To be fair, this isn't really about that. It's kind of about that. But in a broader context.
Go read Amy Reiter's post at the Daily Beast entitled Don't Call Me A Mom: Why It's Time for Women to Drop That Identity.
Okay, first of all, she never explains why women should "drop that identity" except, I guess, maybe she doesn't like it so no one should. I know I'm as bad an offender as anybody, but I hate it when the title of a piece is misleading, and that one is. Reiter doesn't give any reason for women who have children to discount an entire identifying marker -- she just doesn't like being called a mom herself:
Every once in a while, life throws at you a moment that shifts your perspective as if someone has bumped your viewfinder, leaving you scrambling to refocus. These moments, by definition, happen when you least expect them. I had one while sitting in my hairdresser’s chair.
I was making conversation, as one does, with this woman who’d been cutting my hair for a few years, and she started rattling off the reasons she loved the location of her Brooklyn storefront shop. “I get all sorts of different kinds of customers,” she said. “Artists, writers, dancers, actresses, lawyers, businesswomen …”
When I replay this part in my mind, as I often do, I always pause for a split-second to prepare for what I was unprepared for at the time.
On that word, with a tilt of her head and a gesture with her scissors, she indicated me.
Never mind that I had spent almost two decades building a career as a writer, that I took pains to engage in the world as a person with interests that went way beyond diapers and sleep schedules and preschools (parenting topics that, as far as I knew, I’d never discussed with my single, childless hairdresser), and that I was right then thinking not of my two small kids (whom my husband was watching), but of all the projects I’d slipped away from in order to get a quick midweek trim. As far as this woman—who I paid, after all, to help shape the image I presented to the world—was concerned, I was defined by none of this.
Regardless of how many angles and dimensions I saw in that mirror, she looked at me and simply saw a mother.
...as if "simply" seeing a mother is the worst thing that could have happened to her. I find it curious that Reiter sort of expected her hairdresser to be reading her mind: "...I was right then thinking not of my two small kids... but of all the projects I'd slipped away from in order to get a quick midweek trim." Doesn't it seem far more likely that though she never agenda-ed "parenting topics" with her hairdresser, than perhaps she did at least mention she had kids to the person who cuts her hair. Would it be too much of a stretch to think that maybe your hairdresser might recall this fact about a person with whom their vaguely familiar first, versus whether or not you might have had a byline in the Times, the Post, Wine Spectator and -- heaven forbid -- Time Out New York Kids. Sorry the person more familiar with your shampoo and conditioner preference didn't gush over your MADD Media Award.
Reiter could have taken it in a couple of directions after the initial, disastrous opening. She started to riff a little more on the whole I hate being a mom thing...
I’m sure there are women who would have embraced the image—frumpy hairdo, mom jeans, under-eye bags and all—as if they had been handed the cuddliest of crib toys. Me, I felt gut-punched. Hot steam shot into my cheeks. I was not only angry, but embarrassed. How could I have been so naive as to imagine that, as soon as the doctor had placed my first delicious pink newborn on my chest in that delivery room years prior, the world would define me in any other way?
...but she took a kind of hard right turn, complaining that dads have it all too easy. Get ready for the old double-standard card. Here it comes:
I might be more inclined to accept this image if it weren’t for the double standard. Men have long been allowed to wear their “dad” label much more loosely than women are expected to wear their “mom” tag. When they have kids, men generally tuck their “dad” persona wherever they like on the long list of things that define them, usually somewhere under their professional identities.
That last sentence there may be one of the most offensive I've ever read. And I'm a straight, white, middle-class American male. I'm pretty hard to offend, as you might expect.
But I'm a dad first. Always. Not always a good one, but always.
I'm a husband, a brother, a son, a friend. Always. Not always a good one, but always. I'm a communications professional, nine or so hours a day. Not always a good one, either. I am a Democrat. A political junkie. I'm a writer, too. Definitely not always a good one, as this post (indeed, this blog) may attest.
But even in all of those things, I am a dad first. Always. And proudly.
You can ask anyone involved in any of those aspects of my life and I could only hope that they would say he's a father when they spoke of me. We "generally tuck [our] 'dad' person wheverer [we] like"?
Horse shit. It's possible Ms. Reiter either needs to examine her own husband, get out of work-centric New York City, or both. The dads I know aren't that cowardly.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m in love and obsessed with my children, now 6 and 8, although I’ll do you the favor of not parading evidence of my love and obsession before you. My life has, of course, changed dramatically to accommodate them.
God, I hope those kids don't ever have to read your stuff. Hey, I love you -- I won't express that in any real way, and oh, by the way, I've had to totally change everything because of you two...
Mother of the Year award, right here, people.
She continues, despite what I hope was the better advice of her editors:
At the same time, I have made sure not to rely on my role as their mother as my primary identity. Just as they are people in their own rights, with interests as diverse as baseball and baking, I consider myself a person separate and apart from them: a woman with a career, a born-again bike rider, a just-learning cook, a closet karaoke singer, an occasional watcher of crappy TV.
All those things define me just as much as my role as a mother, and yet we women, once we have children, are expected to shift not just those activities but also those identities to the deep background.
Men get to choose.
Interestingly, more men do appear to be choosing their “dad” personas of late—but that might just be an aftershock of the recession.
First of all, if "occasional watcher of crappy TV" is something that defines you as a person, then I just feel sorry for you. I think you can watch crappy TV and not have that be part of your "primary identity." You know, sometimes an episode of CSI: Miami is just an episode of CSI: Miami.
Second, men get to choose?
Well, fuck you! I don't know what kind of deal you cut with the father of your children, but I didn't get to choose jack shit. Look, are you actually living in an episode of Mad Men, because I might like to try it out. Except not really. Your world sounds misogynistic and awful. I live in a world where I happily welcome time spent with my daughter and look forward to time with my son. I live in a world where my wife cooks dinner because she's a good cook and she likes it, and I happily and gratefully do the dishes and take out the trash. I iron shirts. I sweep and Swiffer. I clean the kitty litter box and the bathroom. I vacuum. I'm not ashamed of any of those things. None of it changed my life "dramatically" -- it is my life, and I love it.
By the way, super-shitty move hinting towards the facts that debunk your entire article, and then blaming it on the economy. Men are "choosing" their dad persona -- Jesus, seriously, how is this something "chosen"? -- but who the fuck knows, maybe it's just the crap's ass economy.
Okay, here's why this bothers me from a political perspective: turning "mother" and "father," "mom and "dad" into labels that you can apply at will only divides us more. It gives operatives something to build on, or actually, something to cleave. It's articles like this which fuel that destructive fire.
See, politicians should be appealing to broader masses, not narrower constituencies. Remember NASCAR dads? Remember "soccer moms" in 1996? Hey, Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, reach middle-class white women with kids, and you'll win. Can you look at that with any objectivity whatsoever and say it's any kind of way to run a campaign?
Look, I get it: we have labels for a reason. I don't really think "mother" is a label, but if it is, and if it offends you -- even if you do have kids -- then that's really too bad.
I suspect a lot of folks -- mothers, fathers, those without children and all kinds of people -- will look at Reiter's piece with a harsh eye. They probably should. It's bad for parents, and it's bad for politics.