This month, Nicole Knepper released her hilarious book “Moms Who Drink And Swear” based on her blog of the same name. It’s insanely funny, which isn’t surprising if you’ve read Nicole before. But it also got me self-reflecting a bit.
As I looked at her book sitting a top a pile on my nightstand of other recent releases in its genre, I was bothered by a theme running through the framing and marketing of these raw accounts of motherhood from this new generation. I began to wonder if this wine-swilling, expletive-spewing, social-media-addled image of “Mom” is any more liberated than the cigarette-smoking, curler-wearing, mumu-clad, overextended housewife that came before her. Are we really gaining ground if it’s on the shoulders of a new stereotype?
“Moms Who Drink And Swear” is described by its publisher on Amazon as follows:
If you feel like your kids are killing you, you’ve come to the right place.
Attention all potty-mouthed, cheap-wine-drinking mothers: Prepare to meet your match.
I find myself questioning if our identities as Mothers and our identities as adults partaking in adult activities need to be one and the same. I think that sometimes, we can declare our independence from stereotypes and still wear different hats when necessary. And y’know…sometimes not drinking and swearing and snickering on twitter while mothering is kind of necessary. (Obviously not all the time, I mean, we’re entitled to be human.)
I’ve certainly been guilty of tweeting about the tantrum that drove me to xanax, or throwing in an f-bomb for dramatic effect. But as my daughter grows up, so do I. There was a time where I’d tell anyone who would listen about my refusal to stop swearing because “it’s part of my voice as a writer” and “just who I am.” Until my then two-and-a-half-year-old daughter told my father she “wasn’t eating any fucking chicken” and I realized that maybe it would be okay to stop swearing on certain occasions while wearing certain hats. I think the biggest mistake we make with our own identities as Mothers is letting the Mom title permeate everything else we do. Sometimes, we act like Moms because that’s what’s best for our children. Other times, we act like teenagers because that’s what’s best for our soul. There can be a separation between the two.
As the first generation of parents navigating the digital space with our children, faced with parenting both online and off, the lines we draw here matter. As women, as writers, as parents, we can use this opportunity to peel back the layers on stereotypes and show ourselves as the multifaceted people we are, or we can use it to perpetuate caricatures of ourselves.
All my life, I’ve been locked in a battle with shame. As an adult, I’ve found writing is a powerful ally to keep that beast at bay. I stare shame in the face and I tell the uncomfortable parts of my story anyway in hopes that others will know they’re not alone. So I absolutely applaud [and ravenously consume] when women like Nicole Knepper do that with their own lives. The recent (and not-so-recent) crop of memoirs from Moms — or should I say Momoirs? (I don’t know what I’m all italicized about…I can’t be the first person who thought of that) are undoubtedly breaking down barriers surrounding the unattainable ideals of motherhood — when we tell our stories to one another, as so many of my colleagues have done with their tales from the parenting trenches, we deal a lethal blow to that ugliest of human emotions, shame. And I am absolutely in favor of that. I just urge us to take a collective step back and consider crusading for the privilege of being able to be both Moms and People without having to combine the most unsavory parts of both into a new stereotype to be battled by our daughters for generations to come.