Die Mommy Die?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

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.
27 comments:
Anonymous said...

I haven't read this yet but I for one am exhausted by the backlash against mothers these days. All the talk about being everything to everyone forgets that being a mom is important in and of itself.

T.I. said...

I am of two minds: i don't have kids yet and i will admit that there is alottttt of talk about kids at work. i often smile and nod. PLUS there is this sense that moms should get extra benefits (or more leeway) to do things like pick up kids from school etc. it doesn't really seem fair. but of course i would never say "die mommy".

Sarah E said...

Just read the article and I feel sorry for the author too. I wonder why she had children in the first place.

Nikki said...

I just read the article too and I have to say that I sort of commend her (Nancy Hass) for being so honest and candid. Some of what she says is right-on. Having a kid is NOT an accomplishment as Nancy says you could do it if you were in a coma! That being said, being a good parent IS an accomplishment. So as always there is a middle ground.

Jaya said...

It's kind of like the people w/o kids at an office can't win huh? If they don't ask about our kids then they are insensitive and "don't get it." If they do ask they are somehow ghetto-izing us. I have one darling daughter and I have felt much of what you write about here and elsewhere upon returing to work and I am guilty of feeling both of these sentiments towards co-workers. I think it's the tone and way in which the questions that are asked that is key.

gina said...

i personally do view motherhood as an accomplishment but at the same time i make a conscious decision not to talk too much about my kids at work. it just seems inappropriate. plus there are plenty of people i do talk about my kids with. i like having my office life separate.

Anonymous said...

Talking about your kid is like telling your dream...noone wants to hear it!!
I don't have kids so when I ask my colleague 'hows your baby', its a courtsy question and I expect a courtsy answer, not a lengthy speech.
Maybe I will end up being one of those moms who talk a lot abt their kids..who knows? but till then, I don't want to know what your dream was.

Ina said...

To above commenter: Really?? Even if these pepole are your quote unquote friends?

Anonymous said...

It's almost humorous how much it seems like "modern mother" discuss this issue (meaning the proper ratio of child conversation to non child conversation). To me it indicates great advances--I doubt our mothers had time to worry about whether they were discussing "appropriate" things! Seriously, I am whole-heartedly for anything that indicates a better balanced life for all of us but the author of this article takes it to new extremes and even discussing it seems to be sort of leisurely don't you think?

Preeti K. said...

Haha I hope the anonymous poster above realizes the irony of calling a discussion leisurely (by which I assume he/she means self-important?)...but then adding to the discussion?

I think this article (and the reaction to it, here and elsewhere) is fascinating. Moms become so demonized and I don't know if it is an au currant thing or if it's always been that way. At the same time, mothers today are marginalized and Madonna-fied. There could be whole courses of study on it.

Sonali said...

Just read the article. It didn't make me mad it made me bored. Am I the only one who is tired about mommy-wars at work and whatnot? Especially in this economy, I think we have more important things to worry about and I can't understand how people are so crazed in their reaction to this lady who is just trying to make controversy.

Anonymous said...

lord this author is ANGRY! i agree, if she doesn't want to talk about her kids, don't talk about them. but the anger she feels about other people who do talk about their kids seems sort of crazy. like there must be some deeper issue there because who really cares what other people talk about? it's really suprising that she is a mom herself.

Anonymous said...

Even the author acknowledges that she likes to discuss the details of her kids with her husband. Some of us have friends outside of our spouses. I'm just saying.

Anonymous said...

I think people are being too harsh on this woman. It's just her opinion. I know many, many women like her. Women who don't want any of their work identities to involve being a mom. I learned this the hard way as I tried to seek out "role models" at my law firm when I was pregnant. I don't want to be like them but I can understand that it took that sort of sensibility to get where they are today.

B.V. said...

super interesting article. must say i have thought some of these things. but pre-kid. (i had kids later--starting at 32). its unimaginable for me to think these things post-kid.

Anonymous said...

wow it would of never occurred to me to be anything but pleased when aquaintances want to talk about my son...

Uma said...

This woman is ridiculous! Doesn't she have better things to do than bash women trying to balance work and motherhood?!?

Anonymous said...

She's getting a bad rap here. I am frankly surprised she isn't getting more support considering how many moms I know who bemoan all the baby talk (myself included).

Hema said...

I think the difference is that even though some of us pretend we are the same people we were pre-children (I do it too--think: nights out drinking and dancing till dawn, choosing to forget about the obligations of the morning) this author really IS the same person. She isn't "changed." And you know what? Maybe we need to respect her for that, or at least respect her path...Us judging her is the same thing as her judging us.

Anonymous said...

"mommy ghetto"? I would dare say the poor children are better off in the care of a stranger at daycare,or dumped in the woods to be raised by wild dogs than with a resentful, selfish "mommy."
Jack

L. P. said...

Whoa Jack, why so harsh? "ghetto"-izing mothers in the workplace is a common phenomenon. I think you read the author's words the wrong way. Google it you'll see.

Anonymous said...

@Jack: What makes the post "selfish"?

Shona said...

@Jack: "ghettoized" means simply to seperate people by virtue of a particular quality. Here Deepa is saying that there is a "mommy ghetto" at her office, meaning there is a prejudice against the mothers at her job. You should check your facts and learn some vocabulary before you disparage people.

M said...

@Jack: You are part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

I read all of these comments with interest, in part because I thought it was great to see debate on both sides of the spectrum. But the anonymous poster above changed my mind and just made me angry, as his comment is exactly why mothers feel so judged ALL the time. There is nothing to justify the ferocity of what he wrote and nothing could cut more to a mother's heart than words expressing that she is not doing a good job raising her children. Shame on you.

Ashwin Sodhi said...

Get your priorities crooked. Work. It's what you've evolved to do. You don't need "reproduce" to spell Productivity.

Anonymous said...

Here I am pretending that I'm genuinely interested in your kid! One time a coworker brought in their new baby. I knew it was happening because ALL the women made a baby beeline, squealing the whole way. Meanwhile the men, and me, were sitting there in mild disgust. (Me embarrassed to be female, and then again embarrassed that babies didn't make my brain tingle). So I got up looked at the baby and with a big fake smile, "OH MY GOD! He's SO cute!"

Babies all look the same when they're newborns. Of course a mother can tell her own baby. But I've actually presented people with stranger baby line ups and no one could tell the difference.

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