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.

 

seuzibell
06.03.09

Although I am currently staying at home with my little one I agree that working mothers are to be admired. My one comment/question about the Jon Gosselin thing is if he is out at night and his wife is travelling on business who is watching the kids? We cannot (nor should we)expect babysitters, nannies, or daycare providers to be the sole "care"givers for our children, caring needs to come from the parent too and the fact that he "can't deal with the stress" of being a stay at home dad just shows how important mom's really are!

nicolariestaggart
05.27.09

Great topic. We do have such conflicting societal messages and as women (especially as moms) we have to learn to make the right decisions for each of us individually (and for our families) based on the various stages of our lives, and then own those choices, regardless of what others may say or do. My observation from the women I talk to and work with is that those who feel a level of dissatisfaction with their own choice tend to be the ones to pass more judgment on other moms. My advice to moms: 1) Make the right decision for yourself. 2) Remember that other moms are doing the same. 3) Model the respect you want from others and the media.
Nicola Ries Taggart
The Executive Moms Coach
www.executivemomscoach.com