Just this past weekend, anthropologist Wednesday Martin set the Internet afire with a New York Times piece titled "Poor Little Rich Women," positioned to promote her forthcoming memoir Primates of Park Avenue. The book is about Martin's move to the Upper East Side, and her observations of that particular breed of Upper East Side Mother.
The Times piece focuses on what Martin calls "wife bonuses," a year-end payment from the moneyed husband that the wife can then use to become even more perfect: as a wife, as a mother, as a woman. But this one tidbit from the larger conversation her book inspires illustrates the mindset Martin has observed among women who have devoted their lives to "intense mothering."
Women online seem split, equally scornful of the subjects of Martin's book and intrigued by the thought of actually getting paid to do the hard work of mothering. Hell, I myself recently wrote of the turmoil I often feel at getting pulled in multiple directions, trying to do it all but seeming to do a sub-par job at everything. Wouldn't it be fantastic to be paid to be the best mother possible so that I was able to ease back on the freelance hustle and only write the stuff that fed my soul?
But let's put that aside for the moment. After all, SAHM, WAHM, working mom... there's no one right way to parent.
And that's my concern when I read about the women in Martin's book. They seem to believe that there is only one right way to parent. And they've only used their privilege—the luxury of being paid to parent—to intensify the already-existing mom competition that so often seems to exist.
And when an UES mother does not follow the rules of UES mothering, it appears they are cruelly ostracized.
As I read my review copy of "Primates of Park Avenue," I felt as if I were reading a dystopian horror. Propped up in bed, I felt a tightening in my chest and I curled deeper into my blankets, nervous about nightmares. Forget boob vs. bottle, or boob milk vs. formula, or baby wearing vs. stroller, or organic, homemade purees vs. those plastic tubs of blah-colored Gerbers. Forget all of that.
No. No. Stop it. No. Screw the mommy competitions. Instead, I embrace the concept of the "good enough" mother.
On the UES, it appeared that mothers also had to worry about getting their children into the best preschools. Signing up for the best mommy-and-me activities. Looking the part by working their bodies into submission at barre classes and with CrossFit and spending eleventy billion dollars on Birkin bags and stylish sandals just so the other moms knew you were good enough to include in the inner circle. Because if you weren't good enough, you would never be able to get your foot in the door at those preschools and at those music classes and in those play groups that ensured your child would not grow up completely friendless and miserable.
(Cue the hyperventilating and the nightmares about my poor, 10-month-old daughter growing up completely friendless and miserable. Lord. Making mom friends is hard enough in the suburbs of NJ when you're a WAHM.)
No. No. Stop it. No. Screw the mommy competitions. Instead, I embrace the concept of the "good enough" mother:
I am the mother who stopped nursing after 5 months because it seemed that's what her daughter wanted, and who am I to question when she's ready to come off the boob?
I am the mother who follows her daughter's cues as much as, if not more than, she follows her own intuition.
I am a mother who rolls with the punches.
I am a "good enough" mother who has somehow ended up with a beautiful, laid-back, well-behaved daughter. And I know enough to know that I'm responsible for only some of that. Perhaps just an eensy weensy portion of that. The rest is all her.
Because, honestly? No one really knows the best way to parent. So what are we competing over anyway?