  • ingest copious amounts of flax seed oil and make your children do the same
  • devise lists and spreadsheets and lists of spreadsheets
  • organize “one or two key moments” during school year so your kids can see you “interacting as ‘Mummy'”
  • take meetings in cabs

I honestly thought I was reading a piece from The Onion.  Alas, I wasn’t.  These three gals go on and on about the difficulties of doing it all and something about it all being worth it.  At one point Gwynnie describes the conundrum of needing to leave the house by 8:20am and having one of her two adorably named kids still asleep at 8am.  In just 20 minutes time, that Gwynnie managed to gently awake her son, dress him, feed him eggs and toast she prepared herself, administer the aforementioned flax seed oil (lemon flavored, she’s not stupid!), finish decorating the Christmas toy drive shoe boxes for those less fortunate, explain the significance and reality of children having less around the world, then wait for her two adorably named kids to go to their playroom and pick personal toys and books to contribute to now completely decorated shoe boxes as they have been sufficiently enlightened about the plight of others and feel for Angelina Jolie’s soon to be adopted children. 

Fuck that.  I reject that is humanly possible.  Gwynnie has lost all credibility, awesome gLee appearance be damned. 

The three gals each very briefly mention their nannies.  Who come to them.  And apparently stay til the kids are in bed.  And probably live with the family.  Fuck that, too.  I can’t stand this need to perpetuate the myth that women can do it all.  We can’t.  Something always suffers.  Always.  It’s work or it’s family or most commonly a bit of both.  And my honest guess is that something suffers for these gals too, even though they are Oscar winners and rock and roll scions and venture capitalists.  What is a venture capitalist, anyway?