A couple people have forwarded me this article from this month's Elle. Called "Die Mommy Die," the article has been much-maligned for being particularly harsh to moms who discuss their children at work.
In a nutshell: The article is the author's anti-Valentine to motherhood. Her black heart haiku. Sure she loves her child, she says. But she does not understand, and she resents, this new baby-love culture that mandates constant conversation about said baby, especially in the workplace. It especially irks her when she is repeatedly asked whether having a baby is "the best thing she has ever done" and she chafes at viewing motherhood as an "accomplishment."
Some of the sentiments the author voices are ones I thought I believed. They are certainly things I have said, especially when I pretend (as I often do) that I am the "same person" I was before children. When the author--a mother herself--grits her teeth as a co-worker and fellow-mom wants to discuss the minutia of toddlers instead of the latest trends in their industry--I find myself nodding my head in agreement. I have returned to work twice after maternity leaves and plan to return again after this one. I am dreading having to once again navigate from the mommy-ghetto back to the realm of the regular work-force. I have distinct memories of former supervisors who previously would ask me my opinion on strategy giving me busy-work and asking me "what cute things is D. doing these days." It's infuriating.
But--at the same time--is it that bad for people to ask us about our kids? And, is it so wrong for us to want to discuss our kids with our co-workers? The author of this piece paints the picture of mothers on the job who discuss their children as some sort of blathering idiots, shells of their former selves reduced to bromide and cliche. I can remember many conversations with co-workers about a new handbag pre-children. As best as I can tell, a new child merits as much discussion as a new accessory (or a sports game, or the newest CW show for that matter--both prime subjects of office conversation everywhere).
With these tart words, the author of the Elle piece began to lose me:
Why do so many accomplished women, even in the most rarefied professional environments, feel compelled to treat their children as something to be celebrated publicly in minute, often embarrassingly scatological, detail? Why do they assume that tales of their offspring’s quotidian doings will envelop everyone else in a cloak of bliss?Her harshness only gets deeper as the article goes on--and my sympathy continued to dwindle. Fine, she doesn't want to discuss her children at work. Sure, she doesn't want to discuss other peoples' either. But what skin is it off her back if others choose differently? We are all adults. If you don't like the conversation, choose new conversation partners.
Which is not to say I haven't had my moments of wondering whywhywhy so much discussion--at work and outside of work--has come to revolve around children. What did we talk about before and aren't those subjects still around? But I can also recognize that--whether or not I view motherhood as an "accomplishment"-- having my children is the most important thing I have done in my life. Who doesn't want to discuss the most important thing in life? Moreover, the "Die Mommy Die" author seems to be advocating a sort of false reality in which mothers in the workplace shed parts of their identity. It wreaks of so many horrible things: "Don't ask don't tell" and "passing" come to mind. Aren't we beyond that?
I feel badly for the author of the piece. When people rub me the wrong way in the way they ask about my kids or when people talk about their own children in ways I find comical, I look forwarding to calling or emailing one of a number of friends to have a quick laugh. I wonder if this author has the same outlet.
Plus, the title? "Die Mommy Die"? You would think the author of a piece condemning the magnification and hyperbole of modern day motherhood could have come up with a title a little bit less...hyperbolic.