Late nights on Nickelodeon, the network runs a very funny series of shows collectively called Nick Mom, with humor by and for moms. One of the best parts of it is a recurring video bumper segment called “You’ve Been Other Mothered.” In these segments, moms are talking about their kids when one of them makes a not-too-subtle remark that implies the other mother is somehow deficient in parenting skills. In one of these segments, for example, one mother offers to help prepare home-cooked meals for the other, because “those kids shouldn’t have to eat take-out all the time.”
I was stewing most of the morning because of something I happened to read in Parents magazine. It was on the page containing the parenting advice column by “baby concierge” and reality TV star Rosie Pope, but to be fair, it was in a larger font and color and wasn’t a break-out quote, so it could just be a space filler inserted by the graphics department.
The offensive quote was: “btw… It’s not okay to wear headphones while you’re with your child!”
I’d been “other mothered.” By a magazine.
Now, you could tell me that it’s my own fault for reading such a magazine in the first place, which is crammed full of tips and “how to” articles. You’d be right: If I didn’t want to receive unsought parenting advice, I probably shouldn’t be reading a magazine whose entire purpose is to provide it.
So I had to ask myself: Why did this particular quote bother me so much? Was it the bright pink font? Was it the exclamation point? Was it the lightly sarcastic tone, which made it sound like a barbed comment on a YouTube video?
Yes, it was all of those things, but it was also because it struck a nerve. I’m a work-at-home/write-at-home mom, and my main income derives from transcribing cable news shows. I do my work at night, but on nights when my husband is delayed by either work issues or transportation glitches, I have no choice but to begin my work while my son is in the room. Of course, this means wearing headphones. It also means deflecting requests to read books or play games, and I have to tell my toddler “Mommy is working.”
I never feel good about this, but I think even Rosie Pope would agree that wearing headphones is preferable to blasting my son with anchors and commentators discussing the infamous Jodi Arias sex tape, or any other details of her particularly gruesome murder trial.
OK, I’ll admit it. My use of headphones goes further than that. I have been known to plug into my portable DVD player and watch “Downton Abbey” or tune into Hulu on the computer to catch the latest episode of “Dancing with the Stars.” My son and I tend to spend our mornings and early afternoons together, running errands and getting out of the house for me to exercise and him to play. But in the late afternoons we both have a little quiet time: he plays with his trains and — yes, I’ll admit — I watch a video and catch up on e-mail or work on some writing.
Soon, we’ll be sending him to preschool, and I’ll get a few hours each week of guilt-free “Mommy time”: to write or shop or watch whatever videos I want — with sound! But until then, we have our quiet time routine, and I personally think we’re doing fine (even if my defensiveness shows that secretly, I feel a little guilty about it).
The lesson here applies not just to magazines and columnists but also to all of us mothers. Before making a blanket statement like, “You should never feed your kids frozen dinners” or “You should never give a kid your phone to play games” we should all take a step back, take a deep breath and remember how hurtful blanket statements can be.
Have you been “other mothered”? Tell me all about it in the comments!
ETA: Rereading this many months later, I realize that I probably should have included a punch line instead of getting so serious at the end. I can only blame my headphones, which must have been distracting me from being a good writer.