The Problem With Similac’s Formula Commercial Has Nothing to Do With Breastfeeding

Similac’s The Mother ‘Hood lampoons the Mommy Wars, those cute arguments moms get into on the internet while they should be watching their kids. That’s the toxic undercurrent of a video that went viral by manipulating women who feel marginalized by their parenting choices.

Heartwarming, right?

This is familiar territory. Women with strong parenting opinions are shamed for perpetuating mommy wars. The cutesy term dismisses women the moment they have an opinion. A moms wants to avoid exposing her baby to plastic bottles? That’s not a decision rooted in research and deep consideration of a child’s best interests. It’s precious and might cause a kerfluffle at mommy group. It’s adorable.

The Mother ‘Hood takes the classic Mommy Wars trope a step further. Just as the absurd gangs of parents gather for a brawl, a forgotten stroller rolls down a hill. Yes, the narrative goes there. A baby’s life is put danger of dying because mommies (and some daddies) were arguing and not parenting.

Of course, the parents drop their differences and rush to save the baby’s life. Because that’s what all parents should want in the end. Happy, healthy babies. It’s the same poisonous attitude that shames women for attempting to have choices in childbirth.

Shouldn’t you just want a healthy, living baby? Why are your opinions so important?

At the end of the heartwarming formula commercial, all the cartoonish parents who were hurling insults at each other warmly gather. It’s OK now. The arguing is over. Welcome to the sisterhood of motherhood.

Isn’t it lovely to put aside our differences?

Shouldn’t women get along?

Shouldn’t mothers be paying attention to their babies instead of having strong opinions?

The Mommy Wars narrative is a tool to silence women. In this case, it’s convenient to a corporation eager to remind breastfeeding mothers that they should be keeping their eyeballs on their babies instead of pushing their extreme “breast is best” agendas on potential formula customers.

In every case, it’s a sexism at its most subversive. Quiet down, ladies. Pay attention to your babies or they might die.

Women argue about parenting choices. This isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t catty. It isn’t inconsequential. It doesn’t take away from an adult’s ability to supervise a child.

Women argue about how they raise their kids because childrearing decisions are incredibly important. Children’s lives are important, and no one recognizes this as keenly as the parents who are deep in the trenches.

Sisterhood doesn’t mean agreeing on every issue. It doesn’t mean being owned by fear that something awful might happen to a child. The true sisterhood of motherhood is acknowledging that every mother has a unique path to follow.

That mom posting to Facebook about cloth diapers isn’t trying to push a radical agenda or start a fight. She’s talking about something that’s currently using up a lot of her bandwidth. (Have you ever washed and stuffed cloth diapers? It’s all-consuming.)

Women discuss their parenting choices and seek like-minded parents because that’s a healthy, normal part of building a community. Some moms work outside the home because they want to or need to. They’ll fight for better maternity leave policies and they’ll struggle to maintain a sense of balance. They’ll discuss it not to shame moms who stay home, but because they have every right to discuss it.

Moms aren’t caricatures. Every mom wants to nurture a healthy child into adulthood, but that isn’t a well-marked path despite how many women have walked it. It’s irresponsible to tell mothers that they have to get along, just as it’s irresponsible to tell women that they have to agree for the sake of feminism and sisterhood.

Moms are going to argue. They’re going to have strong opinions. They’ll research all night and fight on forums and order parenting books at 2 in the morning and they’ll exchange knowing glances with those who fit into their tribes.

Characterizing parenting disagreements as cattiness and pettiness does every woman a great disservice. Moms are not at war. They’re desperately seeking sisterhood in like-minded parents, and they have every right to cast a side eye at the playground. Being opinionated isn’t an act of war, it’s a part of life we should be celebrating, not shaming.

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I took my kids to see a play, and it wasn’t a disaster

I had the opportunity through Tampa Bay Bloggers to see Annie at the Straz Center, which used to be the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center when I was a kid. I rarely attend these kinds of events because good lord so busy and single mom and blah blah blah but I wanted to do this because theater has been part of my life, always. No one in my family had any involvement on stage, but my mother and grandmother introduced me to musicals very early on. My godmother in California also introduced me to Sondheim and obscure musicals like Metropolis. I grew up wanting to a limber dancer from Cats or a winsome soprano from Phantom of the Opera.

In reality, I was always awkward, tone deaf and terrified of being on stage. But that didn’t stop me from being a backstage part of productions throughout high school.

Like any parent, I not so secretly want my kids to like the things I like. So I brought both my kids (6 and 8) to Annie last night. The kindergartener isn’t really into plays. Last year, he sat in the front row at The Velveteen Rabbit and shouted, “I WISH I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE EARS.” I didn’t have high hopes for his Annie experience. As expected, he fidgeted and got super bored and face-planted asleep in his chair after the first act.

asleep at Annie

But my 8-year-old, ever the wild card, sat up riveted throughout the entire play. I watched him almost as much as I watched the action on stage. (Partially because The Book of Mormon is a little more my speed than Annie, and it was difficult for me to stop comparing it to the film I grew up adoring.)

He loved it.

As someone who is constantly trying to drag her kids away from the pied piper pull of TV and video games, I couldn’t be more thrilled that I got at least one kid to enjoy the theater. Now we already have plans to see Newsies and Matilda when they roll through Tampa. My dream is to take him to Broadway to see a few shows, since he already loves NYC.

Annie was cute, and definitely a touring production I’d recommend for elementary-aged kids as a nice introduction to Broadway shows. Since a lot of the performances are at 7:30, littler kids may be too zonked out by intermission to make it through. Next time I’ll leave my youngest at home. Since it’s a show for kids, there’s a little more tolerance for wiggly children, but it’s still theater. I wouldn’t bring a toddler, for example. Hit a matinee if you can, and don’t forget to grab a booster if your theater offers them.

If you live in the Tampa Bay, you can check out Annie at the Straz. Call 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online at www.strazcenter.org.  At all performances in Tampa, donations of primary school uniforms and other children’s clothing will be accepted at the Straz Center. I was given four tickets to the performance we attended. 

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New Year’s Quiz 2014

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Seventh year of recapping! 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before? I moved into my forever-home. I know forever isn't really a thing, but I've moved many times since I moved out of my … [Continue reading]

Today you are six

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My Maxy-Moose, today you are six. You false-started into the world a few days before 11/18/2008, sending me to Labor and Delivery not once but twice.  On the 17th, I dropped your brother off at Grammy and Papa's and had a light dinner and chatted … [Continue reading]

On failure

I didn't write last night because I sat down with my kids and watched Willow and folded so much laundry it no-shit took me the entire movie to finish. And I didn't even have time to put it away. When I went to bed at the same time the kids did, I … [Continue reading]

A towel with sleeves

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My soon-to-be 6-year-old hates getting out of the tub because he doesn't like to be cold. I dry him as fast as I can, but he still freaks out. The other day he saw a Critter book with Critter in a robe. "HE HAS A TOWEL WITH SLEEVES!" Ever since then, … [Continue reading]