(Image from Pinterest)
I know, I know, there’s been a lot of news coverage of babies lately.
Like a guy running for president who kicked a woman out from a rally because her child cried. (Hey lady, not like he’d let you pump milk at work either, which he thinks is disgusting. But hope you stick with the nationwide “Mothers for Trump” club. Never heard of it? Yeah, me neither.)
Anyway, I’ll spare you from politics, gentle reader, and get right to the issue: the ridiculous division in our society into “moms and babies” and everyone else.
Anywhere you look, there are stories in the news about mothers when they actually have nothing to do with parenting. “Mom gets makeover, wows husband,” “Mom grateful when stranger loads groceries in her van.” “Mom accosts cashier at Walmart.”
What if we just call her a “woman” and be done with it?
These stories peg women into a two-dimensional cartoon character. Much like the rest of our culture.
And it’s not flattering. There she is again, that “mom,” forgetting kids in the parking lot and going aggro on everyone because she has PMS. Look at them drool stains on her yoga pants. Why is she out shopping with a baby, can’t she get a babysitter or something? All kids do is cry and poop. How about this pregnant lady asking to sit down because she’s about to “pass out.” Then don’t ride the train, lady! And my expecting coworker – she’ll scare our clients away and soil the rug when her water breaks. Stay away in your Astroturf suburban park in Treeville.
No matter how women with kids try, they get othered. Business pantsuits can’t hide their green alien antennaes underneath.
True, some parents bring babies to fancy restaurants and let them wail for an hour straight or watch their lil darlings reenact scenes from The Avengers in stores and expect someone else to clean up. But how often do these things actually happen? How often do kids cramp someone else’s style (their exhausted parents notwithstanding)? Exactly.
And yet it’s always the mother that gets the flack. Meanwhile, Dad puts kid’s hair in a ponytail and breaks the internet.
Same goes for the MILF concept (“Mommy I’d Like to ‘Finesse’”), what with Snoop Dogg and his catchy tune MILF Weed on the Weeds TV series. It’s the idea that an attractive woman who’s had children is altogether different so we need a new category for her, her beauty and charm markedly second-class.
In her book Bringing up Bébé: One American Woman Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, the author Pamela Druckerman writes that mothers in France (and other civilized places) are not a part of a separate tribe. There are no MILFs. The roles of a woman and a mother are “fused…At any given time, you can see both.”
I’ll admit, I used to fear parents and babies, too. Mostly because I hardly ever saw them. The first baby outfit I ever bought turned out to be a dog sweater. I also thought you could just ask a baby to stop crying, and he’d quiet down. I’ve paid my share of karmic debt since.
You know what would happen if our culture saw parenting as a normal part of life? Less judgment. Less vitriol and guilt. Fewer traumatized and lonely women when they do end up reproducing. Perhaps even a couple of laws to make healthy families.
So can we please move past the Ancient Greece era of two millennia ago, where unclean women were expected to sit in the back of the house knitting, menstruating and breastfeeding, with the men hard at work in the real world? Can we all just get along?
Parenting happens, not just in Treeville but all around us, every day. Human parents and pet parents, aunts and uncles and BFFs, colleagues, news editors, politicians and random people on the street are all interconnected on this journey. And our world is better for it.