Yesterday I watched the Oprah show featuring Cheryl Hines from In the Motherhood and a number of mommy bloggers, many of them from among those who do the Momversations videos, including Heather Armstrong of dooce, whose book I discuss below. What was most fascinating was that it looked as if the producers of the Momversations videos produced this particular Oprah show -- even the flowery mod graphics were similar. The episode was a funny, lighthearted, and very superficial look at how difficult and draining motherhood is, how most of us do it pretty badly at least some of the time, how we feel bad about this, and how we try to hide it. Entertaining, if a bit thin. And then, at the very end of the show, a woman in the audience rambled on a bit about how mothers shouldn't judge one another and that we judge from a place of insecurity. Both reasonable statements, in my view, if about as easy to actually apply to one's behaviour as the Golden Rule. She went on to say something like "there is no right or wrong answer [in terms of mothering]." And Oprah chimed in to amend that remark in her authoritative way with "when you're working in the best interests of your children" or words to that effect. Unfortunately, neither the original statement or the amended one, the one with the Oprah seal of approval, is true. There may very well be a large number of right ways to raise children but any idiot can see that there are also a large number of wrong ways to raise children and that many people employ wrong-headed techniques in the firm belief that they are using these techniques for the good of their children. This is what makes it difficult. And difficult to talk about intelligently, without being either too namby-pamby supportive or too close-minded, judgemental and harsh. I know I personally veer wildly between wanting to join hands and sing Kumbayah with other mothers everywhere and wanting to pick up rocks and throw them at them (witness my reaction to "orgasmic birthing"). Actually, I'm a lot like my kid that way (although thankfully he has yet to form an opinion on orgasmic birthing).
Also on the topic of motherhood and mommy bloggers, on the weekend I picked up superstar blogger Heather Armstrong's first book It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita. I'm a fan of her blog, dooce, and I think I've been reading since the initial media frenzy when she became the first person to get fired for writing about her employer on her blog. Of course I only became more interested when she had a baby around the same time I was trying to conceive, and when she had a similarly difficult time postpartum (we both went batty, albeit in slightly different ways). Heather's sobering experience as a mother is a pretty common one, although it's one that's not usually articulated in such a frank and funny way. Unfortunately, It Sucks was a little disappointing. If you've read the archives of her blog, you've pretty much read her book. I was definitely expecting her to flesh things out in book form, particularly the specifics of her breakdown. It was as if she was afraid to stop being funny long enough to do this. But there is a real difference between the succinct kind of writing that works well online and the kind of lengthier, more reflective writing that works well for memoirs. However, my opinion, or the opinion of any other reviewer, doesn't matter. Because the book is already on the NYT bestseller list. And that's what most amazes and intrigues me about Heather's story, actually -- her wild success as a blogger. In less than ten years she has gone from being fired for keeping a personal blog to making $40,000 a month from it. She's become a celebrity, a kind of brand -- a sort of a hip modern Erma Bombeck crossed with, oh I don't know, Angelina Jolie. The story of just how that happened is probably worth a book of its own.