A Celebrity Mom Guilt Trip

What do celebrity moms have to do with us regular ones? Most times, absolutely nothing. But the frenzied media coverage of famous moms' attempts to balance work and family does reflect how conflicted our society feels about moms who work. This cultural unease, refracted on the pages of a magazine with nearly four million weekly readers, makes it distinctly uncool for regular moms to feel good about working motherhood.

Here are some tidbits about motherhood from the pop press lately to show what I mean.

The Evening Standard features Madonna castigating herself as a "crap mother" because she works. (As if any of us need to punish ourselves for the inevitable tradeoffs between work and kids. The rest of the world does a good enough job on its own). "I'm always going, 'Oh my God, I'm a crap mother.' I want to get home and put my kids to bed and then sometimes, if I'm spending a lot of time with my children, I think 'Oh God, I just want to be an artist.' " The article goes on to mention problems in her marriage to Guy Ritchie (as if working motherhood inevitably leads to marital problems) and the fact that her daughter, Lourdes, "often gets embarrassed by her mother's fame."

"I Still Love Tom Cruise" was the humiliating headline People.com used to describe a Nicole Kidman interview. Nothing about how gracefully Nicole balances her film career while raising two adopted children, Isabella, 13 and Connor, 11. No mention of how, unlike her ex, she doesn't seem interested in using her personal life to promote her next movie -- when was the last time you saw a photo of Nicole rubbing anyone's pregnant belly at her kid's soccer game? Just the pitiful spin on the fact that Nicole seems to have the guts to admit she still cares about the father of her children (like most ex-spouses I know).

We can't talk about celeb moms without mentioning Britney Spears. Us Weekly Online's fervid blog covers how Spears' second pregnancy is derailing her career: "Ever since Britney Spears learned in February that she was pregnant with her second child, the singer has been on an emotional roller coaster. For months, sources say, Spears, 24, cried in despair about raising another child with her party-loving husband, Kevin Federline, 28. Her plan was to take control back and get him out. All she wanted was her life back and to be Britney Spears again, not a 24-year-old unhappy mom of two still married to a loser. ... Spears was barely [able] to put on a happy face at the NYC launch party for her new perfume In Control on May 8. Will she put her career comeback on hold?" Although much of Britney Spears' life nauseates me, I respect her incredible ambition and ability to achieve the goals she sets -- and, unlike Us Weekly, I highly doubt Kevin Federline is going to be the one to stop her for long.

One of life's pleasures is reading People magazine, but I found the May 1, 2006, print coverage of the birth of Gwyneth Paltrow's second child, Moses (daughter Apple turns two conveniently this Mother's Day, May 14) irritating beyond reason. "I've done everything career-wise that I wanted to do," the article quotes Gwyneth, and then goes on to presume "Now she just wants to spend time with the kids [and husband] Chris Martin. Here's the quote, supposedly from Gwyneth, that really got me: "He's the daddy. ... He works. I'm the mummy. I'm at home trying to look after everybody."

Of course, all moms -- including Madonna, Gwyneth, Britney, Nicole, you and me -- have every right to choose work or home and say whatever we like about our choices. And there is no knowing what any of these moms are really like. What galls me is the pop media's subtle and not-so-subtle judgments of moms everywhere with choice words, headlines and story slants. By trumpeting that an uber-actress' career is finished now that she's a "mummy," by portraying one of the world's wealthiest 24-year-old women as controlled by her infantile husband, by picking a headline sure to humiliate the admirable way a mom protects her children by speaking highly of their wacky father -- these magazines label all regular moms GUILTY as we try to do right by our children, our work and ourselves.

Update from washingtonpost.com: Leslie has posted a comment.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  May 11, 2006; 6:00 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
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Comments

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I agree that the press mistakenly portray celebrities and other wealthy people as having lives repesentative of most people. It reminds me of those recent articles in the New York Times and other magazines that claimed that hordes of highly educated, highly paid women were 'opting out' of the workforce. Celebrities and other wealthy people can afford to either give up an income, or can afford very expensive childcare. In some ways, there choice of whether or not to work is like chooing between chocolate and vanilla ice cream...there is no bad choice with obvious downfalls. This is not true for 'normal' people, where each choice has definite pros and cons and it is unclear what is the better option.
I notice that none of these articles about celebrities discuss how having children has affected the father's career.

Posted by: wls | May 11, 2006 7:44 AM

My daughter is enrolled in a nice private school in suburban Baltimore. Many of the families are wealthy enough to live in million dollar homes with only one parent (usually the dad) working. (My husband and I do not live in the lap of luxury - normal home, struggling to make tuition payments.) What strikes me as hysterical is the number of these non-working moms who also have nannies or baby-sitters so they can spend at least 4 hours a day at they gym maintaining their perfect figures. What is the point of being a stay-at-home mom if you are not going to stay at home with the kids?

Posted by: No nanny for me | May 11, 2006 7:57 AM

Can people please stop calling Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise's kids adopted! That is so offensive. They are their children no matter where they came from. When I see that in an article it makes it hard to concentrate on the rest of the article.

However, I also think talking about celebrities and then regular moms (what is a regular mom by the way) in the same article is a little silly too. We live in completely different worlds.

That said, I do agree that being labeled "guilty" is pretty right on the marker. I feel it everywhere I go. From the guy at the office who told me that he and his wife sacrificed so she could stay home to the studies about children in day care being aggressive, etc, etc.

I say who cares what the media, the guy at work, or the idiots who conduct studies say. I only have one person to please and last time I checked she was quite happy.

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 8:01 AM

Have to agree with Scarry. Why mention the fact that Cruise/Kidman's kids are adopted. It's like labeling them second-class citizens. They are their children. Period.

As far as celebrity moms go, there is just NO parallel between Gwenyth Paltrow's (or any of the other uber-rich celebs) situation and my own. What they do/don't do does not figure AT ALL in my decisions or feelings. Those folks have all the time/money to afford them certain luxuries (such a nanny to watch your kid while going to a high-priced trainer to get back to pre-pregnancy weight). I don't and will not ever have that. Which is fine.
I only have to please myself and be a partner with my husband.

Posted by: JS | May 11, 2006 8:21 AM

The time yuou spend reading these things is time you spend away from your children ... hehehe

Posted by: don surber | May 11, 2006 8:35 AM

actually my child is at daycare three days a week, so I spend time away from her no matter what I read. She is currently watching Jimmie Neutron so I can get some work done. I'm a crap mom, what can I say! hehe

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 8:46 AM

Not that I was happy about Britney's little bean bumping his head, because any baby's accident is tragic, but I was kind of relieved, I guess, when I read that the baby fell from a high chair while with a babysitter. I know before she had any children, she stated she didn't want a nanny raising her kids. I guffawed at that, since she didn't have kids at the time (aren't all non-parents the best parents?). When I heard about the babysitter, I thought, "Wow! She's just like the rest of us who need a break every now and then!" Sure those celebrities have more money than I can even imagine, but they are just parents like the rest of us. Trying to muddle through and make sure our kids are contributing members of society.

Posted by: KS | May 11, 2006 8:46 AM

The "celeb" mom who I've been most impressed with is Felicity Huffman. I heard an interview with her on the radio, and she just seemed so down to earth and "normal". She was clearly aware that she has much more opportunity and buffers than most other working moms, but talked about trying to balance her career and her family--just like the rest of us do.

She is someone I would love to meet and talk to about this issue.

Posted by: Hmmm | May 11, 2006 8:49 AM

Very happy to see here already the comment I was going to make -- why did you make a point of calling Ms. Kidman's kids "adopted"? They're her children, period. Does the fact that they were adopted make them less somehow????

I do agree with you on the Gwyneth Paltrow remarks. She's truly one of the most annoying, sanctimonious, arrogant celebrities out there these days.

Posted by: Jayne | May 11, 2006 8:54 AM

"The time yuou spend reading these things is time you spend away from your children ... hehehe"

Not necessarily. You could read them once the kids go to sleep or you could read them to your kids as modern morality tales. (I.E., when you're done with an item, follow it up with "Sweetie, don't be like that person when you grow up.") :D

Anyway, it honestly must be a real pain being a mom in the spotlight. Yes, they chose a career that keeps them in the public eye, but it seems there's no sense of privacy at all (short of running away to a foreign land). You can't be the mom that's frazzled, a little frumpy, and decorated with kid effluvia because there's always some weasel in the bushes with a camera ready to sell a shot to the Enquirer.

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | May 11, 2006 8:55 AM

From long experience, I conclude that it DOES seem like some cultural ministry somewhere knows (or fervently hopes) that young women making important life choices for the first time are sufficiently weak-minded to model celebrities, listen to the "scientist" of the month, and ignore the truths of their own lives.

Know (and you already do, deep down) that making women feel weak, unsure and terrible about themselves is the point, not the accidental byproduct, of these cultural "messages" as well as some of so-called "science." It's bullying, pure and simple.

My experience has been that the roles women either want to fill or have to fill are in basic conflict, and there is (at least in the last 30 years) no real help for it. A constant alternating drumbeat of "feel guilty" and "feel ugly" messages aimed at women could stand to lose its audience, though, with nothing but good results.

Posted by: Paula | May 11, 2006 8:58 AM

How Madonna, Gwyneth, Nicole, or Angelina raises her children has absolutely no impact on my life. I think all their comments in the press are taken out of context to sensationalize the articles. What did struck a cord in me was how Brooke Shields and Courtney Cox dealt with their infertility problems because I experienced the same. In fact, my respect for Brooke has risen tremendously after she handled the Tom Cruise incident with grace and style.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2006 9:34 AM

Can we stop bashing Leslie for calling Nicole Kidman's kids "adopted" and focus on the real issue in this edition of the blog--the media's interpretation of motherhood in today's society? Quite frankly, I believe that Leslie was, as a journalist should, trying to be as accurate as possible with the description of the genesis of Nicole's relationship to the kids as opposed to commenting on whether or not these kids are considered in the same light, emotionally, as kids that were naturally conceived. I am sure, if you bothered to ask Leslie, that she would say that Nicole loves her kids as just that, HER KIDS! So please, let's not manufacturer issues where there are none.

Posted by: Lawyer | May 11, 2006 9:42 AM

I am not a mummy yet, but I would hope that my life is what identifies me, not whether I have children or not. Why don't celebrity men have these "daddy" headlines?

Posted by: MM | May 11, 2006 9:45 AM

The only people I see as guilty as the ones who say they feel guilty. The other ones are simply making their own choices and happy about them. Gwyneth feels she's done what she's done and now wants to move into her new self- I didn't send any guilt over that.

I've said previously- if people made better choices about choosing careers that fully supported a parenting lifestyle BEFORE choosing to become parents, there'd be a lot fewer problems in this arena.

Posted by: Liz | May 11, 2006 9:45 AM

I also love Felicity Huffman, in real life and as her character Lynette on Desperate Housewives -- love to see a fairly realistic portrait of life at home with kids and working motherhood. Heard Felicity on National Public Radio recently -- she said "Running a Fortune 500 company is easier than raising children," which I happen to agree with.

Also was amused by Britney Spears' protestations that she'd never have a nanny. Posh Spice (three kids with soccer star David Beckham) always is quoted as saying the same thing, that they don't have a nanny. Not sure who they think they are fooling --or why having childcare or household help makes you a bad mom. I think most moms, if they could afford it, would have some help with chores and kid care.

Posted by: Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 11, 2006 9:49 AM

I wasn't bashing Leslie. I was making a point that it's not polite to call adopted kids adopted and if she writes about it, I can comment on it.

I don't think that people would like it if everytime we talked about Angelina's children we referred to them as the "black" little girl or the "asian" boy.

They are all children regardless of how they got to the family. That was my point!

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 10:01 AM

From Liz:

"I've said previously- if people made better choices about choosing careers that fully supported a parenting lifestyle BEFORE choosing to become parents, there'd be a lot fewer problems in this arena."

Could you please clarify what you mean here? My husband chose to be an addicitions counselor. He doesn't make much money, but he's good at it and does good for his clients and the community while he's at it. However, his low salary means that I do not have the option to stay home with the kids. So, should we have chosen to deny ourselves children because he chose one of the many altruistic careers that is undervalued by our society? Or should I have chosen a higher paying career, whether or not it was what I'm good at, and then he would stay home with the kids? And, what if two people meet, fall in love, desire to share their lives with children, but happen to have previously gotten their education in jobs that may not happen to be highly valued by our society? Is your answer to them that they should deny themselves a family? Can you just please elaborate on how every person in our country, regardless of background or opportunity, could "choose a career that fully supported a parenting lifestyle?" I apologize if I'm missing something, but your statement seems a bit high-horse to me.

Posted by: cb | May 11, 2006 10:07 AM

As an adopted kid, I've never heard anyone, my parents or otherwise, refer to me as such. No one says of my parents, "They have two adopted children." It's a minor point, and most adopted kids are unlikely to be offended, but really, why does it matter whether or not the kids are adopted? Why make a point of mentioning it?

That said, I think the celebrity mom story trend is a little ridiculous. I would have thought that one good thing about being a rich, famous, powerful celebrity is that you can live your life however you want. What's the point if you just feel guilty all the time? Why feel bad about the fact that you can afford household help? I wish all moms could afford babysitters so they could more easily run errands, take classes, work out, meet with friends, paint the living room--whatever they want to do. If you can afford that--be happy!

Posted by: Adopted | May 11, 2006 10:17 AM

Thanks to everyone for the comments about using the term "adopted." It seems fairly common practice to use that description, but that doesn't mean it is relevant in any way. So from now on I will use it only when it is somehow important to the story -- which in this case, I agree it is not.

Posted by: Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 11, 2006 10:20 AM

I don't take these celebrity moms any more seriously when they issue platitudes about how "mommy's job is to take care of the family" than I do when they claim, "Oh, I'm naturally skinny, I eat everything in sight - I just can't keep any weight on." Please. It's part of an elaborate, artificial public persona of being effortlessly skinny, effortlessly beautiful, effortlessly devoted to the family. Fiction.

But Britney? Who actually knows what's actually going on in her relationship. However, to the extent that the media reports that she keeps trying to reform her pot-smoking unemployed husband, she's perpetrating an even more quaint and dated stereotype ("Yes, I CAN reform my man!") than the media's apparent disregard of working mothers.

If your husband runs around to clubs, drinking, using drugs, and burning through your money, while simultanously leaving you to care for your child, fighting with you and humiliating you in front of the public, then you really aren't in control, by anyone's definition of the term.

Posted by: A reader | May 11, 2006 10:37 AM

The thing that most annoys me about celebrity mom stories is how they try to make them seem like the rest of us. They are in the sense that they are human. but the are not in all the practical matters of day to day life.

And I don't get the offense taken by the term adopted. There's nothing pejorative about the term. It's a fact that the kids are adopted and nothing in the word suggests that it's a "lesser" state of being.

Posted by: cmh | May 11, 2006 10:39 AM

This is my last comment on the term "adopted." The only reason why I brought it up is because I personally witnessed the break down of an adopted, black girl. Her mother brought her to work and said this is my "adopted black daughter", she cried. It was sad. That's why i'm sensitive to it.

Maybe other people aren't, maybe the Kidman Cruise kids aren't, but after that I made it a point just to refer to children as children. Thanks Leslie for your comment.

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 10:51 AM

From Liz:

"I've said previously- if people made better choices about choosing careers that fully supported a parenting lifestyle BEFORE choosing to become parents, there'd be a lot fewer problems in this arena."

Following up on CB's comments on this, are you really saying that only those who can arrange their lives perfectly should have children? I think instead of assuming that children should be produced only by the lucky few with the "right" jobs, we should focus on pushing more jobs and fields to be family friendly.

Also, on a logistical note, even if someone is able to wait until they have that "perfect" situation, what if the company folds? What if their spouse or partner gets hit by a bus and they have to change? We have very little control over our lives, pretending otherwise is folly.

Posted by: Megan | May 11, 2006 11:00 AM

As usuak Megan makes very good comments. I'd like to add that some people have fertility issues as well and they can't wait for the "perfect" time to have children. Just do your best and be good to your kids. It's like my mom used to say, and mos of the time I try to, "BE KIND."

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 11:02 AM

"Here's the quote, supposedly from Gwyneth, that really got me: "He's the daddy. ... He works. I'm the mummy. I'm at home trying to look after everybody.""

Why did this "get" you? If it's a direct quote from Gwyneth Paltrow, then it's certainly not an example of "the media" trying to pass judgment on working moms. It is, instead, how Gwyneth feels about her role in life at this point in time.

People Magazine, while not the Washington Post, is also not a tabloid-- and I'm sure their writers are held to the same standards as the writers at other magazines or newspapers. You say the quote is "supposedly" from Gwyneth but I don't think a writer for People would make up a quote -- not if the writer wanted to stay employed for long.

Posted by: Maryland | May 11, 2006 11:24 AM

Right on, Scarry, and right back at ya. My friend gave me a book when my son was born called, "Above All, Be Kind," and I try to keep that as a guiding principle in my parenting and the rest of my life.

Also, I have to say, that adoption story is about the saddest thing I've heard all week. I don't want to belabor the point, because I think Leslie's comments were responsive and thoughtful. But in further response to the person who questioned why it's an issue, I remember reading a story a while back (probably in Slate) written by a woman who had adopted internationally. She wrote about how other people would often tell her daughter that she was lucky to have been adopted. The mother felt that these statements, though well intentioned, placed a huge and unfair burden on her dauther. Children should always feel that they are a loved and integral part of a family, not like they are a charity case or an outsider. Though I don't think this was the case with Leslie's article, I do think often when the press points out that celebrity children are adopted, the press is playing up the "charitable" angle and that can put an unnecessary emotional burden on those specific kids and other kids in their situation.

Posted by: Megan | May 11, 2006 11:29 AM

What the mags don't tell you is that celebrity moms regularly hire live-in housekeepers, a live-in nanny for the day, a live-in baby nurse for the night, plus a personal chef and a personal trainer. While I won't pass judgement on whether these families are raising their own children or not with these kinds of staffs, I will say that these families are not like most Americans. The magazines make it seem like these are Supermoms, but they aren't any better than you or me. They just have a small army helping them.

Posted by: chicagomom | May 11, 2006 11:33 AM

Again, why are you still talking about the "adoption" point? In my post, I did not defend the media's use of the term "adoption" (as Megan has discussed in her blog) or talk about the feelings of adopted children when the term is used to describe them (as Scarry has discussed--and for the record I agree that this is troublesome to children and may impact them). My comment, as opposed to a number of the comments on this blog, were directed to LESLIE's use of the term and her possible reasons for using it. Now that Leslie has commented on her use, and her reasoning behind it, can we focus on the issues. PLEASE!

Posted by: Lawyer | May 11, 2006 11:38 AM

Maryland - thank you for your post! I was about to post exactly the same point. If the quote came from her it doesn't mean the "media" is promoting the idea that she should stay home now that she had kids. If Gwyneth wants to stay at home with the kids, let her! She's won an OSCAR - maybe after rising to the top of her field she want to focus on something different (not better or worse, just different).

Posted by: Kid Free in Alexandria | May 11, 2006 11:41 AM

Again, and I hope this doesn't cause a fight. This isn't your blog, so we you can't control what we talk about. Please!

And, if you have an issue start talking about it.

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 11:57 AM

Well, on the flip side of it, media isn't very fair to the dads either. My husband and I were both at the waiting room for a doctor's appointment with my daughter, and he picked up a "parenting" magazine. It was clearly designed for women, with the men being peripheral. Maybe that's the audience, but I think the messages are there, too (and don't call it a parenting magazine if it's just about mothering!). My husband, a stay-at-home dad, was amused by the slant and the ad for toilet supplies with the caption, "Sometimes your husband doesn't have the aim he thinks he does." I was annoyed.

Posted by: Ms L | May 11, 2006 12:00 PM

Argh...this is more about the operation of the blog. I generally make an extra effort to read the comments when I see the note on the main post that Leslie has posted in the comment section. I see today, that she has posted but the note didn't go up. In the past it has. Any chance we can bring that note back into operation? Thanks.

Posted by: Steiner's comment | May 11, 2006 12:05 PM

Lawyer, please, cut us some slack. Someone ELSE posted this remark:

"And I don't get the offense taken by the term adopted. There's nothing pejorative about the term."

And that's who I was responding to. I find the discussion of celebrity moms to be a little dull, but I think this question is interesting. Therefore, I responded. In my experience that's how discussion boards work, they are actually discussions, not limited to a string of comments responding only to the original column. As Scarry said, if you have something else you want us to talk about, let's hear it!

Posted by: Megan | May 11, 2006 12:08 PM

People should stop jumping on Liz. Yes, not everyone has the luxury to time child bearing, but a lot of people *do* plan this out to a certain degree. There is just so much emphasis on individual career advancement that I think a fair number of people don't consider how to continue their careers outside of the 60 hr/week job with the crazy commute until parenthood is looking them squarely in the face. Ideally, this is something that prospective parents are thinking about a few years before having children rather than a few months. It's definitely not possible for everyone, but I think it is something that should be emphasized more to young people, men and women.

Posted by: MCM | May 11, 2006 12:22 PM

I think most people just want to know what "Liz" was actually talking about.

And, just to clarify, my position. I went in for a check up when I was 29; the doctor told me my endometriosis was back, so if I wanted a baby, I better get on it. I wanted one, so I got on it, she was planned and wanted, but I didn't plan it two years in advance. I didn't have the option.

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 12:27 PM

Just out of curiosity, is there a blog here on the Post that's aimed more at the male perspective of parenting? If there isn't, there probably should be. There seem to be enough SAHDs and working fathers commenting on this blog to justify a blog of their own.

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | May 11, 2006 12:28 PM

I have been a spectator on this whole working-mommy v. stay-at-home mommy argument. It seems to me that if everyone just stopped comparing themselves to others, it will reduce much of the guilt and stress. Everyone has chosen different paths in life because everyone has different challenges. You aren't Madonna nor are you living Madonna's life, so quite frankly who cares. Only *YOU* allow people to make you feel guilty. Your children love you regardless (unless they are teenagers, then they hate you regardless). Get over it, ladies. Stop caring what other people think of your parenting skills, your decision work or to stay home! The only opinions that matter are your childrens and your spouse/SO (if in the picture). Stop looking to others for validation that you made the right choice.

Posted by: molly | May 11, 2006 12:32 PM

Good point Centrevillemom maybe someone should start their own blog whether it is on here or not.

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 12:33 PM

A while back someone on this blog referred me to www.rebeldad.com (I think that's it) as a good resource for my husband (who is a stay at home dad). I thought it was pretty cool, might be worth checking out for those who are interested, though it's more about being a SAHD than work-life balance.

Posted by: Megan | May 11, 2006 12:40 PM

"There seem to be enough SAHDs and working fathers commenting on this blog to justify a blog of their own."

Isn't that the problem? Husbands and wives aren't talking about these issues TOGETHER. Why should women and men only talk to eachother about these issues? People complain that men aren't involved enough, so why not include us in the blog?

Posted by: LC | May 11, 2006 12:54 PM

There's a fabulous book out there called Breaking the Code: Women's Experimental Writing, edited by Miriam Friedman and Miriam Fuchs.

In it, one of the essays talks about how for men, the act of creation is feminized -- men can't give birth to babies and (part of) our vision of male artists is that their creativity is substituting for this biological inability.

On the other hand, women are punished for creativity -- their art is frequently perceived as a substitute for children, with the idea that these women are somehow defective for displacing their emotions onto art when it "properly" belongs to their children.

I think this should be taken into account when discussing celebrity mommies, many of whom are, after all, artists first. Yes, they are rich and have choices that regular working moms will never have. But they are also uniquely punished for their involvement in art, and I'm sure a lot of these coments stem from fear of being seen as an incomplete woman. Thus their return to one of the more traditional definitions of woman -- the stay-at-home mom-wife.

The spin the papers put on the stories also show that their fear of appearing un-womanly is not without basis -- our culture is just not ready to accept women disconnected from the traditional definition, or even ones loosely associated with it.

Posted by: Rita | May 11, 2006 12:57 PM

"Stop caring what other people think of your parenting skills, your decision work or to stay home! The only opinions that matter are your childrens and your spouse/SO (if in the picture). Stop looking to others for validation that you made the right choice."

I don't think it's that easy, especially because I think women are cultured to seek validation from others, from appearance (seeking validation of the male or male-substitute), to work (don't we all want recognition from our bosses). It'd be a lonely, lonely life if we didn't allow other's opinions to touch us.

Posted by: Rita | May 11, 2006 1:01 PM

Rita,
So what are you teaching your children? That you should just give in to others opinions because that's just how it is? I feel sorry for you if you have a daughter. All of her insecurities will just be attributed to "culture".

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2006 1:16 PM

Why on earth would you label kids as adopted? That is as far as I read. Good bye-

Posted by: pta mom | May 11, 2006 1:19 PM

I think LC makes a good point. Although I suspect that spouses do talk about these things together (at least my husband and I do), I think we need more public dialogue that includes men and women. I guess upon thinking about it, I'd rather see this blog become more gender neutral than two separate blogs. One reason for this is that I don't think that women can acheive true life-work balance unless men do, too. I think men face their own difficulties in asking for flexibility at work in order to meet family responsibilities, primarily because as a society we still assign most of those responsibilities to women. In order to have men and women playing equal roles in the home, and having equal opportunities in the workplace, these issues need to be addressed as a whole, not in isolation. Coincidentally, I checked up on rebeldad.com to make sure that was the right address (obviously I'm having a slow day at work...), and he has a very good post on this very topic, to the effect that the focus on the "mommy wars" alienates and removes men from the discussion, and thus makes resolving the issues more difficult.

Posted by: Megan | May 11, 2006 1:40 PM

pta mom,
We already covered that. If you didn't read the rest of the blog, please take the day off.

Thanks,

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2006 1:42 PM

I'm teaching them to respect the opinions of others but to make their own way. I think it makes sense to listen and hear, then decide what they think. I'm not absolving women of responsibility, I'm just saying a) it's difficult to the point of unreasonableness to expect people to be able to totally ignore the culture they live in, and b)others' opinions shouldn't be completely discounted, simply because you disagree with them.

Posted by: Rita | May 11, 2006 1:49 PM

I agree with Mollie.

As for Rita's comment
"I think women are cultured to seek validation from others" that is only true if you have low self-esteem.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2006 1:54 PM

This doesn't have to be gang up on Rita day. And you don't know the situations or life experince of Rita or her daughter.

I just don't think it's fair to say you feel sorry for someone's child or say they have low self esteem because you think you know them from a blog post.

That's like me saying I know Maddonna. Although I think the whole "English" accent thing is funny.

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 1:57 PM

" Isn't that the problem? Husbands and wives aren't talking about these
issues TOGETHER. Why should women and men only talk to eachother about
these issues? People complain that men aren't involved enough, so why
not include us in the blog?"

Not attacking you, but I'd say because lots of women can be very territorial and dismissive. I've seen personally women who treat men as if they have no idea about raising kids, so they can't possibly know what they're talking about. That women are the ones "really" doing this.

I don't know if a "men's only" blog is needed, but there are many issues that dads have to deal with that women have no idea about. I just look at the support and encouragement my wife gets, and the absolute lack of such I do. How many times do you see comments sucha s "my spouse doesn't help out around the house/with the kids" directed at men as compared to women? Men (especially dads) are treated very negatively.

Posted by: ATL Dad | May 11, 2006 1:59 PM

"the frenzied media coverage of famous moms' attempts to balance work and family does reflect how conflicted our society feels about moms who work"

I actually believe it more accurately reflects how conflicted our society is about reporting useful, interesting information versus reporting every boring move of celebrities. It's perfect--- the media spends years convincing us of the superhuman nature of celebrities and then has a chance to remind us that they are "normal" people. I'm truly curious how many celebrities relish this coverage and how many think "how in heck am I gonna raise a normal kid with all these idiots chasing me around? Don't they have anything better to do?"

Posted by: New dad | May 11, 2006 2:00 PM

I agree with Maryland and others who say "if it's a direct quote from Gwyneth Paltrow, then it's certainly not an example of "the media" trying to pass judgment on working moms. It is, instead, how Gwyneth feels about her role in life at this point in time."

But I want to throw my 2 cents in about the rest of Maryland's post: "People Magazine, while not the Washington Post, is also not a tabloid-- and I'm sure their writers are held to the same standards as the writers at other magazines or newspapers."

A few years ago I was lucky to receive several writing assignments for magazines and was DUMBFOUNDED to discover that magazine journalists are NOT held to the same standards as newspaper reporters. Magazine reporters "rewrite" quotes all the time to make them fit the story (the way it was put to me). This is the reason I didn't pursue the career.

Posted by: FYI | May 11, 2006 2:01 PM

Thanks scarry.

As for "As for Rita's comment
"I think women are cultured to seek validation from others" that is only true if you have low self-esteem."

I presume you never tried to dress up to attract dates in your teens or twenties. I presume you never worried about how you looked, whether you were too thin or too fat, or what your hairstyle looked like. Do men have these concerns? Sure. But we drive them into girls' heads to a much greater extent. Can you get past this feeling? Yes. But that feeling, that experience, that acculturation remains part of your history forever.

Posted by: Rita | May 11, 2006 2:07 PM

To new dad -- I think our points are compatible. Frenzied media coverage of celebrities absolutely does both things.

Posted by: Rita | May 11, 2006 2:09 PM

ATL Dad wrote:

"I just look at the support and encouragement my wife gets, and the absolute lack of such I do. How many times do you see comments sucha s "my spouse doesn't help out around the house/with the kids" directed at men as compared to women? Men (especially dads) are treated very negatively."

I agree with your comment. It is sad because spouses are supposed to support each other. Complaining about each other to outsiders is usually self serving and I often wonder if people who do that really want to solve the problem or just want be a martyr.

You'd be surprised at how a nice, civil discussion TOGETHER about roles would go a long way to solve the problem.

Posted by: LC | May 11, 2006 2:18 PM

Rita wrote:
"Can you get past this feeling? Yes. But that feeling, that experience, that acculturation remains part of your history forever."

"History" is the important word. And, we are not talking about people in their teens and twenties worrying about hairstyles. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT ADULTS RAISING KIDS. And to that point, what others think is not important when they don't know your specific circumstances.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2006 2:25 PM

Don't you think that parents have something to do with that? And not just parents, but the collective message that our culture sends? Don't parents have to deal with that, one way or another?

Posted by: Rita | May 11, 2006 2:27 PM

This discussion of the nannies, the night nurses, etc. etc. that "devoted" celebrity moms can afford reminds me of one of my mom's favorite "celebrity mom" quotes. She read an autobiography by Eleanor Roosevelt in which Eleanor said something like "There's no suffering like lying awake while the nurse walks back and forth upstairs to tend to your ailing child."

Something about that supposedly sad statement made my mom laugh REALLY hard.

Posted by: wenholdra | May 11, 2006 2:28 PM

"A few years ago I was lucky to receive several writing assignments for magazines and was DUMBFOUNDED to discover that magazine journalists are NOT held to the same standards as newspaper reporters. Magazine reporters "rewrite" quotes all the time to make them fit the story (the way it was put to me)."

Hmm, interesting! I hade no idea. My faith in People magazine is shaken...

Posted by: Maryland | May 11, 2006 2:29 PM

"Hmm, interesting! I hade no idea. My faith in People magazine is shaken..."

LOL! Maryland, that was hilarious.

I really feel much of the guilt women feel is self-created. Men don't feel guilt about working, why should women? I won't be participating in this hand-wringing. If someone disapproves of my decisions, that's their problem. I live my life how I choose, I am an adult. That was the point I was making earlier. I am comfortable in my decisions, y'all should be too. I don't seek external validation from others because they don't have enough information about my life to assess my decisions.

Posted by: molly | May 11, 2006 2:40 PM

PLEASE stop referring to celebrities' children as ADOPTED. What difference does it make? Nicole Kidman has two CHILDREN. Period.

Thank you,
An expectant adoptive mother, who will only refer to herself as "mother to my child".

Posted by: Alison | May 11, 2006 2:49 PM

Scarry, I did not say that I thought Rita had low self-esteem. I do not know Rita. I was saying that people who seek validation in others usually have low self-esteem. Go open any psychology book and it will say the same thing. No reason to read more into my words than I was saying.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2006 2:52 PM

Rita, like I was saying, what gets driven into girls' heads and how much of it stays there depends on how much SELF-ESTEEM the girl has. If she's happy with herself, then many things will just not have an impact.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2006 2:56 PM

I don't even know how to reply to you becuase your posts have no name!

But this is what I was replying too. But, if you wrote this you were replying to Rita's post, which would leave people to believe you thought Rita had low self esteem and that you felt sorry for her children. Don't act like you didn't provoke the argument, you did.

But that's okay because my mother always taught me that people who pick on other people have low self esteem. Not saying you do, just saying what she said.

"Rita,
So what are you teaching your children? That you should just give in to others opinions because that's just how it is? I feel sorry for you if you have a daughter. All of her insecurities will just be attributed to "culture"."

"As for Rita's comment
"I think women are cultured to seek validation from others" that is only true if you have low self-esteem"

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 3:01 PM

Alison,
I think that we put that to rest a few hours ago...good luck with the adoption and don't worry how people refer to them. It's not worth getting all worked up over it. If you don't make a big issue out of it, then your children won't think that its a big deal either. But, if they see you getting all bent out of shape everytime someone refers to them as adopted, then they will know that it is an issue. Know what I mean?

Posted by: LC | May 11, 2006 3:02 PM

Alison,

I disagree. You should tell people everytime they say your child is adopted that it is inappropriate if that is how you feel. I just think that other people's feelings shouldn't be placed before your childs. Good Luck with bringing home your new child.

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 3:06 PM

I think the nameless poster and Rita actually aren't saying such different things.

Rita is right that there is much more socialization of girls to pay attention to others' opinions. I think that this is changing, as we see more focus on young males' appearance and more media oriented towards them, but to deny that girls face those pressures is denying reality. Hopefully parents can raise their daughters to have enough self-esteem and critical thinking ability to be able to cut through a lot of that, but it's a tall order. And given that we, even as adults, may still be struggling with our own insecurities and social issues, it's even more so.

I also don't think that the fact that we've grown up in age means all women should somehow have magically gotten over whatever issues plagued them as teenagers or children. These things don't just go away as you get older, and grown women have a lot of pressure put on them to conform too.

Acknowledging that these pressures exist doesn't mean we have no responsibility for them, I think it's our responsibility to try to address our own issues and put them behind us so we don't pass them on to our kids. I think all that Rita is pointing out is that it's hard to do, so maybe we shouldn't be judgmental of people who are trying.

Posted by: Megan | May 11, 2006 3:15 PM

Thanks for the kind sum, up, Megan. I think you're probably right.

I'd also just like to point out a logical fallacy with this argument, "I was saying that people who seek validation in others usually have low self-esteem. Go open any psychology book and it will say the same thing."

This seems true -- people who have low self esteem seek validation from others. But it does not follow that people who seek validation from others must have low self esteem.

In other words, that argument has the following form: If A then B. B. Therefore A.

A similar (and false argument) would be If it is raining then I am wet. I am wet. Therefore it is raining (false -- I could have gotten wet from a shower, or a water balloon, or whatever).

If Susie has low self esteem, she will seek the validation of others. Susie seeks the validation of others. It does NOT follow that she necesarily has low self esteem.

Anyway, small point, but I'm a stickler and lover of logic.

Posted by: Rita | May 11, 2006 3:23 PM

LC wrote: "Complaining about each other to outsiders is usually self serving and I often wonder if people who do that really want to solve the problem or just want be a martyr. You'd be surprised at how a nice, civil discussion TOGETHER about roles would go a long way to solve the problem."

I agree that spouses need to discuss these things together in a civil way, but I would add that for most of the women I know, discussing these issues with friends can go a long way to making sure the discussion is civil. Sometimes when something is bothering me in my relationship, it helps me get perspective and figure out what is actually going on to talk about it with a close friend. Then I can raise the issue with my husband in a way that is more calm and thoughtful than if I just responded immediately without taking the time to work through it first. I can't tell if you were making this point or not, but I have often heard women criticized for being "gossips" when they talk about their relationships with each other, and I think that criticism often overlooks the fact that talking with someone else is not necessarily just complaining, it's often an attempt to sort through and understand your own emotions, and that can contribute a lot to a healthy discussion. Complaining on a public forum, of course, is a different matter.


Posted by: Megan | May 11, 2006 3:27 PM

Megan,
Thanks for the clarification. My point was about people who only vent to friends or in forums and then, don't discuss it with their spouse and just let it fester. Of course, discussing an issue with your spouse doesn't guarantee resolution but it should at least be attempted before telling everyone that he/she is unsupportive. I'm often surprised by what people DON'T discuss with their spouses.

Overall, I totally agree with your point :)

Posted by: LC | May 11, 2006 3:39 PM

Too true, LC. Especially as someone who is so completely overly verbose (as evidenced by so many posts today), I'm always surprised what people don't discuss with each other.

Posted by: Megan | May 11, 2006 3:50 PM

Thanks again Megan for the summing it up. I stuck up for Rita because people were beign unneccesarily mean. And sign your posts people. Just make up a name if you don't want to use your name

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 3:51 PM

Is there a rule that we have to sign our posts?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2006 4:03 PM

I think it's clear that there's no such rule, but truly, if you're going to get into a back and forth and get snippy with people about understanding what you are saying, it's a lot more credible if you put some kind of name so we can figure out what you wrote and didn't write. Especially since you can choose any name you want, it's not like anyone's asking for your real name.

And I agree, Scarry, that someone was being pretty harsh on Rita for no reason.

Posted by: Megan | May 11, 2006 4:14 PM

Let's see if it works

Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2006 4:18 PM

Hi,

I'm a first time visiter to this blog, and I found Rita's first comment to be the most enlightening one of the bunch. It was graceful and eloquent. Her wit and natural curiosity shows through. In contrast, her attacker seems narrow-minded and vengeful. Move on, I say.

I read a scientific study in the NYT once that showed that growing up, kids are far more influenced by the opinions of their peers than those of their parents. That seems to be true when I think back to my own childhood -- I was far more concerned with how other kids my age saw me, thought of me, etc. The greater arc of my life though, I've got to say, is more influenced by wanting to make my parents proud. But perhaps that is just personal?

About the "working mom" issue -- I think the feminist revolution justly put equality of the sexes at the forefront of our social consciousness, but in reality, that meant women moving out of the house and into the workforce. Parenting was not the priority, and I think it should be : FOR BOTH SEXES. The strange emphasis on 'moms' is something I do not understand. Since when should only one parent be responsible for the education of their children? I do not mean education, in terms of school -- but in terms of all the other meaningful things in life. Children with guidance are far more healthy than those without. There is no reason why men cannot provide that guidance. I agree with the poster that said we should work to make our worklife more adapted to parenthood.

Posted by: Moe is me | May 11, 2006 4:30 PM

I don't care if you don't sign your posts as long as I don't see:

Scarry,

I didn't say that!

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 4:35 PM

Thanks Megan, I like the balance you bring to this blog. You make me think twice before I type something snarky, most of the time anyway.

Posted by: scarry | May 11, 2006 4:37 PM

Scarry, your last two posts totally made me laugh. I always enjoy your energy and point of view. It cracks me up to be the snarky police - I don't think I'm nearly so balanced in person!

Posted by: Megan | May 11, 2006 5:01 PM

Another quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, that reiterates what molly said above: "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."

Posted by: niner | May 11, 2006 5:40 PM

"Isn't that the problem? Husbands and wives aren't talking about these issues TOGETHER. Why should women and men only talk to eachother about these issues? People complain that men aren't involved enough, so why not include us in the blog?"

Sorry, LC -- I wasn't trying to imply that men weren't welcome in this blog; I should have made that more clear in my earlier post. My thought was more along the lines that this is a more mom-centric blog and there may be issues that SAHDs and working dads want to talk about that wouldn't occur to Leslie to cover.

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | May 12, 2006 9:24 AM

Sorry I wasn't able to come back and reply to comments earlier. I hope those who asked questions will come back to read the response since I appreciate their taking the time to ask me.

Since you asked- yes I feel it's the wrong choice to decide to create a child if you know it will put unnecessary strain on the situation. I think it's selfish for parents to do so. We don't NEED more babies being born, and to suggest that you should bring a new baby into the world is just an egotistical selfish perspective.

I also never said that this would solve ALL the worlds problems, nor that someone should based their present decisions on unlikely futures. Of course things CAN go wrong, and sometimes very much will. Those situations however, should not be the norm. Right now in our world- exhausted, broke, unhappy and unfulfilled parents and children is the norm.

I think if many people just did NOT choose to have children, and only chose to have children ONLY when their lives are fully supportive of that choice, NOT just some random "well we're together and I want one and we can make it through" selfishness, there'd be a lot fewer of those problems.

Nor should this tactic be to the EXCLUSION of trying to have more workplaces become more supportive of families. I think workplaces should become more supportive of the human condition, in whatever form it comes to. I'm not going to support a parent getting any different privileges that are not allowed to a single person who chooses not to have a child however.

Posted by: Liz | May 12, 2006 10:41 AM

I agree with Liz to the point that I think people should think more clearly about what raising a child means before they just jump into parenthood -- whether it's because they just may never have "enough" money or they're afraid "it might be too late!". I have many friends who have amazed me by their unrealistic expectations and beliefs, especially women who have been surrounded by other women having babies and yet somehow they think their experience will be different. They all think they will jump right back to work after the baby is born, yet end up sobbing when they have to put the infant in daycare. Some thought they could run a part-time freelance career from home with a newborn! It's not like we don't see the truth all around, and yet these women acted like it was all news to them.

Yes, we should try to make this country more supportive of mothers who want to work or who want to stay at home. In the meantime, before having a child, parents need to think clearly and plan accordingly. If you plan your career, over which most of us have very little control, why not try to truly PLAN for a child?

Posted by: Tanger | May 12, 2006 7:41 PM

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