Dr. Phil: Guilty of Starting a Mommy War?

by Leslie Morgan Steiner


God, even the title of the show made me cringe.


Guilty Moms: The Debate That Never Dies” was the headline for the Wednesday October 14, 2009 Dr Phil Show.


Phil’s sensitive-wise-man intro prolonged my wincing.


“This show is the best we have ever done on the important challenges both types of moms face. In fact, something took place that’s never happened before in the history of Dr. Phil.”


Meaning that guest/blogger/saint/at-home-mom Jessica Gottlieb had dared to speak her truth in front of all the at-home moms watching TV at 3 p.m. in the afternoon (and Dr. Phil is paraphrasing here):


“If a woman is so selfish she can’t stay at home with her kids, then maybe she just shouldn’t have them!”


That’s the earth shattering view from daytime TV.


Please raise your pinky if you are sooo past all this.


Now I’ve often thought I should not have had kids. In fact, once or twice I’ve been tempted to rip out my uterus with my own hands. But it’s never, ever because I don’t have time for my children. Quite the contrary. My worst moments are always when I’m spending TOO MUCH time with them. If Ms. Gottlieb wants to swing by my house to give my kids some of that nurturing she thinks they’re missing, honey, come on down! Just get here quick before the neighbors’ windows shatter from my decibel levels.


A few things to ponder that were not settled by Dr. Phil on Wednesday.


First, let’s not leave out the dads. We American women have fought hard for decades for gender equality, so let’s give some back. Do daytime talk shows tar-and-feather MEN if they don’t spend “enough” time with their kids? When was the last TV show titled “Guilty Dads?” University of Maryland sociology data shows that dads with employed wives actually do more with their children. When is Dr. Phil going to do a show about THAT?


Second: If the Jessica Gottliebs of the world can judge me, I get to judge them too. My vote is that anyone who degrades other mothers’ choices automatically loses her parenting license. I sure don’t want the children of the future to have those sanctimonious mamacitas as role models. Or, to paraphrase here, “If a woman can’t raise her kids to be tolerant of others’ different lifestyle choices, then maybe she just shouldn’t have kids!”


Third, if this debate is really about what’s best for kids, let’s ask our kids. Not a slew of judgmental other moms. And most definitely not Dr. Phil.


I think even Oprah would be ashamed of that Dr.Phil episode. From one television producer to another, shame on you guys. You must be desperate for ratings!!!

As a busy working mom I dare Jessica Gottlieb or any other I-know-better-than-you-do-stay-at-home mom to spend one day with my daughter and tell me she's not the happiest kid on Earth. Seriously. Natalia is so smiley sometimes I wonder if my husband is sprinkling weed on her oatmeal every morning.

No wonder my 3-year-old is Little Miss Sunshine. She has it made. Mom and dad in the morning. Montessouri school for a couple hours after that. Then fun with the nanny until mom and dad get home. And many days Mom even works out of her home office.

Hmmm. Much more fun then being stuck inside the house all day with a woman like Miss Gottlieb who is clearly so unhappy withe her life she feels the need to pick on other women.

Ladies, do whatever it takes to make you and your family happy. Work or stay-at-home. Just make sure you're the kind of mom you want to be not some stereotype. Because if you're not true to yourself you just might wind up on Dr. Phil looking like an idiot.



I have had one, count 'em, one positive, truly supportive response to my full-time working status, which I have chosen to embrace. I was told that am "providing a good example" for my child. What is the example I am providing exactly? I am showing my child that I am doing what I have to do for him. Working for me is a necessity to provide a healthy home and life for him...to give him the start in life that I want him to have (experiences, not things). The whole notion that working is "selfish" is beyond me. I don't get up every morning at 5:30 am for me. I do it for him.

leslie morgan s...

Leslie Morgan Steiner

Cheri, I agree 100%. I once had a career coach say that 90% of feedback you get (personal or professional) has nothing to do with you!

But sometimes it is soooo hard to ignore other people's attacks, especially in our sweet spot, which for most moms is the way we raise our kids.

How do you ignore those attacks?

Sometimes it seems that EVERYONE is accusing us of doing it all wrong. And NO ONE is encouraging or praising us. I think criticism hurts most when it comes from other moms.

When was the last time another mother told you "Gee, you're a wonderful mom because you do XYX so well"?

Most moms find ourselves totally untrained for the most important "job" we'll ever have. It sure would be nice to get sincere encouragement and compliments instead of so much superiority and denigration, especially from the one peer group who knows exactly how hard motherhood can be -- other moms.

And most days I'd settle for the comfort of honesty -- that we all struggle to be the best mom we can be, but no one has this motherhood gig completely figured out.

Cheri Bennett

My experience is that the people who rub me the wrong way are a mirror showing me something in myself that I don't accept or love. So when people point fingers (even on national TV) or think there is one right way - it's really all about them.

I am much happier when I take the view that what other people think of me is none of my opinion. And that we all are doing the best we can with what we have. Everyone has the same goal - to live a happy life. We just get there different ways. And the moms I know support each other, if they are working out of the home or working in the home.

When I quit to stay at home it was kind of rocky. If you want to read about it check out my blog post. http://www.cheribennett.com/?p=282

Blessings and Love!


Could have turned my last comment into a post, so I did, this topic sure gets me fired up!


Oh the debate will never end...just like bottle fed vs. breast fed. I loved that you wrote this and how you wrote it! I am a full time working mom and have my own guilt I put on myself, but never have I felt guilty for being a working mom. I am proud that working allows me to provide for my daughter! This topic always makes me mad! Keep on writing!!!!


I stopped watching Dr. Phil quite a while ago when his shows became extremely confrontational and sensationalistic. I think he is an attention whore. It does not surprise me one bit that he would attempt to reignite this conflagration. That said, I have been a full-time (with overtime) working mom, and I am now a stay-at-home-mom. I have taken flak, and insults, for both decisions. I would love to be my kids. I have two sons, whom I unconditionally love. My husband and I have been at great pains to teach them to be generous, tolerant, and to see the person before race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. I can admit that I make mistakes and I can apologize. I have spent hours reading to them and playing with them, sharing my eclectic love of music and books. They are wonderful individuals, with hopes and dreams, faults and foibles, weaknesses and strengths. I am honest to a fault with them, according to their level of maturity. We have lots of lazy, chubby pets, a clean, casual home, and a modest lifestyle. I love being a mother, and I believe they know that. We are all, myself, my husband, my sons, far from perfect, but I do not believe that perfection exists and, in any case, we are only human, very short-lived, and I'd rather spend my time seeking happiness and a sense of peace and a place in the world. I can only hope that they feel the same.


You SPANK your child!?? OMG, you must be a TERRIBLE mother. ;)

Seriously, great post. Happy mothers make happy children. That's the bottom line.


Um...I'm a stay at home mom (for now) and no way do I have time to watch Dr. Phil! Though I doubt I would have bothered with this tripe anyway! I am treated with respect by my stay at work counterparts and I do the same for them. 'Nuf said.


I don’t know who this Jessica Gottlieb is (I work full time, so I don’t keep up on such things), but it seems to me that she is not spending all of her time with her kids. Otherwise, how could she appear on Dr. Phil? She probably saw it the whole event as some well-deserved “me time”. How much credence do her views deserve? No one can tell you what the right solutions are for your family.

PS. Leslie, I love your litmus test, for any type of mom...I would love to be my kid.