An homage to our mothers, past, present and future
We all know how tough it is to be a mom. We build up a level of sleep deprivation that lasts for decades; we strive in various ways to keep food on the table (and somehow, get it into little mouths); we handle the emotional turmoil of tantrums, whining, attitude and ingratitude; all the while feeling the unparalleled weight of the stakes at hand as we try our best to turn out good people who have the chance to lead fulfilling lives. Thank goodness that every once in a while, kids do something that fills our hearts with enough fuel to keep going -- and thank goodness for our invaluable support networks of other moms who are along for the bumpy ride. In fact, I think it might be time to step back, press pause on the kvetching and appreciate where we're at as a culture of mothers right now. It's really pretty amazing.
In the corporate, commercial, intellectual, celebrity and personal spheres of influence, moms are at the zeitgeist. And I'm not talking about women, I'm talking about MOMS. Discourse about motherhood is at the center of so much cultural conversation today. We are notorious COO's and CEO's like Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, women whose complex relationships to motherhood are part and parcel of their current intrigue in the public eye; we are superstars of film and TV, like Angelina Jolie, whose ever-increasing family has veritably overshadowed her onscreen career; we are mompreneurs like Jessica Iclisoy, whose California Baby products started as the answer to one mama's needs and has since turned into an international phenomenon; we are stay-at-home-moms like those on the recent cover of New York Magazine, who have embraced a healthy home as the greatest possible accomplishment. No matter your opinion of these particular moms, they are evidence of the fact that for the first time in feminist history, all of these positions are not only potentially viable, but culturally encouraged. You want to be an entrepreneur? Give it a try. You want to focus on raising kids? Go for it. You want to make a business out of being a mom? More power to you! All are equally challenging to achieve successfully -- but none of those options is mired in the overarching stigma of generations past. Are we a new generation of "mominists?"
The greatest catalyst for "mominism" is -- of course -- the Internet. The depressed isolation that besieged our grandmothers, which galvanized so many of our Women's Libbing mothers to reject homemaking, has now been largely eradicated. Moms can find community online right away in those dark days of new mommyhood, where life is suddenly upside-down and everything you thought you knew about yourself is rendered moot. "Sleep when the baby sleeps?" More like take those golden moments of respite to get your buns online and seek some answers from like-minded moms who are suffering just like you or have come out the other end with helpful tales to tell. The Web has revolutionized motherhood by creating a virtual community that not only witnesses, but testifies.
The Internet has also created opportunities for moms to rejoin the workforce and reinvent the workday while still prioritizing motherhood. Mom blogs and businesses abound, with moms dictating commerce by, for and between moms on our terms (in our own bedrooms). Attend a blogging conference and you will not see the frivolous galavanting recently portrayed in the Wall Street Journal, but rather savvy, ambitious moms who have recognized some need in the marketplace and are hoofing it to raise capital, make it big and bring in a substantial ROI. Enormous brands reach out to these moms as a significant way to connect with their customers, who no longer watch ads or read magazines. Mom blogs and businesses have created a middle ground opportunity for mothers to integrate work and home life, a new kind of "balance" that was never available to previous generations.
With a HUGE thank you to our foremothers: as the generation of girls raised by '70s feminist culture, many of our moms necessarily had to eschew the typical trappings of motherhood in order to take a stand and progress in the professional sphere. Without them, mamas today wouldn't be able to even conceive of the vast choices available to us. Our grandmothers made homemaking an art, our mothers made career-making a goal -- and we as a generation are able to consider choosing between them or striving for both. Of course, all of our very real obstacles -- financial, emotional, physical and otherwise -- often keep us shackled from achieving fulfillment in any of these options. But the new Mominist paradigm allows us to dream freely and find more support than ever before to help make that dream a reality.
And soon, we will offer our daughters the mantle. I can't wait to see what kind of mothers they become.