Four months ago, in response to the Time magazine cover with the mom breastfeeding her four year old, I wrote an article for HuffPost entitled "Why You Are a Bad Parent." In it I criticized the media for their all or nothing approach to parenting trends. Attachment parenting is good, not breastfeeding is bad. I was sick of, and remain so, people making us feel bad for the choices we make as parents. The thrust of my essay was frankly, moms should do what works for them.
I received scores of emails, tweets and phone calls related to the piece. And I am pleased to report that 99 percent of them agreed with me.
A few days ago, the phone rang. It was in the 323 area code. I turned to my kids and said, "I have to answer this. It could be Hollywood."
And it was.
Hollywood was calling. Had someone seen my act recently? Did Tom Hanks buy the rights to my novels? Is there a shortage of quirky looking mom types who aren't particularly good actresses in LA to play a new character on Modern Family?
No it was a talk show. A famous one. One that gets a zillion viewers. Female viewers. My demographic.
"Is this Karen Bergreen?"
"Yes," my name -- if you forgot to look on top.
Hi my name is (something very LA) and I work for the (very popular TV show). "Are you the blogger?"
"Yes," and the eater. I was downing an oatmeal cookie.
"Well, we would like to have on as a parenting expert..."
A parenting expert.
I'm a clown.
I'm not even an expert in my own kids.
"And," she continued, "we were going to do a show on attachment parenting and we want you to come on as an expert and say why attachment parenting is bad."
"But it's not bad," I said. "it's bad for me. I believe that everyone should do what's right for her. I'm kind of reasonable."
With that, the trendy named lass said her quick goodbyes -- something about my being honest and thanks for that.
We hung up the phone and I reached for another cookie in a totally Oprah-emotional -- eating sort of way (no -- it wasn't Oprah on the phone) and wondered if I had missed an opportunity. One appearance on that show could have sold a lot of books. It would have been another TV credit and perhaps lead to more.
I could have been Ellen.
Maybe I should have gone on the show pretending to hate attachment parenting and then, after the cameras started rolling, said what I actually felt.
But alas, I'm a doormat.
Of course, what I did was right. So why was I eating the cookie?
I was eating the cookie because the very popular TV show did not want an entertaining parent guest who encouraged acceptance and tolerance of different parenting styles -- and because it was delicious.
Did I mention the cranberries and white chocolate chips?
Instead, the producers wanted somebody to attack other mothers for their choices; that's what makes for good television. Even if it is a mischaracterization of the debate.
One of my closest friends slept with her babies in her bed. Another one is about to give birth in a tub. Everyone I know makes their own baby food. They know I would never do these things and yet they think I'm a good mom -- and the feeling is mutual.
There are mommies in my life who never considered breast feeding and others who never considered formula.
And guess what else? I know women who work 80-hour-per-week jobs and juggle supremely happy children. And other women friends who haven't worked in years. Furthermore, they like each other. Despite all of the talk of mommy wars. They may reflect on their choices from time to time, but that's because women do that. They are introspective. The Mommy Wars exist on TV -- not in real life.
But the trendy talk shows and magazines don't care. Saying I prefer a crib but I'm ok with my friend sleeping with her kid isn't as interesting as saying I am a superior parent and that the attachment kids are going to end up in the trench coat mafia. They want me to say formula is better when the truth is that breastfeeding was a struggle for me.
Not as interesting. But more responsible. As I mentioned, 99 percent of the letters I received were from people saying that the media should leave moms alone. And yet the media hammers away at us, portending the widening gulf between the this-kind-of-mom and the that-kind-of-mom. Not because they are reporting on the news. They are trying to create it. What's real isn't always that interesting. It's complicated and doesn't fit into the on-camera format. Real Housewives aren't in fact real housewives: they are women who want to be on TV who are willing to embrace extreme positions just to get there. And while all of this may be very entertaining, news organizations and documentaries exercise very little reporting and documentation. They are better suited to creative teleplays and novels.
And to eight-minute segments, featuring ideologues and dimwits, moderated by well-dressed men and women whose questions are written for them, separated by Geico commercials.
Follow Karen Bergreen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/karenbergreen