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WSJ: To Start, Please Don't Call Me 'Mommy'

We have talked a lot about the guilt of travel as working mothers, and how exhausting it is to coordinate child care for business trips and conferences. Even when the conference is brilliant, inspiring, rejuvenating, and chockful of connections that will help us down the road -- I can say all those things, for instance, about the one I attended this weekend, the Oregon Writers Colony spring conference -- when we get home there is the inevitable crash back into the family, both literal and figurative. I walked into the door Sunday late afternoon and my five-year-old ran crash into me with a hug; and I walked into the midst of my boys crashing after a little too much sugar from grandpa. They were wired and the house was extra chaotic and I -- oh, I was happy, to see my boys and on a high from the weekend, but this was so much work.

Sylvia_beach_twain_room
my room at the Sylvia Beach hotel at this weekend's conference. Blissful.

Since I'm a mother, however, according to a recent and blatantly sexist/is-there-such-a-thing-as-momist? article by the Wall Street Journal, all this is about is escapism.

The WSJ utilized that tried-and-true journalistic condescension, picking out all the very least important bits and turning it into the lede. ("Katherine Stone, a 43-year-old mother and wife from Atlanta, wants to leave her husband and children." [beat] "Just for a few days. On her trip, she will listen to panels addressing issues of concern to mothers, network with other bloggers, and stay in a hotel room that someone else will keep tidy.") Katherine, the mother getting the focus of this condescension is, by the way, a woman who blogs about postpartum depression.

Everyone who goes to conferences (let's be honest) enjoys them a little bit for a few of the wrong reasons. Who doesn't like to stay in a room they don't have to clean themselves? Who doesn't enjoy getting together with colleagues and friends they rarely see except virtually? This has nothing to do with being a parent. And definitely nothing to do with being a mom.

I'll be going to the same conference for which, supposedly, Katherine Stone is eager so she can leave her family behind. Like her, I'm really not that eager to leave them behind; it's just pretty expensive to bring your kids and spouse with you on a business trip where you're going to be working nonstop. This is why so few people do it. I'm also committed to forging partnerships for my magazine and presenting a panel on crowd funding for creative projects.

I'd like to ask the WSJ not to call me, or any of these women, a "mommy," unless actually we are your mommy. And I'd like the WSJ to think about these "mommy" centric pieces, and ask, is it any different for non-parents? Is it any different for men?

Well, other than relieving oneself of the childcare juggle, no. With all respect to Sheryl Sandberg, I really think that the kettle logic and regression fallacies offered by media outlets in support of the theory that mothers are flighty, pleasure-seeking, and unserious when compared to fathers and non-parents is the real problem keeping women from rising through the ranks of organizations.

It's hard enough to go through the second-guessing and priority-juggling when going on a business trip, without a supposedly serious financial newspaper poking fun at you. I'm all for print you know. But not (any more) the WSJ.

Comments

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God I hate the Wall Street Journal!

But...what's even their point? The implication is that these conferences are basically parties in disguise? Dudes, that's EVERY conference. Something a any journalist who's ever done any sort of junket or promotional event should know.

How do I know this? I used to plan conferences for a living, as well as being forced to attend them occasionally for business. All mandated by company, all featuring near non-existent training (little of which was new or that we actually retained) to a pack of hung over "team members".

Why do companies continue to do these things, when such training could be better provided for less $$$ online or by teleconferencing? Because it's how people network and make new contacts. Which is precisely why companies are happy to sponsor such events and more often than not, there's a sales element to them.

The Wall Street Journal is well aware of this, too (and the author of the piece has doubtlessly attended plenty of events her own self). Ironically, if these were simply wimmins having a spa "girlfriends getaway", they wouldn't have published anything.

I will say, you clearly NEEDED the time away if the lumpy mattresses of The Sylvia Beach Hotel seemed tranquil to you!

Not to side rail the topic, but along the lines of not being called "mommy" by anyone but my own children: Could someone start a campaign to stop school and health care personnel from calling me "mom" when conferencing about education or care for my children? My full given name is either on a chart in front of you (if you are a nurse or dr) or you have seen me every morning since September when I drop off my child. I am not your "mom." I am either ____________ (my first name) or Mrs. (last name).

Speaking of condescension . . .

ooh, SJ - i'm with you. that drives me CRAZY!

For the love of...after over 5 years of reading uM, this is it.

Just to offer a counterpoint, I'm a mom of three, and I'm also a lawyer working full-time for the state. You could easily see this exact same article (and I have) in any legal magazine or even the WSJ, with the "mommy" terms exchanged for "lawyer" terms. Busy practice, hard to find time away from the office, but look! CLE conferences offer you a "legitimate" way to get away, have a few drinks, and hang with buds you don't get to see otherwise. Oh, and *winknudge* maybe "learn" something in one of the conference sessions, hehehe. The WSJ piece was bland and not-news, but I don't think it was meant to be condescending.

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