The Queendom of Mommyhood: In Which I Claim My Crown

Welcome to Day 3 of the “To Mom or Not to Mom” Open Salon with yours truly and Pamela of Silent Sorority. We created this dialogue to discuss both sides of the motherhood debate from our unique perspectives. Why? To parse out the concerns and vulnerabilities of transition within the ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) community without tripping over political correctness and delicate sensibilities.

We hope you’ll join us every day this week and will be inspired to add your own responses in the comments here and at Pamela’s blog or by writing your own blog posts. If you do write a post inspired by this salon, please link up in the comments!

Today, we’re talking about the culture of motherhood – or, as I like to call it, the Queendom of Mommyhood – in America.

“Moms represent a $2.4 trillion market.”
- Marketing to Moms Coalition, State of the American Mom 2011 Report

“Using the strength of their online networks, moms today communicate far beyond the backyard fence and at lightning-fast speed. And that means their influence is nothing to trifle with.”
- Melissa Schorr, Boston Globe Magazine, July 29, 2012

“The best thing a girl can be is a good wife and mother. It is a girl’s highest calling. I hope I am ready.”
― Nancy E. Turner, author

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“Mothers are all slightly insane.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

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There is no denying that motherhood – in all its epic glory* – has been placed on a cultural pedestal higher than it’s ever been before. *This epic glory, I might add, is an attitude bestowed on moms and mommyhood, a result of this cultural shift and not the catalyst of it.

Don’t believe me? Check out what a male commenter had to say on a marketing article discussing that 2.4 trillion dollar mom purchasing power factoid above, emphasis mine:

Lets hope that this economic power leads to social power and influence on the way our world is run. Mothers often work harder, are more organised and efficient with their time (because they have their priorities right), and have more empathy than the rest of us (yes, this is a gross generalisation, but think objectively – and see if it doesn’t fit with your own experience of mothers you have worked with, and your own mother – if you are past adolescence and can forgive her for “ruining your life” lol). A world run by mothers would be a better place – with less war, more forgiveness and empathy, and more equitable sharing of resources between the rich and poor, fairer trade between nations, and they look much nicer than the current crop of “leaders” too ;-) (Source.)

Moms have taken the internet by storm – it’s a fact that can’t be denied and one to which brands and marketers have been paying attention. A 2010 piece from Parents Magazine sheds some light on why this is the case. It’s a combination of strength in numbers, new paradigms in online social communication and a shift in credibility, authority, and consensus-building:

More to the point, mothers online have become powerful: raising and honing their voices, writing best-sellers, moving products, stepping up as spokesmoms, and transforming culture. Call it Because I Said So 2.0: The trusted authority of Mom, plus the platform of the Internet, times 35 million (according to eMarketer’s 2010 projections of mothers online) equals a collective voice that’s not only self-affirming but that politicians and others in power are also listening to.

“Being courted online is extremely empowering. Mothers are realizing that they have a voice, and it has impact when they raise it,” says Elisa Camahort Page, cofounder and COO of BlogHer. “There’s tremendous opportunity. It can be personal, professional, or political, but it’s definitely powerful.” (Source.)

We live in a new age of social media and social communication where moms are driving the conversation. Perhaps this is the empowered response that’s been 60 years in the making, shouting back from the days of June Cleaver and her ilk waltzing around the kitchen kowtowing to Don Draper’s every beck and whim.

I will fully admit that I have bought into the Queendom of Mommyhood, the cult of Saint Mom the Martyr, the Having It All paradigm. As Nancy Turner notes in her quote above, it’s a message that’s been conditioned and massaged into girls from an early age. I’ve emerged a modern woman with the fire of Kali burning in her eyes, piles of Barbies and Polly Pockets and Baby Alives laid waste in my wake of feminist destruction.

To be a Jewish mother, and all the hilarious stereotypes that come with it: bring it on. Actually, no, no – you go ahead, I’ll bring it on later, I’ll wait – it’s fine.

I eat this shit up.

I fully own that I buy into this culture. Case in point: later today, I have my first mom-related product review going up on my #GoTeamZoll page. It’s the most traditional “mommyblogger” review you can think of: I got paid, I got a product to take home and keep, and I’ve got a “here’s what I love about this carseat” review going up for it in return. Some might call this bribery. Brands see this as smart marketing – and they’re right. There’s no denying that purchase power and brand advocacy to be found in the hordes of online mommybloggers.

But.

I am not a mommyblogger.

At least – in this space, I am not a mommyblogger. My work here focuses on those still on the other side, still seeking resolution, support and compassion. For those women (let’s face it, I know who reads my blog, but hello guys that are reading this) who are ignored by Big Media and Big Brands because they haven’t happened to have their Queen Mom coronation ceremony (yet), I like to think that this blog exists as a refuge from the deluge of the online mom culture.

As Pamela notes in her post today, as many as “one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child, compared with one-in-ten in the 1970s, according to the Pew Research Center.” When, as of 2009, 79 million adult women in the U.S. are using the Internet, and you decide to ignore an entire fifth of that population? Well, you leave out almost 16 million women from the conversation, and that’s nothing to laugh at. In fact, jokes on them, because now they’ve lost the purchasing power and brand influence of 16 million women in the process, which is never good for business.

So, on the one hand, I will happily wear my crown (well, tiara, let’s face it, my face is too tiny for a whole crown) and play into all the culture of revered motherhood in this country. Just because I went through infertility to get here doesn’t mean I can’t revel in the things that all the “regular” moms get to do. And I think every woman who becomes a mother through infertility is entitled to all of this, too. It’s the infertility amnesia part I take issue with the most.

Belly shots? Happening. Am I posting them on Facebook, my blog, or anywhere publicly on the internet? Hell no. Y’all don’t need to see my fat ass, thankyouverymuch. Ultrasound photos? Yes, we’ll be taking them. Sharing them on the internet? Nope. Not really fair to my kids since they literally have no say in the matter right now.

Product reviews and complaints of early pregnancy nausea that came barreling into my life this week like the 9:30am Acela Train into Penn Station? Yes, those will be happening. Will I share them here? Yes, but on a separate page and, after a lot of thinking since we got the big news two weeks ago – they will eventually be moved a new space entirely.

The thought of designing, launching and writing a new blog in addition to the many that I already maintain is daunting yes, but necessary. It’s not fair to all of you reading who really don’t want to get tangled up in my admittedly selfish need to indulge in “normal” mommy online behaviors. Because that’s not what you come here for when you come to The Infertility Voice. You don’t come here for pregnancy complaints and celebrations and triggering photos. You come here for support, empowerment and a compassionate, empathetic understanding of your experience.

You come here, I like to think, because the broader Internet community has appeared to have forgotten about you – but here, you’re remembered, you’re honored, you’re given your own crown as a rite of this most difficult passage. You’ve earned your crown through the literal blood, sweat and tears of the infertility experience: a crown of strength, of hope, of empowered consciousness.

Our royalty of womanhood – mothers, non-mothers, sisters, daughters, friends – our royalty of womanhood is our birthright. We all deserve our crowns, no matter what our experiences may be.

I’ve claimed mine.

Claim yours.

Be sure to swing by Pamela’s blog today to read her take on the culture of motherhood in America – trust me when I say, it’s a necessary read. Tune in tomorrow when we talk about the concept of “passing” when it comes to infertility, motherhood and beyond.

Have you been inspired by our salon and written a post at your blog? Add a link to your post below!



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Comments

  1. says

    I like that you are finding the middle ground between being pregnant and knowing what it’s like to struggle to be pregnant. I agree about the IF Amnesia. It seems hard to believe that anyone could really forget their IF struggles or ignore the pain of those going through IF. I know many woman who, even after child birth, feel their scars of infertility because it changed them forever

    • says

      Erica, thank you for commenting. I am definitely scarred by my infertility for sure – it has changed me as a woman, a wife and now – as a mother-to-be. I’m hopeful that this salon will finally open up some of the things we really need to bring out into the open in this community.

    • says

      I could not agree more with what Erica said. I just recently wrote about this during an adoption panel discussion that I spoke at. The panel discussed how each adoptive families journey unfolded and I was actually shocked to hear a couple actually say that their two adopted children have erased their pain of IF. It was not a note that I wanted to have the audience left with so in true Traathy fashion I dispelled what RPL looks like in the aftermath of adoption for myself and many other women I know who’ve walked the same path as me. A hole that exists separately from the love you feel for the baby placed with you. Distinctive and separate.

  2. says

    Thank you for adding this stat: “When, as of 2009, 79 million adult women in the U.S. are using the Internet, and you decide to ignore an entire fifth of that population? Well, you leave out almost 16 million women from the conversation, and that’s nothing to laugh at. In fact, jokes on them, because now they’ve lost the purchasing power and brand influence of 16 million women in the process, which is never good for business.”

    We women *not* raising children generally have more disposable income than our counterparts and, yes, I do pay attention those who do and do not recognize that I exist.

    It’s more than dollars, though … placing a higher value on some women and not others creates a societal imbalance that brings to mind Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

    • says

      Pamela, this might shock you: but I haven’t read “Handmaiden’s Tale” (I do know the basics of it, however). I think I avoided it b/c I wasn’t in the right space emotionally the last few years.

      And you’re absolutely right: what makes a woman more worthy than another? And, why should media and brands be the ones steering that conversation. Moms might be the drivers right now, but clearly, someone else has programmed the GPS.

    • says

      Melanie, thanks so much for weighing in here. I was hoping you would :) I hope you’ll stop by Pamela’s blog too – it’s been a fascinating salon all week, and we’ve still got two more days to go! Just FYI, we’ll be live-tweeting a closing discussion on Twitter this Friday at 12:30pm EDT with hashtag #ALIMomSalon if you’re interested in joining us. I know we’d love to have your fabulous Savvy Auntie perspective!

  3. says

    I always did love me a sparkly tiara. ; ) When I was a little girl, I wanted to be the local ice carnival queen, because she got to wear one at the carnival. Never have had one, & I think it’s overdue. ; ) I’m glad you agree that I deserve one, even if I never got to be carnival queen, or to parent a living child. Of course, I could buy one myself (I am one of those 1/5 who has lots of disposable income, lol), but it’s nicer to be recognized. ; ) It’s definitely frustrating to be ignored by the vast majority of marketers — if not because I’m not a mom, then because I’m not within that desirable young age bracket any more. :p

    You should read “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I postponed reading it for years, for the simple reason that someone once told me they disliked Margaret Atwood’s “Surfacing.” Silly me. It is scary as heck, not so much for the infertility stuff (although that’s disturbing too), but because of the kind of society the characters live in — and particularly when you look at it in the context of present-day events & attitudes toward women’s/reproductive rights.

    SO enjoying these posts by you & Pamela!!

  4. says

    of course it makes poor business sense to ignore 1/5 of the population, especially since it’s true they are likely to have far more disposable income than the rest. but more importantly, it’s ignorant and insulting to dismiss or judge those whose experience is different, to marginalize those as less significant because we lack the capacity or will to understand and empathize. every experience and perspective matters.

    love this series!

  5. Maggie Lukes says

    Keiko- I have held off commenting on here for some time, and I’ll try my best to explain why. But now I feel I must add my voice to the discussion…
    I am a mom after infertility. I am actually what I coined, “iMags:” Intended Mother After Gestational Surrogacy.
    I struggled with infertility for years. YEARS. I have the same story as most women going through ART: I grew up wanting to be a mommy, cradling my baby dolls in my arms and singing softly to them; stuffing pillows under my shirt and looking at myself sideways in the mirror to see what I would look like when, one day, I was pregnant; feeding my baby alive doll real baby food with great tenderness. The I’d run outside and play baseball in the yard with my brothers and the rest of the neighborhood kids. Mommy on one note, tomboy/ feminist/ do-it-all-and-have-it-all woman on the next. When my husband and I started doing rounds of IVF (after every other imaginable form of ART), I was simply stunned. My story is very long and very complicated, so I’ll cut to the chase and dive right into why I find myself still confused about to which community I really belong. After 4 failed rounds of IVF, we switched doctors. My new Doc suggested doing something called the beta-3 integrin test on my uterine lining. I tested negative twice. Basically, I was born without the receptor protein necessary for carrying and maintaining a pregnancy. My husband’s Nephew and his wife (who is my age and had had 3 kids- the last of which was born at home, with me present) offered to be gestational carriers for us. Now here’s an ironic fact: My doctor actually looked at me one day and said that it was ridiculous how “fertile” I was, but that I couldn’t carry a pregnancy. I have actually been pregnant 3 times, but have never gotten past 8 weeks and have never given birth. When we did the 5th round of IVF, they harvested 32 eggs. 32. Apparently, I broke a record for the clinic. Awesome. 21 fertilized, we did PGD on all 21: 5 were normal. FIVE. out of 32. We implanted a boy and a girl into my niece, and she carried our babies. Sophie and Alex are now 5- turning 6 in December. I am fully entrenched in having kindergartners: PTA events, birthday parties, first lost tooth, still potty training at night, the works. It’s really hard some days to keep my head. But I NEVER forget my struggle to have them. Because I didn’t “have” them. I was handed them. The state that we live in had no laws 6 years ago about any of this, and I had to go through a formal court process, after which I had to basically adopt my own children. After all that I had gone through, this was such a slap in my face. Talk about underlining my already fragile sense of having become a mother-by-proxy. The issue of a woman’s worth (ala Handmaid’s Tale) is one I struggle with daily. I still feel very closely tied to the infertility community, because I am infertile. I feel close to the mommy community, because I am a mommy. I AM a mommy. I have “two beautiful children” (as everyone who hears my story is so quick to point out). Yes. I have two beautiful children, who are made from my eggs and my husband’s sperm. They are made from my DNA. I am SO lucky and blessed. But I am still infertile. I have and never will experience pregnancy or childbirth. Never. I cannot begin to voice the double sided pain this twists my guts into. Even to see those words typed out, causes me to want to wretch. Yes. I am thankful- beyond imagination. Yes I still think of myself as someone continuing to struggle with infertility- if nothing else, than simply because I am still infertile. The joy and happiness I feel for others when they become pregnant after struggles with infertility is completely valid. But so is the ever-so-slight pang o jealousy and sorrow that inevitably arises in me. It will always be there. I try as best I can to channel that corner of my emotions into complete positive mojo: I even went on to become a birth Doula, and have helped to deliver lots of babies. The pure magic and miracle of birth and honour of being present when a human being takes thei first breath is unspeakable. In those moments, I am filled with the very presence and awesomeness of G-D. But that tiny corner of my emotions of my own sorrow is always there.
    Two years ago, we did a 6th round of IVF with the left-over frozen embryos from the cycle that created Sophie and Alex. My thought was this: if these embryos are going to “die,” then they should do so back inside my body and be re-absorbed by me. And they were- round 6 was unsuccessful. I am desperately trying to come to peaceful terms with the idea that I’ll never carry a baby in my belly, or give birth. I’ll never knwo the feeling of bonding with my unborn child, or feeling him/her kick inside me. I’ll never know what it’s REALLY like to push until your eyeballs want to pop out of your head, to get that babys’ head and shoulders out. I can help other women to do this- and trust me, I’m a really good Doula! But it isn’t anything I will ever have first-hand experience at.
    But I have two beautiful children. And they love me even though they know they grew in someone else’s tummy because my tummy broke.
    An interesting thing happened to me this morning- something which prompted me to write this. My Dad’s “big” birthday and party are this weekend- lots of family coming in from out of town, us co-hosting events, etc. I was on the phone, driving to work (the plight of a full-time working mom: arranging many many things while driving thus and fro) arranging the babysitter who will come on Saturday afternoon while I get things done and go to the party. While we were talking about times, and what fun activities they were all going to do, my eyes filled with tears- enough so that a few spilled out. When I hung up, I realized that this happens alot. I have absolutely NO frame of reference for what this emotion is: it’s different from any other for me. Is it that I’m thinking about all the fun things my kids will be doing with the babysitter instead of with me? Is it that I’d rather stay home and do those fun things with them? Is it that I know I can’t, and I’m jealous or sad? Is it that I’m so touched that the babysitter loves my kids too and is excited to see them- knowing that I have really great kids- pride? I have no idea. I simply have no definition for this emotion. It happens often to me when I talk about my kids. Its’ not heart-swelling “Grinch moment” of love so overwhelming my heart feels as though it will burst out of my chest. It’s something other. It’s tainted with a smidge of sadness, of sorry somehow. I don’t know why. It’s like happiness and sorrow mixed at the same time, and my eyes just spill. Maybe it has something to do with the anxiety that developed for me when they were in-utero and that utero wasn’t mine. Don’t know. But there it is. I’m the in-between. I’m a mom. I’m infertile. Just call me Sybil. Without the green kitchen.

  6. says

    Well I guess technically, I’m the one-in-five, except that I *am* parenting. So, like you, to these statisticians I straddle the two worlds of “mom” and, what, “non-mom” (because I didn’t bear a child) or not-yet-a-mom.

    I’m not sure I ever want to wear a tiara (don’t wanna be elevated over others) but I do think it’s bad business practice to ignore 16 million women WITH DISCRETIONARY INCOME

    • says

      I have, and forever will be, obsessed with sparkly things. It’s just what I do. And thank you for illustrating that yes, even these hard and fast stats about women and the internet still fail to capture the complete picture.

      Aw, discretionary income…. I remember when we had that for a few months :-P

      • Maggie Lukes says

        Keiko- my children are painting white pumpkins with lots of glow-in-the-dark glittery paint right now. I look forward to seeing pics of you doing this with yours in a few years! ooo….. shiny……. <3

  7. says

    Yeah. I get the struggle here. I hear a lot of talk about how the parenting vertical online is not as powerful as it once was. But the cultural and political movement to elevate moms is frightening in almost every way. I don’t like how women can be pretty much just a uterus in some crowds…

  8. says

    Another interesting post in your series/salon! Thank you for sharing and making us all think about parenting and not parenting from many different perspectives, including marketing and economics.

  9. says

    I just love this post Keiko, it’s a testament to all the invisible (from the outside) but very real and felt scars on the inside that women carry silently long after their dreams of a child have come to life. Thanks for acknowledging that.

  10. says

    I love this. I can accept not being tagetted by ignorant marketers. Try being one of the 1/5th when it comes to election time. That’s a real joy. Grrr..

    I’ve claimed my queendom too. I did it some time ago – and articulated it here – nokiddinginnz.blogspot.co.nz/2012/04/real-success-stories.html The thing is.we’re all women, and as women, we have enough battles to fight, without being set up against one another.