I rarely disagree with Lisa Belkin’s parenting commentary; I love her intelligent, thoughtful writing in this space which so often runs amok with hype. But this time, I have to speak up.
It’s about Marissa Mayer’s easy baby.
As if she weren’t already skating on thin ice with Internet parents for her short maternity leave, at the Fortune Most Powerful Women dinner the other evening, Marissa dared to say (out loud) that motherhood is easier than she thought it would be.
The drums immediately started beating. Women around the Internet (including Lisa) came out to criticize her for calling her baby (and, by extension, parenting) “easy.”
Seriously? Since when is someone’s parenting experience invalid just because it’s positive? Are mothers really so fragile that they can’t hear one woman’s success story without telling her to shut up already?
Does Marissa have less right to talk about it because she’s a successful, working woman in a high-profile position? Imagine if she had quit her Yahoo job and told us about her easy baby from the front porch of her house while wearing an apron and a motherly smile. People would have been delighted.
I’m the mother of two children. The first was “a hard baby.” I couldn’t predict or understand many of his reactions, most of which were either loud or angry. I didn’t get a lot of sleep. I was confused most of the time. I apologized to people a lot.
My second was “an easy baby.” She hardly cried, even as a newborn. She would go to sleep when placed in a crib. She took everything in stride, and would play quietly by herself for hours. A friend once told me, “When I see her I feel the urge to meditate.” Others said, “You must be such a good mother.” I shook my head, not because I was being self-deprecating, but because my mothering had nothing to do with it.
Today I wouldn’t describe my kids as “hard” or “easy.” I know them both better now, and their temperaments have shown themselves in more nuanced ways. But having one “hard” and one “easy” baby taught me it’s the luck of the draw. I could take no credit for one kid’s easiness, nor blame for the other’s more difficult nature. Ultimately, it wasn’t about me or the quality of my parenting. It was about accepting, working with, and appreciating my kids’ temperaments.
To those who are irritated by Marissa Mayer’s “easy” kid, it’s not about you. If you struggle with motherhood (as I did with my first kid), know that her apparent lack of struggle does not reflect on your worth as a parent. There are no comparisons to be made. Your experience is your own. Hers is hers, and I for one am glad she’s talking about it.
Lisa calls Marissa a role model for working mothers and says she’s playing into the “having it all” stereotype, which is damaging to the rest of us for whom life is messier.
Nonsense. She’s a mother who’s living her life, and she’s talking about it honestly. Sure, her life is fancier and shinier than most of ours, and her work/family experience may inspire envy, even a little jealousy. But that doesn’t make her story any less legitimate.
Beauty of blogging IMHO is that it busted down barriers; we’re all seeing breadth of experience out there. Isn’t that good?
Let’s do what mothers do best: support each other. When one of us is struggling, let’s gather around her and give her strength. But when one of us is rejoicing, let’s rejoice with her.
Lisa’s a skilled writer, and I detect a little tongue-in-cheek for the sake of getting the conversation going. But even if she’s playing it straight, I’m glad her piece brought this conversation out into the open. I relish any opportunity to defend the right to tell a positive story.
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Asha Dornfest is the co-author of Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less and the publisher of Parent Hacks, a site crammed with tips for making family life easier.