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Friday, February 18, 2005

Mommy Madness Part 2

Well, there is certainly a great deal of discussion about this article. Just look at the links provided in Sandy Piderit's comments from yesterday.

It appears that the discussion has fallen into two camps — those who think Judith Warner is dead-on in her assessment of societal pressures and those who think it's just a bunch of whining. I would venture to say that this issue is more charcoal gray. Though I believe there are societal improvements to be made, I also think the fundamental problem resides within.

Lighten up
I remain steadfast in my belief that we put undo pressure on ourselves. We take on supermom tendencies, we overprogram our children, we remain somehow convinced that leaving them to their own devices will result in failure. I've been just as guilty of doing this as anyone else, but it's wrong.

I pushed Patrick, my fourth-grader, to enter a project in his school science fair. I'm trying to teach my children that in order to succeed in this world you have to be willing to do more than simply get by. He was reluctant at first but eventually agreed and did a fabulous job of choosing his own project idea and putting together his display. One need only walk down the first aisle of projects at Westerly School to realize that many of those presentations far surpassed the ability of a third- or fourth-grader. It was a sad commentary on our lack of faith in our children's abilities.

I was so proud that Patrick stood next to his display and proudly informed parents and classmates about his findings. He measured different brands of popcorn to determine which popped the most. For the record, it's Orville Redenbacker by an ounce. And he was smart enough to bring bowls of popcorn to attract more visitors to his project. The point is, he did it on his own. He asked me questions, I helped buy the supplies, but otherwise it was all his own.

Surround yourself with willing helpers
One of the mommy blogs today talked about the need for surrounding yourself with a community of people you love and trust. Maybe that's your family or maybe it's neighbors. I know in my case, it's my neighbors.

I can count on Mary Waters and Patty Banks (both working moms) to help me out at any time. And they can do the same for me. And my other neighbor, Mrs. O'Brien, has been like a surrogate mother. She has been there for me through many difficulties and celebrations. I'm only too happy to help when she needs someone to get her daughter, Colleen, who has cerebral palsy, off or on the bus. I may not have my mom (who works full-time) or my sister (who also works and lives out of town) nearby, but it doesn't necessarily follow that I have no one.

Find our voice
If there's anything I've seen in all this chatter about moms and sanity (or lack thereof) it's that we're all feeling the edge. So why not help each other out more?

Now let's not be whiny girls about this issue, but let's stand up for ourselves and for our families and for society and support one another. Because women are a force to be wreckoned with when they find their voice. Let's not wait until we have to scream to be heard.

Newsweek let down
Now, as my good friend Jill Zimon wrote to me, there is something about Warner's story that bothers us to no end from a strictly journalistic viewpoint. I read the piece online. I knew Warner had written a book on the same topic, but didn't realize that Newsweek's cover story is an excerpt from that book. Judith Warner must be sky-high these days what with all this media attention. I was at Border's last night and picked up a copy of New York Times Book Review, and there is a review of her book on the front cover.

Newsweek, however, has let me down. At the very least running the excerpt is editorial laziness, but most importantly, it's shameless promotion of one contributor's book presented under the guise of journalistic reportage. If Newsweek wanted to write a credible piece, it could have used Warner's book and premise as a jumping-off point for its own reporting on the issue. And perhaps a brief excerpt could have been used as a sidebar.

As it stands the element of the story that rings journalistically true is the sidebar on Confessions of a Slacker Mom. We should all aspire to have her happiness.
After all, who is the slacker? She found joy, which is something the moms in the main story haven't got.

And, of course, as so many women have echoed: Anna Rules!

1 comment:

Sandy Kristin Piderit said...

Anna Quindlen definitely rules.

And you make a great point about Newsweek... they could have put the focus on the commentary, rather than the book itself.

Diane Rehm invited Judith Warner to her show last Thursday, but she also invited Ann Eberstadt who wrote Home Alone America, and pushed past simply promoting the books to ask good questions.

You can download the audio here:
http://www.wamu.org/programs/dr/05/02/17.php