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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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353 Responses

  1. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan October 8, 2012 at 9:53 am |

    Awesome article! It’s a little nauseating to see women who subsume their entire identities into their children; I really feel sorry for them, because that’s not healthy for anyone involved.

    1. Lindsay Beyerstein
      Lindsay Beyerstein October 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm |

      This ranking game is stupid. Men aren’t expected to take a position on whether they’re dads first and whatever-else-second.

      The ranking framework assumes that personal identity is a zero-sum game. It isn’t. We all juggle multiple identities: citizen, friend, employee, spouse… That’s what makes life rich and interesting. Life is a series of choices where we balance competing priorities. Almost nobody actually lives by a simplistic formula whereby one identity takes precedence over all the others.

      The only reason to buy into the “mom first” framework is if you think there’s some inherent conflict between motherhood and other commitments.

  2. Ashley
    Ashley October 8, 2012 at 10:11 am |

    This has been a big issue for me; I’m one of the few attachment parenting SAHMs I know who makes sure to have a life outside of my children, and I’ve gotten grief (from assholes) about it. I’m limiting my family size because I want a life outside of my kids. I spend a lot of time and energy on other projects because I value me as a person, an individual with interests; I know too many who don’t similarly value themselves. And the number of people who deride “selfish mothers” is just mind boggling.

    At this point I’m convinced that fighting against the cult of motherhood is fighting for our right to live. A few (Catholic) friends of mine posted about a pro-life activist who developed cancer during pregnancy, refused chemo, and died shortly after the baby was born. Apparently this was wonderful. When I expressed dismay at literally encouraging women to kill themselves for their fetus I was told “maternal self-sacrifice is a good thing.” No. It’s not. Throw in a few “just because its sad doesn’t mean its wrong” for good measure.

    And now that my sick children are sleeping I’m not going to plan activities for my 3 year old or sanitize my infant’s toys, but rather do things that make me happy.

  3. MedusaMama
    MedusaMama October 8, 2012 at 10:38 am |

    “mom-ism”? wow. Philip Wylie was joking, you guys.

    ok, here is why I’m a mom first.

    because babies don’t give a shit about politics.

    a hungry baby, a tired baby, a fat cheerful giggling baby, a pale tiny NICU baby – they all could give a fat fuck about feminism.

    and since I’ve had children , I find I give much less of a fuck than I used to. having children have really really really immediate needs, and that takes priority for the moment. if I can’t do it myself, I have to find someone else to do it – which is fine. and in my spare time after doing the job I need to do for money and making sure my children don’t die, I guess I will give a fuck about feminism in between somewhere. but honestly, not all of us mommies were exactly setting the world on fire before we had kids. for some of us, feminism notwithstanding, this is the most exciting and interesting thing we’ve ever done.

    my two kids just might be the best I can do for the world, the very best contribution I can make. sad but true. guess I should have gone to medical school…?

    it’s not really about a pro-life conservative agenda or contributions to art or science or going to the movies or even better maternity leave or the politics of formula. at two in the morning, someone better be The Parent First – and right now, I don’t mind at all that it’s me.

    The feminist you are calling is unavailable at this time. please continue to hold until a suitable fuck can be given – or, alternately, why not quit running your mouth and help me change this diaper?

    1. Fang
      Fang October 8, 2012 at 11:07 am |

      Yet you have time to read and comment on a feminist blog.

    2. A4
      A4 October 8, 2012 at 11:18 am |

      It sounds to me like you’re frustrated by the implication that being a mother first is a political choice for you to make. I understand that (if that’s what you’re feeling) because Valenti’s article was all about the political reasons she doesn’t call herself a mom first. She does emphasize the “choice” aspect of mothering, talking about the choice to formula feed or work outside the home and being shamed for it as a selfish or deficient mother.

      But what I hear you pointing out is that the mom-first identity might be bolstered by society, but it’s created by the baby who gives no fucks about your choices, and talking about how women are told by society not to prioritize themselves over their children ignores the fact that they are first being told this by their tiny screaming baby and their own sense of responsibility.

      I think it’s important to point out that the source of the idea that the parent must prioritize their child over themself comes from the reality of what babies need. I also think it’s important to point out that the idea that this parent should always be a mother is a sexist construction of roles in our society.

      Am i anywhere in the ballpark? Let me know! Especially if you think I’m way off.

      1. kungfulola
        kungfulola October 8, 2012 at 11:47 am |

        I think it’s important to point out that the source of the idea that the parent must prioritize their child over themself comes from the reality of what babies need. I also think it’s important to point out that the idea that this parent should always be a mother is a sexist construction of roles in our society.

        This was the first thing I thought of when I came into this thread. Parenthood is an important job – but not in the aggrandizing way most people think. Fulfilling the needs of humans who can’t do for themselves, who don’t understand how to have relationships or communicate, is something to be taken seriously and supported by everyone as part of the social contract. But instead of this truth playing out the way it should, it’s twisted by patriarchy and capitalism into self-serving sexist narratives about how women should lie down on the altar of motherhood and bleed themselves dry. Oh and also how if you don’t want kids, you’re some kind of monstrous unwoman.
        What I worry about is the knee-jerk reaction some feminists have, where any discussion of the importance of humane parenting becomes an engagement with the sexist narrative of motherhood instead. This creates two groups of people talking past each other, ones who are justifiably railing against the current construction of motherhood as Every Woman’s Highest Calling, and others who have disengaged from that construct and are pointing out the injustice of minimizing the undeniable importance of nurturing children.

        1. Beatrice
          Beatrice October 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm |

          What I worry about is the knee-jerk reaction some feminists have, where any discussion of the importance of humane parenting becomes an engagement with the sexist narrative of motherhood instead.

          Well, since this post was about sexist narrative of motherhood and people promptly started to make it about importance of parenting… I think knee-jerking goes in the other direction in this particular case.

        2. shfree
          shfree October 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm |

          Speaking as a parent of a teenager, the whole Mom First! aspect of parenting does dial back as a kid ages. When my daughter was an infant, I remember desperately needing other moms to bond with. But as she got older, hitting preschool age, the need to have other moms around lessened, and I stopped hanging out on parenting websites. I was also freely ignoring whatever advice my mom gave me about how to rear my daughter that I disagreed with. (such as not making her eat when she was pissy because her blood sugar was clearly bottoming out, as my mom was the sort of “if you don’t want what we have for a snack, then just starve.” sort of parent. I believe in at least making a child eat some crackers.) And now my main parenting concerns for my daughter are making sure she stays clear of the bullshit media messages, checking in with her about how she is handling dealing with her peers, and she doesn’t lie to me or her dad about turning in her homework.

          Really, once a kiddo leaves preschool age, the white-hot focus of Mom First! bullshit DOES go away, or at least you get so hardened against it that you can almost point and laugh at those who give you a hard time about your parenting choices.

    3. Christa the BabbyMama
      Christa the BabbyMama October 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm |

      Taking care of your children’s immediate needs is not at all the same as embracing the ridiculous mommy first rhetoric that’s making it’s way through the media. Valuing your role as a mother is also not the same. How the converse of that was your takeaway from this post is beyond me.

    4. Natalia Antonova
      Natalia Antonova October 8, 2012 at 12:50 pm | *

      babies don’t give a shit about politics.

      Totally a statement I can get behind!

      But also – there’s lots of things babies don’t give a shit about. My son couldn’t give a shit about the importance of my work visa or, say, the fact that my job helps keep a roof over our collective heads.

      The notion of being “a mom first” has never even crossed my mind, because of that. I never considered making that decision – because it was not a decision to begin with.

      It’s exhausting to be everything at once – mom, writer, wife, lover, worker bee, intrepid journalist, gloomy wine-drinker in the throes of an existential crisis, etc. And small children will carry on not giving a shit. They’ll happily knock that wine glass over after you thought the long day was over, and they’ll happily demand love and cuddles at 6 a.m. on the day that you’re putting the paper out – and so on.

      I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but also think that, well, “mom first” is not a choice that *most* people out there can make even if they wanted to.

      I think a lot of these issues come down to money, and I kinda wish Jessica had addressed that more.

      1. samanthab
        samanthab October 8, 2012 at 6:17 pm |

        I don’t buy that. Yeah, her baby may not be casting a ballot, but guess what? Her baby sure as shit cares about politics and feminism. Access to pre-natal care is a political and a feminist issue. Safe water, safe toys, and safe places? All are political issues that have a big impact on junior’s well-being, and all are issues that feminists have taken the lead on.

        1. Natalia Antonova
          Natalia Antonova October 9, 2012 at 4:06 am | *

          Babies don’t care about politics… because they’re babies. They simply demand immediate attention and care. Which is why caregivers often find themselves in situations where everything must take a backseat to relieving diaper rash – and politics suddenly seems like this very abstract issue (even though it’s really not).

          This changes once children begin to grow up.

        2. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan October 9, 2012 at 11:11 am |

          Babies might not care about politics, but their parents had better; it could be the difference between clean formula and contaminated, or well-baby check ups vs. no health care at all.

        3. Natalia Antonova
          Natalia Antonova October 10, 2012 at 4:38 am | *

          Babies might not care about politics, but their parents had better; it could be the difference between clean formula and contaminated, or well-baby check ups vs. no health care at all.

          What’s also important to recognize is that for poorer people (read: most people) political involvement is a major issue in and of itself. “Parents better care about politics” is an easy statement to get behind – but if you’re a woman who, say, has no support network, your ability to function as a political activist may be severely curtailed – especially for the first few years of a child’s life.

          And even for people who *do* have support networks, the *usual* expectation is for the woman to take on the lion’s share of care for the child – whether she is working or not.

          The issue of breastfeeding comes up as well – though in my household, I wasn’t expected to do everything by myself, my husband obviously wasn’t able to breastfeed. So I put in a lot of time and energy into that, simply by the virtue of being the one with the tasty boobs.

          My child did not shatter or subsume my identity, but I can see how this works for other people. They’re overtired and overstressed, and it becomes a vicious cycle. They don’t agitate for clean formula, the formula gets worse, they have even less time to agitate, because they’re dealing with health crises – etc.

          Poverty sucks, is what I’m getting at.

      2. Lindsay Beyerstein
        Lindsay Beyerstein October 8, 2012 at 8:18 pm |

        Great comment, Natalia. Speaking of existential crises… The “Mom First” rhetoric is existential, it’s about what defines you as a person.

        That’s separate from the legal and practical obligations of being the primary caregiver for an infant–which are huge and pressing. It’s a lot of work, like any big project. If you have one huge demand on your time and energy, you may have to scale back on other commitments.

        There’s a big difference between saying “I’m really busy doing this important thing right now, come back later” vs. “This is the project that defines me as a human being now and forever.”

    5. Lyndsay
      Lyndsay October 8, 2012 at 1:20 pm |

      I might see where these thoughts are coming from. If I were the mother of a baby, and someone tells me there’s a march going on for more parental leave or more sickdays and parents are invited to come with their babies, I’m there. However, an article about mothers’ identity would seem less important. A baby’s needs *are* immediate and could make one feel like a mother first for short periods anyway. It’s not that I don’t think these conversations aren’t important but I’d love to see them translate into some sort of actions with the possible result of change in policies.

      1. tinfoil hatiie
        tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 1:29 pm |

        ” … and parents are invited to come with their babies, I’m there.”

        This is the crux of it: everything parents, especially mothers, do has to be considered in the context of their children. It is a fact of parebthood.

        NB: Lyndsay, I am just using this comment as an example, NOT saying where you fall in the debate.

      2. Lauren
        Lauren October 8, 2012 at 1:29 pm |

        In many ways, I feel like this is an issue for mothers of young children. Once your kids are a certain age, their demands on you change significantly, and these identity questions fade.

        1. shfree
          shfree October 8, 2012 at 2:26 pm |

          Yep. It’s easy to let the whole Mom First! thing go when a child isn’t nearly literally attached to your hip. And while my relationship with my daughter is probably the most important relationship that I have right now, I don’t define myself by the relationships I have with other people.

        2. Lauren
          Lauren October 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm |

          And while my relationship with my daughter is probably the most important relationship that I have right now, I don’t define myself by the relationships I have with other people.

          Exactly. My relationships with my kids are among the most important I’ll ever have in my life. I’m the first to say that having children was transformative for me. It just was. I don’t expect that other women adhere to my path because mine is the most meaningful or important. Nor does my participation in creating or sustaining this family unit make me a “mom first.” I’m a lot of things at any given time.

          These debates just reek of preachiness about biology is destiny, women’s proper roles, what women are “for,” what mothers are “for,” and what “good” parents are. It makes my skin crawl.

        3. EG
          EG October 8, 2012 at 3:08 pm |

          I don’t define myself by the relationships I have with other people.

          Well, but lots of people do, and if the research I was reading several years ago continues to hold, those people are overwhelmingly women.

          I realize this is a bit of a derail, but I’m not sure that I see how defining oneself by the relationships one has with others is an inherently bad thing. Relationships with other people are a massive part of how we constitute and construct ourselves–perhaps the most massive part. It’s not the only way, but I think that considering it a lesser way buys into the default notion that what men do (define themselves by their work) is good but what women do (define themselves by their relationships) is deficient. For most people, relationships are a lot more stable than work.

        4. Lauren
          Lauren October 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

          …I’m not sure that I see how defining oneself by the relationships one has with others is an inherently bad thing.

          Eh, I think of it in terms of stability and how those self-perceptions help define our actions. I have a lot of family examples where my mother, grandmother, and sisters made conscious decisions to step away from (or adhere to, tragically) the Mother As Identity role or drown in the bad decisions of their families, including addiction, financial ruin, leeching kids, subsuming all decision making to the husband. These are cautionary tales for me.

        5. EG
          EG October 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm |

          And for me–in my family, I have seen too many mothers sacrifice themselves for mentally ill daughters who hurt them dreadfully. But at the same time, how many cautionary tales have I heard about men who are laid off and lose their senses of self? Perhaps the trick is to have multiple ways of defining oneself–not just as mother, but as sister as well; not just as mother and sister, but as social worker/teacher/whatever. Or perhaps the trick is to continue to define oneself as a mother but to be able to reassess what that definition means. I just don’t like to see a wholesale denial of the sense of self that comes from interconnection.

        6. Lauren
          Lauren October 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm |

          Perhaps the trick is to have multiple ways of defining oneself–not just as mother, but as sister as well; not just as mother and sister, but as social worker/teacher/whatever. Or perhaps the trick is to continue to define oneself as a mother but to be able to reassess what that definition means. I just don’t like to see a wholesale denial of the sense of self that comes from interconnection.

          Totally agree. I’m thinking the secret is a mixture of the two.

        7. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan October 9, 2012 at 11:18 am |

          I’m not sure that I see how defining oneself by the relationships one has with others is an inherently bad thing.

          I think it’s healthier to define yourself by more intrinsic things; if I lost my sense of humor, or my intellect, or my interest in biology it would be a much deeper blow to my identity than if I lost a relationship, although both would be painful.

          Also, women are too-often encouraged to define themselves by their relationships. Constantly I hear “I’m so-and-so’s mom” or “I’m such-and-such’s wife” but it’s left out who they actually are when standing by themselves. Are they brave? Are they compassionate? Do they like animals but hate shopping? Women hardly need more encouragement to subsume their identities into the trappings of the lives around them — we should push for women (and men) to find their intrinsic worth.

      3. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 7:04 pm |

        You’re absolutely right, Partial Human. i made tha tpoint much, much later in comments, and I’m sorry I was sloppy and thoughtless here.

        Caring for another adult also curtails the options one has wrt daily, and often long-term, life. My fault for not saying that here.

  4. Lyndsay
    Lyndsay October 8, 2012 at 10:42 am |

    Well, I basically agree but don’t necessarily think she used the best ideas to support her point. I read some of the comments and I have a new habit of trying to understand where dissenting commenters are coming from if they are making some points as well.

    Jessica says, “When you have little power, you take it where you can…But the veneer of importance is not power. How can any American mother truly believe that her work is valued when every policy, every mocking magazine cover, every pat-on-the-head Mother’s Day sentiment tells them different?”

    I think she underestimates how many people, both men and women don’t feel they have power *or* value outside the home. At most jobs, you are easily replaceable and undervalued. Whether or not you have children, workplace policies with regards to holidays and sick pay are dismal. Most people’s work outside the home is for making money for someone else higher up who has power over you. When I bartended briefly, I sometimes kept only 1% of the money people gave me.
    So while mothers might not be valued enough by our culture and raising children can be thankless, I think they appreciate you more and think you are irreplaceable more than bosses.

    I don’t think these are reasons to put mother first in your identity but Jessica seemed to not understand or acknowledge the feelings/facts outlined above.
    I think some men are envious that women are more able to choose between having a place primarily in the work world, primarily in the family or both.

    1. Asia
      Asia October 8, 2012 at 11:23 am |

      “I think she underestimates how many people, both men and women don’t feel they have power *or* value outside the home. At most jobs, you are easily replaceable and undervalued. Whether or not you have children, workplace policies with regards to holidays and sick pay are dismal. Most people’s work outside the home is for making money for someone else higher up who has power over you.”

      This right here. Nothing detracting from people that find satisfaction from work or art. But that’s not the reality of most people. And I don’t think its a reasonable goal for most people. The reason great artists are valued is because their rare. Leaders are rare. I don’t think anyone should try and fulfill all of their needs through parenthood. But i do think the majority of your needs are normally fulfilled through your family either family by choice or by blood. And a child is a life that you create. Your first responsibility is to ensure that persons well-being. And the reality is that often times that does come at a expense of your own.

      1. Lyndsay
        Lyndsay October 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm |

        If not family, then friends who are like family. Having hobbies and a generally stimulating life also fulfill my needs. I do have relatives that have put everything they can into mothering so that their husbands have various hobbies and all their news in life is related to their children. They seem satisfied but I wonder how they will cope when their children become more independent.

        I can understand the issues with a culture that expects moms to be moms first that she writes about though.

        1. tinfoil hatiie
          tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 1:20 pm |

          Well, maybe they have given this some thought, and will: start a business; go to school; pursue political activism; volunteer; spend more time with partner/friends; or even pee with the bathroom door closed.

    2. Natalia Antonova
      Natalia Antonova October 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm | *

      I think she underestimates how many people, both men and women don’t feel they have power *or* value outside the home. At most jobs, you are easily replaceable and undervalued. Whether or not you have children, workplace policies with regards to holidays and sick pay are dismal. Most people’s work outside the home is for making money for someone else higher up who has power over you. When I bartended briefly, I sometimes kept only 1% of the money people gave me.

      Yes. Thank you. THANK YOU.

      And I’m saying this as someone who *loves* her work. Even if you do love – job security is mostly a joke nowadays.

      1. Lyndsay
        Lyndsay October 8, 2012 at 1:05 pm |

        Yeah, I will find a job as a teacher sometime in the next year. I’m sure I’ll love parts of the job and I’ll be glad to have my own money but I’ll be lucky to be working in what I trained for with average income.

        People talk about bad workplace policies for parents and I agree but I also think society (especially America but almost everywhere really) undervalues the average worker while telling people if they don’t work for money, they really aren’t worth anything.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl October 8, 2012 at 5:56 pm |

          I would take this one step further and argue that our USian society accords different value to people depending on how much money they have/earn. Wealthier people are much more highly valued than the less well to do, and poor folks are often treated like dirt.

          The fact that women as a rule earn less than men results in an endless hamster wheel-like effort for them at earning and deserving of society considering one to be valuable member of that society. As long as we value people according to their capacity to work and to make money, women will continue to end up on the losing end of this calculus.

    3. Morgan
      Morgan October 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm |

      This is the first time someone’s raised this important point. I work to provide health insurance for my family. I don’t really enjoy my job, I have no power there, and it’s in no way fulfilling. I am usually happier when I am with my family. I love my son; I don’t love my job. Maybe if I had a job like Jessica Valenti, I’d feel differently. I don’t know any other working moms in real-life like Jessica, they only come into my life through the media. Most feminist, working moms I know are like me. The mommy wars never take this into account.

  5. Liz
    Liz October 8, 2012 at 10:46 am |

    or, alternately, why not quit running your mouth and help me change this diaper?

    I understand what you’re saying here, but you don’t see what this is problematic coming from a woman’s mouth?

    1. tinfoil hatiie
      tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm |

      Why? Women do change diapers. Would it be okay if a man said it?

      I understand the frustration behind this comment. Articles denigrating mothers – yes, yes, I know, we’re only ridiculing THOSE mothers (you know who I mean, nudge-nudge) are so freaking plentiful in the “feminist” world that it gets tiresome being among the women being attacked. Especially because articles like this. which consistently dismiss, belittle, and minimize the very real WORK* mothers do, are anti- mother, anti-woman, ANTI-feminist.

      *oh, wait – it’s NOT work! because nobody is paying us to do it, like they do their nannies and child care providers! Now, THAT’s some work, amiright?

      1. Beatrice
        Beatrice October 8, 2012 at 12:29 pm |

        Did you read the article? The whole point is that there is this narrative constructed around motherhood saying how it’s the most important job in the world, but you won’t be payed for it or get a job after taking a couple of years off work because you obviously “did nothing” in the meantime. This article isn’t minimizing the work mothers do, but emphasizing how hypocritical the society is in claiming one thing about motherhood, but then treating differently. How it’s saying that mothers do important work, but when it comes to practice (such as laws surrounding maternal leave, mothers working outside the home and similar) they don’t show it.

        1. tinfoil hatiie
          tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm |

          I didn’t read it! Thanks, though. I will. Normally, I’m too stupid to do so, since I stayed home wirh my kids, and all – but gosh, thanks for the helpful suggestion!

        2. Beatrice
          Beatrice October 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm |

          tinfoil hatiie,

          You have good imagination. That person you are pretending to be arguing with is pretty vile, props for creating such a persona on such short notice.

        3. tinfoil hatiie
          tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm |

          Perhaps, “Did you read the article?” isn ‘t the v
          best lead-in to a comment to which you expect a reasonable, nuanced response.

          Unless you don’t want a reasonable, nuanced response.

        4. Beatrice
          Beatrice October 8, 2012 at 1:53 pm |

          This little subthread is part of a large conversation and I’ve read what you’ve said there.
          You will excuse me if reading your comments made me think you actually had no idea what the article said and just made some shit up.

        5. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:31 pm |

          Or, that I just disagree with you, so I’m lying.

        6. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan October 8, 2012 at 10:51 pm |

          Tinfoil hattie, your reading maybe is great but your reasoning not so much? Because you are arguing with straw feminists like WHOA this thread. Again.

  6. doberman
    doberman October 8, 2012 at 11:12 am |

    Can’t we just accept that after a woman becomes a mother she might have a different chemical balance in her body and feel different about her role in the world? I see no value to people without children pontificating about how mothers should feel.

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong October 8, 2012 at 11:42 am |

      Can’t we just accept that after a woman becomes a mother she might have a different chemical balance in her body and feel different about her role in the world?

      Of course we (or I, at least) can accept that, just as soon as you cite some studies. That’s a pretty big claim (specific chemical changes, linked to motherhood, change political ideology in predictable ways) and so I’m expecting some fairly compelling evidence.

      What I won’t do is simply accept it because someone hypothesized it might be true on the internet.

      1. tinfoil hatiie
        tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 12:29 pm |

        Mothers are not obligated to do your research for you. If you want to explain to mothers that their experiences are not real, the onus is on you to disprove it.

        1. tinfoil hatiie
          tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 12:46 pm |

          Seriously? So as long as a woman claims, “That was rape,” or “Being harassed in public is terrorizing and not fun” or “the guys in my department are all paid more than I am,” we’re just supposed to accept it because a woman says so and her experience is real?

          You’re being quite intellectually dishonest.

        2. tinfoil hatiie
          tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm |

          Yeah, but isn’t this a blog?

        3. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:10 pm |

          So “Oxytocin has an effect on mothers and may change their perception of themselves and their role in the world” is the exact same thing as “vaccines cause autism.”

          Good to know!

          I’ll forget any of the science around oxytocin and its effects on ALL people and – yes! how they view their roles in the world!

        4. amblingalong
          amblingalong October 8, 2012 at 10:39 pm |

          Seriously? So as long as a woman claims, “That was rape,” or “Being harassed in public is terrorizing and not fun” or “the guys in my department are all paid more than I am,” we’re just supposed to accept it because a woman says so and her experience is real?

          There’s a huge difference between saying “I feel this way” and “biology works this way.” Scientific truth-claims are held to a higher standard because they’re just that- claims about universal truths applicable across many people’s experiences. That’s a categorically different thing from claims about lived experiences.

          I really don’t want this to get contentious or personal, because I’ve seriously respected a lot of things you’ve written, Tinfoil Hattie, but I also thing you’re really reaching here.

        5. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan October 8, 2012 at 10:54 pm |

          Jeezus Hattie, at least make up crap that’s believable; your straw constructions aren’t even trying now. “Mothers don’t have to/can’t do data, wah!” is the most insulting thing I’ve seen written about mothers yet! And it’s coming from you!

      2. doberman
        doberman October 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm |

        Well I don’t have any scientific evidence — I was just speaking from personal experience of the changes I’ve seen women go through after becoming mothers. Women who were politically idealistic became more resigned and conservative in their viewpoints. They would often view their pre-motherhood selves as childish.

        These changes are of course a very typical part of getting older, but it’s particularly pronounced in the case of mothers, probably due to oxycontin as you guys said.

        1. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date October 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm |

          Um. Oxytocin. Not oxycontin.

        2. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl October 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm |

          Women who were politically idealistic became more resigned and conservative in their viewpoints. They would often view their pre-motherhood selves as childish.

          Nope, I’m going to assume you’re dealing with an artificially narrow pool of women for your anecdata here. It’s just as common for people to become more liberal after having children because that experience opens them up to an even wider range of experiences and perspectives. I dunno, maybe ask around here a bit on Feministe? I think you would find your mind blown.

        3. Tamara
          Tamara October 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm |

          This just smacks of biological determinism to me. I mean, can’t women (as people) make changes in their attitudes etc as a result of actual conscious deliberation?

        4. robotile
          robotile October 9, 2012 at 10:20 pm |

          Actually, maybe oxycontin does make people more conservative…look at Rush Limbaugh.

    2. Natalia Antonova
      Natalia Antonova October 8, 2012 at 12:54 pm | *

      Can’t we just accept that after a woman becomes a mother she might have a different chemical balance in her body and feel different about her role in the world? I see no value to people without children pontificating about how mothers should feel.

      What the shit?

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan October 9, 2012 at 11:21 am |

        I exercised, then hugged someone, then had sex, then ate chocolate. Chemically I’m politically erratic right now, I guess! Does the sex make me a liberal? Do the endorphins from the exercise make me conservative? Fuck, I’d better not vote right now! … 9_9

  7. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 11:41 am |

    Once again, a big pile of straw-motherhood for “real!” feminists to knock down. That Ms. Valenti is extremely ambivalent about her own role as a motherhood is no secret, and in that, she is just another member of a very big club. But snarking about women who say, “I’m a mom first!” as though that were some very popular battle cry against which FEMINISTS! must fight back, is disingenuous at best.

    Most mothers who spend most of their days tendong children don’t go around bragging about it much, largely because of articles like these and reactions like some of the commenters’ here (“Yet you have time to read and comment on a feminst blog.” — ooh, you ohowed THAT b- who dared to complain about the way feminism pirtrays mothers!).

    Most feminists without children don’t give much of a shit about women whose days are spent parenting their children, because those women are bad feminists and should hire someone else to do it. You know, for the sake of All Other Women. Many feminists who suddenly children spend lots of time, like Valenti, reassuring (themselves? other feminists?) that they are Not Like Those Other Mothers Who Don’t Care About Their Identity.

    As for this: “Accepting this role without argument or critique” – mothers are not the unthinking, dumb, breeding monilith that this phrase characterizes them to be. I’m bemused that the 34-year-old mother of one infant believes she needs to mothersplain to the rest of us feminist mothers the pitfalls we have faced since we became pregnant.

    Finally, here’s a dirty little secret: once you become a mother, you ARE a mother first. No matter how you spend your time, those offspring absolutely determine every single other thing you do, until they leave home for good.

    1. Ashley
      Ashley October 8, 2012 at 12:07 pm |

      “Finally, here’s a dirty little secret: once you become a mother, you ARE a mother first. No matter how you spend your time, those offspring absolutely determine every single other thing you do, until they leave home for good.”

      No, they don’t. My children control my life far less than my biological needs. I could easily give even more time and energy to them but I don’t because I value my self. Yes, they are a high priority, but so is having clean laundry, good food, and all the other basic needs of life. Much like I won’t neglect my grocery shopping or other basic chores to pursue my other interests I won’t neglect my children, but that doesn’t mean they have any claim on my time when I’m not actively caring for them.

      I’m a person first, a mother second, and many other things besides.

      1. tinfoil hatiie
        tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm |

        Okay: your job. Younhave/had child care, right? Where is its location in relation to your homr and your job? What time do they oprn? What time do they close? Do they accept infants? How much does it cost? Can you stay and work late tonight, or so you have to make sure someone can pick up the kids?

        Household: Did you arrange your home to accommodate children? Did you spend money on baby items? Do you buy more food now? Is the house a bigger mess?

        Self: Can you take a shower right now, or does the baby need to eat first? Is your partner available to mind the kid( s) while you do? Can you just walk out of the house without a care, or does somebody have to be there with the kids? Do you have to be back by a certain time? Do older kids need a ride somewhere, and/ or do you have to pick them up, and arrange your schedule around that?

        And on, and on. It’s a fact, and one that would be helpful for all of us to admit. Let’s talk about what it really means before we criticize mothers who do it wrong.

        1. A4
          A4 October 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm |

          What happened to letting women define their experiences for themselves? Sounds to me like you’re trying to define Ashley’s life and experiences as a mother for her.

        2. tinfoil hatiie
          tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 1:41 pm |

          A4, I’m talking about the realities of raising children, gphere. Not how Ashley, or any other mother, experiences those realities. The fact is: Children do not raise themselves. You have to manage your life around theirs. They are the ones who are dependent.

        3. Lyndsay
          Lyndsay October 8, 2012 at 2:12 pm |

          I think it would be more accurate to say children are factored into most decisions parents make (particularly outside work) rather than offspring determine what you do. Decisions parents make need to involve children but that doesn’t mean children dictate what happens, which is what it sounds like you’re saying.

        4. Ashley
          Ashley October 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm |

          You could make that exact same argument about being a spouse. Because I am married I live in a specific location, have a larger house, spend more money on vehicles, buy more food, more clothes, have more chores, have more of a mess. There’s 4x the amount of computer equipment in my home than I would otherwise have because of my husband. When I eat dinner, shower, leave the house, etc. takes his needs into consideration. When he’s sick I have to care for him, when he’s sad I have to comfort him, and I often have to put aside what I want to do for what he wants to do. And, for the record, that exact list applies even more to him (if it wasn’t for me he’d be in a different industry and probably living in California).

          The thing is I do not define myself as a wife first, or believe that all my decisions flow from being a wife. I chose to marry and live my life with another person, and these are the consequences of it. Same thing with parenting. WE chose to have children, WE chose to raise them in a certain way in certain circumstances, and there are a myriad of consequences from that that we accept. That’s what life is.

          Defining myself as a mother or a wife first emphasizes the primacy of that role and separates it out from the rest of life. My family is not an add on, and I don’t like to think about what I’d do if they weren’t in my life. Not because it’s sad, but because it’s irrelevant and it frames the people I most care about and the most basic needs as tangential at best to “real life.”

          I’m lucky, I made my choices as freely as you can in this society. I know where my choices were constrained, I had a decent idea of the consequences of my choices before they happened, and I chose it anyways. Those choices are of course up for discussion and criticism (why were my choices constrained, why did this that or the other thing appeal to me) but they are mine. My lifestyle is the choice I made, not a sacrifice for some ideal or even another person.

          tl;dr version: I prefer to talk about agency in motherhood than sacrifice.

        5. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm |

          It’s not a matter of emphasizing sacrifice. It’s the reality of taking care of dependent people. And your spouse doesn’t “need” you to worry about when and whether s/he has eaten, etc. So it’s not exactly the same thing. Adults can take care of themselves. Children can’t. Older children can, to an extent.

        6. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm |

          It’s not a matter of emphasizing sacrifice. It’s the reality of taking care of dependent people. And your spouse doesn’t “need” you to worry about when and whether s/he has eaten, etc. So it’s not exactly the same thing. Adults can take care of themselves. Children can’t. Older children can, to an extent.

        7. Joselle
          Joselle October 8, 2012 at 3:56 pm |

          Tinfoil Hattie: I love you and everything you’ve said . Where’s your blog? That is all.

        8. Ashley
          Ashley October 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm |

          Bah nesting comments.

          TH, no one is denying the reality of childrearing is overwhelming and unrelenting, but we are talking about the social construction of motherhood and the prevailing rhetoric that pushes mothers to subsume their identity into that role. As a person who happens to be a mother, I reject that. Motherhood is an important part of my life but is not my primary identity. I chose to have children and accept the consequences of that choice; I do not sacrifice for them. Rhetoric matters and right now the rhetoric around motherhood serves to erase the individuality and personhood of the mother, even in extreme cases demanding her life. Until we start talking about motherhood in a way that acknowledges the agency and individuality of the mother this will not change.

        9. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 5:43 pm |

          Ashley, I apologize. I am really, REALLY not saying that all mothers sacrifice and put themselves last and don’t have lives and if they think they do, they are wrong!

          I am sorry. I should not have been so hyperbolic when I said that children influence EVERY decision we make. What I meant was, once you are a parent, there is no getting off the train. You might sit here or sit there or go to the dining car, but you’re still on that train (& yeah, I’m being simplistic again).

          I think we are in agreement, and I am sorry I phrased my thoughts badly.

        10. Partial Human
          Partial Human October 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm |

          your spouse doesn’t “need” you to worry about when and whether s/he has eaten, etc.

          How do you know that?

          So it’s not exactly the same thing. Adults can take care of themselves.

          Most can, some can’t. I can guarantee you that caring full-time for your disabled spouse/partner is harder than looking after a child.

          Some adults can’t feed, dress, or clean themselves. They can’t take their own medication, get to the bathroom, or do things on their own.

          As usual though, ableism rears it’s ugly head and erases the lived experiences of disabled people and their partners.

          It’s especially pointed when the couple are both women, adding sexism and heterosexism to the mix. Women are just expected. to step up and care for their significant others without outside help.

          It’s draining and exhausting, but never taken seriously, because lesbian relationships aren’t taken seriously to begin with. The carer-partner gets erased completely by everybody, as a friend/sister/paid assistant etc, because two women in a sexual relationship are “weird” enough to heterosexist norms, but make one of the partners disabled? That couple flat out doesn’t exist any more.

        11. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 7:07 pm |

          Partial Human, I replied tomthis but under the wrong comment. You are 100% right, and I am sorry. I did address this much, much later in comments, but I should have been clearer here.

          Of course not all adults can take care of themselves, and of course the caretaker’s life is constrained as a result.

        12. Partial Human
          Partial Human October 8, 2012 at 8:44 pm |

          Thank you.

    2. Esti
      Esti October 8, 2012 at 12:14 pm |

      That Ms. Valenti is extremely ambivalent about her own role as a motherhood is no secret

      I think this is exactly what she is pushing back against — the idea that a mother who says she is not a mother first and above all else is then labeled as “extremely ambivalent about her own role as a mother”. Jessica’s written a lot about how much she loves her kid and how happy she is to have her, but she also writes a lot about not wanting her identity to be subsumed into the fact she’s a mother. I don’t think those ideas are in tension with one another, and I think assuming they are is the reason this conversation is still necessary.

      And this:

      Finally, here’s a dirty little secret: once you become a mother, you ARE a mother first. No matter how you spend your time, those offspring absolutely determine every single other thing you do, until they leave home for good.

      may be true for you, but it is not true for all mothers (or all parents). My Mom’s decision to start a small business or to end a long friendship that had turned sour or to take up a new hobby was not determined by the fact that I existed. She was (and is) an awesome mother, but she wouldn’t describe herself as a mother first. Insisting that every mother (and of course only mothers, not fathers) necessarily must and do center their lives around their children is just another way of imposing expectations on mothers instead of letting them live their own damn lives.

      1. tinfoil hatiie
        tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 1:01 pm |

        That’s not what I said. What I said is that every decision a mother makes, large and small, flows down from the fact of her children’s existence.

        Fathers, for the most part in our male-centric society, don’t suffer this so much. Though at an anecdotal level. I’m glad to see that changing more and more.

        1. Lauren
          Lauren October 8, 2012 at 1:05 pm |

          That’s not what I said. What I said is that every decision a mother makes, large and small, flows down from the fact of her children’s existence.

          Please don’t generalize your experience to that of every mother. This is not my experience, and I resent this earth mother shit.

        2. tinfoil hatiie
          tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 1:15 pm |

          Lauren, please give me examples of how you live your day-to-day life with no thought to where your kids are, what they are doing, who they are with, when you can leave/have to be back, whether you can spend your money on anything you want, whether/what kind of vehicle you will own, where you will live, etc. Because I need to know how to apply that method. I can’t just make my decisions in a vacuum. The hum in the background is always the hum of the things I mentioned above. And this makes you annoyed – why?

          Think of it this way: people who have pets are similarly constrained, no? It’s reality, and I am not sure why it is such a horrible truth to tell. Facing the reality of how much our lives are affected by caring for these human beings is where we should startbthe discussion.

        3. Lauren
          Lauren October 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm |

          TH, I’m responding to the assertion that “every decision a mother makes, large and small” is made regarding her children.

          That’s bullshit essentialism, and it’s bullshit essentialism that’s used against mothers of all stripes, in and out of feminism, apparently.

        4. tinfoil hatiie
          tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 1:45 pm |

          Lauren, that’s neither what I said, nor what I meant. Can you answer the question I did ask? How do mothers (and many fathers) live our lives on a day-to-day basis, without our children having an effect on every decision we make? How is it even possible to live such a life? I don’t understand.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm |

          Tinfoil, more of my daily decisions/necessities are influenced by my schooling than my stepkid. Who requires, I dunno, half as much expense, takes half as much actual “work” hours a week, and is actually more fun more of the time than college. So I guess you could say I’m a student first. Except that would be omg oppressive of mothers.

          Not that I’m a “real” mother by your bizarre hormone-based logic anyway, so maybe I’m just talking out my ass.

        6. Lauren
          Lauren October 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm |

          Lauren, that’s neither what I said, nor what I meant. Can you answer the question I did ask? How do mothers (and many fathers) live our lives on a day-to-day basis, without our children having an effect on every decision we make? How is it even possible to live such a life? I don’t understand.

          It is, actually, what you said. It’s a direct quote. If you want to clarify, feel free.

          I make a lot of decisions that have nothing to do with my children. Parents the world over make decisions despite their children or their interests all the time. Sometimes I know what’s in my children’s best interests and have to do the opposite. Sometimes their interests aren’t part of the equation. Esti gave you some examples above — they’re good ones. Consider those.

          If you want to argue what the cultural trope of “good parenting” is and what that looks like, by all means. It sounds like you’re of the “must revolve around the children” school of thought. I’m not. I’m of the personal opinion that people do what works because we all have to live. Politics may have something to say about that, as we see here. But “every decision a mother makes, large and small, flows down from the fact of her children’s existence” is silly, because it’s not true.

        7. Lauren
          Lauren October 8, 2012 at 2:33 pm |

          Think of it this way: people who have pets are similarly constrained, no? It’s reality, and I am not sure why it is such a horrible truth to tell.

          Also, I make SO MANY life decisions that don’t involve my cats. This probably means I’m a bad person?

        8. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm |

          Not that I’m a “real” mother by your bizarre hormone-based logic anyway, so maybe I’m just talking out my ass

          Bullshit, unfair characterization, macavitykitsune. Where the hell did I say parenting is based on hormones?

          And, if you don’t ever have to take yoyrchild’s needs into consideration, please tell me the secret. Does s/he feed him/herself? Ditto for clothing? Go to his/her own parent/ teacher conferences? Get to the doctor him/herself? You didn’t select your course of study or schedule based on when the kid needs someone around? Please tell me your secret. My kids are dependent upon adults on a day-to-day basis.

        9. trishka
          trishka October 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm |

          no, i’m sorry. not EVERY SINGLE DECISION LARGE & SMALL.

          yes, my life is framed in many ways by the fact that i am a parent, and the primary caregiver in my family. my son is 6, he is in first grade. today is a school day. that means i dropped him off at school at 8:15AM and will pick him up from his after-school care program at 4:30PM. within that time frame, as long as the school doesn’t call to tell me he is sick or injured, what i do with my time is between me and my employer.

          guess what? i just got back from eating lunch. the decision of which restaurant to go to for lunch had nothing to do with my kid. i’m getting ready to do some design drawings for my job. again? nothing to do with my kid. also, the facebook status update i made via my smartphone? nothing about the kid there. it was all about TV, mexican food, and a fave politician.

          once i pick him up from school, my job will shift from being an engineer to a parent, and the decisions i will make will be a lot more predicated on what he needs. once he goes to bed, other than not leaving the house, my time is again my own.

          so this notion that just because i have a kid i don’t make a single! decision! ever! that is not predicated on the kid’s well-being is just a load of crap.

        10. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm |

          Well, trishka, your decisions are constrained by when your kid leaves and when s/he gets home. Within that 8- hour time frame, your time is yours.

          Within that eight-hour time frame determined by your kid’s schedule.

          It’s not a value judgment on you as a person. It’s a fact of raising dependent people.

        11. Beatrice
          Beatrice October 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm |

          tinfoil hatiie,

          Most of the society is making a value judgement with all the mom first rhetoric. That was kinda Valenti’s point and what she is against. Just as most people here who disagree with you.

        12. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm |

          And, if you don’t ever have to take yoyrchild’s needs into consideration, please tell me the secret.

          Explain to me some more about how “more” equals “none!” Because when I say

          Tinfoil, more of my daily decisions/necessities are influenced by my schooling than my stepkid.

          clearly I mean “Omg lolz I don’t have to ever consider my child it gets taken care of by magical fairies.”

          MORE. LESS. EQUAL. These words mean things. You might want to pay attention before just erupting into ragefroth because everyone here isn’t all MOMMIES AWW COOOO. And since you know damn well that I’m someone who barges in and yells at everyone when it concerns advocacy for mothers, you might want to be a bit less defensive and actually read things I say.

          Where the hell did I say parenting is based on hormones?

          You were arguing in favour of doberman’s ridiculous “brain chemistry makes women into mommies first” comments. And by the way, dismissing Ashley’s lived experience which just happens to disagree with yours, and then saying that people who ignore any old fucking claim from someone who happens to have given birth are as intellectually dishonest as rape apologists. It doesn’t make me think you’re being terribly rational on this thread. Angry, I get, but cooking up insulting comparisons and pretending that mothers’ ideas don’t count unless they’re exactly the same as yours isn’t a product of anger, it’s a product of defensiveness.

          Also, I haven’t felt any massive hormonal change since starting to take care of my kid, so I guess that I’m not one of those real mothers who has real hormonal changes, by your own criteria. I’m not even on the scale of adoptive mother or father or whatever. So, yeah. Not a real parent, then.

        13. trishka
          trishka October 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

          but that’s not what you said. you said that “What I said is that every decision a mother makes, large and small, flows down from the fact of her children’s existence.” and that’s simply not true. the fact of my child’s existence did not dictate whether i had mexican food for lunch today vs. a sandwich.

          if i didn’t have a kid, i’d still be working at this engineering job, would still take lunch at the same time (more or less), the same restaurant choices would be available, my income wouldn’t be that much difference. it’s a ridiculous hyperbolic statement to say that every decision flows from the fact of my child’s existence.

          sure, in general, having a child means constraints on one’s time that wouldn’t exist if one didn’t have a child. but, as astutely pointed out by ashley, so does being married. so does being a homeowner. so does being gainfully employed outside the home. am not sure what the big news is here with this.

        14. Kara
          Kara October 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm |

          Not that I’m a “real” mother by your bizarre hormone-based logic anyway, so maybe I’m just talking out my ass

          Bullshit, unfair characterization, macavitykitsune. Where the hell did I say parenting is based on hormones?

          Oh, I dunno… maybe your whole diatribe on Oxycontin?

          You didn’t select your course of study or schedule based on when the kid needs someone around?

          Well, I can only speak for myself of course, but I selected my course of study based on what I wanted to do with my life. And I selected my schedule based on when the required classes were offered.

          Seriously, not everything flows to or from or revolves around the almighty children. Maybe it does for you, and if you are happy with that, then great. But to attack people who state that they lead their lives differently makes you seem desperate for approval and/or justification.

        15. Kara
          Kara October 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm |

          Argh, blockquoting fail in my previous post. Jill, can you fix? Or should I just try to resubmit?

        16. trishka
          trishka October 8, 2012 at 6:12 pm |

          okay, see, i can agree with that. thanks for clarifying.

        17. Lyanna
          Lyanna October 8, 2012 at 11:14 pm |

          What I said is that every decision a mother makes, large and small, flows down from the fact of her children’s existence.

          What you said is horseshit. And you know it, which is why you’re running away from it in your subsequent comments.

          You start off saying that every decision a mother makes “flows down” from the fact of her children’s existence. This is plainly false.

          Later on, you run away and change your story, because people have called you on your crap. You change your story to “every decision a mother makes might TAKE INTO ACCOUNT her children’s existence.”

          Except “takes into account” is very, very different from “flows down from.” It’s much milder, much more watered-down. Yeah, every decision a mother makes could be influenced by her kids’ existence (though it isn’t always–there are actually some times when parents don’t think about their kids! No, really!). But that doesn’t mean those decisions are controlled by the kids’ existence.

          You’re spewing essentialist mommy-centric bullshit, and you’re doing it under the pretense of being feministier-than-thou. Both are disgusting things; I’m surprised at Jill for putting up with it.

      2. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm |

        I’m not arguing about “good parenting,” for crying out loud! I’m asserting the grim and uglyntruth that becoming a parent – especially, becoming a mother – necessarily (and factually) influences the rest of your entire life!

        For shit’s sake! If you are saying that your life has as much freedom and autonomy as it did before you had kids, teach me the magic!

        1. Lauren
          Lauren October 8, 2012 at 3:08 pm |

          Any limitations on freedom and autonomy change as your kids get older. Most children do eventually feed themselves, clothe themselves, drive themselves around and make life decisions without consulting their mothers. It does happen.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve October 8, 2012 at 3:09 pm |

          I’m not arguing about “good parenting,” for crying out loud! I’m asserting the grim and uglyntruth that becoming a parent – especially, becoming a mother – necessarily (and factually) influences the rest of your entire life!

          For shit’s sake! If you are saying that your life has as much freedom and autonomy as it did before you had kids, teach me the magic!

          Do you really not see what you’re saying? If becoming a parent influences the rest of your entire life, surely NOT become a parent influences your entire life.

          You know, Tinfoil, when it comes to this subject you remind me of the subject of a previous thread. The guy who insisted his wedding night sex was ‘special’ because he waited for sex. You throw around these words like ‘first,’ ‘best,’ and ‘most important,’ and then deny that you’re making a value judgement about people who make ifferent choices than you or someone to whom life has dealt a different hand.

        3. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm |

          It’s not about “consulting their mothers,” for crying out loud. My kids are older. They still eat, wear and grow out of clothing, need rides (can’t afford to give them their own car, and I need access to mine), have to go to the doctor, have parent-teacher confernces/meetings, need to talk about what’s going on in their lives, need help with college decisions, need money for applications, can’t stay alone overnight, etc.

          So they still consume a lot of time and thought. Even when they’re not “consulting their mothers.”

        4. trishka
          trishka October 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm |

          there’s a world of difference between having the same freedom and autonomy as before children and having no freedom or autonomy.

        5. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl October 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm |

          Do you really not see what you’re saying? If becoming a parent influences the rest of your entire life, surely NOT become a parent influences your entire life.

          FFS, Steve, once again it’s not about you.

          Once you become a legal parent to another person, you are legally responsible for their care and well-being for at least the first 18 years of their lives. Don’t become a legal parent to someone and you don’t have that responsiblity. It’s that simple. It isn’t about you or any other person who isn’t a parent, nor is it some sort of swipe or negative judgment on the fact that they aren’t a parent.

          Hell, if you become a dog owner you are also legally responsibly for the care and well being of that animal as long as it remains in your household. Stating that becoming a pet owner influences (or changes or whatever language you throw at it to describe it) your life doesn’t involve making a value judgment of those who do not. It’s just describing the reality of the situation at hand.

      3. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 3:19 pm |

        You throw around these words like ‘first,’ ‘best,’ and ‘most important,’ and then deny that you’re making a value judgement about people who make ifferent choices than you or someone to whom life has dealt a different hand.

        Fatsteve, you’re misrepresenting me rather grossly. Nowhere – nowhere have I asserted that anything is “best” or “most important.”

        “First” was used as a definition of sequence – i.e., “first” we have to make sure (maybe not even conscious,ply but it’s there) the kids are managed, taken care of, out of the way, whatever. THEN the rest falls into place.

        Even if the sequential “first” means saying, “Don’t bug me, I’m busy right now” to your kid.

        So please do NOT accuse me of things I have not said or done. It’s bullshit.

        1. trishka
          trishka October 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm |

          first” we have to make sure (maybe not even conscious,ply but it’s there) the kids are managed, taken care of, out of the way, whatever. THEN the rest falls into place.

          see, i agree with this, TH. but that doesn’t then mean that i have no autonomy. it means that i structure my autonomy according to my job as primary caregiver to our son. being primary caregiver is one source of constraints in my life – there are others. and within all of that i do structure some autonomy into my life. to not be able to do that at all would mean a seriously miserable mother, wife, employee, and citizen.

          (conversely, my husband, being the main breadwinner, is more constrained by the dictates of his employment than i am. so it’s not like being an adult means getting to live without constraints, even if one does have a partner who does most of the childraising).

          i’m still not seeing what the great big point is, or what the newsflash is.

        2. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

          You were arguing in favour of doberman’s ridiculous “brain chemistry makes women into mommies first” comments.

          bull. shit.

          I DID NOT SAY THIS.

          I made a specific response to a specific QUESTION about body chemistry.

          It was NOT a “diatribe,” either, BTW.

          Oxytocin is released when we have positive contact with each other. It affects mothers strongly because it is present in large quantitites after giviing birth. It is released when an adoptive parent sees his/her child for the first time. It is released afetr physical contact with friends, with lovers – hell, even with strangers after a handshake, if the contact is pleasant. It’s a pretty amazing chemical. And, it can influence how we feel about ourselves and our role/place in the world.

          I know you all wish I had said that mothers are the only true women in the world, and that oxytocin turns all women into unthinking, sacrificial, Mommymommymommies! and that I am claiming to have the One True Knowledge of motherhood – because that’s what you are trying to refute – but I never. said. any. of. that.

          Hell, some of you are refuting what OTHER people claim I said.

          I would appreciate any direct quotes of mine to the contrary – about oxytocin definingmotherhood(!), about motherhood being more important than anything else, about childfree women not being “real” women – so that I can clarify what I said. Not what people wish I’d said. What I really did say.

        3. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm |

          trishka, I did not say you have no autonomy. Nor do I believe that.

          What I mean by “every single decision,” and you are right, that was hyperbolic and I apologize, is that once you become a parent, your life changes in ways that are impossible to foresee, because now your life ceases to be solely your own.

          This is somewhat true of adult partnerships, too – but you don’t have to take care of your partner on a day-to-day basis. (And if you do have to, then your life is also not “your own” in the way that other partnered adults’ lives are.)

          The truth about parenting is that in the beginning, it is nearly all-consuming. It becomes less so as children age and become independent, but your life is largely determined by what yiyr kids are doing – in the grand scheme, in the small scheme, whatever.

          If we don’t acknowledge this fundamental truth about parenting, especially motherhood, we risk falling into the assumption that mothers always put their children first (“Look at her! Always so consumed by her children!”) because they WANT to or because they are trying to make other mothers look bad or because they don’t care about other women and feminism.

          Instead of telling the truth, which is: it’s hard, it’s overwhelming, it’s time consuming, and the onus of parenting and motherhood does not belong solely to individual mothers. We blame mothers for doing motherhood “wrong” instead of seeing that the whole system is pretty fucked up.

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm |

          I know you all wish I had said that mothers are the only true women in the world

          Except I never said that or responded as if you said that. WTF?

          about childfree women not being “real” women

          whuuuut. I never said you said that at all. Why are you conflating “mother” with “woman”? Seriously, you want to pick a fight, at least quote me half-correctly. And don’t paste insulting conflations to my name while you’re at it.

          This is somewhat true of adult partnerships, too – but you don’t have to take care of your partner on a day-to-day basis.

          Exhibit A in I Don’t Have A Disabled Partner Or Know Anyone Who’s Disabled And Partnered.

        5. Mary Joan Koch
          Mary Joan Koch October 10, 2012 at 10:02 am |

          tinfoil hattie,

          I am enjoying your comments. Do you have a blog or twitter account?

      4. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 7:11 pm |

        macavitykitsune, comparing me to a rape apologist because you disagree with me, or even because I worded things badly – or even if I WERE actually claiming that I am the only one who is right! – is way, WAY over the top, and is absolutely uncalled for, and I don’t deserve it.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm |

          WTF? I said:

          saying that people who ignore any old fucking claim from someone who happens to have given birth are as intellectually dishonest as rape apologists

          as in: you said that disbelieving mothers when they say any old thing is intellectually dishonest when the same person is saying we should believe rape victims when they report.

          I paraphrased what you said in your comment to Jill above. I paraphrased WHAT YOU SAID. Just because you can’t parse a goddamn sentence doesn’t mean I called you a rape apologist, for fuck’s sake. Okie? Now please take a break until you can put down the rage and start reading what people actually say.

      5. samanthab
        samanthab October 9, 2012 at 8:19 am |

        The problem is that’s a disingenuous claim, the idea that you can be a “mother first.” It’s intrinsic to mothering that you teach values, behavioral codes, and so on. You flat out cannot do that without having an identity larger than motherhood. The “mom first” is just a bullshit trope, pure and simple.

    3. Diz
      Diz October 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm |

      As a mother of two kids, not infants because according to you that’s totally important, I see your “don’t speak for mothers, you DO become a mother first” outrage and raise it with “how about you don’t speak for mothers yourself, I happen to be a person first”?

      The only one I see being condescending here is you.

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm |

        Again, I apologize for the poor phrasing I used. By “first,” I meant sequentially, for lack of a better word. I meant that never again do we own our lives on the way we once did, and that is a huge and irreversible change.

        I did not mean to imply, nor do I believe, “first” as in “best” or “most” or any other superlative.

        1. Tamara
          Tamara October 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm |

          You may be using “first” that way, but Valenti’s position is that the rhetoric uses “first” the other way, as in, “most important”. Then, everything else is necessarily of lower priority. If we are making that semantic distinction then aren’t we all here in agreement?

        2. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 7:11 pm |

          Well, different interpretations, I guess. Clearly I read it differently.

        3. Lyanna
          Lyanna October 8, 2012 at 11:18 pm |

          Clearly you didn’t read it at all. Or anyone else’s comments.

    4. Ledasmom
      Ledasmom October 9, 2012 at 10:36 pm |

      “Finally, here’s a dirty little secret: once you become a mother, you ARE a mother first. No matter how you spend your time, those offspring absolutely determine every single other thing you do, until they leave home for good”

      Not even close. As I have said, many times, to my children: “What in your life with me leads you to think that I’m capable of that?”
      One reads about heroic mothers fending off bears from their children. Me, I might possibly shoo a hamster, if it were fairly small.

    5. bleh
      bleh October 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm |

      All of the mothers in my department (anecdata), who are, in fact , doing great, satisfying, autonomous work, not feeling powerless to a shitty boss, brag about their parenting non-stop. They turn every conversation possible into a mommies-are-great-fest. And they get whole semesters off when they reproduce (often at full pay). So I’m not buying the mother shaming line. It is nowhere in my world.

  8. trishka
    trishka October 8, 2012 at 12:07 pm |

    jenny allen skewered this whole trope a few weeks ago in ‘the new yorker’:

    http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2012/09/17/120917sh_shouts_allen

    1. DonnaL
      DonnaL October 8, 2012 at 12:15 pm |

      That was great.

    2. Jadey
      Jadey October 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm |

      I think I like that one better than Valenti’s piece. It properly attacks the psuedo-solidarity of Ann Romney’s type of wealthy, white, “traditional” (read: sexist) motherhood as a universal aspirational motherhood, which I didn’t get from Valenti’s piece as clearly.

      The problems isn’t mothers. The problem isn’t motherhood. The problem is, as ever, sexism and misogyny and the denigration and double-binding of women, mothers and otherwise, whatever way they step, whatever they chose to do, whatever they are coerced to do.

      The problem isn’t “Mother First” – it’s the use of “Mother First” to disguise “Mother Only, Mother Always” and subsequently glorifying our current anti-mother reality as being subversively pro-mother. 2 + 2 = 5, amirite? “Real” moms make it work. “Real” moms don’t need handouts, or jobs, or support. “Real” moms are happier when they’re tired, ill, poor, over-looked, swept aside, and stepped on, because “real” moms are fulfilled purely by their status of being a mom.

      Of course, moms (I’m going to drop the “real” conceit now because it was entirely sarcastic but still making me kind of ill) are nothing of the sort. But they are often tired, poor, ill, over-looked, etc. And they are often working their asses off to take care of people who aren’t in a position to take care of themselves yet, whether it’s terrifically fulfilling in that moment or not, because at that point the “choice” to look after the kid or not isn’t particularly a choice at all. It’s a job that just needs to be done and a job that isn’t made easier by either A) conservative rhetoric about how fulfilling that job should be, or B) progressive rhetoric about how unfulfilling that job should be.

      What would make a difference, and where I think Valenti and I would be in perfect agreement, is progressive policies that would actually make parenting and child-rearing easier. I think those would be very much appreciated, and I think we can agree that conservative policies tend to be those which make parenting and child-rearing harder. But even though the right has been pretty demonstrably anti-woman and anti-mother, the mainstream left seems to take it too much for granted that our reputation among mothers is any better and that our rhetoric, unburdened by action as it often is , is necessarily going to be received any more positively.

      1. rain
        rain October 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm |

        The problem isn’t “Mother First” – it’s the use of “Mother First” to disguise “Mother Only, Mother Always” and subsequently glorifying our current anti-mother reality as being subversively pro-mother.

        + 1

      2. Dan_Brodribb
        Dan_Brodribb October 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm |

        Your comment makes a lot of sense, Jadey.

        The birth of my nephew has changed the way I see the world in a lot of ways. It’s made me reconsider some of my priorities, and while I’m not his primary caregiver, it’s become really important to me to do everything I can to help him and his family and I wouldn’t hesitate to put other things aside if and when it as necessary.

        At the same time, I don’t feel any social pressure from to drop everything else in my life, go around proclaiming myself an “uncle first,” tell other guys they aren’t uncling right, or to not need, ask for, accept, or expect help from outside sources. In fact, if I DID do these things, I suspect I would be labeled weird and co-dependant, not noble and self-sacrificing.

        But it sounds like some believe the expectations should be different for mothers.

        Is that the heart of the issue?

        1. Jadey
          Jadey October 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm |

          Yes, I think that’s part of it.

          What bothers me most is the co-opting of motherhood by a single, highly privileged class. The “Mommy Wars” are all about reducing “motherhood” to the trials and travails of wealthy, white, straight USian women and then measuring all other women by that standard. As a result, the discourse around “mommyhood” is so unbelievably out of step with the majority of mothering experiences that it’s almost impossible to have a conversation about it – too much white noise on the line (pun so very intended).

          That’s why I think Jessica’s inclusion of Michelle Obama alongside Ann Romney is particularly unfair. Jessica nods to the fact that as a black woman, motherhood has a different context as it applies to Michelle, because black women have historically been denigrated as unfit mothers (though not as “mammies”, caring for white women’s children, yeesh – layers upon layers), but I think she underestimates how crucial that difference is. I believe Michelle Obama does more to subvert this restrictive mothering stereotype than she does to reinforce it, though I’m not above agreeing that she can theoretically be doing both. Still, Michelle presenting herself as an effective, admirable mother of two black daughters means something fundamentally different from Ann Romney reinforcing the image of a perfect white housewife and devoted mother. I also think that in general there’s less hypocrisy on the Obama/Democrat side in terms of producing anti-woman, anti-mother policies, whereas there is something deeply, deeply insidious about Ann Romney fronting an appreciation for motherhood on behalf of what seems like an administration that would do more to reinforce and even deepen the existing structural prejudices against the majority of USian mothers (based on my admittedly less-than-expert knowledge of Mitt Romney’s legislative goals).

          That’s where that particular “Mother First” rhetoric really burns me, not so much because “Mother First”, but because it seems to so obviously stand for “Fuck Mothers”. But I think that’s also pretty obvious to most of the mothers reading this site. It’s not like anyone here is defending Romney’s use of the “Mother First” rhetoric – the problem I have with the original article is that it goes beyond that critique into something too broad and all-encompassing, which is a bad idea when the wounds here are already so raw. Plus, again, it’s reinforcing that particular overly-homogenized motherhood experience. Valenti does link to a great piece by Tami Winfrey Harris on a black mother’s perspective on Michelle Obama, but her own piece isn’t framed by the same understanding of her own (and Ann Romney’s) whiteness as a context for the discussion. It’s always “mothers” vs. “black mothers”. Or “poor mothers”. Or “single mothers”. I think that grates on people. Statements like this: “Trumpeting the supremacy of motherhood and domesticity is instant access to cultural approval” completely ignore how that access is only granted if you are also a well-off white woman in a culturally-approved domestic arrangement. The whole piece suffers from that narrowness of perspective.

          There are too many demands on what mothers “ought” to be from all sides. The problem is trying to draw too many lines down the middle and expecting people to line up on one side or the other, not realizing you are cutting through people or leaving them out entirely. I’m pretty comfortable rejecting super-extremes like Ann Romney, who both personifies and evangelizes the problematic and unrealistic motherhood “ideal”, but other than that I want to see more openness to different mothering experiences because there’s so much alienation already. The groundwork for antagonism has already been laid, and not just by one group.

      3. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

        Jadey, I love you, have I recently mentioned?

      4. Tamara
        Tamara October 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm |

        Awesome Jadey.

      5. Storyphile
        Storyphile October 8, 2012 at 10:51 pm |

        Love this Jadey, yes!

  9. chava
    chava October 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm |

    it will stop being a sexist narrative when men running for president also stop to say “But I’m a FATHER FIRST.”

    TH–I’m sorry, but the idea that women bond Better Stronger Deeper because of Hormones is crap. Women often form primary bonds with children over men, but that’s mostly societal–you spend all your time caring for the kid, you bond with him or her more. Oxytocin is powerful but it doesn’t last through kindergarten.

    “The sentiment may seem innocuous, but there’s a danger in returning to an ideal where women’s most important identity is relational rather than individual. If we want equality, women with children would be better served calling themselves people first, moms second.”

    Love the point about female identity as relational rather than individual in a society that values individualism over all else. That said, I could both do without the mommy blaming, and would have loved a more nuanced critique of American culture as problematic in its emphasis on extreme individualism. It would be better for all of us if we conceived of ourselves as a bit more relational.

    The mommy blaming thing is frustrating because its so tired. Valenti is participating in the mommy wars here, and she should know better. All THOSE mothers should do X and Y, like me, because that’s what’s best for Women and Equality. X or Y might be the right action, but there’s a serious problem with playing into the narrative of policing other mothers behavior rather than placing the focus on the article on what society could do better for women w/children.

    1. chava
      chava October 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm |

      Imagine an article where Valenti said, “When you talk about a woman with children, don’t refer to her as “Suzy’s Mom” or “Tom’s Wife.” Your language choices are important. Don’t define mothers as purely relational.”

      Instead of obsessing over Michelle Obama’s comments, that would throw the onus back on the culture that made her feel such a need to make them. Speaking of, I don’t think you can gloss over black motherhood in once sentence and then return to your point QUITE as easily as Valenti does here.

      1. Jadey
        Jadey October 8, 2012 at 1:41 pm |

        Speaking of, I don’t think you can gloss over black motherhood in once sentence and then return to your point QUITE as easily as Valenti does here.

        Yes. Although I think that’s probably because Valenti probably isn’t particularly qualified to speak on black motherhood.

        1. chava
          chava October 8, 2012 at 1:42 pm |

          then maybe she shouldn’t have trotted out Michelle Obama as an example of What’s Bad For Women?

        2. Jadey
          Jadey October 8, 2012 at 1:47 pm |

          Oh, yes, I quite agree with you. I was just thinking that I don’t really know what’s worse – a white mother pontificating on black motherhood or a white mother dismissing black motherhood.

        3. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm |

          Both pretty arrogant and damaging, I’d say.

      2. number9
        number9 October 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm |

        Speaking of, I don’t think you can gloss over black motherhood in once sentence and then return to your point QUITE as easily as Valenti does here.

        THIS. She just sort of throws that statement out there, checks it off on her list, and returns to what she does best – centering her own (white) experience. She caught some shit over her previous criticism of Michelle Obama’s speech, so this is really just her dropping a quick passing reference and moving on. It’s dismissive, and erasing, and quite frankly, gross.

        1. (BFing)Sarah
          (BFing)Sarah October 8, 2012 at 10:47 pm |

          I totally agree. I think its wonderful to see an accomplished woman like First Lady Obama be able to say that she is a mother first. It was not so long ago that she would not have had that choice solely by virtue of the color of her skin. You can’t just skim over that history or pretend that Ms. Obama is not a part of it.

    2. tinfoil hatiie
      tinfoil hatiie October 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm |

      chava, oxytocin is real. It’s not exclusive to mothers. It’s not even exclusive to the parent-child relationship. Someone mentioned that there is a chemical occurrence after a mother gives birth, abpnd asked if it isn’t possible that this is a factor in motherhood. Jill responded with a very snarky NO!

      I pointed out that she is wrong. Of course it has an effect.

      Changing my words into “Mothers have to be sacrificial and super-specially condemned to a life of subjugation!” is bullshit.

      1. Lauren
        Lauren October 8, 2012 at 1:13 pm |

        chava, oxytocin is real. It’s not exclusive to mothers. It’s not even exclusive to the parent-child relationship. Someone mentioned that there is a chemical occurrence after a mother gives birth, abpnd asked if it isn’t possible that this is a factor in motherhood. Jill responded with a very snarky NO!

        And biology is destiny, right? Where are you going with the “OXYTOCIN OMG!” argument?

        1. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 1:57 pm |

          Can’t we just accept that after a woman becomes a mother she might have a different chemical balance in her body and feel different about her role in the world?

          Yeesh. This is the comment I responded to. Yes, oxytocin affects people. Mothers, a lot. Yes, it could have an effect on how you feel about your role in society.

          “Biology is destiny?” I never argued that. I believe that brain chemistry can have a strong influence on how we view the world and how we view our role in it. Certainly brain chemistry imbalances vis-a-vis mental illness affect us.

          (Cue: “th thinks mothers are MENTALLY ILL!” comment)

        2. doberman
          doberman October 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm |

          It makes sense as well, for biology to ‘lock in’ mothers into the role with their new found brain chemistry and oxytocin. It also makes sense for mothers to develop a more conservative viewpoint towards other women’s choices. If they can convince other women to abandon there careers to focus on motherhood then that would be a win for reproduction.

        3. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm |

          doberman, I don’t know that oxytocin locks women into any particular hard-core role long-term. It can and often does have an effect on how all of us relate to others and how we see ourselves and our societal roles. But I have never seen anything claiming that oxytocin turns women into right-wing conservatives. Furthermore, it’s not JUST a chemical released when reproduction occurs.

        4. Alexandra
          Alexandra October 9, 2012 at 12:16 am |

          @Doberman: lol wut

          Please tell me what the evolutionary/biological rationale is for new mothers to become more conservative and want to convert other women to conservative motherhood. There is no species imperative toward breeding that would lead to women wanting other women to have more babies…!

          Take a biology class. Please.

        5. doberman
          doberman October 9, 2012 at 11:39 am |

          Well simply put, women working in professional careers doesn’t seem to achieve much from an evolutionary standpoint. (Note: I’m not saying I’m against women having careers — I completely support everyone’s right to choose what they want to do within reason.) She would be put to much better use having children and caring for them, as this would maximize the number of children in existence, thus fulfilling the biological imperative. Men should have a career, so they can facilitate a support role in this, providing money.

          If what tinfoil hattie says is true and that oxytocin turns mothers into socially conservative MOM FIRST! types, then perhaps that makes sense from a biological perspective? I’m not saying this is a good or bad thing, it’s just biology, which is neutral. As a libertarian I frankly have no time for such people, but we have to recognize that often what biology wants for us is different from what we want from us, and biology might have its ways of bringing us round to its point of view (oxytocin).

        6. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl October 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm |

          She would be put to much better use having children and caring for them, as this would maximize the number of children in existence, thus fulfilling the biological imperative. Men should have a career, so they can facilitate a support role in this, providing money.

          No.

          There is no biological imperative to have children. You just made that up, because there is no such thing.

          Just as there is no such thing as a biological imperative for men to work in order to support their offspring.

          And Hattie never said anything in agreement with the notion that oxytocin makes women more conservative once they become mothers. Reading comprehension is your friend, Doberman. Stop misstating and misconstruing the various positions people are taking in their comments here at Feministe.

          Finally, there is zero scientific evidence that oxytocin causes or supports emotional bonding between humans or any such nonsense. Causing the uterus to contract, yes, that’s long since been proven, as is its ability to stem post-partum issues like hemorrhage. All the rest of the supposed effects of oxytocin are “evolutionary biology” half truths and silliness.

      2. chava
        chava October 8, 2012 at 1:38 pm |

        I know it’s a real hormone, TH. I just think that individual factors determine bonding much more than an oxytocin rush. The hormone can HELP with bonding, but plenty of terrible parents have had high oxytocin levels in their bodies at one time or another.

        Can it have an effect? Sure…but I really doubt that that effect is determinative of bonding years down the road, in any meaningful way compared to other factors (support networks, childhood trauma, etc)

        1. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:03 pm |

          Again: I didn’t say any of that. But Jill, with whom I took issue, dismissed it out-of-hand.

      3. ibbica
        ibbica October 9, 2012 at 4:31 am |

        Er… point of clarification here.

        Yes, oxytocin exists.

        However, the information we have on whether oxytocin is released in response to a particular stimulus is based on group means. We have no evidence that every individual responds with oxytocin release to a particular stimulus, to the same extent or at all, or responds emotionally or behaviourally to any oxytocin released in the same manner or to the same extent.

        If you look at repeated measures from individuals (hard to find in the public literature, I know), you’ll note that there are some individuals who, when measured, do show no response, or show an opposite response to what was expected.

        I would like to ask that folks please remember to refrain from abusing data obtained for the purpose of explaining biological phenomena that appear on a species level by trying to apply it to every individual. Thank you.

        1. matlun
          matlun October 9, 2012 at 6:38 am |

          I would like to ask that folks please remember to refrain from abusing data obtained for the purpose of explaining biological phenomena that appear on a species level by trying to apply it to every individual.

          Do you believe that anyone has done this?
          This reads as a strawman argument to me.

        2. ibbica
          ibbica October 10, 2012 at 1:07 am |

          I do think tinfoil hattie is doing this, and was trying to be diplomatic and offer a general note of clarification, not an accusation. Perhaps I am wrong, and I hope I am, and they are simply being sloppy in their use of language, but in that case it’s worth posting the note anyway to point it out to readers who may misled by the sloppiness.

  10. Amelia the lurker
    Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm |

    When I went away to college, I asked my mom if she had any anxiety about being an empty-nester. “No,” she said. “Of course I’ll miss you terribly, but I’m not one of those people who doesn’t have a life outside of their kids, so when the kids are gone they just sit inside and watch the rain fall down the windowpane.” I was like, “Right. Duh. You have a life.”

    1. chava
      chava October 8, 2012 at 1:45 pm |

      Meh. I’m with TH on this one–it isn’t wrong to miss your kids when they leave, and it doesn’t mean you don’t “have a life.” It’s a strange artifact of USian culture that demands a freakish level of independence and atomized culture. It’s *normal* for (healthy) close family to miss each other terribly when they’re apart. We’ve just created a new normal.

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm |

        Hear, hear. My family is very close. We love and enjoy each other immensely. We like each other and we love spending lots of time together. We miss each other when we’re apart. We are also individuals with our own lives. Even me, the mother!

      2. Amelia the lurker
        Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm |

        Again, not sure where you guys are getting the idea that my mom was mocking people who miss their children, since she SAID SHE WOULD MISS ME. Her point was that she would be able to cope with my absence, since she has, and has always had, a life outside of me—read, she was not a “mother first.” I thought that was a notion we were promoting.

        1. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 6:28 pm |

          Sorry, Amelia – I thought that chava had some good points, and was agreeing with her – NOT trying to make your mother out to be the Worst Person In The World.

          Sorry it sounded like that.

        2. Amelia the lurker
          Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 8:07 pm |

          Thanks, hattie. It did come across that way, especially combined with your comment calling my mom’s quip “insulting.”

    2. Lauren
      Lauren October 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm |

      “Of course I’ll miss you terribly, but I’m not one of those people who doesn’t have a life outside of their kids, so when the kids are gone they just sit inside and watch the rain fall down the windowpane.”

      Ha. My sister jokes that teenagers are the way they are so that when it’s time for them to move out, you’re beyond ready to see them go.

      1. Amelia the lurker
        Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 3:19 pm |

        Nice!

      2. Ledasmom
        Ledasmom October 9, 2012 at 7:56 am |

        I kind of like the teenage years. I find my son more comprehensible now that he’s fifteen. Most of the time I have no idea what makes my ten-year-old act as he does, but I feel that I’m at least within hailing distance with the older boy.

        1. Lauren
          Lauren October 9, 2012 at 8:38 am |

          Yes! I love teenagers. They get such a bad wrap, and granted I’ve seen some wild behavior, but they just want you to level with them, give them a little TLC, and their distance if they want it. Nothing seems to piss off teenagers like knowing they can’t trust you, so they test this over and over.

    3. tinfoil hattie
      tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm |

      Amelia, your mother’s imaginary mothers who sit and watch the rain fall because they are such pathetic creaturss without their children is pretty insulting. I wonder who she believes she is describing? “one of Those People who” is a pretty vague phrase.

      1. Lauren
        Lauren October 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm |

        Amelia, your mother’s imaginary mothers who sit and watch the rain fall because they are such pathetic creaturss without their children is pretty insulting. I wonder who she believes she is describing? “one of Those People who” is a pretty vague phrase.

        It’s a common trope that her mother was referencing, obviously. The “pathetic creatures” inference WAS THE POINT. Lulz.

        1. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 3:08 pm |

          Well, it sounds to me like Amelia’s mother believes such people exist. I do not. I think it’s as big a bullshit stereotype as straw mothers who run around proclaiming motherhood is the Most Important Job In The World And The Only Thing About Me that is important.

          Conflating this bullshit straw mother with the very real truth that motherhood is time-consuming, exhausting, life-changing, and exhausting is what really damages parenting.

        2. Lauren
          Lauren October 8, 2012 at 3:09 pm |

          I think it’s as big a bullshit stereotype as straw mothers who run around proclaiming motherhood is the Most Important Job In The World And The Only Thing About Me that is important.

          I know enough women who express these very sentiments on my Facebook wall every day to tell you definitively that this is not a straw mother. A stereotype? Yes. But one that a lot of women aspire to.

          If this is not your experience, you’re the lucky one.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm |

          straw mothers who run around proclaiming motherhood is the Most Important Job In The World

          Or, you know, every woman I knew growing up said the exact same thing, but please keep on with your fierce denial of reality. I’m sure it’s very nice where you live.

        4. Beatrice
          Beatrice October 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm |

          Right. Because women who don’t have children aren’t either considered women who don’t have children yet or women who don’t want to be mothers because they are selfish bitches/not real women. Nope, no implications that motherhood is the most important job in the world every woman should aspire to. Nah, no connection there.

        5. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm |

          Well, your FB friends are not my FB friends, and mine don’t post such things. Standoff.

        6. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune October 9, 2012 at 11:07 am |

          mine don’t post such things. Standoff.

          Oh, I see. So lived experiences matter and mothers’ statements about their lives shouldn’t be questioned…unless they’re not you. In that case, fuck them, they’re liars, every last one.

          Seriously, Tinfoil, you’re not normally this focused on one thing to the exclusion of others. Between this and the wtf of you accusing me of calling you a rape apologist – yeah, because that’s not something sixty others would have noticed and called out, or anything – I honestly have no idea what the heck is up with you right now.

      2. Amelia the lurker
        Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm |

        I think “those people” were hypothetical—the logical conclusion of the “perfect mother” who has no life outside of their children.

        1. Amelia the lurker
          Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 3:23 pm |

          In fact, now that I think about it, she might not even have said “one of those people”—she might have just said “I’m not gonna just watch the rain fall.” I don’t remember the exact words, so if you’re judging my mom for the phrase “those people,” please stop.

        2. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm |

          I’m sorry, Amelia; I thought you were quoting your mother, and I was trying to point out that maybe “those people” don’t really exist.

          I didn’t mean to insult her or you. I guess the phantom over-involved mother so permeates our beliefs that I get defensive about it. MY fault/issue, not yours.

        3. Amelia the lurker
          Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm |

          No problem! And I should have been clearer that I wasn’t quoting her verbatim.

      3. Lyanna
        Lyanna October 8, 2012 at 11:23 pm |

        Imaginary? Really? Wow! I can dismiss half of my more annoying Facebook acquaintances as mere figments of my imagination, all because Tinfoil Hattie thinks mommies are all totally reasonable people who are never pathetic and can do no wrong!

        1. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 9, 2012 at 7:35 am |

          Gee, half of your FB friends post about how they sit and watch the rain fall because their children moved out? That’s remarkable!

          And, I’m glad you read all those comments where I said mothers are totally reasonable and can do no wrong. Where were those comments, again?

    4. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 2:14 pm |

      Because missing someone means you don’t have a life. Righty-o.

      1. Amelia the lurker
        Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm |

        She was making a distinction between missing your kids, and having literally nothing to do when your kids are gone, which I believe is supposed to be one of the pitfalls of being a “mother first.” Not sure where you’re getting the idea that she said that missing someone meant you have no life, since she explicitly said that she WOULD miss me.

    5. igglanova
      igglanova October 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm |

      Yeesh, can we stop jumping on Amelia? At least read for comprehension before unleashing the butthurt.

      Btw, Amelia, your mom sounds like she has a great sense of self and a great sense of humour.

      1. Amelia the lurker
        Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 4:11 pm |

        Thanks! I think the original comment was funnier than I made it seem—there may have been some sort of literary or historical reference in there, like the Cult of True Womanhood or something. I seem to remember her having a literary character in mind.

        She and my dad have done a really good job of leading by example—they didn’t give me lectures, they just demonstrated. For instance, my mom was an early embracer of “Ms.”; she always firmly, but gently, reminded people. Same goes for her keeping her name; she didn’t make a big deal about it, it just *was*; so I internalized keeping your name as something normal and default before I embraced it as a political act. And my dad, too, for not giving a shit about her name.

        1. Lyanna
          Lyanna October 8, 2012 at 11:25 pm |

          Your mom sounds awesome, and entirely correct. It’s the people who decide to interpret “I’ll miss you but I have a life” as “I’m an atomized individual who WON’T MISS YOU AT ALL” who need to work on their reading comprehension skills.

        2. Amelia the lurker
          Amelia the lurker October 9, 2012 at 11:33 am |

          She is, and I gotta say, I’m much much healthier because of her attitude—Bagelsan, in the first comment, is entirely right about such codependence not being healthy for anyone, mother or child. It causes me a lot less stress knowing my mom had, has, and will always have stuff to do (her two main occupations are running a nonprofit and teaching); if I felt that I had deprived her of her raison d’être but simply growing up, I would have a ton of guilt, let me tell you. Similarly, because I’m an only child, I used to feel like there might be pressure on me to have kids, since it’s the only way my parents will get to have grandchildren; but then I talked about it with my mom, and she was all, “Just do what you want,” which means that if/when I do reproduce it will be because I wanted to, and not because I felt like my mom wanted me to (barring other pressures).

    6. Lyndsay
      Lyndsay October 8, 2012 at 4:26 pm |

      I get it. My mother wishes she had done more to cultivate interests and make friends before I had left home. She’s fine now–involved somewhat in politics and doing what she enjoys and meeting more people but when I left and then my younger sister left, she was a bit lost. She has said so herself and said she would advise mothers to have their own life before their children leave home.

      1. Amelia the lurker
        Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 8:12 pm |

        I’m glad it worked out for her. That’s the problem with this whole setup—women are told they’re bad mothers if they have a life outside their kids, and nobody thinks about what they’re supposed to do when the kids leave. Because moms don’t EXIST when their kids aren’t around—that’s what they’re there for, right? /sarcasm

        1. Bonn
          Bonn October 10, 2012 at 1:41 am |

          That kind of reminds me of how a lot of little kids think that their teachers live at the school and have no life outside of school.

          And possibly some older kids.

          And parents as well.

          And then there are moms like mine, who try to cut their adult children off at the knees (not literally, thank god) so they can be needed for as long as possible, because they really don’t have much of an identity outside of motherhood. Whee. :(

    7. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan October 9, 2012 at 11:31 am |

      Amelia, your mom nailed it; my mother was likewise initially upset about being an “empty-nester” … except that, of course, it wasn’t actually empty. Because her nest remained full of work, and husband, and hobbies and all her non-child interests. So aside from missing us occasionally she is totally fine going back to being “Alison” instead of “Bagelsan’s mom.”

  11. I'm Not a Mother First | Captainslacko's Blogging Moms

    [...] original here: I'm Not a Mother First Be Sociable, Share! [...]

  12. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm |

    Tinfoil, Safiya,

    I normally don’t disagree with you that often, but wtf? THe article says “encouraging people to feel that X is their required identity is wrong”. You respond “but some people like X!”

    So, okay, yes, sure, why not? I mean, telling people that they SHOULD feel heterosexual is not okay, but there’s nothing wrong with heterosexuals feeling heterosexual… telling women they SHOULD feel like motherhood is Priority One is not okay, but there’s nothing wrong with women feeling like motherhood is Priority One for themselves. It doesn’t need bullshit about oxytocin therefore MOMMIEZ to support, it’s just feminism 101.

    OMG did I just imply the mommy wars are fucking stupid? The sacrilege!

    1. tinfoil hattie
      tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:17 pm |

      That’s not really what’s being argued, though. What’s being argued is mostly straw, from a wealthy white “working” mother’s perspective of what’s wrong with mothers who think motherhood is very important. It’s presemtrd as, “Mothers who give over their identities as people to motherhood,” but no such examples are given – except ouliers such as Michelle Obama and Ann Romney.

      Yeah, the mommy wars are “stupid,” which is why it’s exhausting to read these types of “feminist” articles, over and over and over. And then be told, “We are NOT insulting and offending you! Prove it! So there!”

      I’ve said enough on this post, I’m sure.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 2:26 pm |

        but no such examples are given – except ouliers such as Michelle Obama and Ann Romney

        But when the mere statement “I’m not a mother first” makes you define someone as “deeply ambivalent about motherhood”, then yeah, there’s an issue. I mean, since I’m a student first, as I defined it in my comment to you above, I guess I’m deeply ambivalent about my partner, my child, my volunteer work, my fanlife, my friends? I am clearly a giant asshole for putting French 201 over my wife.

        When society doesn’t reward women for calling themselves mothers first and punish women for placing anything else at all ahead of their kids, I guess you can take massive exception to this article, but it does, so oh well.

        1. Lauren
          Lauren October 8, 2012 at 2:37 pm |

          But when the mere statement “I’m not a mother first” makes you define someone as “deeply ambivalent about motherhood”, then yeah, there’s an issue.

          Word. I juggle a lot of identities and priorities. That doesn’t mean I’m ambivalent about any of them. If anything, my commitment to juggling these important facets of my live should demonstrate some level of their gravity.

        2. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm |

          That’s not what made me assume she’s ambivaent about motherhood. Much of her other writing, wherein she says this, is what led me to the conclusion.

        3. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:46 pm |

          Ha-ha-ha – that’ a ggod one! Society rewards mothers! In any form!

          Pretending that “I’m a mother first” is a real thing that real mothers say all the time, and that they get tangible rewards for saying it, is the biggest straw-pile of all.

        4. Lauren
          Lauren October 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm |

          That’s not what made me assume she’s ambivaent about motherhood. Much of her other writing, wherein she says this, is what led me to the conclusion.

          She has said this in regards to difficulty bonding with her child due to experiencing HELLP syndrome, birth trauma, and severe prematurity. Angling this as being “ambivalent about motherhood” or inferring ambivalence about her own child is really low. Making these arguments about any mom trying to express non-ideal experiences is just gross.

          Maybe this is one you need to take a step back on.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm |

          Society rewards mothers! In any form!

          If you consider “the general approval of a bunch of toxic shits” to be rewarding, sure. You’ll find it interesting how many women think this.

          Pretending that “I’m a mother first” is a real thing that real mothers say all the time

          Right, because none of us feminists ever talk to actual women or ever hear anyone say this. Or hear it presented to us as what we SHOULD BE feeling. Or get pilloried by “real mother” people like you who tell us what we do and don’t feel and argue with us about our own fucking lived experiences.

        6. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm |

          She has said this in regards to difficulty bonding with her child due to experiencing HELLP syndrome, birth trauma, and severe prematurity.

          Jesus wow. That was the context? Tinfoil, you realise that saying “trauma has made me feel complex about motherhood” is ambivalency about motherhood itself is a bit asshole under these circumstances? Ambivalent about motherhood would be “I dunno, if I could have gotten an abortion I probably should have” or “I kind of hate my fucking kid” or even “I don’t want to be a mother at all”.

          Now you’re implying women have to be untraumatised to be a good parent. Or something?

        7. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 6:23 pm |

          Jessica Valenti has expressed ambivalence about motherhood. I am not making this up. Is it somehow impolite of me to say so?

        8. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 7:24 pm |

          Lay off, you two. Expressing ambivalence about motherhood is not a character flaw. Christ on a cracker. She talks about it A LOT. Like she’s doing now!

          Then you claim that being ambivalent about motherhood is the same thing as being ambivalent about her own child? On what planet?

          OUR SOCIETY is ambivalent about motherhood, for pete’s sake. Look at this thread!

          As far as motherhood and trauma and ambivalence, macavitykitsune, I don’t even. WTF are you even talking about?

          Please, Lauren and macavitykitsune, knock off making shit up and then trying to insult me.

      2. Andie
        Andie October 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm |

        No.. It’s not what’s wrong thinking motherhood is very important… It’s what is wrong with thinking motherhood is the end-all be-all of one’s identity.

        1. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:49 pm |

          I still haven’t seen a huge swath of women saying this. Obama and Romney aren’t exactly representative. Why not argue that point instead?

      3. (BFing)Sarah
        (BFing)Sarah October 8, 2012 at 11:20 pm |

        TF, for what its worth, I hear everything you are saying on here and if you are getting upset I think its totally understandable.

        And I’m having trouble with this whole idea that it is wrong for a mother to feel/speak her feeling that she is a mother first. What if she really feels that that is what is most important to her at the time that she is saying that? If your career can be the most important thing to you (ie: I’m a doctor first; I’m a student first), why can’t parenthood (which takes up at least as much time and is at as rewarding and difficult) be your primary identity? If a person feels that parenthood is their primary identity why is that any less valid of an identity than any other? If a woman really FEELS that she is a mother first, above all of her other identities (as First Lady Obama obviously has other identities), should she really just keep quiet because other mothers don’t feel that way? Should someone be silenced because what they are saying could be construed as bad for feminism? I don’t think it IS bad for feminism. Motherhood should be considered just as important as an identity as any other. How a woman prioritizes her identities should really be up to her. I have not seen any women rewarded for saying that they are a “mother first,” and I can admit to knowing women that say that. Mostly, I personally feel a lot of pressure to work outside of the home at a ‘meaningful career’ (haven’t found that yet!), spend quality time with my children, spend time with my spouse, keep in touch with family, stay active, and “have a life,” even though I don’t really have enough time in my day to do all of those things and I really do have to prioritize. The women that I know that consider themselves “mothers first” DO have other identities, and they would never say otherwise. BUT, they feel that motherhood is the most defining characteristic of their lives right now…and who am I to tell them that they shouldn’t feel that way? Who is anyone to tell them that its damaging for them to feel that way anymore than it is damaging to say “I am a person first” or “I am an activist first” or “I am a lawyer first”. The forming of an identity is political, sure….but its also personal. And just because I’m a woman (and a mother) does not mean someone else has the right to tell me how to prioritize my life and my identities.

        1. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 9, 2012 at 7:28 am |

          Thanks for the kind words, Sarah. I am finding out that things also depend on what your definition of “first” is.

          I appreciate the thoughtful comments you made about this issue. It’s a perspective that isn’t reflected much in these comments.

        2. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 9, 2012 at 7:28 am |

          Thanks for the kind words, Sarah. I am finding out that things also depend on what your definition of “first” is.

          I appreciate the thoughtful comments you made about this issue. It’s a perspective that isn’t reflected much in these comments.

        3. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl October 9, 2012 at 8:53 am |

          If a person feels that parenthood is their primary identity why is that any less valid of an identity than any other? If a woman really FEELS that she is a mother first, above all of her other identities (as First Lady Obama obviously has other identities), should she really just keep quiet because other mothers don’t feel that way? Should someone be silenced because what they are saying could be construed as bad for feminism? I don’t think it IS bad for feminism. Motherhood should be considered just as important as an identity as any other.

          OMG, This! This is what I couldn’t actually articulate yesterday as the comments and upset were flying back and forth!

          Thank you Sarah. I think you really did hit the nail on the head as to what is so wrong with the Stop Saying You’re a Mommy First! rhetoric. I’ll say it again, because it bears repeating, the whole argument that Ms. Valenti’s argument is really bound up in classist and racist notions of what identity and motherhood are really about. Without those classist/racist notions, her entire argument really just falls apart.

        4. Lauren
          Lauren October 9, 2012 at 9:52 am |

          If a person feels that parenthood is their primary identity why is that any less valid of an identity than any other? If a woman really FEELS that she is a mother first, above all of her other identities (as First Lady Obama obviously has other identities), should she really just keep quiet because other mothers don’t feel that way? Should someone be silenced because what they are saying could be construed as bad for feminism? I don’t think it IS bad for feminism. Motherhood should be considered just as important as an identity as any other.

          As individuals we are allowed to feel our feelings and choose our choices. That doesn’t mean they’re above political scrutiny, especially when, as feminists, we’re tasked with teasing out the centuries of sexism that go into expectations for women, including the “mother as identity” role that touches women worldwide, and all the social and political baggage that entails.

        5. (BFing)Sarah
          (BFing)Sarah October 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm |

          I’m not sure how to reply, @ Lauren above, b/c there is no “reply” button by your name…so I just replied to myself and hopefully this makes sense. I realize that these choices are political, as well as personal, as I said above at the end of my comment. However, I still maintain that just because we are women and feminists does not mean that there is one right way to live our lives. Other women and feminists may choose not to say that they are mothers first, but when you write an article telling women that it is anti-woman to identify primarily as “mother,” that’s presuming that your idea of feminism and motherhood is correct for everyone. No one knows the ins and outs of another person’s life and the reasons behind their choices. Just because we are women does not give others the right to tell us the “right” way to live or the “right” way to identify. There is no “right way” to be a feminist, in my opinion. Of course, FL Obama is not above political scrutiny, far from it. But I think her calculation is a political one, and one that is different, in many important ways, from the calculation made by Valenti. My point is that identities are complex and that each woman makes her choices based on her own unique situation. Its a complex calculation and its one that no one can make for you, so why can’t we respect how a woman chooses to identify and trust that the woman herself is the person best suited to determine what her identity should and should not be at any particular time in her life? And, obviously, other things would be super helpful, too, like paid paternity/maternity leave, better sick leave, affordable health care, affordable and quality childcare, etc. What doesn’t help, IMHO, are the articles criticizing the choices of other women.

    2. Safiya Outlines
      Safiya Outlines October 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm |

      Mac – To reiterate some of what TH has said, this article is very much Mommy wars judgement same old, so the part I am most objecting to (aside from the judgement about how people choose to identify themselves), is that more what mothers need is more finger-pointing and that this finger-pointing is somehow progressing the feminist cause. Is this really what it means to be a Professional Feminist today?

      To give further context, I live in the U.K. Not perfect, but we have at least nine months paid maternity/adoption leave, flexible working rights (note that families = people responsible for a child , not just het bio parents), conditions for working mothers are vastly better then in the US. That did not happen by us all having a big navel gaze as to how we should define ourselves as mothers.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 8:50 pm |

        so the part I am most objecting to (aside from the judgement about how people choose to identify themselves), is that what mothers need is more finger-pointing

        You’ll get no argument from me there!

  13. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 8, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

    What I feel is being overlooked in the discussion is women, like my own mother, who, coming from a low income upbringing where her family struggled to put food on the table, felt that bringing an additional income to her family was a way of being ‘a mother first.’

    I am not too familiar with Jessica V’s writing, but based on this specific piece which is reference in the OP, I also feel that it is extremely presumptuous to assume that her commitment to feminism and equality means that she wouldn’t attend to her child’ any quicker or slower than a SAHM. Surely a commitment to political ideas is the great thing to provide to a child, if only as example.

    1. tinfoil hattie
      tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm |

      That would be a terrible thing to say about Jessica’s commitment as a mother. I agree.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve October 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm |

        That would be a terrible thing to say about Jessica’s commitment as a mother. I agree.

        Terrible? You really think so? Well, then why didn’t you say anything when ‘MedusaMama’ implied that very thing in the third comment on this thread?

        1. EG
          EG October 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm |

          Oh, come on, Steve. You didn’t say anything to MedusaMama, either. She got pretty well jumped on pretty quickly. It isn’t TH’s responsibility to handle every jerk on Feministe.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 3:23 pm |

          why didn’t you say anything when ‘MedusaMama’ implied that very thing in the third comment on this thread?

          These possibilities exist:
          a) She’s not a mod
          b) She doesn’t have to.
          c) She’s not obligated to make comments
          d) She’s really only required to back her own comments up, and that’s only if she wants to clarify/address/respond.

          Imma go with e) all of the above.

          Seriously, you want to snipe at her, she’s making points of her own that you can snipe at. Don’t pile on her for not committing to yell at every dipshit on the internet. It’s not fair.

        3. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve October 8, 2012 at 4:58 pm |

          These possibilities exist:
          a) She’s not a mod
          b) She doesn’t have to.
          c) She’s not obligated to make comments
          d) She’s really only required to back her own comments up, and that’s only if she wants to clarify/address/respond.

          Imma go with e) all of the above.

          Seriously, you want to snipe at her, she’s making points of her own that you can snipe at. Don’t pile on her for not committing to yell at every dipshit on the internet. It’s not fair.

          EG and Mac,

          This comment is a direct response to accusations such as those made by MedusaMama.

          I wasn’t responding to something TH said to me, She chose to respond to ME, saying:

          That would be a terrible thing to say about Jessica’s commitment as a mother. I agree.

          This comment was clearly intending to imply that no one had said anything close to that. I was pointing out that someone had, and that’s what I was responding to.

        4. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm |

          Fat Steve, I don’t know what else to say. It WOULD be terrible if someone said Jessica Valenti’s commitment as a mother is questionable because she works in a paying job.

          I did not know you had anyone specific in mind. My comment did not “clearly [intend] to imply” anything. I stated that I agree with you. How could I have been more clear? Seriously, I would appreciate your feedback.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm |

          This comment was clearly intending to imply that no one had said anything close to that. I was pointing out that someone had, and that’s what I was responding to.

          That’s a…fairly bad-faith reading of TH’s comments, though. FWIW you missed one of the quote marks in your quote, she might easily have read that as your own words rather than someone else’s that you were responding to. I mean, she’s ragey about motherhood, but she’s not irrational.

  14. EG
    EG October 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm |

    One of the problems, I think, is the generalization of what mothering means to upper middle class white women to all women in general. Class issues have been brought up already–and I agree with Safiya Outlines that in a world where most people are made to feel completely valueless outside the home, being valued as a mother is vastly important.

    But race is also a major factor, and one that shouldn’t be glossed over in a sentence, as Valenti does with M. Obama. Black women’s mothering has not only been historically and contemporarily devalued–it has been excoriated. Black women’s mothering has been considered valueless–so sell their children away from them, who cares? Black women’s mothering is emasculating, or lazy, or passing on a culture of poverty–these are the mainstream messages about black women’s mothering ever since the Moynihan Report and before.

    Further, from the research I have done, particularly for black women, mothering can become an intensely political act. Assuming that mothering is a turn inward, a separation of the self from the political, public world, is to accept and generalize a nineteenth-century white ideology. For other kinds of mothers, mothering involves political organizing to get what they and their families need. It involves combating the political onslaught that tells their children they they are worthless in some way. It involves strengthening community bonds. To assume that motherhood is atomizing and domestic is to assume a particular model of motherhood that just doesn’t apply to Michelle Obama and to many, many mothers. For M. Obama to say that she is a mother first is a political act that has a far difference resonance that it does for Ann Romney.

    1. Amelia the lurker
      Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm |

      I’ve also noticed that low-income black women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t when it comes to having a family—there is no choice they can make that they won’t be criticized for. If they use birth control, they are denounced as sluts, and if they have children, they are condemned for having kids they can’t afford.

    2. Jadey
      Jadey October 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm |

      Yes, this! I have a comment in mod above on this too, but this is where I’m coming from as well.

      1. Amelia the lurker
        Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm |

        My comment’s in mod as well.

      2. EG
        EG October 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm |

        If it’s as good as your last long comment, I’m looking forward to it!

        1. Jadey
          Jadey October 8, 2012 at 4:11 pm |

          Ha ha, well now I have two! The mod-bot loves me today. They will show up eventually. One here and another one here.

    3. Lauren
      Lauren October 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm |

      I agree with what you’re saying 100%.

      I’m also coming at this from the angle of being a teen parent and a single parent (for a long time) and about to become a single parent again after an ill-advised marital rendezvous. In so many ways our parenthood status is used to box us in, to control our behavior, our access to routes of success, and our beliefs about our own abilities. Our adherence to these rules become markers of our success and failure in life. As much as I criticize the “mother first” argument (and I’m still not fond of Michelle Obama’s declaration, considering her numerous, numerous, really phenomenal successes as a professional, complex, relatable, political, black women from really humble beginnings), it was becoming a teen mother that radicalized me and crystallized the feeling that our society was dealing with a stacked deck.

      1. Lauren
        Lauren October 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm |

        re: Michelle Obama
        People define themselves how they want to. I’m just always het up when public figures I love don’t perfectly adhere to my politics. Because I’m what’s important! *stomp stomp*

      2. EG
        EG October 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm |

        Lauren, OT, but I didn’t realize you were expecting. I’m wishing for the best for you and your family.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L October 8, 2012 at 4:57 pm |

          I thought that Lauren meant that she’s about to become a single parent again because of a divorce. In either case, I wish her the best as well.

        2. EG
          EG October 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm |

          Yes, I suppose that’s the reading that actually makes more sense. My only excuse is that I think I’m coming down with a cold.

          But the good wishes still stand, anyway, even if I am obtuse, occasionally!

        3. Lauren
          Lauren October 9, 2012 at 7:04 am |

          Hey, I’ll take good wishes for the divorce, too! It falls under the “good and necessary” category.

          And thanks. :)

    4. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl October 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm |

      I just want to cosign everything here written by EG.

      The class and race issues related to this discussion always get either left out entirely or glossed over in a rather disingenuous manner. The rhetoric of, but women shouldn’t think that mothering is the best and most important part of their life because they get to have careers these days! Ignores the reality that most women, hell, most people period, do not have deep and meaningful careers that fulfill them and challenge them and stimulate them intellectually. Most people, if they are even fortunate enough to be employed at all, have a crap job that they hold onto to pay the bills and that’s pretty much it.

      Which is why it would behoove the likes of Ms. Valenti to acknowledge here privilege in having such a fantastic career such that she doesn’t want to only identify herself by her role as parent/mother. Because without it I just can’t take her seriously.

      1. igglanova
        igglanova October 8, 2012 at 4:21 pm |

        I basically concur. But surely there must be more to life than either family or paid work? Hobbies, side projects, geeky fandoms, personal ethos – these are all rich sources of identity that add value to life. There are more than two choices, here.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl October 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

          Sure, I can agree with that. It seems to me that Ms. Valenti is the one making the either/or argument here. I suspect because she does identify so strongly with her career and what it means to her personally and professionally. Which is fine. Just don’t assume that what is best for you is best for everyone else, or best for Feminism. Or (worse yet) assume that doing things differently from Ms. Valenti is getting Feminism wrong.

        2. Morgan
          Morgan October 8, 2012 at 10:35 pm |

          If you work, and have a young child, you don’t have time for “hobbies”. If you love your child and don’t care for your job, guess what becomes your primary identity?

        3. Lyanna
          Lyanna October 8, 2012 at 11:30 pm |

          Yeah, exactly–I’m very skeptical of this, “oh, but it’s only PRIVILEGED women who want anything out of life except motherhood!” My mother is an immigrant who has worked low-paid jobs her whole life, and she wouldn’t call herself a mother first. She’d call herself a spiritual woman of faith first, then a member of the community, then probably wife and mother tied, and then sister and daughter and friend. Not mother first–not even when I was a toddler, and you know what? That’s FINE.

        4. EG
          EG October 8, 2012 at 11:46 pm |

          Yeah, exactly–I’m very skeptical of this, “oh, but it’s only PRIVILEGED women who want anything out of life except motherhood!”

          That is a serious distortion of what I said. What I said was that motherhood and its accompanying meanings vary greatly according to class and race, and that the value of mothering to the individual is radically different when she has been historically prevented from mothering or her mothering has been denigrated or her community is constantly under attack. This is actually something I have studied, and every single study of motherhood that discusses race emphasizes this fact.

        5. Lyanna
          Lyanna October 9, 2012 at 12:10 am |

          Except I wasn’t responding to you, though if I squint and tilt my head sideways I guess I can see how you might have thought so.

          I was agreeing with igglanova and disagreeing with Lolagirl, whose comment strongly implied that it’s privilege that causes women to not want to be mothers first (or even ONLY mothers, if I read Lolagirl’s statement, quoted below, literally):

          Which is why it would behoove the likes of Ms. Valenti to acknowledge here privilege in having such a fantastic career such that she doesn’t want to only identify herself by her role as parent/mother.

          This clearly states that the reason why Ms. Valenti doesn’t want to “only” identify herself as a mother is because she is a “privileged” woman with a “fantastic” careers. And that’s what I’m disagreeing with.

        6. EG
          EG October 9, 2012 at 12:13 am |

          Except I wasn’t responding to you, though if I squint and tilt my head sideways I guess I can see how you might have thought so.

          I thought so because this whole thread is taking place in the box of my original comment, and without a quote in your comment, I didn’t have much to go on.

        7. igglanova
          igglanova October 9, 2012 at 12:31 am |

          If you work, and have a young child, you don’t have time for “hobbies”. If you love your child and don’t care for your job, guess what becomes your primary identity?

          Please indicate where I said that hobbies are the only other source of personal identity.

        8. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl October 9, 2012 at 9:20 am |

          I was agreeing with igglanova and disagreeing with Lolagirl, whose comment strongly implied that it’s privilege that causes women to not want to be mothers first (or even ONLY mothers, if I read Lolagirl’s statement, quoted below, literally):

          Lyanna, I in no way implied what you are saying here.

          You are completely ignoring the entire first paragraph of my comment. If you had read it, you would where I pointed out that most people don’t have fantastically wonderful careers like Ms. Valenti does about which to be passionate, or with which to shape much of their personal identity. Having such a job? That is a privilege held by very few people.

          Thus Ms. Valenti’s entire premise, specifically that women should be primarily shaping their personal sense of self around their professional accomplishments, hinges upon one having such an opportunity in the first place. She is basically stating that she could never identify herself primarily or solely as a mother, but that is because she has this fab career that she loves so very much and is an intrinsic part of who she is as a person. I’m pointing out that most people (women especially) don’t have this sort of reality in their life, and that it is quite reasonable and understandable that parenting/mothering then becomes their primary source of identity.

          I also went on to clarify in my later comment that hobbies and outside interests can of course be a huge part of shaping one’s identity, but that Ms. Valenti’s article doesn’t really address this possibility and so I didn’t address it in my earlier comment.

        9. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan October 9, 2012 at 11:00 am |

          If you work, and have a young child, you don’t have time for “hobbies”. If you love your child and don’t care for your job, guess what becomes your primary identity?

          Since when? My parents managed to juggle more than 2 things just fine, and it’s served them (and me) very well.

      2. shfree
        shfree October 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |

        Yeah, well, plenty of us also don’t want to define ourselves by our jobs, either. I work as a deli clerk, and like hell do I think that is something that is an important part of who I am. It’s a job I had to take because of the shitty economy.

        1. shfree
          shfree October 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm |

          Argh, that came off as snarky when I meant to concur with you, Lolagirl. Sorry about that.

      3. Lyanna
        Lyanna October 9, 2012 at 10:29 am |

        Lyanna, I in no way implied what you are saying here.

        You are completely ignoring the entire first paragraph of my comment. If you had read it, you would where I pointed out that most people don’t have fantastically wonderful careers like Ms. Valenti does about which to be passionate, or with which to shape much of their personal identity. Having such a job? That is a privilege held by very few people.

        Thus Ms. Valenti’s entire premise, specifically that women should be primarily shaping their personal sense of self around their professional accomplishments, hinges upon one having such an opportunity in the first place. She is basically stating that she could never identify herself primarily or solely as a mother, but that is because she has this fab career that she loves so very much and is an intrinsic part of who she is as a person. I’m pointing out that most people (women especially) don’t have this sort of reality in their life, and that it is quite reasonable and understandable that parenting/mothering then becomes their primary source of identity.

        I read your whole comment, thank you. And you implied exactly what I’m saying, and you continue to imply it.

        Ms. Valenti doesn’t say that she doesn’t identify as a mother first because of her “fab career.” She doesn’t even imply it. In fact, she hardly talks about her own identification as a mother (or not) at all, except in the title.

        She says it’s bad to push women to be “mothers first” because it’s perfectly fine for women to be people and citizens first. She also explicitly says that pushing women to be “moms first” means that they don’t get to enjoy the benefits of a full life, such as recreation and hobbies.

        For example:

        But still, identifying as a mom first in a culture that pays lip service to parenthood without actually supporting it has consequences. It means that women are expected to be everything—and give up anything—for their children. Whatever women do that seems to separate them from “true” motherhood is seen as misguided, or at worst, selfish. If we formula-feed we’re not giving our babies the best start in life. If we work outside the home, we must do it with tremendous guilt and anxiety. Time away from our children in the form of an occasional movie or hobby is seen as a treat rather than an expected part of living a full life.

        It’s pretty clear that she’s saying professional identity is only ONE of the identities that can “compete” with, and at times supersede, motherhood. Other competing identities are Person Who Needs Relaxation or Involved Citizen.

        In short, you’re projecting. You’re projecting the image of a spoiled, elitist woman onto Jessica Valenti, and the reason why you’re projecting this is because you don’t, for whatever reason, want to admit that lots of us don’t want to be mothers first. Even without privilege. Even without fantastic careers.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl October 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm |

          and the reason why you’re projecting this is because you don’t, for whatever reason, want to admit that lots of us don’t want to be mothers first. Even without privilege. Even without fantastic careers.

          Right back atcha, Lyanna.

          You are now projecting your personal opinion onto me. Tit for tat, I suppose. My point has consistently been that women aren’t lacking in character or feminist credentials if they do identify primarily with their role as mother/parent. But I haven’t made any sort of negative judgment of women who do not wish to do so, and you will not find any sort of comment from me here at Feministe. You seem to want to make this an either/or debate, whereas I’m attempting to point out that the either/or is unfair to women specifically.

          And when I discuss Ms. Valenti’s point of view, I’m not just limiting it to the four corners of the article Jill linked above. Valenti has been giving interviews all over the place as part of the PR push for her new book, and she herself repeatedly engages in the career v SAHM as means for self-identify discussion in these various interviews and articles.

        2. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl October 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm |

          and the reason why you’re projecting this is because you don’t, for whatever reason, want to admit that lots of us don’t want to be mothers first. Even without privilege. Even without fantastic careers.

          Right back atcha, Lyanna.

          You are now projecting your personal opinion onto me. Tit for tat, I suppose. My point has consistently been that women aren’t lacking in character or feminist credentials if they do identify primarily with their role as mother/parent. But I haven’t made any sort of negative judgment of women who do not wish to do so, and you will not find any sort of comment from me here at Feministe. You seem to want to make this an either/or debate, whereas I’m attempting to point out that the either/or is unfair to women specifically.

          And when I discuss Ms. Valenti’s point of view, I’m not just limiting it to the four corners of the article Jill linked above. Valenti has been giving interviews all over the place as part of the PR push for her new book, and she herself repeatedly engages in the career v SAHM as means for self-identify discussion in these various interviews and articles.

      4. John
        John October 9, 2012 at 10:55 am |

        Agree 100%.
        I would say that unless you can see the way the current hegemonic power structure works (courtsey of Antonio Gramsci) you won’t see what is wrong with white rich women with nice secure, well-paid jobs and the ability to afford nannies telling everyone else how things should be. How many articles have you read lately about female CEOs in Silicon Valley or on the UK’s Stock Exchange talking about how it is possible to have it all? All that does is beat up on the poor for being poor, it’s hardly an example.

        I was a SAH father for 2 years. Of course that experience defined me, it still does. I’m dad first and oil company lawyer a long way second. I wouldn’t argue with a woman’s choice to be a SAH mom and identify with that as number one in her life for the time it lasts, since I made much the same choice myself 15 years ago.

        1. (BFing)Sarah
          (BFing)Sarah October 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm |

          Thanks for sharing your experience, John. Identities are shifting and I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying that your number one identity at a particular time is parenting.

    5. RenKiss
      RenKiss October 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm |

      Agree 100% with you EG.

      For many WOC motherhood is indeed a political act. Speak of African American women specifically, we’re not even thought of as being mothers.

      Black women’s mothering has been considered valueless–so sell their children away from them, who cares? Black women’s mothering is emasculating, or lazy, or passing on a culture of poverty–these are the mainstream messages about black women’s mothering ever since the Moynihan Report and before.</blockquote

      I also would like to add to that black mothers produced

      1. RenKiss
        RenKiss October 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |

        I accidently hit the post comment button, but I wanted to add a point made by EG. For African American mothers in particular, they were also responsible for producing “crack babies.” Not only are black mothers bad, but they produce crack babies. Not to mention the popular “welfare mother” label. If you’ve noticed, nothing positive is associated with WOC in general and motherhood.

        1. EG
          EG October 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |

          And to add to your point, the “solution” to the “welfare mothers” was workfare–make them go to work for minimum wage for those benefits, because who cares if their kids get mothering?

        2. Alexandra
          Alexandra October 9, 2012 at 12:27 am |

          @EG – and so you end up with people like Mitt Romney extolling his wife Ann as an examplar of white womanly motherhood, while talking about the “dignity of work” for women using social services like welfare or foodstamps.

          Capitalist masters need an angel in their homes to create their own domestic felicity, but have no qualms about squeezing every inch of labor they can out of poor women, particularly poor WOC who have little political capital.

        3. Lauren
          Lauren October 9, 2012 at 8:42 am |

          And to add to your point, the “solution” to the “welfare mothers” was workfare–make them go to work for minimum wage for those benefits, because who cares if their kids get mothering?

          Or marriage.

    6. tinfoil hattie
      tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm |

      Excellent analysis. Black women are “welfare mothers” or “absent.” White mothers are “SAHMs” or “work outside the home.”

      Among other b.s.

    7. Amelia the lurker
      Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm |

      Tired of waiting for my comment to go through mod to join the conversation, so I’ve rewritten it, removing the word I think got it flagged:

      I’ve also noticed that low-income black women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t when it comes to having or not having a family in the first place—there is no choice they can make that they won’t be criticized for. If they use birth control, they are denounced as sexually promiscuous, and if they have children, they are condemned for having kids they can’t afford.

      1. RenKiss
        RenKiss October 8, 2012 at 9:59 pm |

        Yes that is an excellent point. As EG added, how “welfare mothers” were placed in “welfare to work” programs, not caring whether their children had any kind of parenting. These women were automatically demonized for “milking the system.” For low income black women, they essentially aren’t even viewed as mothers.

        But heaven forbid some black women choose not to have children, we become promiscuous Jezebels.

        1. Amelia the lurker
          Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm |

          Right—staying at home with your children is beautiful and sacred, but only if you’re white.

    8. Safiya Outlines
      Safiya Outlines October 8, 2012 at 8:21 pm |

      Yes. My initial comment was just a quick retort, but of course race is a huge factor and this adds to my unease with the article.

      Likewise, for other women who face various hurdles to even becoming and being a mother, they may very well wish to identify as a mother first.

    9. (BFing)Sarah
      (BFing)Sarah October 8, 2012 at 11:32 pm |

      For other kinds of mothers, mothering involves political organizing to get what they and their families need. It involves combating the political onslaught that tells their children they they are worthless in some way.

      This kind of made me tear up a little. This is exactly right. My children need my advocacy. Society tells children that look like mine that they are less worthy, less smart, less beautiful; prioritizing them much of the time (not ALL of the time) IS a political act on my part. Someone needs to put them first and speak up for them and tell them that they ARE worthy of being prioritized. My identity as a woman has not been subsumed by becoming a mother, but being a mother to children of color is a more important identity TO ME than my identity as a working woman. That’s just me…and I don’t presume to tell other women how they should feel about their identities.

    10. Miss S
      Miss S October 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |

      EG I completely agree. She glossed over that quick mention of the the intersection of race and motherhood as though it were insignificant. It’s not. And the suggestion that women as a class are raised/taught/told that they should become mothers is false. Not all women are encouraged to become mothers- minority women are actively discouraged from becoming mothers, particularly if they aren’t wealthy.

  15. Athenia
    Athenia October 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm |

    While, I agree in general with Valenti’s argument, I’m not sure if we can really separate caregiving and the person. What I mean is, no matter where motherhood is on the list, it doesn’t really matter if we don’t have certain policies in place.

    It’s what motherhood means, not that you are a mother.

  16. igglanova
    igglanova October 8, 2012 at 4:01 pm |

    Damn, the more I read about motherhood these days, the more amazed I am that my own mother never had to deal with this shit. Have we really backslid this far in 30 years?

    1. Amelia the lurker
      Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm |

      For real! I was born in 1989, and my mom didn’t think twice about working full time. I’d have to ask her, but I don’t think she took much flak for it. Then again, she was a white professional in a liberal milieu…

      1. Amelia the lurker
        Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 4:26 pm |

        (Just to clarify: I meant that she would have gotten more flak if she’d been working-class and/or of color because working-class WOC have their choices criticized more, not because working-class POC are more judgy.)

      2. EG
        EG October 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |

        I remember the 80s, and these same attacks regarding motherhood vs. working outside the home were being levelled at women. Remember Diane Keaton in Baby Boom and Michael Keaton (I think?) in Mr. Mom.

        1. Amelia the lurker
          Amelia the lurker October 9, 2012 at 10:57 pm |

          Well, this would have been the early 90s, but your point still stands. I should ask her…

    2. Alphabet
      Alphabet October 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm |

      Are you positive she never had to deal with any of these kinds of things? She probably did, even if she doesn’t really remember it now. I used to assume my mom didn’t have to deal with tons of stuff, but now when I ask her about it, she tells me that of course she did. I just didn’t know because she didn’t show me that stuff. It has been quite illuminating for me now that I am a mother myself.

      1. Amelia the lurker
        Amelia the lurker October 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm |

        That’s a good point—like, how would I know about what may or may not have been said to my mom when I was six months old?

      2. igglanova
        igglanova October 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm |

        It’s quite plausible that she did, but my mother speaks freely to us about our early childhood years and she’s never bothered to mention the kind of mind-boggling crap that I now see flung at mothers constantly. Maybe it’s nostalgia talking, or maybe the US was hellish in a way that Canada wasn’t, but I miss the days when nobody gave a shit that your mother *gasp* went to full-time work. They seem distant in a way I would never have predicted.

        1. EG
          EG October 8, 2012 at 5:57 pm |

          I think that we must be looking at some kind of US/Canada difference, because the 80s in my memory were all about the backlash Susan Faludi identified, during which working was constructed in opposition to motherhood.

        2. Alphabet
          Alphabet October 8, 2012 at 7:41 pm |

          That’s actually my point. She has never bothered to mention this stuff, but it is still a strong possibility she had some feelings about it at the time. She may assume it isn’t relevant to you right now so it doesn’t occur to her to bring it up. She may not think of it much. She may not have experienced it.

          One of the virtues of mom blogs is that women’s experiences are actually spoken publicly rather than just assumed. I would be curious what she would say if you brought it up specifically. Could be you are completely right, could be you discover something you never knew about!

          As someone born in 1975 in the US, I know my mom did experience some of the condescension over being a working mom.

        3. igglanova
          igglanova October 8, 2012 at 9:21 pm |

          Ok, I get your point, but you do not know anything about my mother, her level of feminist savvy, or the kinds of things she would share with me. It’s probably not your intention, but you are giving off the smug vibe of someone who thinks they’re hip to some in-group information that is denied to non-mothers like myself. The common experience of motherhood is not enough to grant you special insight regarding my mother – a total stranger to you – that is above and beyond what I’ve compiled over the course of our entire shared life.

          Put another way…I dislike it when people play guessing games about my family. They’re not so simple and easy to pin down.

        4. Alphabet
          Alphabet October 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm |

          You are allowed to assume I’m smug if you like and no, I don’t know anything about your family (I tried to note that by pointing out that you could be completely correct). I definitely can see how it may look as though I’m trying to do a gotcha on you. I wasn’t. I apologize for it seeming that way. I was actually trying very hard to keep it light and friendly.

          And no, I’m not trying to show off some special mom in crowd secret handshake. I actually mistakenly thought you were a mother (I don’t know why). I don’t think there is a common mother experience and did not claim there was.

          All I meant to highlight was that I have noticed that previous generations of women are often assumed to have felt a certain way because we didn’t realize otherwise. I didn’t realize until my kid was older and I started noting to my mom how lucky she was that it was so easy for her that she didn’t have to go through what I have had to go through and it is so much harder for moms today. She got mad at me for assuming that and explained what she had actually gone through.

          So I apologize that my words seemed to attack you. I meant to make a broader, more generic statement about how easy it is to accidentally erase the experiences of previous generations and in my head there was an interesting discussion of how this gets used to attack modern moms (“why do you want to work? Mothers were happier when they focused on just the kids.”). I didn’t actually type out that interesting discussion because you weren’t attacking modern moms. So again, I apologize for inartfully making it seem like I was trying to prove something about YOUR family and that you were wrong. That wasn’t my goal.

  17. Jadey
    Jadey October 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm |

    Re-reading the thread a few times, there’s something I’m noticing which I don’t think has been cleared up – what actually is being referred to as “Mother First” rhetoric, in Valenti’s piece.

    Specifically, the difference between “mother-as-total-identity” versus “mother/parent-as-life-consuming-task” (at least when the kids are young or when resources are strapped). This gets into debates around being defined by an idea of “who you are” versus “what you do”. I think Valenti’s perspective is coming from the “who you are” way of defining identity, wherein you end up with the problem of a person who is so bound up in defining themselves by their children and their husband that once these people leave she would have no sense of herself. This is different than suggesting that parenting isn’t something that can be extremely demanding, such that a person doesn’t have time to think about “themselves” and has to devote all their time and energy to meeting the kids’ needs (although not every parent has this experience).

    Valenti’s approach is more abstract and probably less directly relevant to someone actually caught up in the “baby’s needs first” stage of child-rearing. It’s also been argued by some commenters here that the subsumed identity (“my children are who I am”) isn’t a realistic portrayal of motherhood anyway – clearly someone can be providing 24/7 care to a dependent without subsequently losing all sense of themselves permanently. But I think Valenti’s point is about the potential damage of privileging the “motherhood is more than what I do – it’s who I am” sentiment, even if the ideal is rarely achieved. We have an ideal of a desirable female body that is also hard (if not impossible) to achieve, but it still makes millions of us miserable trying to get it (or to ignore it).

    And some women really do lose themselves to their families. That’s how my (white, middle-class) mother was raised to be and that’s why she stayed in a bad marriage for almost 20 years, until she finally came out the other side of a long depression and decided that nothing, not even her kids, was worth living like that (she did take us with her, but she only got her head in the game when she realized she was willing to leave us behind if she had to). She utterly defined herself by her mother role and my childhood memories of her are of a woman devoid of personality, a non-entity who existed to meet our needs and had no personal life of her own. This is not just a self-centered exaggeration on my part because I was too busy being a kid to notice – after she left my dad her subsumed personality completely re-emerged and we have talked at length about the change she experienced.

    It’s true though that she wasn’t also struggling with other challenges of parenthood, like getting food on a table, protecting her children from stigma and violence, etc. It was her very proximity to the ideal already that put her in a position to be so vulnerable to it, but which also protected her from the other ways society systematically punishes mothers. So I think that the “mother as identity” issue is a deeply problematic ideal that is worthy of critique (and that it doesn’t mean the same thing as “mothering/parenting is hard and time-consuming”), but what I don’t know is how it interacts with other aspects of motherhood discrimination and how it plays out for women who aren’t already in the ballpark of the ideal. I think the comparison to the body ideal problem is apt – the problematic effects of this cis TAB white female ideal are radically different from woman to woman. I think the discussion of the mother-as-identity ideal needs to be similarly nuanced. “Mother First” doesn’t always mean “Mother Only”, though I agree it can and has been used in this warped way.

    1. Tamara
      Tamara October 8, 2012 at 9:26 pm |

      This became apparent to me as well, and I said something similar in a response to TFH upthread. Reading Valenti’s original article, her statement in paragraph 2 (“To be a truly committed parent, women are expected to be mothers above all else—we’re “moms first.””) indicates she is talking about identity.

      I do disagree somewhat with your statement Jadey in your para 3 above. I think if you are a mother in the intense new baby period it can be helpful to be reminded that you are more than just a carer and even more so that sometimes your needs actually come first. You can’t care for the baby if you aren’t having your own basic needs met.

      The “who I am” vs “what I do” issue comes up in other situations and can be very damaging. My friend’s father was a highly ranked police offer. When he retired he sunk into a depression, which I understand happened because he suddenly lost his strong sense of identity. I gather this is quite common with police and army types. He eventually went on to do further study and to use his skills in other areas.

      1. Lyanna
        Lyanna October 8, 2012 at 11:38 pm |

        Yes, I agree, both on the act/identity distinction and on the important for caregivers to remember that they’re more than just caregivers: they’re also people in their own right.

        I’m very wary of the “we need to be more relational” school of thought because many women need to be less relational, for their own sanity. I’ve needed to; many women in my family have needed to; many of my female friends have needed to. Maybe men need to spend more time defining themselves as caregivers, but in my experience, women really don’t.

    2. sheriji
      sheriji October 8, 2012 at 10:06 pm |

      Yes! And if we can keep a sense of who we are (inside, not based on how old we are or how we look or what we weigh) not only are we more emotionally healthy, we have more space/time/love/peace/joy to share with the world around us.

    3. Lyanna
      Lyanna October 8, 2012 at 11:36 pm |

      I think the who-you-are vs. what-you-do distinction is pretty vital. For moms and other carers and for people who have to work shit jobs, either because of this economy or because of lack of education/opportunity or what-have-you. As Tamara said above, it’s absolutely necessary to remember that you’re not just a functional unit, who exists to provide someone else with a service, that you are a person in your own right–and this remembrance can’t be postponed until the kid goes to kindergarten. You might lose your mind before then.

  18. Jadey
    Jadey October 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm |

    My long comments keep getting me into technical trouble, so I’m just going to leave this gem from the Tami Winfrey Harris post that Valenti linked, but which could have used a little more prominence:

    Feminists who wish that Obama would strike a blow for feminism and against stereotyped roles of women, too easily forget that all women are not burdened by the same stereotypes. The way sexism visits white women and women of color, including black women, is similar in its devastation but often unique in its practice.

    1. tinfoil hattie
      tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm |

      Excellent point. Thank you for bringing it up.

    2. (BFing)Sarah
      (BFing)Sarah October 8, 2012 at 11:41 pm |

      Tami hits the nail on the head.

  19. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date October 8, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

    I don’t understand why I have to be anything first. I think of myself as this AND that; not this first, then that. With the various thises and thats having relatively more or less importance depending on what I’m doing and what’s going on.

    (I do realize that Jessica Valenti isn’t responsible for the “X first” line of thinking.)

  20. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie October 8, 2012 at 5:14 pm |

    Since many, MANY people whose opinions I respect are saying that I am being unfair, and erasing experiences, I woukd like to say this:

    I am truly, deeply sorry that I erased anyone’s experiences of motherhood by writing comments that were hurtful. By no means did I want to do that, and I am truly sorry that I worded things so badly. I will try to write more carefully.

    Here is what I truly believe:

    Parenthood (more so for mothers) AFFECTS the rest of a mother’s (parent’s) life with thousands of little ripples that flow down through almost every aspect of our lives, large and small.

    There is no one “right way” to be a mother. (There are lots of wrong ways, many of which I have done!) Being a mother is hard if you’re not with your kids all day and if you are.

    Some mothers are more skilled/successful/privileged than others when it comes to maintainining an identity outside of motherhood. I find it unfair to blame mothers themselves for getting wrapped up “too much” in their children’s lives.

    Sometimes being a mother (parent) is great, and sometimes it sucks.

    Oxytocin neither turns women into perfect mothers nor determines their fates as human beings for the rest of their lives. It is known to affect our bonds in all the relationships we have, and even to affect our view of ourselves and our role in society.

    Again, I apologize to everyone whom I upset, angered, or hurt in any way. I am truly and deeply sorry.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune October 8, 2012 at 8:19 pm |

      TH, I actually agree with pretty much everything you wrote her,e I think we’re just in massive disagreement about the extent of that affecting of life, etc (aka the details).

      I also replied to your comment where you believed I was calling you a rape apologist, explaining what I meant. (In retrospect probably not the most coherent sentence I’ve written, that one.) I didn’t call you a rape apologist, ftr, or even compare you to one. I don’t chuck that around lightly.

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie October 9, 2012 at 7:06 am |

        Yeah, well, we have differing opinions on the tenor of your comments to me during this thread. C’est la vie.

    2. trishka
      trishka October 9, 2012 at 11:49 am |

      TH thanks for this. very graciously written.

    3. Miss S
      Miss S October 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm |

      Tinfoil, I understand where you’re coming from on this thread and I agree with most of what you have written. The original article and the post didn’t set the best tone for me because 1. I feel like I’ve read it a million times, with the same tone, same rhetoric, etc, and 2. it erased intersecting identities.

  21. Mom first? « Fisticuffs at Dawn
    Mom first? « Fisticuffs at Dawn October 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm |

    [...] I came across this thread on Feministe today, and I guess I’m sort of concerned over the piece that was being praised [...]

  22. sheriji
    sheriji October 8, 2012 at 10:04 pm |

    So many “hear, hear”s, and so many WTFs?

    I agree with an earlier comment that the author was writing about our idea of ourselves, not about what filled our day on this particular day.

    We are all so many, many things, and I think, whether we realize it or not, our children our watching. So yes, in a way, they give a fuck. And if they see you sacrificing your entire sense of self they will grow up with a sense of selfish entitlement that isn’t good for them, nor for anyone else around them.

    We owe it to our children, society, and ourselves to take care of our SELF as much as we take care of anyone else. And no matter how selfless (no pun intended)(okay, it was) a parent thinks he or she is, we each have needs of our own, and we should feel we have the right to try to have them met.

    First world problem. And yes, men still run the world, and women should have an equal voice at the table. That day isn’t here yet, and until it is I’m going to keep talking loudly.

    1. MedusaMama
      MedusaMama October 9, 2012 at 8:48 am |

      someone said recently – you can have it all, just not all at once.

      I get tired of people thinking I’m sacrificing my “self” for my children. I work outside the home (and worry about the babysitter, and resent my shitty job). I socialize. I read the news and form opinions (apparently unpopular ones). honestly, I don’t have a lot of “self” to sacrifice.

      and when someone needs me, they need me. and I have to either drop what I’m doing or listen to the screaming chaos until I go fix it. this makes me pretty useless to the revolution until these kids grow out of needing me to wipe their asses or kiss their booboos or whatever other boring, routine, trivial, stupid, unimportant thing they have going on.

      it doesn’t mean I don’t care about the world. it means that it’s someone else’s turn for a second while I help these children get their acts together until they’re ready to start interacting with the world on their own.

      I dislike the implication that because I think I should be paying attention to the reality in front of my face right now I am somehow cheating the world of my brilliant contributions, and that all my brains drained out my ears the second I gave birth and became a mombot – unless I! demand! my own! life! mine! for me!

      having a life is expensive. twice as expensive because I need a sitter to keep an eye while I go have a life. having a life is also exhausting. if you’re already sleep-deprived and can’t even think straight, the pressure to do all the coordinating necessary just to get out of the house can be just too much to consider.

      it’s great that Jessica Valenti has time to have a life, and is well supported in her pursuit of motherhood and life-having, and never has to worry about a sitter? or money? or all the other crap I need to think about every time I contemplate doing any goddamn thing that does not involve Bob The Builder. I mean, I’m happy for her. but a little jealous, I have to admit.

      I don’t need to be scolded or shamed because the majority of my time is spent barely containing the rampant anarchy of family life, and the rest is spent in a desperate quest for sleep. I don’t need to be told that the world is desperately pining for my (equally unpaid) labor for The Cause of Feminism. I don’t need more people telling me how badly I’m fucking up my life. I get that from the Bad Guys, right?

      sadly, these days it seems like my support will go to anyone who will support me. if Feminism wants me to have a life, Feminism is going to have to hold the baby while I go do it. yes, I need more diapers changed and less making me feel like shit – and I’m not sorry I feel that way.

      I don’t feel at all like society rewards me for being a mother, first or last or whatever. I feel like society blows smoke up my ass and still I can’t get the help I need.

      (I seem to remember from reading I did a hundred years ago, back when I had time to read, that one of the many useful things feminist consciousness-raising groups did was arrange babysitting cooperatives. whatever happened to that? did it fall out of favor when motherhood was no longer cool? did one lady get stuck with the babysitting hours All The Damn Time? I wonder.)

      and sure, I may be just one woman. but I am one of many who make up Class Woman – just like an insect’s compound eye. I’m not special. I bet that while many women don’t share my opinion, many other women do. for me, it comes down to the minutia of my life with my children, the tedious, the trivial, the non-political, the unimportant – that’s what dominates my life, whether I’m engaged in “a life of my own” or not. because if I’m not there to handle it, no one else will.

  23. Omar
    Omar October 8, 2012 at 11:21 pm |

    TBH This “controversy” is going way over my head. Yes, we as a society can provide more services to mothers and less lip service. But this is an argument over semantics and one that reeks of insecurity. The proudest role I play in my life and the one that I identify closest to is being a husband. I am a husband first. That’s it. Everything else is secondary. That doesn’t diminish me as a person in any way.

    1. EG
      EG October 8, 2012 at 11:42 pm |

      Wow, there isn’t a cognate to this issue for men? Who could have guessed? It’s amazing how different things would look when for thousands of years you’re told that being a husband is the most important thing you could ever be and that you should sacrifice every other interest you might have to it.

    2. igglanova
      igglanova October 9, 2012 at 12:40 am |

      …I’m kind of stunned. I feel like somebody just whacked open a pinata of clueless male privilege.

      1. matlun
        matlun October 9, 2012 at 1:46 am |

        Or perhaps it just demonstrated a lack of reading comprehension? Ie

        This “controversy” is going way over my head

        I will go with that as it seems the more generous interpretation.

        Omar: The use of the phrase may be used as the starting point of the article, but this is then used to try to illustrate larger issues regarding problematic stereotypes and social expectations we have when it comes to motherhood. The discussion is clearly not just about semantics.

    3. A4
      A4 October 9, 2012 at 8:53 am |

      You seem shocked that you are not subject to the sexist expectations that many women in this thread are speaking about. Perhaps you are unclear on the concept?

    4. MedusaMama
      MedusaMama October 9, 2012 at 9:17 am |

      and as for YOU…

      what have you done for me lately? that is to say, your identity as Husband First, I would argue, has a lot less pressure and stress baked into it than an identity of Mother First. or even Wife First.

      this is obviously NOT just semantics for some of us. for some of us, it’s real life. why else would we be thrashing each other to death again and again and again? it’s really easy for you to pontificate on the outside of this discussion – but imagine what it would be like to be on one side or the other because of the reality of your day-to-day life. you don’t understand why it feels so urgent for us because, even if you were Father First, your experience would be worlds apart from ours.

      1. John
        John October 9, 2012 at 11:05 am |

        I was a SAH dad 15 years ago for 2 years. I’m not quite clear that you’re not saying mothers have it worse. Are you? Society then expected women to be mothers, it didn’t expect me to stay at home and look after the kids… I got some very odd looks in te Playgroup, I can tell you. :)

        1. EG
          EG October 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm |

          She’s not replying to you, John, but to Omar.

  24. Stella
    Stella October 9, 2012 at 6:25 am |

    I do not think it is because women take power where they can. Many women get very attached to their children. Just look at divorce. How many women give up primary residency of the children to the ex husband, so that they can focus on their own career more?

  25. Link Roundup: 10/9/12 « The Social Expression

    [...] has posted a link written by feminist author Jessica Valenti titled I Am ‘Not A Mother First’.   The [...]

  26. Miss S
    Miss S October 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm |

    I remember reading studies in my wmst courses that showed that women are more likely to define themselves by their relationship to others, and men are more likely to define themselves by their status, earnings, and possessions. (EG touched on this earlier).

    Is one better than the other? I don’t think so. I can’t imagine that defining myself by myself by my job title or earnings or possessions would be more beneficial to my self esteem and mental health, because I don’t have an amazing job title, high earnings, or many possessions. Maybe this is why some women are defining themselves by their relationships to others- that’s where they have the highest value.

    1. Miss S
      Miss S October 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm |

      The other reason, IMO, is that being a mom, especially a new one, is more time and energy consuming than other interests and identities. My cousin just had a baby and is on 6 week, unpaid maternity leave. She hasn’t lost her other identities. She’s still the girl who loves fashion, as she was showing me the accessories she wanted on her phone while rocking her baby to sleep. She still loves to see her friends, and takes her parents up on their offers to babysit so that she can see them. She still wants to pursue a career in the field she has been working.

      The difference now is that there is this tiny little person who demands her time and energy all. The. Time. She’s a mom 24-7, who finds time to pursue her other interests. Not the other way around. I suspect that the actual, material demands of children have a way of changing the way you see yourself.

      1. samanthab
        samanthab October 9, 2012 at 6:16 pm |

        Um no, an identity doesn’t change overnight, unless you choose for it to do so. You can still have an identity beyond your child and tend to it 24/7. It’s not so great for you to suggest otherwise.

        1. Miss S
          Miss S October 9, 2012 at 11:32 pm |

          Ummmm, what? I’m not suggesting that women should do anything. I’m offering reasons for why some do. I actually pointed out that my cousin did not lose her identity or other interests and goals.

          Your response makes no sense.

    2. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl October 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |

      There is definitely an underlying sexism in the notion that parenting and mothering is less valuable than career and earning potential. The former is associated with women and the latter with men, can it really be such a surprise that the more manly enterprise is more valued than the more feminine?

      What I don’t understand is the non-deconstructing of these underlying assumptions by Feminism. Women would be far better served if all of these things (parenting, mothering, career, income earning) were all considered as existing on an equal level. By insisting that all women would be better served by having a career and not being a SAH caregiver, we do nothing to push back at the sexism underlying the devaluing of caregiving done by either sex. Furthermore, not pushing back against a system that accords respect and esteem to people based upon their relative wealth ignores how women lose out consistently because of the ever-persistent wage gap we see here in the U.S. So not only to we perpetuate impossible standards for women we do nothing to create a better paradigm that levels the playing field for women.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl October 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm |

        As a side note, I am in no way endorsing the “feminine” and “masculine” labeling of these different things. I’m merely noting that they exist and play a significant role in how U.S. society codes various behaviors or activities.

      2. Lauren
        Lauren October 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm |

        There is definitely an underlying sexism in the notion that parenting and mothering is less valuable than career and earning potential.

        There is definitely also sexism in the notion that parenting and motherhood is the ideal place for and over-arching identity for women.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl October 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm |

          There is definitely also sexism in the notion that parenting and motherhood is the ideal place for and over-arching identity for women.

          Absolutely, I agree with you, Lauren.

          I don’t think that these two positions have to be at odds with one another, though. It’s sexist that parenting/ motherhood is viewed as an ideal for women or the only identity to which they are entitled to have. It is also sexist to not value the parenting/ mothering done by women specifically because it is women and not men doing it.

          So why can’t we push back against both of these false paradigms? Because they both get used as excuses to treat women in sexist and discriminatory ways.

      3. John
        John October 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm |

        I’d say that is a failure of mainstream feminism which has largely served middle class women’s aspirations and does nothing to address hegemonic power structures. Here’s the new boss, same as the old boss, except she’s got XX chromosomes.

        1. EG
          EG October 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm |

          Well, that’s what “mainstream” means. If it actually challenged the status quo, it would be too controversial to go mainstream.

        2. Alexandra
          Alexandra October 9, 2012 at 3:51 pm |

          I think the long history of feminism shows that the ideas adopted by “mainstream” feminism (which, let’s remember, is still considerably to the left of the actual political center in most places) were first propounded by members of the feminist or socialist left years before, often decades before. It takes militant and radical action to push ideas into the mainstream in the first place.

        3. doberman
          doberman October 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm |

          hegemonic power structures

          Oh great. Are you some kind of anarchist? Feminism has been dragged through the mud enough by the 70s/80s feminists with all the wrongness that went on there (the whole porn, rape and lesbianism thing). And then in the 90s where detuning a guitar and wailing into a microphone was the height of feminist achievement.

          If feminism were to attach itself to some kind of fight the system! oh excuse me, “fight the hegemonic power structures” movement then that would likely be a kiss of death in these times.

        4. EG
          EG October 9, 2012 at 4:56 pm |

          You don’t know shit about 70s and 80s feminism, doberman.

        5. EG
          EG October 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm |

          all the wrongness that went on there (the whole porn, rape and lesbianism thing

          That lesbianism thing is so wrong, obviously. God, what were those 70s and 80s feminists thinking, inventing lesbianism like that? What fools.

    3. Stella
      Stella October 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm |

      I do not think it is so much the way people define themselves, but the way they are defined by others.

      Or the way people judge themselves they judge others.

  27. Mary Joan Koch
    Mary Joan Koch October 10, 2012 at 10:08 am |

    Just because Michelle Obama and Anne Romney said it does not mean that young women are getting the message they should be mothers first. For the last three years I have been auditing classes at a local college. I have not yet met one college-age women who thinks she will be a mother first.

    I have 4 daughters, 39 to 30 and 7 nieces. I am friends with dozens of my daughters’ friends. I don’t know one woman who stayed home full-time with their young children.

    Our society gives lip service to the glories of motherhood, yet has the most family unfriendly policies in the industrialized world.

  28. John
    John October 10, 2012 at 10:26 am |

    Doberman

    Not an anarchist, but a Marxist. I suggest you have a look at the works of Antonio Gramsci. He accurately described many of the problems confronting working class women and men and explained the nature of the current status quo. You may call it Patriarcy, he called it hegemony. Ultimately it’s the same thing.

  29. WestEndGirl
    WestEndGirl October 10, 2012 at 11:22 am |

    I think the experience of motherhood plays out on women of different/intersecting groups in ways far more complex than the WOC/middle class White dichtomy being discussed here. Being a Jewish Mother™, of whatever class or race presentation, is used as a perjorative for example, likewise being an Asian Tiger Mum. This is despite the fact the stereotypical actions associated with motherhood ‘performed’ that way, would be associated positively for an African-American mother (as per the subversive aspects re: Michelle Obama) AND for a White middle class mother, even as it’s used to attack Jewish/Asian women for being too pushy/focused on their children. There are just too many aspects across all characteristics (gender, sex, class, race, ethnicity, religion etc) to come down definitively re: Mom First. ‘Firsting’ any one aspect of ourselves always has a wider context than just us individually and plays into systemic issues whether we like it or not. Being a human being is the only ‘firsting’ I would like to see.

    1. Cagey
      Cagey October 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm |

      Yeah, like how does this conversation change for say, women of color, who have never had their motherhood respected in this country even as they’ve been the primary caregivers for the children of others (including in plenty of cases, some feminists) and who have to raise children in a system which inherently views those children as deviant, inferior, and expendable? How does this conversation play out for poor mothers who have to work within a system that seems to constantly treat them and their children as undeserving leeches? What about lesbian mothers whose very legal right to parent may be called into question? Are these groups of women going to, in the face of those problems, be as deeply concerned about how “I’m a mom first” rhetoric is awful the way Valenti is?

      1. Lyanna
        Lyanna October 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

        Are these groups of women going to, in the face of those problems, be as deeply concerned about how “I’m a mom first” rhetoric is awful the way Valenti is?

        Er. Yes?

        My mother was on social assistance for a time. I can assure you, government workers were AWFULLY concerned about whether this jobless woman of color was living her life in such a way as to put her children first at all times. Any sign of “selfishness” or of any identity besides “I want to get a job to support my kids” was frowned on.

  30. ahimsa
    ahimsa October 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm |

    Because if raising the next generation were really all that mattered, we could basically go live in caves and reproduce for all of eternity and call it a day.

    The flip side to this logic (that raising children is the most important thing ever) is that any woman who is not a mother, for whatever reason, is not doing anything that matters. In fact, I think this logic also means that even mothers lose most of their value after the children are grown.

    It’s being framed as “either/or” and that seems so simplistic. There are many roles that are important. Being a parent may be one of them but each person has a different priorities. Most folks understand that a person can be a parent and also do other things at various times in his/her life.

  31. Shannon Drury
    Shannon Drury October 12, 2012 at 9:54 am |

    “Parents are people, people with children!” …so sang Marlo Thomas and Harry Belafonte four decades ago. Why didn’t anyone listen?!!

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve October 15, 2012 at 10:06 am |

      Parents are people, people with children!” …so sang Marlo Thomas and Harry Belafonte four decades ago. Why didn’t anyone listen?!!

      The answer is in the question.

  32. And This is Why Selfish People Should Not Procreate

    [...] understand that, and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary for their children. Others? Not so much: What makes this “moms first” identification so insidious is that for parents, motherhood is a [...]

  33. Moms First? « saralinwilde
    Moms First? « saralinwilde October 17, 2012 at 10:11 am |

    [...] Thanksgiving I found this great post on Feministe about why that rhetoric is toxic. To highlight a couple of key points in the article,  here’s what “I’m a mom [...]

  34. Not a mother first | Us, Women
    Not a mother first | Us, Women October 18, 2012 at 6:47 pm |

    [...] article this week is called I’m not a mother first. It’s a response to a piece by Jessica Valenti in The Nation. Podcast Share [...]

  35. shemale on shemale sex
    shemale on shemale sex October 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm |

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