The Mother Drive-By

Getupgrrl at Chez Miscarriage has been doing an amazing series of posts on what she terms “mother drive-bys.”

It began with this post, a totally excellent, kick-ass feminist critique of Judith Warner’s are-we-mothering-too-much book Perfect Madness.

That post generated a lot of response. Getupgrrl observed:

So as I read through your voluminous tomes, my eyes riveted to the screen, I began to notice a pattern. A theme, if you will. A leitmotif, which was this: apparently, other mothers frequently say crappy things to you about your mothering. […]

So here’s what I want to know from you folks: have you ever been the victim of a mother drive-by? And if so, what happened?

Please, no psychological theories, sociological analyses, or political opinions. I want personal anecdotes and factual stories only, the weirder the better.

351 reader comments later (and counting), Getupgrrl’s readers delivered. The stories are funny, infuriating, shocking, and numerous. Here’s a few samples, but I recommend looking through the whole thread:

I just had a baby two weeks ago. My (male) obgyn actually asked my husband if it was ok if he did an episiotomy! Like, it’s my husband’s vagina? I was too busy actually giving birth to respond but I wish I could have kicked him in the face.

* * *

I was out and about with my then two year old Sara, who has Down Syndrome. A complete stranger asked me about her “condition”. I told him she had Down’s. He made some “tsk, tsk” noise and told me that I should have had an abortion, and how she would be a drain on society, and then walked off. My jaw was completely on the ground by that point and the tears were not far behind.

* * *

We are sitting at the table of our close friends of 10 years, I think we had been playing cards. I had made a comment about nursing my 2 year old son and my friend says, “I think thats disgusting,” with this really evil mean face. But the weird part is when we were saying goodbye, her husband hugged me goodbye and whispered in my ear how he thought it was great and he wouldn’t mind nursing me either.

* * *

Her: Why are you not breastfeeding?

Me: I tried for 6 months, I pumped and fed her from an SNS, I tried to get her to latch every day for 6 months, I went to 5 different LCs. I finally gave up. She just won’t latch on.

Her: Well….. You just didn’t try hard enough.

And on, and on, and on. It’s amazing, how many people see someone else’s baby as a invitation to criticize. Breast feeding (both pro and con) and the stay at home mom/working mom conflict are particular hotspots.

In Getupgrrl’s next post, she highlighted some of the funnier snappy answers from the mother drive-by thread. My favorite (but read the whole thing, they’re all funny):

“I don’t know how you can put that baby in day care. Why did you even have a child if you weren’t going to raise her yourself?”

“We needed someone who could fetch the TV remote when we were too drunk to get off the couch and find it.”

And then there’s Getupgrrl’s most recent post, in which she reveals that “as hard as it is to believe, some women posted on the drive-by thread in order to make a drive-by.” The entire post is worth reading, but I particularly liked this bit, in response to a letter-writer infuriated at seeing some children (gasp!) mittenless in winter or (choke!) drinking apple juice (“which is not juice but sugar water – read the label”):

The empirical literature on childhood risk and resilience has now confirmed Winnicott’s original theory of “good enough” mothering: if a child is exposed to adequate parenting – not perfect parenting, not parenting that demands stewed organic peas for dinner every night, not parenting that requires a flurry of maternal solicitation at the first sign of whimpering discontent, just reasonably good parenting – the child’s development will not be impeded or hindered. Human beings are a resilient, hardy lot. If children needed an obsessed parent’s dilated pupils to be fixed on them all day in order to thrive, the human race would have died out long ago.

Just go to Chez Miscarriage and start reading from the top, is my advice.

Probably the rank sexist inequality lurking behind all this – that fathers aren’t expected to do equal childcare time (by and large), or put in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t position regarding staying at home or working – is too obvious to need mentioning. Right?

Via Belle at Crooked Timber, who in turn got it from Making Light.

This entry posted in Breastfeeding & Lactivism, Families structures, divorce, etc. Bookmark the permalink. 

15 Responses to The Mother Drive-By

  1. Pingback: feministe » Drive-By Mothering and Parent As Outsider

  2. 2
    trey says:

    I have no doubt there is a lot of rank sexism, so much so….

    that even my partner and I have been frequent (we are talking nearly 3-4 times a week when our daughter was an infant) drive-by motherings.

    As if, because we were men, we had NO CLUE how to care for our child. Some of them were truly mind boggling.

  3. 3
    Robert says:

    I homeschool our kids through COVA (Colorado Virtual Academy) . I’m one of relatively few men who are doing this. Every e-mail the teachers send out is labeled “To COVA Moms” or “For COVA Moms”.

    There’s definitely a preconception that only women do education & childcare.

  4. 4
    Hestia says:

    Robert, I don’t think anybody assumes that men never take care of children. But women do, in fact, make up a huge percentage of the field.

    Perhaps if you pointed out to the COVA that you’re male they’d include “Dads” in the email subjects, or change it to “Parents.” Have you tried?

  5. 5
    trey says:

    we get teh same thing and I do think most people either assume men don’t do the full-time parenting thing or think we can’t or shouldn’t. We’ve got dozens of experiences that suggest that.

    We had an experience with “PARENTING” magazine we subscribed to. Every letter addressed to their subscribers, most of the articles, addressed mother’s specifically. (“Dear Mothers,”)

    We wrote them to remind them there were a lot of dads out there who read their magazine, many who do actuall PARENT their children and even some who do it full-time!

    No reply. No change.

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  7. 6
    Robert says:

    Have you tried?

    No. I don’t really care. Got too much to do without worrying about what other people think.

  8. 7
    mythago says:

    Robert, you are so funny when you try to be serious.

    “I don’t know how you can put that baby in day care. Why did you even have a child if you weren’t going to raise her yourself?”?

    “We needed someone who could fetch the TV remote when we were too drunk to get off the couch and find it.”?

    Gold star!

    You know, I found that I got a lot of stupid advice when I had ONE kid. When I had THREE I got comments about my enormous (!) family, but no parenting advice–guess the Prune Platoon figured out by then that I wasn’t going to kill them off if I let them go out in July hatless.

  9. 8
    dave munger says:

    You know, I saw this mother drive by thing cited on another blog, but I just couldn’t get into it. The summaries are funny, but the actual thread’s a snore.

    This from a guy who spent the last weekend playing 24 hours straight of video games with his son. You think I’d get into this stuff.

  10. Robert, I would say something if I was in that situation. My local grocery store has their own brand of diapers and baby formula named “Mother’s Choice”. I wrote them a letter thanking them for the condescending assumption that only women shop for those items. We got a $25 gift certificate to use at the store. We don’t even have an infant, haha!

    Heck, even Jif is starting to say “Choosy moms AND DADS….”

  11. 10
    Lisa Williams says:

    I have just published a book, Letters to Virginia Woolf, that tells the story of my painful struggle with fertility treatments and the ultimate successful birth of my son. I think anyone going through this experience can really relate to my book. Here’s the website.


  12. 11
    me, mom, sister, wife, friend says:

    Sorry, but some people (moms and dads) deserve the drive by’s (and yes, I am a mom). The ones withouth the sense to have their kid sit while in a shopping cart (unless their kid falling and bashing their head on the floor like a canteloupe is appealing). People have become too touchy about strangers making helpful comments. Remember when you would listen to whatever any adult in your neighborhood told you to do? Commenting on how a kid walks funny – no. Mentioning that a baby’s scalp is burning in the 90 degree hot sun without a hat – yeah.

  13. 12
    Molly says:

    whoa. what happened to chez miscarriage?!

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