Some years ago, it was pointed out to me that I occasionally wrote a post about my son, but never wrote about my daughter. The woman who made this point informed me that it was because I was sexist. I explained, in my usual calm, dulcet tone, that it was because my daughter had asked me not to write about her, while my son didn’t care.
Not that it meant she couldn’t impute sexism where none existed, since who am I to question the oppressed informing me that I’m an oppressor for reasons that existed only in her head, but my silence about my daughter was, in actual reality as opposed to her lived experience, a matter of respecting my daughter’s choice. Sorry to tell you, kids, but my children matter more to me than anything I’ll ever write here. More than you. More, even, than me.
Apparently, not everyone shares that perspective.
Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and more. According to her website, she is currently writing a memoir.
The “her” is Christie Tate, and she’s made a career as a “mommy blogger,” riding the diaper tails of her children to fame and, maybe, fortune. Mommy blogging is big business, as the people selling binkies to mommies need to promote their wares somehow. Pay to play, freebies, advertising, has been far more promiscuous with mommy bloggers than with, ahem, law bloggers.
Since misery loves company, some mommy bloggers gained huge traction. It was an industry. Whether Tate was a titan of the industry, I don’t know, but it was definitely important to her. It was not, however, as important to her then-nine-year-old daughter, who upon learning of her mother’s avocation, told her she was no longer mommy’s toy.
Could I take the essays and pictures off the Internet, she wanted to know. I told her that was not possible. There was heavy sighing and a slammed door.
It was possible. It is possible. Who did the heavy sighing and slammed the door is unclear. Mommy could have taken it all down. Mommy didn’t want to.
I read through some of my old pieces, and none of them seemed embarrassing to me, though she might not agree.
If they didn’t “seem embarrassing” to mommy, what else mattered? Tate goes on to note a post that made her daughter seem like an obsessed stalker, a painful episode in her daughter’s life splashed on the screen for other’s amusement and mommy’s self-aggrandizement. But mom was able to parlay her daughter’s pain into a mommy lesson, and it was worth it. To mom.
But now that her daughter made the request that she be left out of mommy’s world and respect her privacy, what would mommy do about it? Would she, as others have done, stop writing about her daughter, who no longer wanted to be fodder for mommy’s blog?
I respect that approach and understand why it works for many writers, but it’s not a promise I can make. Certainly, my daughter is old enough now that I owe her a head’s up and a veto right on the pictures or on portions of the content, but I’m not done exploring my motherhood in my writing. And sometimes my stories will be inextricably linked to her experiences.
Well, if mommy isn’t done “exploring” her motherhood, shouldn’t she be entitled to explore more? It’s not as if she’s doing this to her daughter, but mommy’s stories will be “inextricably” linked to her daughter, and why should mommy be denied her exploration just because it comes at her daughter’s expense?
Promising not to write about her anymore would mean shutting down a vital part of myself, which isn’t necessarily good for me or her.
What’s more important, mommy “shutting down a vital part” of herself or her daughter? How this is good for the daughter might seem unclear, especially since Tate merely asserts it without any effort at explaining it. It sucks for her daughter, but it’s good for mommy, and what’s good for mommy is good for her daughter, when no reason need be given.
So Tate, demonstrating those mommy negotiating skills, has come up with a compromise.
So my plan is to chart a middle course, where together we negotiate the boundaries of the stories I write and the images I include. This will entail hard conversations and compromises. But I prefer the hard work of charting the middle course to giving up altogether — an impulse that comes, in part, from the cultural pressure for mothers to be endlessly self-sacrificing on behalf of their children.
Society is so very unfair to mommies, expecting them to be “endlessly self-sacrificing on behalf of their children.” Most parents would gladly give a kidney, if not their life, for their children, not because our culture is so very unfair to mommies, but because we love our children. Not Tate.
As a mother, I’m not supposed to do anything that upsets my children or that makes them uncomfortable, certainly not for something as culturally devalued as my own creative labor.
What’s the big deal about making her daughter “uncomfortable” by revealing her most private moments for the world to see so that mommy can enjoy the prestige of being an important voice in parenting on the internet? Oh wait, that “devalues” mommy’s “creative labor.”
The irony here is that Tate’s world is one of being a mommy pundit, sharing her story at the expense of her children in order to tell other mommies who lack the “creative labor” that Tate values so highly about life in mommydom. New mommies read Tate’s “creative labor” to share their mommy angst, their feelings of joy and misery, because it’s not enough to just be a mommy if they don’t get validation from a more important mommy like Tate.
And without a daughter, whose life and privacy are Tate’s for the taking, what would Tate have to write about? Why can’t those damn babies just diaper themselves when mommy is busy creatively laboring? Why does society devalue mommy’s self-importance to expect them to drop everything, no matter how important it is to mommy, and run to their little darlings the minute their temperature spikes to 102°?
Like Tate, I have great stories about my daughter. You probably do too. But I don’t tell mine because my daughter, whom I love more than life itself, has asked me not to. And I’m sexist.