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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Parenting: You're Doing it Wrong, Part II

Saturday, July 17, 2010 By

This is part two of a four-part series. Read the previous post here.

But so many women are so impassioned about their own agendas that they fail to realize that other women are equally impassioned about their agendas for equally relevant reasons. And sometimes, no matter how impassioned a woman is about something (like, a woman who had a $200 breast pump sitting unused in her closet), things just don’t work out the way we hoped. The Tyranny of Motherhood at work. Kick ‘em when they’re down. Maybe they’ll conform out of sheer exhaustion.
Tyranny is a great word for it, actually – from the Latin tyrannus, meaning “illegitimate ruler," the current usage is defined as "arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.” While the single bitter individual who accosted me at the Ruby Tuesday’s salad bar and the politico who butted into my breasts at California Dreaming might not have the kind of power or authority with which we usually associate tyranny, they do have access to and a certain amount of control over an equally powerful force: the perception of a woman as a good or bad mother.

Now, I like to think of myself as a “bad mutha,” in the way that I also like to think of myself as “superfly.” (Yeah, I just brought that back… for a minute) But I have seen the way that women treat other women whom they perceive as incapable child-rearers, or even just unfashionable child-rearers. I’ve seen them scoff at back-to-school shopping at Wal-Mart. I’ve watched them roll their eyes at less trendy shopping centers – by the way, if you shop in Augusta on Robert C. Daniel Parkway, you’re less cool than those who shop in Mullins Crossing, even though the anchor stores are almost identical (Target, Panera Bread Company, Babies R Us/Buy Buy Baby, Moe’s/Barberitos).
I’ve seen married women shun single moms and their children. Stay-at-home dads are treated as pariahs by play group organizers. I’ve had conversations that turned tense when I mentioned my daughter’s time-outs. There is a pro-spanking brigade that cannot conceive of other disciplinary methods – and while I don’t question their parenting choice (I got plenty of spankings growing up, and I’m fine… well, mostly, but it's nothing to do with the spanking), they feel free to question mine. I’ve read the articles about women shunning a child in their play group once discovering that child remains unvaccinated for chicken pox.

Vaccinations are another hot topic. When I worked at a parenting magazine, there were readers who would argue with our medical columnists about every vaccination out there. Despite the fact that these readers had no medical training, and despite the fact the columnist regularly encouraged parents to make their own choices, no matter what the topic he wrote about. (Side note: I will get comments from a certain subset of the parenting population about this; I will post them in the comments section). But it didn’t have to be vaccinations. It could be seasonal allergies. It could be flu prevention. It could be summer safety tips. Some segment of the population lives at the corner of Snake Oil Street and Road to Wellville, and felt the need to chime in against the greater conspiracies allegedly perpetuated by the medical establishment.
Here’s a hint, people: If you can’t read a research study well enough to analyze the methodologies utilized, then you can’t judge whether or not the study is valid. Also, I don’t want to hear your thoughts on the medical research that is currently accepted by peer-reviewed journals if you don’t know the difference between causality and correlation.

I’ve seen the looks mothers exchange when they hear a child goes to an “unacceptable” school. Locally, I’ve heard – and been on the receiving end of – comments about how a good parent, appropriately concerned about her child’s education, would never consider living in Richmond County, unless her child attends private school. I’ve actually heard women sneer at a perfectly acceptable, high-scoring, AYP-making elementary school as being a “black” school; the Grammy-award-winning fine arts magnet school as a “gay” and “anti-Christian” school; the health sciences high school, where it is possible for a student to graduate high school already certified as an LPN, as a “poor” school.
It’s not enough, gathering from these comments, for a mother to be moral, ethical, professionally respected (or married to a man who is professionally respected), educated, well-mannered, well-dressed and a good friend. It is not enough that a child be well-behaved, of good morals, to hit the normal milestones in childhood, to be a good friend and playmate, and to treat his or her elders with respect. Mothers and children must also be white, heterosexual, evangelical Christians with the appropriate amount of money in the bank.

Paging Dr. Spock! Or Dr. Drew. Heck, I’d take Dr. Laura. I’d take Dr. Seuss! Someone needs help, and it’s not the black, gay, lesbian, poor Jewish families in town – although, at times, they probably would like some help… packing to leave.

Read Part III tomorrow...