Tag Archives: motherhood

Moms on the Tube

“I don’t really watch TV.”

THIS BAFFLES ME. I mean, obviously, to each his or her own, but I just love television so much that when I hear this declaration (less and less frequently, according to my unscientific and entirely anecdotal experience) I’m as shocked as I’d be if someone said, “I don’t really eat cheese.”

Wait, what? Some people don’t eat cheese?

I kid. But in all seriousness, deciding to give up cheese or TV would be a fucking heartbreaker of a Sophie’s Choice in my world. But in the end, the cheese would have to go, because the satisfaction of a hunk of brie is temporary,  but the joy of a ten-year relationship with my shows (or 8-episode relationship for these new miniseries deals) gives me stuff to chew over for weeks and months to come.

This week for Role/Reboot, in honor of Mother’s Day, I wrote about the range and variety of TV moms. June Cleaver is out, Cersei Lannister is in. Is that a good thing? Read on!

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Related Post: Moms and body image, from Mika Brzezinski to Jennifer Weiner

Related Post: True Detective and the male gaze.

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Filed under Family, Hollywood, Republished!

Bodies, Moms, Bodies of Moms, Moms on Bodies

This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about this:

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I keep hearing the same chorus from moms writing about body image and aging, and it goes something like this: Man, I have been micromanaging my body for thirty years and I haven’t been able to stop. I really hope my daughters figure out a different way. 

What kills me about it is that, obviously, we the daughters look to you the mothers as our first source of inspiration on how one should be with one’s body. Even if we eventually outgrow our reliance on that one source, it is the first, the most primal, the most difficult to shake.

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Related Post: The problem with “strong is the new skinny”

Related Post: How Title IX changed my life. 

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S(Tuesday) Scraps 109


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1. HOOPS: Bill Simmons, who I generally love, gets rightfully reamed by college basketball player Wayne Washington when Simmons refers to his dreads as “stinky.”

2. AUTHORS: Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep, American Wife) gets interviewed by The Rumpus about her new book, Sisterland.

3. NEW MEXICO: The New Yorker‘s Rachel Syme, writes eloquently about the hometown she shares with Walter White.

4. CELEB: I really dig this advice from Olivie Wilde in Glamour, or rather, this advice from her ghostwriter. Regardless, I’m into it.

5. MOMS: My favorite, Roxane Gay, interviews her mother for The Hairpin about how she feels about her mothering decisions, 30 years later. Should we all be so lucky as to have these conversations.

6. SPORTS: What does it say about you as a parent when you push your daughter down the path of soccer, dance, or chess? Apparently a lot?

Related Post: Sunday 108: George Saunders, OITNB, Ill-Doctrine, etc.

Related Post: Sunday 107: Amanda Palmer = awesome, millennials worry, email mapping!

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Sheryl, Week 2

Hilarious stock photography of "work life balance"

Hilarious stock photography of “work life balance”

My trip through Lean In continues this week with chapters 5 through 8. While I found the first third of the book to be a helpful account of some of the attitudinal prejudices facing women in the workforce (and some reasonable strategies for coping with them), the middle third is not doing it for me. It may be because large swaths of it are about parenting (and I am not a parent), but I also find the advice to be less follow-able. Finding a good husband is not as straight-forward as collecting “kudos” emails from co-workers to share at your performance review, you know?

Sheryl uses these four chapters to discuss the “work life balance” question (the old WLB? Can we call it that?), and spends, in my opinion, an awful lot of time discussing guilt in its various forms and not quite enough time on institutionally sexist policies that reinforce that guilt. For example, I’d love to see a real discussion about how childcare arrangements can be influenced by gendered policies. If you’ve got 3 months paid maternity leave, and your husband has two weeks of all-purpose family leave, well, who do you think is going to take a step back from work for a while? Rather than allowing each family to find the right balance for themselves, these policies put strong economic incentives behind traditional gender roles.

Anyway, there was definitely still some good stuff in there, and I continue to think that if nothing else, Lean In is asking the right questions and starting the right conversations. From Chapters 5 through 8:

  • Managing a Business vs. Managing a Career – Sandberg observes that a lot of the questions she gets from young women revolve around career decision-making, rather than business-decision making. While these questions are valid, they are not impressive, and the clear-thinking, insightful, carefully plannd business questions she gets from young men are the ones that really show off your smarts. This is particularly relevant, she says, when looking for a mentor. Rather than ask for help managing your career trajectory, ask a mentor to help you solve the toughest questions you face in your current role so you can be the best employee ever.
  • No Such Thing as Objective Truth – There is my point of view, and there is your point of view, but there is rarely an absolute truth to a situation. Beginning from “here’s my take, now tell me yours” is a quicker, more gracious way to figure out where the sticking points are then coming out of the gate swinging about the Way Things Are. So,… approach work convos like marital counseling? Lots of “I” statements.
  • The Problem with “Telephone” – The higher up you get, the more your employees will take your words as gospel, and they more they will get repeated. From co-worker to co-worker, simple ideas can get twisted into messy ones, and nuanced ones get oversimplified. Don’t trust the message to get through eight rounds of telephone intact, so make sure that everyone who needs to get it is in on the first round.
  • The Whole Self – The arrival of smart phones etc has in many ways made the division of “professional time” and “personal time” obsolete. Consequently, the idea of having a professional self and a personal self that are separate personas is increasingly hard to maintain. Sheryl’s POV (which I share) is that we are happier and more productive when we bring our “whole selves” to work. That can be as simple as sharing basic truths about ourselves (i.e. a gay employee confidently hanging framed family photos in the office) to allowing ourselves to be more emotional at work. That we are parents, windsurfers, marathoners, ukelele-players, volunteers, pet-owners, highly trained chefs, fluent in Spanish, or bloggers on the side (ahem), doesn’t need to be a secret.
  • “Career-Loving Parent” – The “working mom” title can be a big cross to bear, fraught as it is with connotations about being neither fully-committed to your parenting, nor fully-committed to your career. Sandberg cites a friend who prefers “Career-Loving Parent,” as a better, more accurate, more positive spin on the old standby. It’s also gender-neutral, which can allow women to confidently own the “career-loving” part, and men to confidently own the “parent” part.
  • “The Designated Parent” – Apparently, the Census Bureau still refers to the mother as the “designated parent” even in two-parent households. I find that pretty insulting, and I know a bunch of dads who probably feel the same way. More broadly, this kind of nomenclature carries with it all sorts of assumptions about caretaking and division of labor. When mothers take care of their kids, it’s “parenting.” When fathers take care of their kids, it’s “babysitting.” That’s clearly some serious b.s. and it’s easy to see how it puts extra expectations on women and demeans men. Not good for anyone.
  • Maternal Gatekeeping – This is a cool one, since I’ve never heard this term before. It refers to moms who constantly instruct their husbands on how to parent or criticize their techniques. It results in the “Oh here, just let me do it,” mentality that eventually contributes to severely lopsided divisions of labor. In the short term, it seems like the quicker solution, but in the longterm, it creates patterns about who does what that may not be what you want.
  • Averaging 50/50 – Even if your goal is to ultimately land at an evenly split division of household labor and child care, you can’t expect it to be perfectly 50/50 at every moment of every day. From week to week, month to month, quarter to quarter, the pendulum can swing between partners on each front, but it has to come out feeling fair or someone’s going to be pretty unhappy.

So yeah. The whole idea of men leaning in to their families while women lean in at work so everyone is happy seems really great. I just don’t have a husband at the moment, so the advice, while probably good, doesn’t feel especially relevant. Let’s talk in 2025, cool?

Related Post: The “Idiot Dad” trope

Related Post: On Anne-Marie Slaughter and “having it all”

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Happy Anniversary, Roe

roeToday is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Tomorrow, I’ll have something more concrete about what Roe means to me, but today there’s lots of great content roaming around the internet that I wanted to give you in the meantime.

First, I want to call out a friend’s blog, Dr. Coffee’s Brain Banter. Dr. Coffee is a med student in Florida, and as part of his program he participated in abortion training through a reproductive health externship. He writes extremely eloquently about about the medicine, but also about his patients and the process. Part one is mostly science, part two is mostly ethics. Just a sample:

Where these women are is often in a very bad place, and though I was only one cog in the machine, I began to take ownership of their plight.  If they didn’t want to feel this way, and knew that ending this pregnancy was their path back to feeling healthy and free, I even felt some aggression toward that growing mass of cells.  Let’s get that shit out, now, and without apology.

I mention this because despite the normal dark-cloud tone that hangs above most dirty Ab-word discussions, probably a third of the patients I’ve seen will actually smile… and smile a good amount!  (Indeed another friend recently mentioned that her experience wasn’t much to write home about.  Quick and easy.)  They smiled as the team introduced itself, smiled as they laid back and vocalized their nervousness with a laugh, and were relaxed and calm in the recovery room.

When he first shared this writing, it reminded me an non-fiction essay called “What Comes Out” by Dawnelle Wilkie, which is also worth a read.

Have you read Caitlin Moran’s How to Be A Woman? She also has an excellent chapter on abortion that focuses on one of the most forgotten/ignored statistics: In 2008 60% of women who have abortions are already mothers. That number has actually risen to 72% in the last four years. You mean people have a harder time taking care of their families during a recession? Crazy talk! The reason I want to drive home this point about mothers is because it undermines that weird caricature that Republicans* like to point to, the “sex-crazed”, can’t-keep-her-legs-shut, slutty, irresponsible, 23-year-old. Sure, those 23-year-olds exist and I completely support their right to choose, but that’s not actually the average user of abortion services.

Abortion isn’t really about sex, it’s about economics, and childcare, and education, and healthcare. That’s not as salacious as some conservatives would like to make the story, but it is the truth.

*A commenter left an excellent point on this phrasing. There are plenty of pro-choice Republicans (and there are pro-life Democrats). This should have read, “that weird caricature that pro-lifers like to….” Thanks commenter, good call. 

Related Post: Huffington Post and the changing iconography of the abortion debate

Related Post: Things that are not the opposite of misogyny.

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Sunday Scraps 86

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1. WRITING: Man, If only our shared first name meant I shared talent with Emily Rapp (Ditto Emily Nussbaum, Emily McCombs). In this essay for The Rumpus, Rapp writes about finding intimacy while her son continues to die. If that sounds sad, it is, but it’s also beautiful.

2. PARENTING: Emily McCombs, editor of XOJane, writes about her creative path towards motherhood and it’s pretty inspiring.

3. INSTAGRAM: Complete with lyrics (for your singalong desires), College Humor nails our obsession with Instagram with this parody of Nickelback’s “Photograph.”

4. SUFFRAGE: Weird and strange and weird again. Here’s a children’s book from 1910 against women’s suffrage.

5. TED: Anita Sarkeesian, from Feminist Frequency, speaks at TEDx Women on online harassment.

6. ROLES: Really interesting video imagining what club life (ha) would be like if the stereotypical roles of men and women were reversed. Who objectifies and gets objectified?

Related Post: Sunday 85: Painless? The path to the NFL, Ann Patchett’s new book store.

Related Post: Sunday 84: Astronaut letters, bedrooms around the world, women who model as men

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Sunday Scraps 84

1. GENDER: Watch this Time interview with Casey Legler, a woman who works as a male model, and try not to drool.

2. BOOKS: A new anthology, My Ideal Bookshelf, creates colorful portraits of authors’ and celebrities’ book collections, includes David Sedaris and James Franco.

3. SUFFRAGE: Great collection from Sociological Images of vintage anti-suffrage ads.

4. WRITING: Chicago author Megan Stielstra on the stresses of new motherhood and the surprising support from a stranger.

5. ASTRONAUTS: Super sweet letters from astronaut Jerry Linenger to his 1-year-old son while he spent three months at a space station.

6. CHILDHOOD: What does a child’s bedroom look like? Depends on where they live, and damn, the range is pretty intense. Mother Jones has some examples. 

Related Post: Sunday 83: Stewart, language in the NYT, Mormons on the campaign trail

Related Post: Sunday 82: Kevin Durant, Maddow nails it, NYMag cover photos

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