Monday, March 13, 2006

The Mommy Whore

(Because Heather Wouldn't Let Me Call This Post, "Fuck You, Bitch.")

When I wrote my post about GTWD's, I did so sheepishly, almost apologetically. After I put it up on the blog, I obsessively checked the comments, waiting for someone to call me a self-indulgent chauvinist pig. I never imagined that, instead, the post would spark so many interesting, thoughtful and supportive posts and comments.

But, alas, the feel-good love fest could only last so long. Someone has finally come forward with the response I was expecting - the response that made me think I was supposed to hold my tongue and leave all the parenting-is-tough attention to the stay-at-home set. Asked in a recent interview, "Do you expect to see a book on Daddy wars?," Leslie Morgan Steiner, the mommy whore who wrote the Mommy Wars book, answered:

It would be a very short book. Men aren't that introspective. When kids come, their lives haven't changed as much dramatically. When husband goes on a business trip to New York, he just packs his little suitcase. When I go away, I have to write a three-page memo for the nanny. I have to talk to three moms to arrange for people to pick up my kids from school. I have to send a note to school to tell them to call my husband in case of an emergency. And then I have to tell my husband to keep his cell phone on.
The timing of Steiner's comment - or, at least, the timing of my discovery of the comment - couldn't be better because I've been meaning to post a followup to my GTWD post, to sort of polish my thoughts on the subject, but I was a bit afraid of becoming a one-track blogger. But now, I ain't afraid o shit: I gots to speak.

In the legal industry, we often hire experts to help on a particular piece of litigation - an accounting expert, for example, to testify about the appropriate calculation of a party's damages. I often refer to such people - especially those hired by opposing counsel - as "whores:" they say whatever gets them paid. My hope for Steiner - and the very best thing I can say about her - is that she is a whore. I hope she is only saying what she thinks will generate controversy, traffic on her website, and book purchases. Cause if it ain't that, then she's just fucking stupid.

Actually, I'm oversimplifying. There's probably at least one other explanation for Steiner's comments. Either she's a whore, she's not too bright, or she married a total douchebag. Seriously, "When husband goes on a business trip to New York, he just packs his little suitcase. When I go away, I have to write a three-page memo for the nanny." WTF?! I want to go on a such a Dennis Miller style rant here, but I'm almost speechless.

Heather and I are a team. Yes, she carries more of the Miles-care duties - doing so is her job. But I pull my weight, too - doing so is my second job. I drag my ass to the office every morning at seven, and I drop whatever the fuck I'm doing and get my ass home if Heather should call and say that she's having a bad day and needs relief. On a good week, I only lawyer Monday through Friday, and then get up with Miles on Saturday and Sunday as much as I'm able to let Heather sleep in. I take Miles to the playground, the zoo and the Children's Museum. And, for her part, Heather not only cares for Miles, but also takes my drycleaning to get done, brings me a change of clothes and food at the office when I stay late, and lets me sleep in when I've been working through the night. We both work two jobs in order to care for Miles and the family finances, and, fortunately for all of us, we generally like our respective gigs.

But it sounds like Steiner and her husband each work only one job. Apparently he's too much of a nincompoop to help her with the childcare duties. Oh, wait a minute - what I meant to say is that he's to much of a nincompoop to help the nanny with the childcare duties. And poor Steiner; she's stuck giving the nanny all those damned instructions because, evidently, hubby's got no damn clue how to care for his own kids.

For me, the emphasis in GTWD is on the 'D.' You don't get to be a GTWD just because you knocked someone up and have to work. In our society, those qualities pretty much just make you male. Being a GTWD is more than that. And that's what Steiner's missing.

For the real GTWD's, leaving town on business involves MUCH more than packing a little bag and hitting the road. It involves spending every moment of the trip wondering what your family is up to. It involves coming back to your hotel room and looking longingly at the photograph of your 1-year old child (which photograph, in my case, your wife wonderfully packed for you). It involves working 14 hour days and still finding time to call home to check on your family. And, when your wife is going out of town, it involves stepping way the fuck up to the plate and handling your shit - not leaving your wife to scribble a 3-page memo to the nanny. If she's captured him accurately, Steiner's man is clearly just a man. A GTWD he ain't.

Or, Steiner herself is just plain dumb. I actually think this is the frontrunner. "Men aren't that introspective." The most amusing part of this comment is not the obvious over-generalization that is wholly unsupported in fact. Instead, the more delightful part of this comment is that Steiner appears to be suggesting that the so-called "Mommy Wars" about which she writes are fueled by introspection. It is apparently because men are not that introspective that there will be no daddy wars.

I feel pretty certain that the relationship of introspection to the likelihood of parents warring is directly opposite that suggested by Steiner. Good parents are a vulnerable bunch. We are constantly watching our children, the people around our children, and the way we are around our children, for cues as to the "right" way to raise our children. We are perpetually second-guessing ourselves and each other. And, without the right amount of introspection, we are susceptible to some whore coming along and convincing us that we're at war, all so that she can sell a few books. Introspection is the cure to the "mommy wars," not their cause.

One of the comments to my original post said, "can't we all just get along?" We can. And those of us who are introspective enough to set aside our insecurities, which would otherwise have us feeling shitty when compared to parents who are doing it some way other than us, do. We are getting along at my house, where GTWD's, SAHM's, SAHD's, GTWM's, DOGS, and CATS get together every Tuesday night for dinner; we are getting along every day here on this blog and others, where the comments come from diverse people with diverse experiences from whom Heather and I learn more and more each day; and we are getting along at any given moment elsewhere.

It is Steiner herself and not any generalized and genderized lack of introspection that is fueling the flames of parental controversy. With comments like that above, I'm sure we can expect her next book - The Mommy-Daddy Wars - to hit shelves any day now. Hopefully by then we'll all be too freaking introspective to give a shit.

When I wrote my GTWD post, I never intended to suggest that GTWD's deserve any more credit than anyone else. But they do deserve their credit. People like Steiner are much too quick to dismiss the difficulty of leaving a crying child to go work for a sniveling client - much too quick in general to presume that a good man's internal work/life conflict is nonexistent. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: real GTWD's can't be forgotten, and should be appreciated. Just like every other good parent out there.

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