Tahlequah Daily Press

Columns

February 11, 2012

A mom’s a big deal, but not an expert on everything

I’ve never claimed to be the greatest mom in the world. I’m sadly bereft of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, and I lose patience when rules are flouted or when clear instructions are repeatedly disregarded.

I didn’t read to my son as much as I should have, and I may have pressured him too much in school. I made up for it by baking plenty of cookies, and overlooking a bedroom that would have sent a muddy hog squealing for sanctuary. The latter two slights have arguably spawned a somewhat casual attitude toward personal discipline in young adulthood.

I accept blame for my shortcomings. But I’m sick of PR flacks, politicians, advertising agencies and the designers of spammy online apps who glom onto the “mom” moniker to solicit votes, unnecessary purchases, or justification of one’s own miserable existence.

I’ll be pilloried for saying this, but the threat of a counterassault – or a dozen or so unfriendings on Facebook – won’t change the facts: The production of offspring doesn’t impart credibility or wisdom. It just means you are (or were) fertile, and at least on a number of occasions equal to the number of kids you’ve produced, you’ve had sex with a man.

That said, I’ll hastily add the job of “mom” is the most difficult in the world. The only occupation that ranks close is “housewife.” When it comes to scouring soiled counters and stovetops, mopping floors, and chasing dust-bunnies from under the sofa, I’m a abject failure. Given a choice between a career as a housewife and being put to the rack, I’ll take the rack.

The trend to commercially glorify the “mom” label may have started long ago, but I blame that Gosselin woman for its recent escalation. I never watched “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” but I think I grasp the premise. And if that is today’s definition of an exemplary mom, then I am Donna Reed.

Take a look at the spam in your email inbox. Likely among them is a message like this one: “A New York mom has found a way to make millions from her home, and you can, too!” or “Want to satisfy your man without pills or creams or toys? This Florida mom will show you how!” Similar screeds can be seen on the right side of your Facebook wall: “Mom discovers secret way to get rid of wrinkles FOREVER!” or “Drop 30 pounds in 30 days, with NO DIETING and NO EXERCISE, just a few simple tips from his 30-year-old bombshell mom in Jersey!”

Apparently, nothing sells like motherhood, unless it’s the persistent query as to whether you’d like to be better-endowed in the male body-part department, even if you don’t happen to be male. I’m assuming these pitches work for a good number of naive numbskulls out there, or their purveyors would change tactics.

Product-pitchers seem determined to convince consumers that enduring labor pains qualifies a woman to speak with authority on anything. She knows how an exercise machine can pare down four dress sizes in four months, with the help of a well-balanced diet. She can advise you on how, from the comfort of your living room, you can become a millionaire, and how you can best invest your new cache of cash for optimum return. She can point you to the best dating service (for single moms), the most worthwhile charities and volunteer opportunities, the most effective treatments for illness, legal recourses for any offense, the best books to read, the ideal design for jeans, and the latest components of theoretical physics.

I’ve had resumés from gals listing “mom” among their qualifications to be a staff writer, though it does not improve the ability to punctuate, spell, or compose a sentence. Neither does it render you capable of selling cars, styling hair, serving tables, or even teaching a classroom full of kids. Some gals can tolerate their own brood, but facing a day with a couple of dozen extras might ultimately land them in front of a judge on murder charges.

About 40,000 women (mathematically challenged, because they call themselves the “Million Moms”) recently asserted their authority on bigotry and promotional strategy, by calling for a boycott on JC Penney for hiring Ellen Degeneres as a spokeswoman. Degeneres is a lesbian, but what motherhood had to do with the campaign against her is anyone’s guess. Couldn’t the group just call itself the “Million Anti-Gays”? As it is, they’re guilty of false advertising. Not all “moms” are opposed to equal rights for gays, and many lesbians are also moms. At any rate, you’d think the Million Moms wouldn’t want to restrict membership; a number of “dads,” and people with no offspring, may object to Ellen, too.

Some “moms” limit their reach in ways that could be positive. Are only “moms” experts on, and opponents of, drunken drivers, a la MADD, or can dads get in on the action, too? There’s an international moms’ prayer group; do they think the petitions of dads would fall on deaf ears?

The most repugnant use of “mom” is as a qualifier for political office. I remember retching uncontrollably, not long ago, as a woman at a podium asserted her chief asset for public service was “because I’m a MAWWWWWMMMMM!” The crowd roared its approval and filled the coffers, so the strategy works. Even with men – at least, if the mom is “hot.”

Kim Poindexter is a mom and managing editor of the Daily Press, and does not claim either job commends her for anything else.

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