Though I don’t currently work outside the home, for some reason I still follow “Working Mother Magazine” on Facebook. Even when I was working, I didn’t relate to a lot of their content – I found their podcast particularly pretentious (and that’s from an NPR listener) – but I did occasionally find something worthwhile on their site. A recent article I read there, however, really annoyed me… so much so that here I am, a couple of days later, still thinking about it, and still annoyed. The article was titled “4 Women Who Are Redefining the Concept of ‘Working Mother’”, and it was shared on their FB page with the caption “Most of us insist: ‘I’m a mom first.’ But are a lot of us hiding what we really feel about being a working mother?” I had a few issues with the article, including the fact that I disagree with the premise on a couple levels (another post for another day)… Today, I’m just going to talk about my biggest issue with the authors supporting “documentation” of her point:
Three of the “4 Women” are FICTIONAL!!!
The first “mom” cited is Leslie Knope, from Parks and Recreation. And it says that “Her children are part of the story, but they’re not the main event” and “…by showing that a woman can continue to be a productive, high-achieving professional while having children…, Parks and Recreation refuses to cater to misogynist stereotypes.” Never mind that the fact that the show is about her workplace, her children are merely “accessories” to define her character. Admittedly, I have not seen the show, so this is my assumption – after all, the name of the show describes her JOB, not her family – it’s not The Leslie Knope Show.
The other two fictional examples are from Sesame Street – Maria, a store owner, and Gina, a veterinarian. Of Gina, the author says, “… much of her time on the show is spent in her veterinary practice, giving advice to the animals of Sesame Street.” DUH! The show is about those animals – of course what we see of Gina is her in her professional role; the show is not about her family. I’d address Maria, too, but it’s the same story, and I’m starting to feel like a broken record already.
I’m sorry, but while it’s lovely that the characters are being written as strong, career-oriented women, the fact is that they are written that way. They. Are. Not. REAL. They are not actually doing anything! So props to the writers, but at the same time, let’s remember that we only see the sides of these characters that are relevant to the story being told.
The only real person mentioned is Beyonce, because she started recording her album “just a few months” after her daughter was born. Most working mothers return to work WEEKS after their children are born. And did they interview Bey for this article? It doesn’t seem so, so how can the author purport to know what her priorities really are? Maybe she didn’t want to get back in the studio so soon, but was pressured by her label… maybe she did it so she could record part-time and be with her daughter more, rather than putting it off and having to spend long hours in the studio to meet a deadline… maybe, maybe, she struggles as much with “work-life balance” as everyone else. Who knows?
My point? Fictional characters can be written any way the writers feel like writing them. It’s great to write them in an idealistic way, but don’t ask me to look to them as inspiration or examples. If you want to inspire real moms, use real moms as examples… and don’t rely on assumptions about their lives, feelings and intentions – you have to actually talk to them.