Monday, June 19, 2006

Judgmental Housewives

So what is it with me and my fellow women? Why can't we all just get along? It's not like we fight, because my god that would be rude and unacceptable social behavior. We want to be seen as "nice" so we don't punch each other in the face. Instead, we judge each other so harshly, compete with each other on really personal levels, and find ostensibly socially-acceptable ways to just cut each other down to size. That book from a year or so ago about "Queen Bees and Wannabes" in junior high and high school captured the battle zone from the perspective of adolescents. But here we are, in our 20s and 30s, and we're still doing it, and it is so freakin sad.

Where is this coming from? I'm on a listserv of mothers who live in our metro area neighborhood. It's designed to provide social opportunities for us and our kids, to provide ways for self-employed moms to advertise their services to other moms and families, and in general serve as a bulletin board for helping each other out, ie. "I have a crib I no longer use; does anyone need it?" On its best days, the listserv is fabulous because you don't have to do a ton of research into good pediatricians or find ways to market your business or buy a new crib; you meet other moms who can help you out and vice versa. Awesome idea. Lately, however, whenever I get a chance to read the posts (which means I end up reading about 75 at a time), I can tell that the atmosphere, while all "helpful" and "aren't kids great?!", is also one of caution and oversensitivity because a flame war always lies dormant, waiting to cut you down to size if you violate the perceived values of the group (which always means, "the values of those who are the loudest").

For example, if I were to post "Does anyone know how to get a peanut out of my kid's nose?" I would immediately be provided helpful information on how to do it, along with the beginning of a days-long diatribe on "what kind of mother would give her child peanuts anyway?" Same with breast feeding or not breast feeding. Oh dear god, you have not seen venom like the breastfeeding wars. And then it's about drinking milk, as in, "My child doesn't like milk, what else can I give him?" Count to three then watch the messages come flying in with, "What kind of mother doesn't make her child drink milk?! Your child will be underdeveloped and behind in school if you don't do the right things!"

It seems like the mothers who post have somehow transferred their competitiveness from work onto their role as mothers, and it creates a miserable environment for everyone else who is just doing their best to raise healthy, happy, productive kids. And god forbid you ever--EVER--give voice to the idea that being a mom is not the sole and solitary rapture of your life. It's like expressing the feeling that, "Gee, you know, some days having a clean house and a clean kid who can count to 12 is just not enough to make me feel like a fully-actualized human being with a brain and a life," is the one heresy that must never be uttered lest everyone's carefully-crafted Bree Van de Kamp veneers incinerate leaving only the real, true Lynette Scavos visible.

THAT is a flame war I keep wanting to start just for sport, but don't because I want to be able to go to the park and have people like me. It's insane, because the truth is, I'm pretty proud to be Lynette Scavo. Some days I look like hell covered in mac and cheese and paint with a kid running around the house naked, other days I can go to a client and rock their world in my suit. Most days I feel like I'm doing neither to my best level, but I just keep at it because both make me, ME. And that is the person I want taking care of my daughter: someone who faithfully and conscientiously does her best, which means sometimes having to "phone it in" and let the kid eat McDonalds and watch Springer.

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