Are You a “Real” Mom?

Reynolds Ad

OK. I can’t let it go. Both Sarah & Jane have been talking about motherhood for the past two posts, and I was going to move on to a different topic, but I just can’t do it. I can’t do it because there’s a larger issue here..and it’s not just about women.

I often wonder what it means to be a woman. If I’m not a mom, am I still a woman? Women who have lost their breasts, their ovaries, and other parts of the female anatomy–are they still women?

Biologists would argue that two x chromosomes create a female human, and a woman is simply an adult human female, but women know that is not enough of a definition. What about people who were physically born as men but feel that they are women? What makes them women? Are they “real” women?

On the same vein…I think of motherhood. Motherhood is easier to define. (Or is it? I’ll let the mothers hash that out…) For me, I can safely say that I am not a mom. I have no children, but I am sympathetic to the challenges of motherhood and sensitive to how women are portrayed.

This weekend, I was watching one of my favorite cooking channels and a commercial interrupted my program with some pie-baking tips. Normally, I skip the commercials, but I like pie and I like to bake, so I kept it on. Little did I know it would make me angry. The narrator of the commercial stated, “Real moms know how to make it perfect every time.” “It” referred to pie crust. So, basically, the ad stated that real moms make perfect pie crust “every time.”

What exactly is a “real mom”? Is there such thing as a “fake mom”? I suppose if I pretended to be a mom to one of my 23 nieces or nephews, that would make me a fake mom. But what about moms who don’t make the “perfect” pie crust? Are they fake moms? This commercial seems to imply that moms who can’t make perfect pie crusts “every time” are not “real moms.” So, what about my mom? Is she a “real mom”?

I grew up in a dairy-free household. My mom is allergic to dairy products and cannot stand the smell or sight of butter. Despite this, my mom is an excellent cook, and I grew up eating her dairy-free homemade pies, cookies, and other scrumptious meals. However, and I’m sorry mom, but I do not particularly like her pie crusts. I have discovered from making my own pies that butter makes all the difference.

This commercial did show the woman (Emily Lyon–“Reynolds Real Mom”) using butter, so that implies that the “perfect” pie crust contains butter, but since my mom did not use butter, and sometimes even burnt her pie crusts, does that mean she isn’t a “real mom”? Of course not!

I recognize this as hyperbole, but still, words matter–just ask Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. Phrases like this get into our psyches and affect our attitudes. They pick at our over-crowded to-do-listed brain and undermine our self-worth–much like subtle images.

Of course, women are not the only ones being pressured to be “real.” There are plenty of YouTube videos and books about being “real men.” It doesn’t make it better, though…it makes it worse.

We put enough pressure on ourselves to be “perfect” or “real.” We don’t need to add to the pressure. Instead, we need to give each other a break. We need to accept our own and each others’ flaws and be kind. We need to be careful of the words we use because words really do matter.

~ K

Adult Woman in Charge

Corinne Lindy BoggsSuggested reading:

Lindy Boggs, Longtime Representative and Champion of Women, dead at 97

We Are Our Mothers’s Daughters

Marie Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs lived to be 97. She raised four children, eight grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.  She was the first women elected to Congress from Louisiana and when she left in 1990 to care for her daughter, she was the only white member representing a black district.  She cooked for thousands of people at her Washington garden parties and out-maneuvered the political elite to add inclusive language to key legislation.  She championed anti-poverty initiatives and was considered as a 1984 vice-presidential candidate.  She hosted raucous Mardi Gras parties at her New Orleans home and served as ambassador to the Vatican during the Clinton administration.  Boggs buried a daughter and a husband before her own death this July.

If I’d been paying attention, I’d have known the story of Lindy Boggs before I read the New York Times obituary that called her a “champion of women.”  I was led to the obit by Ms. Boggs’ writer-daughter Cokie Roberts.  Years ago, I read about this political family in Roberts’ book We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters, but I’d forgotten Boggs in lieu of some of the sexier profiles included in the memoir.  Fifteen years ago I was more interested in war heroes than somebody’s wife. It is obviously sad and probably short-sided to base my admiration for a woman on a high profile obituary, but Boggs’ story suggests the power of a female archetype that I am becoming more familiar with:  The Adult-Woman in Charge.

There is little doubt that Boggs’ pedigree propelled her to the top in Washington D.C.  Her family traces their political roots back to the Revolutionary War and several southern governors, but it is Boggs’ embrace of distinctly feminine power that intrigues me.   She ran for Congress after her husband died, but she remained for decades because she was smart and experienced – she wasn’t just cooking those massive meals for the Washington bigwigs; she paid attention.  According to the Times, Lindy Boggs was known for her “velvet charm.”  She hated offending people and was characteristically generous, but she held her ground and used her trademark southern manners to win over her congressional colleagues.  Though it may not have always been obvious, Lindy Boggs was in charge.

A good friend introduced me to the concept of The Adult-Woman in Charge.  At times she’s behind the scenes, cooking meals, organizing grassroots politics and soccer practice, or planning the memorial service.  Other times she’s right out front authoring legislation and leading countries.  She is competent, compassionate, and flawed, but she is always present, driving the masses forward.  The role can sneak up on a girl – rarely does a one acknowledge that she is relinquishing the role of family/world organizer, but eventually mothers and sisters and aunts grow tired and we are faced with finding food for the family reunion and running for Congress.  The job description is vague and not officially recognized, but it is necessary and as inherent as any family dynamic.  Lindy Boggs seemed to understand this concept and embrace the power and knowledge the role provided.  And as evidenced by her remarkable public service, she believed that we all should recognize the contributions and value of the world’s women.

– S