Mommy Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Daddies should not unsheath a weapon in the midst of an ongoing Mommy War. They risk winding up like Isildur, that is, with a broken sword.

Freudian imagery aside, I have generally chosen to remain pleasantly ignorant of the massive amount of estrogen-charged, maternal invective being slung across the Internet.

I mean, I saw Mean Girls, and I get the fact that the backbiting tirades of judgment do not stop after high school, or college. It continues, the stakes are raised, and the claws become sharper with time. Eventually, some women become so adept at belittling their peers that the attacks are conducted merely through facial expressions (a la the great 1960s science fiction satire "Retief" series, where space bureaucrats have codified facial expressions for use in intergalactic diplomacy. A consul can deploy a "3-v" (Modest Awareness of Virtue), "24-w" (Gracious Condescension), or "91-s" (Cold Return to Objectivity), for example. Read the first novel online here.).

Anyway, my trophy-wife (and Petunia's righteous Mom) Merseydotes recently brought me out of the blissful and purposeful avoidance of the Mommy Wars.

Note: I don't have a good specific definition of "Mommy Wars," other than to say that some Moms think that their parenting decisions are not only best, but that all the others are wrong. And some of those Moms are willing to publically dress down other Moms who do not adhere to their strict childrearing sensibilities. They tend to single out and identify other Moms or practices they find reprehensible, and pounce. You could call them a "Mommy Lynch Mob" (MLM), perhaps, or the La Leche League.

Mersey showed me a clip from the Today Show. Meredith Viera (generating more press/controversy than her predecessor, but slightly less than her successor ), and Doctor Janet Taylor (a psychiatrist who helps Pepsico (page 22) sell the world on the health benefits of caffeinated sugar water and corn chips), tag-teamed up on blogger Melissa Summers.

The woman didn't stand a chance really. It was like watching Sonny Corleone at the toll booth.

At issue was something very simple. Some Moms get together for their kids to play while the Moms have a glass of wine or two and socialize. The very thought however offends the MLM, and their Grand Inquisitors are summoned to purge the heresy.

I was amazed at what I saw. Not some unsuspecting, decent person getting a firecracker shoved down their pants on national TV, but the reason for it. It boggled my mind.

Its been turning in my mind for a day or so, and I think I have some thoughts.

The 'anti'-arguments made in the piece were: it models bad behavior to children, it is dangerous in case a child is hurt at the 'playdate', you wouldn't let other caregivers drink with your child, and the drinking may be a sign of a larger problem/illness for the Moms involved.

Let's deal with those individually, shall we?

1) Drinking, at all, models bad behavior for children.

It is a tenet of the MLM that any behavior that is bad in excess, must be condemned entirely. Because parenting while completely shitfaced is a bad idea, any and all drinking around children should be verboten. The logic comes from the assumption that people are too stupid to know the difference between one glass of wine and five shots of jagermeister. I must admit, the thinking is pretty strong.

However, it is applied unevenly in this case. It is applied to Moms, but not Dads. Many Dads get together and have a beer around the kids, but this (I'm guessing) wouldn't upset the same sensibilities. It is applied to Americans, but not the French. It is common in France to have a drink of wine with the family at dinner, and in fact some older children are given wine cut with water.

But this line of attack must include the underlying premise that drinking alcohol is entirely bad. Otherwise, would not the detractors admit that reasonable controlled drinking in a social situation is a GOOD behavior to model for your children?

2) What if a child is hurt at the playdate?

Is it a life-threatening injury? Are the Moms too drunk to dial 911?

3) You wouldn't allow another caregiver to drink while with your child.

They are on the clock. You are living your life.

This brings up another important point, however. Another fundamental tenant of MLMs is that once you make the decision to have a child, you forfeit adult pleasures, because you are no longer a person, you are a MOMMY.

4) Drinking may be a crutch, or a sign that a Mom is suffering for some mental problems.

Taking your temperature might be a sign you are a hypochondirac.

Washing your hands might be a sign that you are a obsessive-compulsive.

Running and screaming away from a tiny, sickly field mouse might be a sign you are a musophobe. OK, maybe that's a bad example.

This attack is nothing more than a subtle ad hominem attack. You are not just having a drink, you are a sick person who needs help.

My attacks on Meredith Viera and Janet Taylor, made above, are examples of the same sort of attack. Viera is just another ratings-seeking turd-stirrer, and Taylor is a corporate shill talking head who gladly sells her diploma for cash. Those statements are the blunt versions. But they are completely made-up statements that have no bearing on the actual debate at hand.

I'm sure Meredith Viera and Doctor Taylor are honest upstanding individuals who would not sue some random blogger, any less than they would ambush some other random blogger on national TV.


Anonymous Yum said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head: "Another fundamental tenant of MLMs is that once you make the decision to have a child, you forfeit adult pleasures, because you are no longer a person, you are a MOMMY."

I'm pretty sure the doctor at the hospital forgot to insert the stick up my ass after I gave birth.

9:43 AM, January 30, 2007  
Anonymous buzz said...

I just discussed this series of happenings with the Wife just this weekend. It is sad how some groups are so quick to impose their values on everyone.

Just for the record, my kids regularly see us drink, but never to excess. So they have learned that some things, like alcohol, are for grownups. They accept this without debate. This will be a handy explanation if the Wife and I ever forget to lock the door before getting down to business.

My other, more general, response was: women are fucking crazy. You know, guys take a lot of crap for investing their mental energy in stupid stuff like sports, sci-fi, electronics, fantasy football, etc. And I, like lots of other guys, just take it. Not anymore. Not when there are roving hordes of mommies out there, soapboxes in tow, waiting to pass brutal judgment on the most banal issues. I think some people need to get a hobby. I mean a hobby other than trying to prove their self worth through their competitive mommy skills.

I think setting my FFL line up is EVERY BIT as important, in the grand scheme of things, as whether Melissa Summers has a glass of wine when she tries to maintain contact with her real adult self, with her friends, with kids in tow. That is, neither really matter even a little bit. Plus, my fantasy football is a lot less hurtful. So if some mommies out there have time to tear at each other, then at the very least, I am going to stop being ashamed of my harmless time wasting activities.

Please note: The statement above about women being crazy is just a generalization. It does not apply to the Wife, who is fantastic. Nor does it apply to Yum, who rocks, and to Merseydotes, who my sources tell me also rocks.

10:35 AM, February 06, 2007  

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