Exploiting My Baby* *Because It's Exploiting Me

Good Mommy/Bad Mommy

Why Mom Guilt is Good

Book Press, Press Clippings, Good Mommy/Bad MommyTeresa Strasser15 Comments

From the Today Show mom blog ... thanks for letting me contribute this piece.

What does Gordon Gekko’s philosophy have to do with parenting?

Just replace the word “greed” with the word “guilt” and let me break it down for you. After months of people telling me not to feel guilty, and my deeply rooted inability to take that excellent and let’s face it, pretty facile advice, I have a new mantra and it’s all thanks to Michael Douglas.

Guilt – for lack of a better word – is good.

Guilt is right.

Guilt works.

Hold on and duck, conventional wisdom and pop psychology, because Gordon and I are about to fly into your predictably upbeat, sappy, stupid face. Guilt is seen as a waste of time, as a burden, as the unresolved remnant of a negative bummer of a mother who is just not “letting things go.” And by the way, when people tell me to “let things go,” I mainly just want to let my handbag go into their testicles or perhaps their jugular. Maybe holding onto things isn’t so bad. That’s right, maybe guilt is good.

Maybe guilt works.

In my 15 months as a mother, I’ve done a lot of whining and crying, and a lot of apologizing for whining and crying about what I know are high quality, first world problems with my beautiful, healthy child. Still, to me, my anxieties are heavy, I drag them around in a diaper bag of doubt and you telling me to put them down doesn’t help.

I worry that I don’t know how to play with my child, that maybe I work too many hours, that it’s my fault he caught hand, foot and mouth disease because I took him to the germ-infested play area at the mall in Glendale. I feel guilty because I sometimes look at a guy reading the paper at a coffee shop with not a care in the world and I want to yell, “Do you know what it’s like to have the clock ticking every second? You don’t have to be at daycare in 20 minutes, do you? DO YOU, DUMMY?”

I feel guilty because I don’t cook and my baby probably doesn’t get enough vitamins and some days I skip giving him the liquid kind because it’s a whole fiasco. I feel guilty because sometimes when I take him to the park, I’m not totally present. I’m checking my email on my phone. I feel guilty because when my son picks up a cell phone – as kids love to do – he calls it “mama.” My son thinks phones are called “mamas.” Do my guilt minutes rollover?

There is guilt when I just let him have something he’s grabbing instead of “parenting” and explaining why he can’t have it and there is guilt when I try to reason with him because, c’mon, he barely knows his phone from his mama and I’m trying to explain the concept of “grandma’s glasses aren’t a toy” like that makes any sense in his world.

I feel guilty when I let him cry it out in the dark of night. I feel guilty when I run in to soothe him, because I should be letting him soothe himself.

There is guilt when I drive him around to do errands, because that must suck, being all trapped in a car seat like that, listening to people yammer on NPR, or worse, mom singing some Dixie Chicks song or getting every other word wrong to “Let Me Ride.” On the other hand, there is guilt when we stay home, just staring at the same old toys without the stimulation his little brain needs. There is guilt when he kicks his feet and cries when I leave him with the sitter to go to the movies on a Saturday afternoon, and there is guilt when he smiles and beams at the sitter when I go, because he must love her more, because he must sense that I’m not loving every second of this mom thing.

Some of these feelings of guilt are fleeting – like when I can’t pick him up from daycare and have to send my mom – but I’m trying to list them all here so I can make a point. There are degrees of guilt, and there are levels of intensity, there are colors and textures of guilt, but there is guilt for almost every parenting occasion. It’s not like I spend every waking moment doused in a marinade of it, but whenever I mention to anyone that I might feel … gulp … guilty … about being a working mom, or in imperfect mom, or an impatient mom, or a stilted, un-fun mom, I get the same story.

“Never feel guilty. You’re doing your best. The worse thing you can do for your child is to feel guilty.”

This sounds so wise.

Only I’ve finally concluded that at least for me, it’s not possible.

If I didn’t second-guess my decisions and approach each challenge with at least a pinch of self-doubt, I wouldn’t be me. So, thanks for all the great advice, but it’s not going to happen. And since I can’t let go of my guilt, I’m embracing the hell out of it.

Guilt makes me stop by the bookstore for two books on the brain development of toddlers. Guilt makes me turn off the phone and stuff it in my bag during playtime some days, while I desperately struggle for ways to make peek-a-boo fun for him and be totally present. Guilt makes me scour to web for rainy day activities, so the two of us find places like the automotive museum, with a special floor just for kids. Guilt makes me visit a daycare nine times before choosing it.

Guilt makes me drive all the way to Whole Foods to buy some frozen spinach thing that my mom friend says she gets her kid to eat. If I think he got diaper rash because I didn’t change him often enough, it’s the guilt that drives me to the dermatologist to figure out how to get rid of it. It’s the guilt that has me buying $30 diaper cream and hand-cutting medical grade surgical strips to cover it and hold it in place. The guilt hurts me, but in lieu of getting rid of it, which I can’t do, I can appreciate the way it works. The way it makes me do right. The way it is – for lack of a better word – good.

Read on at....Today Show Blog

Teresa Strasser is an Emmy Award-winning writer. Her new memoir Exploiting My Baby is now available from Penguin.

Top Celebrity Baby Exploiters of 2010

Book Press, Press Clippings, Good Mommy/Bad MommyTeresa Strasser3 Comments

Guest post by writer & TV personality Teresa Strasser - On BELLYITCH

When I use the word “exploitation,” I don’t mean in a white slavery, making Adidas in a Thailand factory kind of way. I mean it with the utmost admiration. As a new mother, I can tell you that my baby certainly exploits me, so the least he can do is to provide me with a fresh perspective and perhaps a slightly more marketable identity.

When I talk about celebrity baby exploiters, I do so with love, as these ladies are walking a trail blazed by such greats as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Irma Bombeck, Lucille Ball and Tori Spelling. In transforming motherhood from mundane, task-filled drudgery to career enhancer, these baby exploiters are getting just a little payback. As I like to say to my baby, “Kid, I made you a spleen and two eyebrows, now you can make me seem warm and relevant.”

The Top Baby Exploiters

Sarah Palin – Did she mention she was “just a hockey mom” from Wasilla? Oh, wait, that’s her WHOLE ACT. That’s why folks love her. Can you even imagine a childless Palin?

She exploded onto the mom scene from the remote wilderness of nearly Russia. With great persistence and verve, this Mama Grizzly has artfully used her kids to show the world her protectiveness, family values and homespun ways.

With four kids and even a grandchild to exploit, she trots them out with glee, even featuring them on her own reality show on TLC. She also “reflected” about her babies in the second of her two best-selling books. Brilliantly, she even converted her daughter’s turn on “Dancing With the Stars” into an opportunity to remind twenty million Americans of her fierce maternal loyalty, sitting in the front row, simultaneously beaming – and moving those books. Making this family a Russian doll of baby-using, daughter Bristol is already following in mom’s snowy tracks, hauling little Tripp out for dance rehearsals, or at least for the part where the camera could capture her interacting joyfully with her toddler, who most likely spent the rest of the day with his nanny. But I don’t say that to judge. I don’t judge, I marvel. I stand back in awe of Sarah and her ability to turn what could be an overwhelming, career-halting number of children – and an unexpected grandchild – into a multi-media empire.

Kourtney Kardashian – There used to be only Kim – and those other nameless, faceless Kardashian sisters no one cared about. Now, there is THE ONE WITH THE BABY. That’s right, step aside Kim, because MAMA Kardashian had a baby – and now she has a career. A reality show in Miami with sister Khloe and baby Mason? You bet. Life & Style covers? What time does the photographer arrive? The Kardashians exploit everything that can be exploited, and now they finally have an accessory to help Kourtney on her journey from the side of a milk carton to front and center with a milk bottle.

Sandra Bullock - She sort of unintentionally found that adopting a baby spun her sad tale of woe in a new direction. And she nailed it with an under-the-radar New Orleans adoption. Very PC, very not Jesse James.

Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett – What an incredible year for this former Hugh Hefner girlfriend and Playboy model. Before having little Hank Baskett, Jr., she gave herself a head start by marrying an NFL player (taking a page from Baby Exploiting Hall of Famer Elizabeth Hasselback). In 2010, she was on the cover of OK! Magazine more than Oprah was on the cover of O. Though I wasn’t exactly sure who she was, believe you me I couldn’t resist reading about her C-section, how she “got her body back,” how she “loves being a mom,” how she “balances work and motherhood” and anything else she does with that adorable little baby Hank. Why do I care about this woman, whose reality show “Kendra,” consists exclusively of baby exploiting? Because she was a hot chick and now she’s a mom and that’s pretty compelling. She’s even written a book, “Sliding into Home,” about her exploits. Can you name the other two Hefner girlfriends from “Girls Next Door”? Neither can anyone else, which is why Kendra makes this list, because she used not only the outside of her lady parts for fame, but also the inner ones. She made a baby, and made herself interesting to a whole new demographic of the magazine buying population. Honorable Mention

Carrie Fisher – And a special nomination to Carrie Fisher for working the having-been-the-exploited-child angle so expertly. Her book “Wishful Drinking,” which explores, among other things, being the child of superstars Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, was first adapted into a one-woman show before hitting Broadway and has just premiered as an HBO special. Exploiting her own exploitation has turned her into not just a successful humorist, but also a jolly, electro-shocked plump ball of WTF. God bless her.

The Exploiting Father of the Year

Michael Lohan – Let’s hear it for the dads. Where many saw Lindsay’s death spiral as shocking and sad, Michael saw opportunity. From tweets to interviews, he never shut up about Lindsay. Then, after he finally agreed to stop talking to the press about his own daughter, he gave his two cents on Miley Cyrus smoking a bong-load of Salvia. This guy is so skilled, he even has the power to exploit someone else’s kid.

Lifetime Achievement Award Cher – For her decades of exploitation, I must salute her. She made you love her every time her adorably awkward daughter Chastity toddled onto the stage of the “The Sonny and Cher Show,” thus making the duo seem more like affable, family-friendly goofballs and less like garish, freak-show hippies. Then Cher generated tons of media attention when cute, little Chastity became a dude named Chaz. “Cher the Mother” is a Cher we can understand and embrace, despite the extreme plastic surgery, the hooker outfits and her parade of peculiar boyfriend choices. We don’t truly know how she is as a mother but you sense that, no matter what role she plays on screen or in concert, she will always play a mom first, one who clearly and genuinely loves her children and accepts them for who they are, even if that “who” swaps out her bra and for a buzz cut. What all these women have taught us – or at least taught me – is there’s no better PR move on the planet than being a mom. And now that I know how spectacularly hard this job is, I think it’s only fair that our kids do their part by making us seem like slightly better people than we really are – and perhaps provide us with a bit of content. So, when I have no idea what to write about, I can look into the crib and say, “I got you, babe.”

Today's Edition of Good Mommy/Bad Mommy

General Stuff, Good Mommy/Bad MommyTeresa Strasser26 Comments

When it comes to moms, I don't really have much to brag about. My stepmother was evil and finally had the good taste to shuffle off her mortal coils, leaving nothing but mounds of debt and a lollipop tin full of ashes. My biological mother's style was characterized mainly by benign neglect. For that reason, I fantasize about women I wish were my mommy, and sometimes I get psyched when I realize some crazy bitch wasn't my mommy. Being five and half months pregnant myself, this is a preoccupation. So here is today's episode of Good Mommy/Bad Mommy.

Bad Mommy

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Yeah, it’s easy to kick around Dr. Laura, what with her intolerant comments about the gays and her idiotic decree that women should never return to work after becoming mothers (except for her, but that’s diff). She just released a new book, In Praise of Stay-at Home Moms, and I say, sure, they should be praised, but pack your bags if you don’t want to leave the work force, cause Dr. Laura is taking you on a long guilt trip. Think you might be valuable on the job? Prepare to tune into your local news one day and see the child you broke with your selfish “employment” picking off college undergrads with an assault rifle from a clock tower because that’s what happens if you don’t listen to Dr. Laura.

I digress.

This feature exists not to point out intolerant people, but simply those from whose vaginas I am happy I did not emerge.

There are times I enjoy her radio show, because she’s a talented broadcaster and it’s kind of fun when Dr. Laura snaps at callers and gets all “bottom line” on them, but when she comes back from commercial breaks and introduces herself as “my kid’s mom,” I get nauseous. Now, I’m pregnant, so I get to enjoy nausea all the time, but this catch phrase allows all of you to experience it with me.

I get it, the idea is to communicate that being a mother is Dr. Laura’s number one job. So, why does the whole forced endeavor seem like so much number two?

It’s one thing to take motherhood seriously, bravo to that, but it’s another thing to turn your grown ass child into your battle cry. Makes me appreciate the checked-out ghost of a woman that was my mother. In short, glad she’s not my mommy.

Good Mommy

On the other hand, how does this sound?

“What does my mom do? Oh, Nothing. Justice on the United States Supreme Court.”

 

<p>good mommy</p>

 

For some reason, ever since I first laid eyes on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s lace collar and tasteful gold button earrings, I felt a surge of longing. I would like nothing more than to crawl into RBG’s lap, have her pet my hair and tell me it’s all going to be okay. After which, she can explain to me what it was like to be the first woman to be on both the Harvard and Columbia law reviews. Ruthie wouldn’t be much for bragging, but after digging our forks into some of her homemade kugel, she would tell me all about her dissenting opinion in the case of Bush v. Gore.

If Ginsburg were my mommy, when things got tough, she would remind me of the time she learned Swedish just so she could co-author a book on judicial procedure in Sweden.

Ruth would be the kind of mommy who wouldn’t lecture, but simply do things like, say, undergo cancer surgery, chemotherapy and radiation without missing a single day on the bench.

My wanna-mamma Ruth just had a second bout with cancer. She was released from the hospital after surgery, and just weeks later returned to work and attended President Obama’s speech before the joint session of Congress on February 24th, 2009.

Her own mother died of cancer just a day before her high school graduation, so Ruth and I would share a special maternal bond.

Her actual kids seem to be doing pretty well, those lucky fuckers. Jane is Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law at the Columbia Law School while James runs a classical music recording company.

Hope these kids realize that it least from where I sit, it looks like they won the mom lottery. I know I’m old as hell to be saying this, but I want Ruthie to be my mommy.

* I had to remove the photo of Dr. Laura's vag I posted. It was probably in bad taste and NSFW (just learned that one). Sorry for grossing anyone out. If you still want to see Dr. Laura's Bush, here ya go.

Today's Edition of Good Mommy/Bad Mommy

Good Mommy/Bad MommyTeresa Strasser16 Comments

When it comes to moms, I don't really have much to brag about. My stepmother was evil and my mother's style was characterized mainly by benign neglect. For that reason, I fantasize about women I wish were my mommy, and sometimes I get psyched when I realize some crazy bitch wasn't my mommy. Here is today's episode of Good Mommy/Bad Mommy. Meet Elizabeth Warren. I would like her to be my mommy.

She has a comforting grey bob. She makes Bill Maher laugh. She is the head of TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program. She is a Harvard Law School Professor. She knows things, and she communicates the soothing sense that she can make anything all better, including the subprime mortgage crisis. I like the tone of her voice. She's written lots of books. Time Magazine says she's one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. I would like her to be my mommy.

And now, for todays Bad Mommy. Meet 23 year-old Tiffany Toribio.

 

bad mommy

This homeless New Mexico mom suffocated her toddler, Ty. She buried him under the sand at a playground.

“What makes this story especially sad was when asked the reason why she took Ty’s life, Tiffany said that she did not want him to grow up with no one caring about him the same way that she had grown up with no one caring about her,” said Police Chief Ray Schultz, his eyes watering.

Makes my mom look like June Fucking Cleaver. Glad she's not my mommy.