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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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Sunday
Jan282007

The lie.

Dear Wonderland readers: there's a new post up.

Tonight, after dinner with my parents, we all settled down to watch the tape of Melissa stomping on Meredith Viera's head. And by that I mean "Melissa showing remarkable taste and restraint in not stomping on Meredith Viera's head." (As Henry likes to say when he utters something nonsensical, that’s what it means in my world.)

I was all set to give you the full commentary from the Bradleys, because they're known for their amusing commentary, but mostly there was puzzled silence, along with some sighing and head-shaking. (Also, whenever Meredith said Janet Taylor's name, my mom would say, "Wait, did I hear that right? Genitalia? Is Genitalia really her name?" and “Well, her name is Genitalia—there’s her problem.")

And right now I feel mostly the same way about the show: puzzled and weary (if eager to mock Janet Taylor). On Friday morning, as I sat in the green room, watching Melissa more than hold her own against the bullshit, I was completely unsurprised at how events were transpiring. My expectations had already been rock-bottom. I knew the piece would be slanted against Melissa and her booze-loving ilk from the start. But at least she sounded good. And she looked good. And that, I thought, was enough.

But all weekend, I felt vaguely sick about it: both about the segment, and my own apathy. You know, it sucks that we're trained to expect so little. An issue is raised, and instead of meaningful debate, we get a condescending, judgmental puff piece designed only to incite public disapproval. It's meaningless and shallow and dispiriting. And not at all surprising.

It may not seem like a big deal, a short segment on whether moms should or shouldn't have a drink when they're with their kids. But behind it, behind the supposed concern about this new trend (quoth my mother: "Give me a break") is one message. It's the same one we get day after day. And it's simply this: we are not capable. Women are not capable. We need to be watched. We need to be told what to do. We must be monitored, judged, and corrected.

This message is so pervasive, we don't even hear it anymore. We just internalize it, and fret, and compare ourselves to everyone else, and point fingers at other mothers who we think are worse than we are. And then the media turns around and asks, why are mothers so neurotic?

It sucks, and I don't know what the solution is. It's difficult when you're lost in a funhouse to find the exit. Maybe we just point out the lie whenever and wherever we see it. It's not much, but it's a start. And maybe after that first step, maybe we'll know which way to go.

Reader Comments (69)

I must have missed the piece railing against dads who bring their kids to ball games and have a hot dog and beer...

You're right, Alice - what is UP with the monitoring of women in society?

Hell, if the men would pitch in taking care of the kids more often, maybe the moms wouldn't "need" a drink!

Obviously, an excessive intake of alcohol is not good for anyone, especially someone who is responsible for taking care of a child. Why people have to take it to such extremes is beyond me.

Of course, I chose not to have kids, so I guess I can enjoy my nightly freebasing without any guilty feelings. *snort*



- M
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMarcheline
Mmm. I feel very "the emperor has no clothes". I don't like the idea of playdates with alcoholic beverages. I watched the piece and I didn't understand Viera to be saying "what's the difference between babysitters and mothers" (as Melissa is saying) but "what's the difference between your babysitter drinking while watching the kids (which you said isn't OK) and you drinking while watching the kids".

The message from the cocktail playgroup set seems to be "being a mother is hard and I feel better when I have a drink". That seems to be what Taylor was responding to. It wasn't "sometimes when my girlfriends and I get together with the kids, we mix up a pitcher of mojitos." It was "I feel like selling my kid on Ebay so I get together with friends every week to throw back a cocktail and commiserate." Mmm.

Does this make me a sanctimommy?

Are we supposed to just support all of each other's choices because we're women and mothers? Life involves making a lot of choices for ourselves and our families, and we base those choices on our values, priorities, and beliefs. For me, someone who's depressed and anxious using drinking as a way to get through her week sends up a few red flags. But that's me.
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLori
I love Margaret Atwood. And bacon.

I just saw the video on MSN.com, and was so horrified. I have a little news flash for Ms. Vieira and the rest of America: Moms do A LOT worse than have a glass of wine while their children are around. Some cook crystal meth. in the kitchen, some get falling-down, passed-out drunk, and others are having sex for money while they are supposed to be caring for their children. There's a loooooonnng continuum between stone-cold sobriety 24/7 and crack whore. Let's all get a grip and gain some perspective.
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKookaloomoo
This message is so pervasive, we don't even hear it anymore. We just internalize it, and fret, and compare ourselves to everyone else, and point fingers at others...

It's not just women, or moms. See also: racism, class issues, and the debate about "same-sex marriage"

We're all in this together. Madison Avenue taught us a long time ago if you present a message or an image to people long enough and often enough and dress it up in pretty colors and perhaps give it a theme song, it makes it accepted.

Whether it is right or not is totally irrelevant.

We do it to each other all. the. time.
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterben


And I can mess up my HTML. Ugh. Way to go, Ben.
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterben
I agree with the comments that point out how Europeans would think this whole discussion is ridiculous. One glass of wine impairs your ability to parent? Please.

I admit I am biased, as I live in Napa and wine flows freely at many events, including my neighborhood Friday afternoon playgroup. But we are having a drink to celebrate the end of the week and catch up with our friends while the kids play, not because we can't handle the kids for one more second without some alcohol. Hell, we even bring wine and hors d'oeuvres to the kids' soccer practice! (Best. Soccer. Team. Ever.)

Are we out of control? No. Not even close. One glass of wine does not make any of us bad parents.



January 29, 2007 | Unregistered Commenternapacat
Alice--you bring such a breath of fresh air to this. (Melissa does too, but I'm busy complimenting you!) Europeans wouldn't get their panties in a twist over this. Dads and beer wouldn't generate this kind of hate. Women aren't to be trusted? I'm afraid that is the underlying message, and it's at least partly because we are willing to talk about ourselves; willing to ask for advice; willing to consider whether we could be even better than we are. It is that openness that makes women such wonderful friends, but also makes us vulnerable to those bastards who take every opportunity to raise themselves by lowering others.

Anyway--I am competent, I am a good parent, and I refuse to let the Today show make me think otherwise.
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCate Ross
The point that seems to be missed here, which I think is really important, is that drinking socially and in moderation in front of your kids is modeling good behavior, not destructive behavior. Kids that grow up with parents who can drink or not drink and have it be no big deal are way more equipped to deal with the culture in which they live, in which alcohol does play a huge part in adult socialization, than those who have parents for whom alcohol is verboten. Not only do I think it's fine for moms or dads or whomever to have a glass of wine in front of their kids, I think it's a good idea. One more thing kids could use a little more honesty and a little less hypocrisy about.
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGrace
Hmmm. I always thought I was allowing my kids to play during MY cocktail hour. It never occurred to me that I was having a drink at THEIR playdate!
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterpriscilla
I asked this at Izzymom: how on earth does drinking a glass of clear/ruby liquid set a bad example for the kids? For all the kids know, we're drinking water or cranberry juice!
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJenn
As for me and my genitalia, we're having an extra dark lager tonight.
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMocha
I would love to serve booze at my next playdate, but alas, we meet in the morning. And unless I'm on a lake, at an all day concertpalooza or in Las Vegas, I don't drink before noon. But 12:01? All bets are off.

Personally, I despised the whole babysitter comparison. I think I chipped a tooth from gritting them together. Grrrrr.... There I go again. Damn.
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered Commentercagey
Now that the Today Show has taken a firm stand against wine-drinking mommies, it is only a matter of time before they focus their condemnation upon the practice of playgroup strippers.

See "Taking It All Off In Peoria"www.suburbankamikaze.typepad.com

Cheers!S.K.
January 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterP.M. Dunnigan
Well said.
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDenver Dad
I'm not even a mother yet, but I can spot this infantilization pretty easily. It seems like the mainstream media, local news, etc. are constantly trying to lure in female viewers by telling them how they're parenting incorrectly or how their children are in imminent danger from some household item, etc. It's disgusting, and it's the reason I listen to NPR in the morning. I can't stand being talked down to that way. Just give me the NEWS and some thoughtful debate--is that too much to ask? Because I'm female, I'm not supposed to care about those things? ugh. It's so offensive.
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmy V.
Dear Finslippy,

You are right in so many of your comments.And yet...

You rail that women are our own worst enemies. And then you make fun of a well-spoken professional's name (Janet Taylor = Genitalia).

You rail that this debate was slanted from the start and then complain that Melissa got the short end of the stick. If one knew the rules were unfair, why choose to play? Didn't Melissa get a tiny something by appearing on the Today Show? A bit of fame for her blog, perhaps, which translates into ad revenue? Wouldn't it have been more powerful to say, "I pretty much know the type of segment The Today Show will produce on this topic, and I'm sorry, but I'm not interested." That would have shown true authority over the argument.

I actually agree that it's perfectly fine for a mom to have a glass of wine during the day. And I love your blog. But this time, I think you (and Melissa) protest too much.

And for what it's worth, if you really listen to Janet Taylor, what she says is the essence of women empowerment. She was all about working together and minimized her personal views on the subject, which happened to differ from Melissa's.







January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Amy, I'd read the current post at Suburban Bliss and then decide for yourself whether Melissa knew the rules were unfair, based on her retelling of the events.
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLogan
Amy I respect your opinion. But I was told this would be a friendly discussion, not a debate. I was not expecting the piece which was produced.

Call me naive, I've been called worse.

I certainly won't make the same mistake, but what Alice is talking about is a fair point. The message the Today Show played for us was one many women are tired of.

I'm not sure if we heard the same Janet Taylor on that show. She gave zero examples of her idea of 'women empowerment' and why deciding to have a glass of wine with friends was not empowering in it's own way. She mentioned women working together but never explained how she saw that happening.

I wasn't told I was to debate with a psychologist and I wasn't informed I would debate with a broken record which said nothing.
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMelissaS
People! I was making fun of my MOTHER, not Janet Taylor. How could you make fun of a name like that? If her name was Vagina Dentata, I might have said something. But geez.
January 30, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteralice

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