Moms on Trial.
by Leslie Morgan Steiner
One of the tricks about American motherhood is learning to block out the pervasive, contradictory media messages beamed to us via newspapers, magazines, advertisements and television programs. From the time we are toddlers we hear that becoming a mother is “the most important thing a woman ever does in her life.” But moms are the first to be attacked when we step outside cultural norms or when misfortune strikes our children. Perversely, when moms most need community support, we attack them.
Two recent examples:
Big news: a 66-year-old successful career woman is about to become a first-time mom. Pretty neat trick, I thought – wish I’d thought of that kind of career/kids sequencing before I took the motherhood plunge. Elizabeth Adeney, now eight months pregnant, will be one of the oldest new mothers in the world, as reported by ABC News.
Instead of inspiring amazement and support, Adeney's decision to have in vitro fertilization has been criticized as an example of "breathtaking selfishness" despite evidence that women can safely bear children, breastfeed them and raise them no matter our age (our eggs are the only part of childcare that truly expires). When she's 85 years old, her child will still be a teenager, bloggers exclaim. Horrors! An old mom! (Don’t teenagers think their parents are old no matter what?)
In my mind, this woman should be supported for the challenges she faces, praised for finding an innovative sequencing solution to the work/family juggling act, and applauded for waiting until she was truly ready to have kids (Levy and Bristol Palin, take note). Instead there is outcry about her motives that would never crop up about a 66-year-old first time father.
And then we have Kate Gosselin, the 34-year-old mom of eight and star of hit TLC Reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8, whose season five begins May 25. Kate is her family’s primary breadwinner, working as an author and paid speaker about life with multiples, in addition to filming the reality show. The couple originally worked together, but Jon disliked the extra work and voluntarily stayed home with the children. The May 25th People Magazine reported that Jon had begun late night bar-hopping and had been photographed leaving a local bar at 2 a.m. with a 23-year-old woman.
“Jon has explained that his partying was due, in part, to the long days he spends as a stay-at-home day while Kate travels,” the Magazine wrote.
Now imagine what would be said about an at-home mother of eight children who spent her nights with strange men in bars while her husband was out providing for the family.