Moms are everywhere these days: The Tigers,The French, The Sling Aficionados and Ecological Purists. It seems like there is nothing as endlessly fascinating or controversial as the decisions women make about raising their kids. I wish — wish! — I could have written “men and women make” in the last sentence, but mums the word on dads these days.
Motherhood is so compelling that it has turned into a marketable skill, particularly for floundering celebrities who see motherhood as a last ditch effort to hold onto the spotlight. And, according to the New York Times style section, it works. For stars like Jessica Simpson, Tori Spelling, Bethenny Frankel and “Snooki” “parenthood has become a viable Plan B.” “Being a celebrity mom has more business opportunities than ever before,” Peter Grossman, the photo editor of Us Weekly, told the Times. “Now, it’s not just about selling your baby pics. It’s starting a clothing line or endorsing a stroller. The value of a celebrity mom has never been higher.”
The Times story outlines all the various celebs that have taken this route, but fails to acknowledge the larger societal fascination, or obsession, with motherhood and child-rearing that is behind the rise of the “momprenuer.”
I don’t know why mothering is of such interest right now, but I do know that it isn’t good for moms, no matter which “side” of the various debates they fall. All the chatter — breastfeeding until age 3 vs. formula, lavishly praising your kids for their efforts vs. pushing them harder, epidurals vs. “natural” birth — only serves to convince all of us that these are the most important decisions in the world, and that one false move will mess up us or our kids, possibly forever.
Ultimately, most moms aren’t as doctrinaire as attachment disciple Mayim Bialik or tough-love queen Amy Chua. Few of us have the time or stamina to see any of these “parenting styles” out to their fullest.
So what do we get from these debates? Stress. Insecurities. Competitiveness. Oh, and distraction!
We are distracted from the fact that women still largely carry the burden of child-rearing and housework. We are distracted from the fact that in this country we are very lucky if we get a month of paid maternity leave, and extremely lucky if our husbands even get a week off. And we are distracted from the fact that for many of us, in a land without subsidized childcare, the choice between working full-time and staying home has less to do with our aspirations as individuals and more to do with intricate budgets that determine how we can manage working and the cost of daycare in a way that won’t leave us broke. These are the wars we should be fighting, and our enemies are not other mothers.
Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.
Celebrity Motherhood Is a Dangerous Distraction