I spent the good part of the day trying to convince a male, 50-something, childless colleague that his assumptions on Life As Mom were incorrect. When a boardroom marketing-to-moms conversation diverted into mom guilt territory, he was almost dismissive, even as the moms in the room leaned into our well-honed patience skills and took time to explain.
“Why in the world would peer moms have any influence on whether you'd give your son medication?” he said. (I paraphrase.)
You see, as an illustrative focus-group-of-one example for our conversation and assignment at hand, a fellow mom colleague had shared the hand-wringing experience deciding to medicate her son with ADHD. (While I naturally fist-bumped her across the table. Been there. Done that.) But our older co-worker couldn’t fathom why peer mom judgment would have had any part in the hand-wringing. We patiently explained to our non-parent-yet-self-identified-mom-expert that judgments are heaped upon moms from the moment of conception. (Are you going to find out the gender in advance of birth and if so, what does that say about you? Breast or bottle? Do you have a birth plan? Are you tough enough to go au naturel? To circumcise or not? What is your childcare plan? Oh really? Do you even love your child?) I digress.
So even before my colleague’s son received his diagnosis, she was already aware of the debate around whether parents should medicate their children and the points of view from each side of the aisle. (I wondered silently if male-colleague-who-shall-remain-nameless had ever heard the term vac-cin-A-tions.) Yeah, obviously she researched the options and consulted her doctor. But the inputs for moms aren’t so simple. Every decision we make on behalf of our kids is debatable in the Courtroom of Fellow Moms’ Opinions. Every decision we make is somehow big enough to potentially damage them for life. And whose fault will that be? Dad’s? Ha. How in the world do we survive?
One would think it would be enough to make moms turn away from social media – the major source for the constant barrage of unwarranted opinion and unsolicited advice on the minutia of Everyday Momming. Advice we moms didn’t even know we needed, but our anxiety-ridden brains convince us that we may at some point down the line and so we’ll absorb and file it all away somewhere in the frontal lobe for future reference. How to raise your toddler son so he’ll be a woman-respecting adult. How to avoid pesticides in your kids’ food so you don’t accidentally predispose them to cancer. Reasons bilingual children are more likely to make more money in their eventual careers. (Aren’t you taking them to regular Mandarin lessons?) I don’t even know if any of this is true, but it’s slewed at me daily and who reads more than a headline anymore? Who pays attention to the validity of every source? What it all adds up to is one aggregate headline: None of us is doing enough. What a downer. A hand wringer, actually.
Last week, eMarketer reported the findings of a new study (and I do know the source on this one: Edison) showing moms are checking Facebook more often today than ever before – at 10 times per day and mostly via mobile phone. This space that frankly serves as the virtual court of opinion and unsolicited advice is sucking us in more and more. Why?
At the same time, we laugh it off in IRL conversation. We admit to being sucked into a photo gallery of bento boxes that will expand kids’ palettes in more adventurous ways over lunchtime. Is the creative bento box really taking the school cafeteria by storm? Please. We confess that we nailed that GMO-free, certified organic side dish of peas last night, but Johnny only ate the main course – blue box mac ‘n cheese. Meh, best effort. We toast our Type-B mom friends over a glass of wine when we steal a few minutes of happy hour to remind ourselves we’re well-adjusted capable women who, by the way, grew human beings in our bodies. Sometimes we laugh in the face of Mom Anxiety. But the undercurrent is strong, friends.
My colleague, bless his heart, couldn’t fathom that we would get side-trackedly sucked into bento boxes we’ll never construct without proactively having Google searched for ‘creative bento box lunch ideas for kids.’ The hell?
So yeah, dear childless male colleague who shall remain nameless, the next time you are tempted to scoff at the perils of motherhood’s mindset, please remember this: you’ve already been judged in the Courtroom of Fellow Moms’ Opinions and you’re sentenced to time out. And a gag order.