Silent Sorority

Infertility Survivors Finally Heard

November 4, 2010

Society in 2010: Definitively Annoying


The political season is (thankfully) at an end. I’ve gnashed my teeth more than once listening to candidates — from both political parties — proclaim their fitness for office by invoking their mystical “mom” powers.

Enough already, please, with the “Mama Grizzlies,” “As a Moms” or those relying on “mom instincts.” (By the way, those “mom instincts” didn’t work out so well for Florida gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink. Maybe she should have relied on her political instincts instead.)

I wonder if candidates proclaiming their motherhood street cred fully appreciate how condescending and downright absurd they sound. I choose candidates not based on their marital or parental status but on their ability to serve the people who elect them. There are no extra points for reciting the words to the latest Wiggles tune, or knowing the most expedient way to potty train. This is how some of the political interviews sounded to me:

Ms. Tsigdinos, can you describe what makes you qualified to hold this office?
Well, as an infertile — a work-outside-the-home-infertile mind you — I believe I possess a level of organizational skill that, of course, only comes with knowing what it means to juggle competing demands. Have you ever tried to get an ultrasound, blood draw and an acupuncture appointment all in one day? Amped up on hormones no less — and be responsible for launching a new product in a workplace? My work performance has always been measured based on my creative execution and ability to meet deadlines, not on how well I led my reproductive endocrinology team — but I was able to do both REALLY well.

Ms. Tsigdinos, you’re infertile, we get that. How does that shape your political thinking? Certainly it makes me appreciate trade offs. Then there’s the compassion and the personal growth. I think we all know that infertility makes women better judges of character and more able to find compromise.

Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it?

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Sure, I get the marketing buzz factor of moms in office (moms are all the rage these days), but women raising children have been in politics for a long time now. In fact, many have been doing so without making a federal case out of it. Does the name Margaret Thatcher ring a bell? Sandra Day O’Connor was a state senator in 1972. And back in 1925 Nellie Tayloe Ross was governor of Wyoming.

When I first got married I remember how odd it felt to know I was someone’s “wife.” It was something I once only associated with grownups and now I was one of them. It was in a word, novel.  On my honeymoon, still energized by the bride buzz, I met another new “wife.” We bumped into each other at a swim up bar. I quickly surmised from the nonstop gazing at her wedding ring that she was also a newlywed. We giggled with amusement as one of the favorite honeymoon refrains to any question became, “I need to check with ‘the wife.’ ”

After a few weeks it got old. I can’t remember the last time I used or heard the term “wife” used liberally — or at all — in our household. You won’t hear me say, “I’m off to hang out with the wives.” I also don’t refer in casual conversation to those without children with definitive articles or marketing or biological labels — “the DINKs” or “the SINKs” or “the infertiles.”

Definitive articles are now de riguer in chitchat among the latest generation of mothers, “the moms.” Listen for it and you’ll hear it everywhere. I never recall my own mother using such a phrase,and one day asked her directly. “No,” she explained, “we made a point of wanting to identify ourselves as more than ‘moms’… ” followed by, “frankly I find it kind of weird when I hear younger women describe themselves that way today, and I am a mom.”

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Lest you think I’m alone in my thinking about mom-centricity, check out the following blog with its own take on the topic: Life Without Baby.

(BTW: It’s not just “the moms” who do this either. I’ve even heard younger fathers casually refer to “the dads.” There’s even The Dads Club London blog.)

Welcome “the thoughts.”

Pop Culture 11 Replies to “Society in 2010: Definitively Annoying”
Pamela Tsigdinos
Pamela Tsigdinos
Writer, blogger and, oh, yeah, infertility survivor. My memoir, Silent Sorority, tells the whole story. There's a movie in there somewhere. Given the quirkiness needed to relate it all I'm thinking Jennifer Lawrence would be a good fit.


11 thoughts on “Society in 2010: Definitively Annoying

    Author’s gravatar

    So well put, Pamela! I think this election showed that the “mom” brand is really getting diluted, and becoming meaningless. I think Sarah Palin called Christine O’Donnel a “Momma Grizzly” even though she doesn’t have kids.

    Personally I have a soft spot for our female leaders who DON’T have kids, like Condaleeza Rice, even though I haven’t always been on the same page with her politically. I love her confidence, her accomplishments, her super-hero looks,and her piano playing. Sonya Sotomayor personifies her Hispanic culture’s value of the extended family. I admire Hillary Clinton for only having one child, and not making too much of her role as Mom, even acknowledging that with her career demands, that’s all she could manage.

    I honestly think the general public — and especially Moms — is too smart to vote for a candidate just because the Mom label has been slapped on.

    Author’s gravatar

    This drives me insane and I’m pleased to know your own mother’s opinion on this phenomenon as perhaps it indicates that this is just a phase in our society and will someday fade – soon I hope.

    As an aside. My husband and I went out to dinner recently with another couple who have 3 children. It was an Asian restaurant and chopsticks were automatically provided. Both my husband and our male dining companion asked for forks instead. But our male companion offered the idea that perhaps he couldn’t use chopsticks properly because he had children. I didn’t know that having children impaired your fine motor skills! It couldn’t simply be that he, like my husband, has never learned how to use chopsticks properly? This is getting absurd!

    Author’s gravatar

    Uh oh. I’m guilty of using “the wives”! I do it when referring to the other women married to the other firefighters in my husband’s firehouse. We are “the wives”.
    During this political campaign, I got pretty ticked off when I heard about the gubernatorial candidate in Oklahoma who kept touting her motherhood as a qualification – in contrast to her opponent who, also a woman, had never been married. Wrong. just wrong.

    Author’s gravatar

    Well, the “mom card” is always a turn-off for me, with regard to political candidates. I mean, not only are they using their kids to further their campaign…but, obviously, they aren’t really spending that much time and energy mothering if they’re running for office. Better to be a non-mom than a crappy mom if you asked me.

    I feel like Hillary Clinton didn’t play the mom card, really. But, maybe I just haven’t been keeping up.

    Author’s gravatar

    Hillary had the opposite problem. “The moms” — especially the SAHMs detested her. That Hillary defined herself in her early days in the political spotlight as not the kind of woman who was home baking cookies, well that was the beginning of the end for Hillary and “the moms.”

    Author’s gravatar

    I also know women, both working and stay at home Moms, for whom the Mom label is a turnoff, because they know how busy kids keep you, and they declare that a political woman with several children must be falling short at one or both of her jobs.

    Author’s gravatar

    My husband is a police officer, and there is definitely use of “the wives” for us too. I think firefighters’ and police wives have a slightly different thing going though, since there is a definite risk of major injury when they go to work. Using “the wives” for us is more of a support thing, I think.

    Author’s gravatar

    I recently read an article (Motherlode in the NYT?) on this very subject. It seems to me that women are damned if they do & damned if they don’t. It used to be that mothers in politics got blasted for neglecting the home front. I’m not sure which scenario is worse — but you certainly never see men being scrutinized over whether they have kids or not, or (if they do)b whether they’re good fathers. Can’t we just judge everyone on the merits of their ideas & their track record when in office?

    Author’s gravatar

    I’ve been watching your election from afar, and was also very turned off by the whole “Mom” thing. It’s much less of an issue here in New Zealand, I’m pleased to say. We’ve had two women Prime Ministers, one a mother, the second was not. She was a very formidable Prime Minister for nine years – married but not a mother. Occasionally her non-maternal status was brought up by opponents, but any attempt to denigrate her on this basis was actually greeted by disgust from the media and general population, I’m pleased to say.

    However, that does not mean that elections are easy. There is always such an emphasis on “family” and “the future for our children” that I find it a very alienating experience, and can’t bear to listen to debates. “Family” seems to be referred to in every second sentence. Fortunately our election campaigns only last a few weeks, and it is possible to escape for that period of time!

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