The Tyranny of Mommydom

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.

34 thoughts on “The Tyranny of Mommydom

  1. Tawnie

    This is an incredible piece. 99% of mommy bloggers are purely toxic. They chase their free cars, and other brand deals at the expense of their families. They lack basic ethics. Good on you for respecting your daughter’s request.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      When I first learned the perks and money that Mommy Bloggers were getting, I was shocked and more than a bit jealous. Hey, who doesn’t want a free car?

      But law bloggers never had the marketing cache, so we were worthless compared to the mommy industry.

      Reply
      1. RedditLaw

        Mr. Greenfield, if I decide to take all of my posts from Reddit and turn them into a Blawg, how much free swag can I score? Can I at least get free jury instructions for my jurisdiction? They keep changing them over here, and it costs $75.00 to download each new version.

        Reply
  2. Rendall

    If you had written about your daughter and not your son, this would also have been taken as an example of sexism.

    Reply
  3. Chris Van Wagner

    This reminds of that genre of Mommy who exploited her daughter from bassinet to high school cheerleading by entering her into baby beauty pageants – not for the child but for her mother. The difference? At some similar age to this Mommy’s “mouthy,” greedy and objecting daughter, the baby beauty queen could do any number of things to herself to despoil her appearance and behavior, and exit stage left quickly. But what similar choice does this young lady have, really? It is not on the same level of wrong as the Daddy whose abuse is hidden away by the threat, “Do you want Daddy in jail and have no money?” But this blogger’s selfishness and self-centeredness is about as disgusting. That kid may leave and never return, at an age when Mommy may be unable to undo her choices. We have them for but a short time, really. This one looks ready to fly the psychological coop in any number of self-destructive ways.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      While the analogy has merit, your distinction does as well. Will the daughter flee this narcissistic mommy at her first opportunity or will she grow up believing that it wasn’t her mother’s fault but society’s devaluation of mommy’s “creative labor” and excessive burden of mommy sacrifice?

      Reply
    2. locoyokel

      What’s worse is that anything she tries to get herself excluded from the mommy blog is going to be met with “What an unappreciative, rotten, horrible child you are. Don’t you know all that I’ve done for you?” and get blogged as such making the situation even worse.

      This woman should remember that this child will probably be the one picking her nursing home.

      Reply
  4. Richard Kopf

    SHG,

    One of the greatest mistakes that I made when blogging at Hercules and the Umpire was writing about my adult children several times and without their permission or even a heads up. At least twice, I embarrassed and hurt one of my children.

    I regret doing so, more than I regret the many other mistakes I made when writing Herc. There was no excuse for what I did. None. But, ego is a funny and insidious thing. It can lead you to hurt and harm those you love the most.

    I have some pungent advice for the “Mommy Blogger.” Stop pimping your kid. Just stop it.

    All the best.

    RGK

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      Over the years, there have been many times when I wanted to tell an anecdote about a family member, a friend, a client, even an adversary. But it was always in the back of my head that things I wrote here translated into real life for others. I call my wife “Dr. SJ” because she prefers to keep a low internet profile, and so her name never appears.

      My son thinks it’s all pretty funny, and even when I’ve posted things that might embarrass him, and which I run past him first just to be sure, he tells me to go for it and laughs. My daughter and I talk about things I write about all the time, and she’s got some very astute observations about it. But she’s not looking to become a martyr to any cause and, like Dr. SJ, would prefer to have a controlled internet existence of her choice. kids are odd that way.

      Reply
  5. Kathleen Casey

    What does the children’s father think? What does he say? Does he agree with his daughter or The Pill?

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      Excellent question, to which no answer will likely be forthcoming. Is there a daddy in the picture? Will daddy back up mommy or his child? Will mommy give a damn?

      Reply
  6. rxc

    I have included embarrassing stories (and photos) about my cats in some of my blog posts- do they need an advocate to protect them from exploitation and harm?

    Reply
      1. SHG Post author

        I decided to post rxc’s comment, even though it led to bad, bad places, and hoped, no, prayed, no one, but no one, would pick it up and run with it. Who, I thought, would possibly dive down that rabbit hole knowing that all it could lead to is certain death? Who? WHO?!?

        Reply
      2. Rxc

        They are 2 Maine Coons, who are very “dog-like”. They follow us around the house and yard and on the boat, talk all the time, and are extremely human dependent. They are also quite large. I would post photos if permitted.

        No dogs- they would only feed the cats for a day or two.

        Reply
  7. Hunting Guy

    Sounds like child abuse to me.

    I wonde what would happen if CPS got a call. I could see some of the commenters from the OP doing that.

    Reply
  8. Jim Tyre

    From the bottom of the piece:

    Christie Tate is a lawyer and writer who lives in Chicago with her husband and two children. She’s on Twitter @ChristieOTate

    So it seems there is a dad in the picture. But great, just great, she had to be a lawyer.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      While it’s likely that “husband” equals father, it would be violence to take that for granted. But if anyone is wondering why it’s so hard to find women to fill the ranks of Biglaw partnerships, perhaps this will help.

      Reply
  9. Denver Fan

    Life imitating art again. “The Prizzi’s would rather eat their children than part with money — and they are very fond of their children.”

    Reply
  10. MIKE GUENTHER

    This woman will wonder in later years why her daughter hates her and doesn’t want anything to do with her. Mommy blogger will be lucky to see any possible grand children in the future.

    Reply
  11. B. McLeod

    Putting everything about children and how they are being raised out on the Internet just strikes me as creepy. TMI times 1000.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      This is hugely (and I mean YUGE) popular with young parents these days. They share everything, from projectile vomiting to every unformed poop. With video.

      Reply

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