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On The Sex and the City-ification of Motherhood

On The Sex and the City-ification of Motherhood


So, as you already know, I’m sure, Dooce was on Oprah on Monday, along with about five or six other mommybloggers, some chick lit authors, and a B-list television actress. Everybody knows I’m insanely jealous of these people being on Oprah, but this is the part where I acknowledge that fact up front and cross my fingers that it won’t dilute the relevance of my opinion completely. Yes. I’m still super jealous, even if they didn’t publish web addresses up for most of the people. Even if the Skype reception made some of them look like they had bad skin. Obviously, I am a petty person who is dying to be on Oprah. Let’s not kid ourselves. But. Having said that, I’m glad that I wasn’t a part of the Oprah show that aired Monday for a few reasons, none of which were the fault of the individual participants on the show, but to which they nonetheless contributed, whether willingly or unwittingly.

To explain why I hated it, I’m afraid I’ll have to take a detour through mid-nineties feminist thought. Like all New Historicist anecdotes, it will seem unrelated at first, but I promise to tie it all up at the end. There is nothing like an anecdote to start of an essay on cultural criticism, you see: it gives you street cred. Anyway, I was a Junior in college and Camille Paglia was going to be speaking on campus. I had written a reminder about this event on my hand, because at the time, this was as close as I got to a calendar. I wanted to go see her speak. Something about her in-your-face, pro-pornography contrarianism appealed to me at the time. And so there I was, at the Coffee House, drinking beer with friends, and my little sister (yes, from my sorority–oh the tangled web we weave) notices the note on my hand about Camille Paglia, and she’s horrified all of a sudden, and says, “you’re going to see CAMILLE PAGLIA,” the way I might say, “You’re going to clean out the drain of the shower with your toothbrush?” And so I say, “Yeah.” And so she says, “TALK about backlash.” Naturally, I got drunk and never made the Camille Paglia lecture, but that is besides the point. What I did do was to start to think about what Camille Paglia stood for: mainly, it was just an opposition to the status quo. Was she being sincere, truthful, or were her outrageous claims just exaggerated reaction the limitations of 70s feminism? Was it just Faludian backlash, after all?. And if the brand of my feminism didn’t change that night, perhaps my understanding of how the waves of feminism work did.

Because what we have in this current mommy culture is a backlash against the days of the Supermom, the mom who does it all, who has everything, which is an equally bullshit idea to the idea that parenting is SUCH A DRAG and SO HARD that you often find yourself peeing in your child’s diapers because OH MY GOD THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME anymore, NOT ENOUGH ALL-CAP SENTENCES LEFT IN THE WORLD TO EXPRESS THE DRAIN ON YOUR PSYCHE THAT PARENTING REPRESENTS. No, you cannot have it all, not at the same time, maybe not ever. And yeah, sometimes parenting is hard. And there are certainly positives about the fact that it’s becoming more acceptable to voice our frustrations with motherhood. In a very general sense, it’s a positive thing that it’s more acceptable to say, “Hey, sometimes this shit is hard.”

So what is the problem, then? Well, the problem is that the media is appropriating this one tiny shift in our parenting epistemology and doing with it what Sex and the City did with women talking about sex; viz. now it’s OK to talk about it in very exaggerated terms, on TV, on the news, on Oprah, everydamnwhere, just so long as we can sell it. And the result is that we are beaten over the head with it, we are helping them to smother us in an avalanche of pink-covered books with curly-q cursive font titles and drawings of stiletto heels and pink-liquid-filled martini glasses.

carrie_bradshaw_computer.jpgI won’t lie to you: I hated Sex and the City, and not just because Sarah Jessica Parker kept doing that Doogie Howser thing where she’d ask some dumbass question of herself on the computer screen, and then look up, and think, staring off into the distance, in love with her own profundity, like she’s fucking Jean-Paul Sartre or something. I hated it for reasons that are separate from the show itself, even–I hated it for making it seem cool to be a slut, basically, provided that you wear cool clothes and always work out with a personal trainer. I hated it because everyone acted like it was so ground-breaking, when in fact it just served to reinforce the same gender and class hierarchy as has every other show in the history of time–but it did so in a superfically subversive way, a misleading way. How do you make your life completely revolve around men (how to attract, how to catch, how to keep, how to seduce, how to marry, how to leave, how to forget) but make it seem as though you are a feminist? I know! Make them sexually liberal! Make them drink pink drinks, have spa days! They’re sluts, but they’re upper middle class sluts!

In short, ladies, in this new motherhood episteme, we have a backlash on our hands. And we need to stop helping them with it. To construct a show that suggests that motherhood is 100% a bitch, all the time–a veritable festival of bodily secretions, replete with justifiable hatred of your husband, alcoholic playdates and birthday parties–is irresponsible. And I’ll tell you what: it’s not my experience of motherhood. And to ask the kinds of questions they did of the panelists was misleading and sensationalistic. To make it seem the way it did the other day–featuring a mother who doesn’t comb her daughter’s hair, neglects combing it so much, in fact, that it turns into dread locks–this is just popularizing irresponsible behavior. If this attitude was legitimate or authentic, why would anyone be having another child, ever? Why would Dooce be pregnant right now? Why would Daphne from Cool Mom and Rebecca from Girls Gone Child have newborns at home? Obviously they cherish motherhood. Sure, it can be hard. It can also be awesome. Why make the experience seem like some kind of second-rate slapstick routine or scatological farce? Are we supposed to believe that these women had children for the jokes? Or to give themselves an excuse to drink in order to get through the day? And in case you’re wondering, yes, I am looking in your direction, Momversation.

So while I’m ranting, I’d like to clear up a few things for our childless friends who might be confused after Monday’s Oprah episode:

  1. Motherhood does not require you to use your children’s diapers for yourself any more than a long car ride would cause you to pee your pants. You can usually find a toilet, regardless of how many children you have and how many carpools in which you have to participate;
  2. Dirty diapers are gross, but they are really not that big of a deal. You get used to it. There are worse things in life. Like cleaning out the shower drain;
  3. If you need to take valium or drink to get through your day as a mother, you need help. Like help with your substance abuse problem AND domestic help, whether that comes in the form of a nanny, daycare, or having your parents help you out with some time off;
  4. If you have time off and you still find yourself taking valium to get through the day, you should go to AA and you should not have any more children because you are not cut out for it;
  5. While we’re on the topic of help, there is no shame in getting some. It is the rare mother who has 100% patience 100% of the time and doesn’t need time off. If you can afford it, get it. If you can’t afford it but can trade with another mother, or get help from family–get it. You will be a better mother for it. And don’t feel bad about it, either;
  6. I have taken at least one shower, sometimes two or three, every single day since Mini was born. That’s what bouncy chairs and Baby TV are for;
  7. You should brush your kids’ hair. For fuck’s sake. It’s not that hard.; and finally,
  8. Drinking when you are the one in charge of ensuring a child’s safety is irresponsible. I don’t care how many people say it isn’t. It is. Grow up and set an example for your child.

As is the case with most everything, the truth about motherhood is somewhere in the middle, people. And I promise there are no gIrLy FoNts or Manolos required to get through it.

Comments (56)

  1. Apr 8, 2009

    Yep. Exactly.

    Especially the part about the valium and the drinking at the kids’ parties. That absolutely blew my mind.

    Although, I have to say, I’m impressed by your showering regime.

  2. Apr 8, 2009

    Wooooo! You go, girl! I didn’t see the Oprah show (like you, I would shamelessly love to be on the Oprah Show, or the Today Show, or my own show – which would be better), because it didn’t interest me for many of the reasons you discussed in your piece. (You’re a genius by the way – like a “with it” Dr. Laura (no offense).)

    Loved this. All of it!

    Chris´s last blog post..Let’s Dance, Baby

  3. Apr 8, 2009

    This is a well articulated argument. I caught a little more than half of that Oprah show and thought I would be horrified for my kids to see a minute of it for fear they would think that’s how motherhood made me feel. I admit to them when I’m having a tough day or situation, but I would never want them to think that they gross me out or that their existence has made me hate their father or driven me to medicating myself.

  4. TheOtherJennifer
    Apr 8, 2009

    What you said. IN CAPS. WhoTF ever said it would be easy? I didn’t watch Oprah because I was at work…and frankly, I used to lurve Oprah but now, not so much.

    Honestly I think some of these broads just want an excuse to be lazy or indifferent or use it as a forum to create faux mommy horror stories. Peeing in a kid’s diaper – seriously, that’s nasty and really, quite over the top. As in, not believable. Or a cry for some kind of dubious attention.

  5. Apr 8, 2009

    Thank you!

    kristin/kwr221´s last blog post..A little bling bling

  6. Apr 8, 2009

    Wait, the peeing in the diaper actually happened? That sounds more like “vanity excretion,” as in, “My ass is so small I fit into a Huggies size 4!” Granted my kid hasn’t actually come out yet, so I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but I’ve heard tell there’s still time in the day for the important things, like peeing, perhaps even washing one’s hands afterwards.

    Perpetua´s last blog post..Random Thoughts: Baby Ham Edition

  7. Apr 8, 2009

    I love this post. I watched Oprah on Monday and my takeaway from it was:

    1. Really, Dooce? You don’t like snot and shit? Weird. (I still love you though! call me!)
    2. If you board a plane without diapers for your non-potty trained kid, that’s poor planning. And not because motherhood is hard. Because you suck at planning.
    3. Motherhood is not the hardest job in the world. I’m pretty sure that mining is harder.
    4. Cheryl Hines is like a Kelly Ripa wannabe. Kelly tells parenting stories better and funnier.
    5. I sort of feel like Oprah can’t stomach these “motherhood” shows.
    6. Stefanie from Baby on Bored was by far the best and most fun to watch.
    7. Those women who wrote a book spoke exclusively in cliches. I assume it’s an emerging art form.
    8. I’m now worried that I’ve been very bitchy in these comments.
    9. And that I can’t stop making a list until I get to 10.
    10. Thank god it’s 10.

    oh,–I agree with your assessment of SATC, but I loved it anyway. Maybe because of it.

    Marinka´s last blog post..How to Have a Nervous Breakdown: Part One

  8. Apr 8, 2009

    Way to go! I am impressed with your argument, and I totally agree with it too. I don’t have any kids. I am sure motherhood is difficult, but yeah– mining would be more difficult! And drinking while caring for a child? Not close to acceptable. Not one bit.

    Emily´s last blog post..Illness, Death, and A Bit Of Good News

  9. Apr 8, 2009

    Reading a lot of these mommy blogs makes me really nervous about having kids. I love my husband and want to continue to love him. So reading this makes me feel better. It’s not all about crazy drunkenness and slovenly hair!! Thanks for writing such a coherent narrative about what’s going on with all this. (Although, I too, adored SATC!! Nipples!!)

    NGS´s last blog post..A Tale of Woe! And Spring Break!

  10. Apr 8, 2009

    Hee hee, Perpetua, “vanity excretion”!

    Great post. And aren’t you startled to find yourself on the same side of an issue as Chicken Liver? It’s okay though.

    I think the truest part of this is that it’s largely about us being sold to, at this point. Because, while I agree with your 8 precepts of parenting, do you think anyone really takes what those moms are saying that seriously? I feel like the blog voice/genre has kind of seeped out into all this discourse of parenting, bringing with it a certain amount of hyperbole and crazy-mom performativity.

    becky´s last blog post..Blind Date

  11. Apr 8, 2009

    Looks like I have to set up Season Pass of Oprah again. People are peeing in their kids’ diapers because they are too busy to find bathrooms?

    Juliet´s last blog post..Temecula-Area Korean Religious Retreat Shooting

  12. Crash Commanda
    Apr 8, 2009

    Great post. Be careful what you wish for: Oprah, and all those other shows, are all about ratings, not really about ‘helping’ their viewers, getting to ‘the truth’, etc. Remember, she was Jerry Springer before there was a Jerry Springer. You won’t get great ratings by doing a show that says being a mom is a mixture of fun, rewarding, exhausting, and lots of boring/drudgework.
    All the media ever wants to say is that women love being moms so much they’re leaving the workplace in the droves, or they hate being moms so much they’re self-medicating. In reality, most of us moms are doing some combo of raising our kids, working at something else at least part time, going to the bathroom and combing our kids’ hair.

  13. Heather
    Apr 8, 2009

    I have waited patiently since Monday for your post about the Oprah show and I was not disappointed at all. I didn’t get to watch it as I was at work and well, I don’t particularly care for Oprah. *hides * But anywho, I am childless and I couldn’t agree more about what you said. Yes, the jokes are funny but I dunno, sometimes, it just seems totally exaggerated. If you’re drinking at a kid’s party, than doesn’t that mean you’re driving home, with your kid(s) in the car? And doesn’t that mean you’re driving under the influence?

    I’m sure motherhood is hard but as someone said up there, other things are hard too. And not to sound snarky, but don’t these women have husbands? Pawn the kids off on them for a day and go do something for you. *lol*

  14. Apr 8, 2009

    So wait, you’re saying that you don’t HAVE to go crazy and be on some kind of pharmaceutical to be a mother? Well shit. I need to go have some sex and try to make a kid. Pronto.

    Elizabeth´s last blog post..Electrical (and otherwise) outage

  15. Apr 8, 2009

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m not a fan of Oprah, just can’t stomach that sanctimonious tone anymore, but I did watch this episode. And was horrified, like everyone should have been. Who the hell doesn’t bathe their kid, and then get to be on Oprah and be applauded for it?

    Queen B´s last blog post..Stranger Danger?

  16. Apr 8, 2009

    I missed the show, too, though I tried to get a sense of it through the comments posted on Oprah; they were . . . extremely bizarre, alternating between help-me-I’m-suicidal and moms-get-over-yourselves . At least the first 2 pages were. I had to stop reading them.

    I think Camille Paglia came from a Dworkin back-lash, if you were to ask me, that is, which no one did.

    The Lawyer Mom´s last blog post..Little Lawyers Everywhere (Redux)

  17. Meredith
    Apr 8, 2009

    Thank you SO MUCH. While watching Opera, I kept thinking, “What will their kids think when they see this someday?” The moms sounded so whiny and disfunctional. I have been wondering for awhile when it became cute to act like drinking to “survive” dealing with your kids was acceptable. These women are going to have some major backlash when their children grow up and start blogs with addresses like, “iruinedmymomslife.blogspot.com” or, “hatedbymymom.com”.

  18. Apr 8, 2009

    Fantastic post. I remember being shocked when I became a mom that I could actually take a shower a few times a week and eat a full meal and even have a conversation with my husband. That wasn’t what I had been led to believe at all.

    I didn’t see the show. It sounds like there might have been a number of things going on. I tend to sort of go into standup mode when I’m nervous and speaking in any type of group situation, and I’d say Oprah is the ultimate group situation. Maybe they were a little amped up bc they were on TV? Let’s face it – these gals love to perform.

    But what I really suspect is that Oprah and/or her producers either set them up or vigorously encouraged them before the show to really “let it all out!” and tell it like it is and be ballsy because Oprah doesn’t like kids or parenting and is like a squicked-out 12-year-old when it comes to the messy aspects of child care and has a vested interest in making parenting look like sheer mental-illness-inducing drudgery. Because that elevates her position of guru who has the secret to living your best life ever even more.

  19. Apr 8, 2009

    But, even more than how anti-kid Oprah is or how all-caps nuts the Momversation women are, this really was an awesome post.

  20. Apr 8, 2009

    Isn’t it funny how most of your commenters hadn’t seen the infamous Oprah episode in question? Well, OK, admittedly, I’m too lazy to go count the comments and see if “most” were from non-viewers, but… it seemed like that way, I swear. And I’m another one. @Heather above: I am quite vehemently anti-Oprah. The show, the person, the whole Dr. Phil/Rachael Ray/Nick Berkus-making machine… So… I didn’t watch. But I did enjoy your post — mostly the stuff about SatC because I’m almost vehemently anti-SatC as I am anti-Harpo. For precisely the reasons you mentioned. I found the entire premise and stupid pigeon-holed pseudo-“characters” utterly insulting to the female intellect. I saw some episodes to give it a chance, but, pretty much without fail, I ended up angry afterward. I mean, the writers even managed to drag the strong, independent, intelligent lawyer-woman down to the pathetic male/sex-crazed level.

    God, I’m angered and disappointed all over again just thinking about it!
    (ok, not really, but seriously…)

    Anyway. That’s all I got. If I could type it out in a whimsical pink script with martini flourish, I would…

    LY /PauvrePlume´s last blog post..April is National Poetry Month! (no fooling, thankfully)

  21. Apr 8, 2009

    There are many, many reasons I don’t care for Oprah, but this show sounds like it would have pushed me over the fence. I can see needing to pee in a kid’s diaper (provided a kid wasn’t in it at the time) if you’re so lazy in your parenting that your kids have clogged all the toilets with play-dough or barbies or whatever… Um, no.

    Loved, loved, LOVED your post.

    p.s. I have both you and Dooce in my Google Reader. Your posts have all been read. Hers are in the “when I get around to it” folder.

  22. Jennifer H.
    Apr 9, 2009

    Hi there. Stumbled upon your blog for the first time yesterday after Googling “Dooce on Oprah.” So glad I did! You are an eloquent, funny, brilliant writer with laser-sharp insights.

    Thank you for this post. After viewing much of the aftermath of the show online (I have seen three episodes of Oprah in my lifetime), my takeaway was nearly identical to yours. Who are these people? My “baby” just turned 16 and is one of the most delightful human beings I know. It has been such a privilege to be his mother, even though (gasp) there are aspects of mothering babies/toddlers/grade-schoolers/teens that are hard. And come to think of it, it’s pretty great to look back on it and realize, “wow, I can do hard things. cool.”

    Wish the Oprah peeps had included you on the roster. Would have added some balance w/o sacrificing wit.

  23. Apr 9, 2009

    Thank you SO much! I am a mother of 5 and I was horrified by that show. My daughter actually came in at one point, saw Heather say something about “What the HELL happened to my life?” and looked at me and said: “Mommy, is that how you felt when I was born?”

    Yep. Here’s the real tragedy of this Sex & the City-ification of motherhood: our children pay the price. All the children watching that show now know that the only way their moms can get through their birthday parties is by getting drunk! You know, our grandmothers would have something to say about these mothers. One word: unfit.

    Thank you for your post. I am deleting Dooce from my bloglines.

    Elizabeth Esther´s last blog post..Week In The Life of Prayer. Day 5: Praying For My Enemies.

  24. Apr 9, 2009

    I can’t believe I totally agree with a sorority girl.

    jdg´s last blog post..

  25. Apr 9, 2009

    First, I have to confess that I loved SATC. My fascination was with the architecture of NYC, the fashion and the fictional lives of Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha. Pure fiction because I don’t know any women who have slept with that many men. Nor do I know any women who can afford designer fashion and still never wear the same outfit twice.

    That being said, there is so much truth to what you wrote and I found myself nodding several times throughout your post.

    I missed the Oprah show, but I went to her website to get the highlights. I’m still not sure what I think, I’m still processing those thoughts.

    However, I do think there’s a catch-22 here.

    When my mother became a mother it was taboo to talk about the difficult parts of motherhood. “A mother should be patient and kind and always have her poker face on. If the day is hard, pretend it isn’t.” I think it was my aunt who said that.

    So now, today, mothers are saying “Umm, yeah, being a mom is not all glitter and rainbows. Sometimes it sucks monkey toes.” The consequence of this is that people think we’re whining, and they think we can handle it and that we’re asking for sympathy.

    We’re damned if we do, and damned if don’t. And this “comment” has turned into a mini post. I may have to write my thoughts in my own blog!

    But yes, so much truth to your words.

    Dana´s last blog post..

  26. Apr 9, 2009

    Wow! What a fantastic post. I didn’t see the O show, don’t care much for her. I think she is super pretentious. I don’t get what all the fuss is about her. Can anyone explain that to me? Anyway, I have been reading all these post’s though ABOUT the show and I’m horrified! Are you kidding me? Mothers got up and said this stuff? Man I have bad days, days I just want to stay in bed and sleep it all away but I can’t. I hear my kids and it’s enough motivation to get up and do it. I’m a mom with a horrid past, an anger problem, a mom who used to fix my problems with drugs and everything else but I wouldn’t dream of doing anything like that now that I have kids. I do whatever it takes to make sure my kids have a great life. Counseling, prayer, exercise, eating healthy I mean, what ever it takes! Do these wemon think about sacrifice? Love? Commitment? LOVE?
    Anyway, sorry this is so long, I just really agree with your passion and agree with everything you said about the whole Sex and the City thing. So true!!!
    Love your site!


  27. Apr 9, 2009

    I love this post. When I began blogging last July, I promised to be honest to myself, and I have been. I struggled with the transition to motherhood too, but looking back I can see that some really f-ed up hormones and crappy communication with my husband were the main causes of that, not motherhood itself. And CERTAINLY never my daughter, and ABSOLUTELY NOT to the point where I’d have to drink to get through the day with her.

    In addition, I promised to never write anything I wouldn’t want my daughter to read. And so I have entries, yes, about how it’s hard – but I always, always reinforce that it’s worth it. That’s SHE is more than worth it, a thousand, million times. It’s my hope that one day she’ll read through it while caring for her first child, and find a voice she can relate to. Someone who is saying, “sure, this is hard, but look what you’ve gained.”

    Is that not “keeping it real” enough? I don’t know, maybe not. But then again, I’m not in it for the money. What bugs me about these programs is women talking about all they’ve “LOST.” Sure, I’ve felt like I’ve lost myself sometimes too… but I felt like that on occasion before I had my daughter, you know? Bearing children doesn’t end all soul-searching.

    Anyway, GREAT post. Sorry to ramble in your comments… struck a chord with me I guess.

    bessie.viola´s last blog post..unprepared, part infinity

  28. Apr 9, 2009

    Great post. You articulate very well. And I completely agree. I just keep wondering: whey are bad moms being heralded for being bad moms? The martyrdom of motherhood is so overdone. If we weren’t such a selfish generation I think motherhood wouldn’t seem like such a chore – something that is SO HARD. If we viewed motherhood as just another part of life that we do, we’d roll with the punches, be happier, etc. I am not suggesting that we become the iconic 50’s moms who vacuum with a smile in a pretty house dress, but certainly these women could take some lessons from women who find value in who they are and what they do – and just get it done.

    Amber Warren´s last blog post..Things That Are Better From Scratch

  29. Apr 9, 2009

    Laydeh, I don’t know you, but I want to kiss you on the fucking mouth.

    I’ve been around a minute, and when blogs started ‘specializing’ and giving themselves factional designations like ‘warblogger’ and ‘mommyblogger’ I groaned inwardly. I knew it wouldn’t be long before most all of us would be assumed to be jackasses by association via this medium.

    I love your analogy here to Sex and the City (I’m not a fan, either…I never got the appeal of a bunch of vapid women who were self- and male-obsessed); it’s pretty spot-on. Motherhood is not always easy, but it is indeed a grand adventure and one of the greatest romances of my life. Women who do not view it as such and then continue to have children are irresponsible at best….I keep thinking to myself, “They find infancy and toddlerhood hard? REALLY? They will lose their minds when these kids are in their teens.” Of course, this is based on my snobby assessment of the boundaries/support/love they have laid as groundwork during their children’s formative years: There are going to be quite a few ‘mommybloggers’ with really asshole teenagers.

    It’s generational, really; I look around at the way most of my peers parent their children and am pretty appalled. They are not fostering independence (an acceptable sort, anyway) or compassion or accountability –among other virtues– in their children, and mostly seem to be on aut0pilot, overall, from a parental standpoint. It’s just a real shame that, in addition to being selfish and short-sighted as parents, those of our generation have means to broadcast those characteristics and the nerve to spin them as enlightened and cool.

    It galls me to think that because I happen to be both a mother and a blogger someone might chance to lump me into the same category as a woman who would piss into a diaper (AND ADMIT TO IT ON NATIONAL TEEVEE, FOR CHRISSAKES) so as to not have to cause herself the undue inconvenience of, oh, CARING FOR HER CHILDREN SHOULD THEY WAKE.

  30. Mel
    Apr 9, 2009

    Maybe you all were blessed with a) the ability to cope and b) a baby who isn’t quite so obstinate and difficult to deal with.

    Dooce has been open and up-front about her depression, which is in fact, a disease that can render her unable to cope with anything, let alone a fussy baby who won’t respond to ANYTHING her mother can think of to do with her. Let her have her valium and alcohol. Her kid’s still alive, and hasn’t had any major accidents. Life is hard, and for some people, motherhood is MUCH HARDER than mining. Don’t crucify her for having the balls to speak openly about her experiences. In her experience, motherhood was SO HARD she almost killed herself.

    If you haven’t been there, you have no right to judge her.

  31. lloyddabbler
    Apr 9, 2009

    While I agree that the Oprah episode was sensationalist, the acknowledgment of that means that I must also see the comment that it was “irresponsible” with the same grainy salt. Oprah spent 44 minutes highlighting extreme circumstances in order to make the true, every-day imperfection of motherhood feel less catastrophic, to make it even funny on occasion and–let’s not forget–to sell an ABC show called In the Motherhood. Realistically, if we who mother only plants and domesticated animals are scared off of having children by those 44 minutes, we are not meant to have them anyway. That said, you’re a an outstanding writer with a fascinating perspective. Good stuff!

  32. Apr 9, 2009

    Mel, I could not disagree with you more, esp: “motherhood was SO HARD she almost killed herself.”

    Don’t blame motherhood. Dooce was (is?) mentally ill. Motherhood was a trigger. But motherhood wasn’t the reason she voluntarily hospitalized herself. And yes, I realize she had postpartum depression. But that is a hormonal condition. It wasn’t changing diapers and feedings and listening to Barney that made her crazy.

    But that’s not really the issue here. What abdpbt and others are objecting to is the attitude that motherhood is pure drudgery that can only be managed with substance abuse. Parenting can be hard; there’s lots of sacrifice involved. But it’s a little distasteful to complain about your children and telling outrageous tales at your child’s expense.

    And this statement says it all: “Dooce has been open and up-front about her depression, which is in fact, a disease that can render her unable to cope with anything, let alone a fussy baby who won’t respond to ANYTHING her mother can think of to do with her.” I’m not Heather Armstrong’s doctor nor husband nor parents nor any expert whatsoever, and I’m not making a judgment about her fitness for parenthood. But based on what you said, anyone who fits that description has NO BUSINESS being a parent.

  33. Apr 9, 2009

    Wow there are so many great comments here, I don’t know how to respond to all of them. I think Eliz just responded much better than I could to the issue of Dooce’s postpartum depression. I have said before that I am a fan of Dooce, and my goal is not to run her down or critique her website. I have no means of knowing how much of what she writes or says is true–it’s a business and it’s working for her, I have no idea if she’s a good mother or not. I simply object to using these extremes to sell things like books, websites, TV shows–while it’s great to have escapism, I do believe that people take shows like this at face value. I really do. I invite you to watch the audience’s reaction on the show if you think they are smarter than that. Oprah is at a kind of god like level with some of these women, so yes, if she says its OK to pee in your kids’ diapers, or use a jacuzzi so you don’t have to go to the trouble of a bath, well guess what? Guess what’s going to happen more and more?

    Frankly, re postpartum and alcohol–I feel uniquely qualified to speak on these topics as I am a sufferer of chronic major depression and a recovering alcoholic AND my son had colic. And yeah, for the first three months it was a bitch at times, but these discussions STILL do not ring true to me. I am very fortunate to have help with my son, and I do this both so I can write but also because I know I am a better mother when I have time off. I went through the guilt of wanting to be the kind of mom who can be with their kid 24/7 and never get impatient–but I know myself and I know what’s best for my son. I think many moms are like me. I don’t think what was portrayed on Oprah is normal or advisable or ANYTHING like what we want to strive for in parenthood.

    I want more people to say things like, “Yeah, it was hard for me, so this is what I did,” or “Full time motherhood doesn’t work for me, so this is how I figured out I could handle it,” that would be useful. Telling moms you don’t brush your kids’ hair is not useful or helpful. It just makes me sad for these kids.

  34. Apr 9, 2009

    I did not see the episode. But I have read enough blogs to get a sick feeling in my stomach when i read about moms who are too busy to bathe their kids, etc. Where are the friggin dads?????

  35. Apr 10, 2009

    Wow. This was very well said. I’m glad to see you acknowledge the need (and right) for mom’s to say “man, this is hard sometimes).

    Balance and perspective are important though if anything is actually going to “help” anyone.

    Well done.

    Miss Britt´s last blog post..Liar, Liar, Twitter on Fire

  36. Becca
    Apr 10, 2009

    I normally read your blog every day at work (yeah I said it outloud), but they blocked you all of a sudden as a blog so now I can’t. I came here specifically to see what you would have to say about the show, and I totally agree with you.

    I had my first child at 21 and went through major ppd, and an ass of a husband who is an alcoholic, and I still made it. I feel like this is the same as the radfem’s who spend their lives telling one and all that you can’t be a feminist unless you hate all men. We should be able to be moms and occasionally say, yup it sucks. But, like you said, whoever ‘they’ are lied when they said we can do everything. We can’t so sometimes you have to plan for your kids and sometimes you can’t be the one who is there for everything. That is one of the very best things about my partner is that she and I can split between work and home and the kids still get the best of us most of the time. And no, I am not saying you have to be a lesbian to make it work.

    I think that was the most insulting thing Oprah said was that you need a ‘wife’ in order to raise your kids properly. Any man worth their salt is right there along side his wife helping to make sure that his kids grow up healthy and happy. We tell our daughters all the time that it is ok to like men and that a true man who respects and loves you will be your helpmate. We do not all need a ‘wife’, we do all need a complete partner in everything we do.

    I will get off my soapbox now.

  37. Apr 10, 2009

    @Becca, oh no! You’re blocked at work? That sucks. Although perhaps that is good news for the blog . . . if IT departments know about it, that is. Guess you’ll have to subscribe through an RSS feeder now so that you can still screw the pooch!

  38. I’m developing a huge girl crush. 😉

  39. Apr 12, 2009

    I usually don’t brush my daughter’s hair and that is not neglect. Two times a week, I hold her down with conditioner and a pick as she screams bloody murder and that probably does border on abuse. I also find daily showering overly indulgent, though there is usually a wide berth around me at the before school coffee cart fundraiser.

    After five generations of my family living all in one place, I moved states away with my husband. I had two babies and a job that was so low wage I couldn’t afford daycare. I was always on. My daughter had night terrors and I didn’t know what they were. The unending shrieking! I couldn’t shake her, so I’d shake myself. Mothering is fucking hard. That still doesn’t justify altering your state when you are the only person in charge. Would you drink at work?

    I’m down with most of your post, but I think it’s harder for some. I can say with full confidence that I’m the best damn mother my kids could have. I am always a mother to my kids and their peers – even that time I peed in a diaper. (That never happened. Who does that other than insane NASA scientists? Hasn’t she heard of the Bear Club?)

    rebecca´s last blog post..All Well and Good

  40. Apr 13, 2009


    Congratulations! This post was nominated–and selected!–as the best from the community. You have been selected as the BlogHer of the Week! Come see our write up: http://www.abdpbt.com/2009/04/08/on-the-sex-and-the-city-ification-of-motherhood/.

    Thanks for your great work!


    for Lisa, Jory, and Elisa,
    BlogHer Co-Founders

    Jory Des Jardins´s last blog post..BlogHer of the Week: Anna from abdpbt

  41. Apr 13, 2009

    Oh my, wrong link!!!!

    There you go!!!

    -Jory Des Jardins

    Jory Des Jardins´s last blog post..BlogHer of the Week: Anna from abdpbt

  42. Apr 13, 2009

    Dear Oprah,

    I am a Mom and a Blogger and I DON’T need help.

    The reasons the mom-bloggers on your show got into Motherhood and on television have nothing to do with who I am or why I write or what I write. They are not having the same experience as I am and they do not represent me.

    Sincerely, A Mom


    I don’t have jealousy issues with the Mom bloggers on Oprah. Seriously. None. I have a real hard time with television shows or magazine articles that are trying to nail down “the Mommy Blogger” and fit us all into a nice, neat category. Few things in life fit into neat little boxes.

    JCK at Motherscribe has been hosting an interview series on feminism that, for me, has done a better job than Oprah ever could. Why? Because she is exploring a topic without sensationalizing it, and without making it seem as though feminism or motherhood are monolithic. She has found a way to get at the experience of mothers and wives and single women as they tell their own stories.

    I want you to know that I appreciate your perspective — even just the recognition that your experience (or mine or anyone else’s) does not have to fit the mold of ” Oprah’s wacky tales of motherhood.”

    Just like we’re not all SuperMom, we’re not all Drunken Playdate Barbie.

    Why is the world so uncomfortable with that?

    Thanks for your post. – Julia at Midwest Moms

    Julia at Midwest Moms´s last blog post..Raising an Adventurous Eater

  43. Apr 13, 2009

    Awesome post! I hated this Oprah. I loved sex and the City but I do see the analogy. I also wrote a whole post on this show. I thought it was a whole bunch of needless whining. Don’t want a mini van, don’t buy one. Be glad you have the money that you can.

    jodifur´s last blog post..I’d Like To Introduce You To A New Member of The Family

  44. Apr 15, 2009

    I just found this post today, and I love it (through Blogher).

    I posted about the show – and how moms and the job of being a mother were being “homogenized” by Oprah (and Momversation). It all makes me angry… and a little sick at heart.

    I loved this articulate, well thought out post. I’m hooked 🙂

    Momartfully´s last blog post..Emily Carr’s “Autumn Woods” in Icing and M&Ms

  45. be nice
    Apr 16, 2009

    This Oprah show (well all Oprah shows, and pretty much everything in life) should be taken with some reasonable common sense. We all know that motherhood is wonderfully rewarding, and our kids are awesome. I think the show was just acknowledging some funny, honest anecdotal hardships of motherhood. Oprah really doesn’t have the responsibility to say to viewers “now remember motherhood is wonderful,” or have the “mommybloggers” tell happy stories about how cute their kids are. How boring would that be anyway? I am sure many of us have done something that another mother says she would never do. Who cares? You are clearly intelligent enough to recognize that these mothers love their children as much as you love yours. Even so, you chose to attack them.
    Your post here is equally as sensational and hyperbolic as the show. There really isn’t much to complain about regarding these moms. It really seems harsh, and it also seems to pick a fight when there isn’t one there. Do you and your comment fans really feel that you are better people because you have a balanced view of motherhood – because I would bet that the moms on Oprah probably have a very similar view. It’s too bad that moms try to find anything about another mom that they don’t approve of in order to boost their own self-esteem.
    By the way – my daughter’s hair is pretty darn hard to brush, and she is barely 2 years old and won’t sit still for it for more than 3 seconds. So yes, there have been mornings where I have taken her out looking like an 80’s rocker. She’ll always know I love her.

  46. […] show generally irritates me and I didn’t expect the mom episode to be much different. (Read some other moms who weren’t over the moon about Oprah).  Or the idea that Oprah’s foray into […]

  47. Love your post. I also wrote one about that show, though yours is much more articulate. Unfortunately I’m guilty of having a few glasses of wine in the evening while taking care of my child so I guess I still need to grow up. Looking forward to stopping by more often!

    How to Party with an Infant´s last blog post..The Truth About Motherhood! blah, blah, blah

  48. Apr 16, 2009

    Huge congrats on your being chosen as BlogHer of the week!! This is a truly searing, artful post, and you deserve the honor. I didn’t see the Oprah episode, so I can’t speak to that, but I do hear you on the sensationalism. And love how you tied it into Sex in the City – a show where they lived life to get the man, whilst sipping pink martinis, cooing through pursed lips on how their sexually liberated selves were feminists. What a great discussion your post will bring.

    I’ve been doing a series of interviews on my blog, Motherscribe, with women bloggers on feminism, motherhood and identity. It’s been a fascinating journey, and an honor to have women be so honest and open about their lives. Motherhood is an amazing experience, full of highs and lows, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    JCK´s last blog post..The feel of bark under splayed, barefoot toes

  49. JMH
    Apr 17, 2009

    Loved this post. I read Dooce for awhile, and then her “funny” references about motherhood started to bug me, so I don’t waste my time on her anymore. My oldest child is 8, so she was a newborn before all of the “mommy” blogs were big. It fascinates me to see how my sister (with a 2 yr.old) has become dependent on the Internet to parent. She relies on mommy blogs for everything. I often wonder what the kids of these bloggers will think when they read these posts as an adult. I guess we will find out…..

  50. Apr 17, 2009

    Got here via your Blogher award, so first: congrats! Second, I’ll be back to read more, I enjoy your perspective!

    Suzanne´s last blog post..15 April

  51. Apr 18, 2009

    I am sure it will be ages before that Oprah show makes it over here…. Great post & I agree with you 100%…

    American in Norway´s last blog post..You say Lavvo..I say Tee Pee… (tipi)

  52. Apr 18, 2009

    There ain’t nothing new under the sun. After Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique, thousands of moms rebelled against their “boring” life as a “housewife.” I know I did, even though I was only 10. I resolved to have it all, work and kids and a handsome husband who had a job, but I wasn’t looking for a rich guy. I wanted a guy who wouldn’t mind me working.

    In the 60s and 70s women left their families in droves, or divorced their husbands to “find themselves” and found themselves all alone while their husbands enjoyed the attention of hundreds of adorable young women.

    So I married for love and I had the big career and dh retired and now I have a disabling disease (fibromyalgia) and I’m frantically trying to make it till retirement and would give anything to be a housewife with a husband bringing in a substantial income.

    Tell God your plans; make him laugh.

    Lorrie´s last blog post..What’s A Homosexual?

  53. Cherri
    Apr 18, 2009

    I watched that episode of Oprah and it reminded me of those small embarrassing stories people use to write in about in Seventeen magazine. Remember those? Someone was always losing a tampon in the most random places. In my mind it was just another extreme show on a topic in which Oprah knows nothing about. I do feel sorry for a lot of those ladies, yeah motherhood is full of “oh my gosh I can’t believe I just did that moments”, but it is more full of joyful moments. I pray those ladies are rejoicing in the joyful moments and not dwelling on the challenging ones.

  54. Apr 18, 2009

    Bless you, bless you, bless you, my sister.
    Camille Paglia? Asked my husband for Sex, Art and American Culture as a birthday present when we were dating. Sex and the City? Repulsed/-es me….for all the reasons you conveyed so articulately above. I get no kick from Hermes and whorishness—or fruity drink poseurs masking themselves as martinis. Oprah? Don’t watch. Never do. No real issue with her, but rarely interested in the content. As if all that weren’t enough, to make me feel even better, you ‘fessed up to a sorority past. Fantastic post. Will be back for more.

    Cheryl´s last blog post..Friday’s Happenings—In Haiku

  55. Apr 18, 2009

    Mel, you say don’t say anything about Dooce if you haven’t been there, well what if I have? I’ve been diagnosed with severe Clinical Depression and Social Anxiety Disorder. I know what it’s like to suffer from these illnesses, and to try and mother through them. On top of that, I was thrust into motherhood when I was almost 20 and my boyfriend’s ex-wife suddenly showed up and dropped off the kids — two and three years old at the time. That’s how I became a mom, unceremoniously and without a clue. But I adjusted. 8 years later, I’ve learned a lot, and maybe in a decade or so I’ll know enough to be good at this!!

    I don’t know Dooce, but if she suffered from PPD then she’s lucky because PPD goes away. When my kids were little my only prayer was that I’d be better before they were old enough to remember. Now my oldest is eleven, and I have to have heart-to-hearts with her about how sometimes mommy’s behavior is not appropriate. Now my prayer is that my craziness won’t make her crazy when she’s an adult.

    And let me tell you, this whole pervasive notion that motherhood makes you nuts has had a serious negative impact on my ability to get help with my illnesses. Whenever a shrink finds out how many kids I have (seven now), they immediately assume that my kids are the source of my trouble. My last shrink refused to talk about anything but whether I was getting enough “me time.” Yeah, lack of “me time” sure explains why I was medicated for anxiety when I was 13, right??

    You may not think anything of saying “motherhood was SO HARD she almost killed herself” but for me, as someone who is sick and tired of having the most beautiful and wonderful part of my life (motherhood) constantly attacked as the source of my illness, that is incredibly hurtful. As someone who fields pitying looks and “sympathetic” comments from every witty jackass who somehow thinks having a lot of kids must make my life a living hell, let me tell you that YOU are the one who doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

    And now I know that someone is going to come along and say, “If you are ill and it’s all so hard for you, then maybe you shouldn’t have seven kids.” Let me say to that person, YOU DON’T GET IT. I will be ill whether I have kids or not. My life will be a little harder than yours whether I have 1 kid or 20. If Dooce was really suffering from PPD (I say if because I don’t know her, so my info is all third-hand), then she didn’t almost kill herself because of motherhood. She almost killed herself because she was ILL.

    My kids make life worth living. And despite my illnesses I do not pee in diapers because I can’t handle the kids waking up on a long drive, I make sure my three daughters get their hair brushed every day, my children bathe almost every night, and I even teach the AWANA Cubbies class for my 4 year old daughter. And all without alcohol or Valium. I don’t just love my children, I ENJOY spending time with them. I have HAPPILY devoted every moment of my day to them, and even if I could afford a nanny I wouldn’t want one. And frankly, when all other moms can do is complain about how hard it all is, I just want to smack them. They need to shut up and appreciate.

    Michelle Potter´s last blog post..Friday’s Child: Aisling Eats A Biscuit

  56. Delurker
    Apr 18, 2009

    Thank you! This makes me much less scared about having kids someday. I knew it couldn’t be that bad, but they had me going.

    I too hate it when people don’t make time to shower. It’s not that hard…

    By the way, you are a terrific writer.

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