Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dear Ms. Winfrey

Dear Ms. Winfrey,

I am writing in response to your recent show, The Secret Lives of Moms. While I whole-heartedly applaud your efforts to honor motherhood (after all, you do say all the time that mothering is the hardest job in the whole world!) and to give moms a chance to share what it's really like, I gotta say ya left me hangin' (along with quite possibly a whole bunch of other moms).

I was with you on the secret confessions. Some of them were funny. Some of them were shocking, crude even. Kind of like a car accident that is gruesome but holds our stare all the same. Some of them were just downright sad. But we all have them. And I remembered that I am not alone in this life I have chosen.

I was even with you, albeit a little less "with ya," on the "who am I" and "will I ever be ME again," conversation. Yes, I too was skinnier. And probably more vivacious, exciting, and certainly a more interesting conversationalist. And I was skinnier. I know I was more well-read and more interested in world events. Did I mention I was skinnier? Listening to the moms talk about missing their former selves, I remembered that I am not alone in this feeling. But being surrounded by other mothers who feel this way was of little comfort to me at this point in the conversation.

I say I was "with you, albeit a little less" because quite frankly, I don't ever want to go back to who I was before I became a mother. I was more selfish. I was less tolerant. I was more judgmental (And yes, I certainly WAS a better parent before I had kids. Insert snarky laugh here.) I was less compassionate. To top it all off, I was also much less likely to look at my snotty 20-something self and see any of this about myself. I didn't know it, but I was only an under-developed snapshot version of the portrait I needed to become.

I wasn't with you very much by the time moms started whining about not getting showers and complaining about the intimate details of their marriage (or lack thereof apparently). We've all been there. It's not pretty, it feels desperate and never-ending. And all-consuming when you are in the midst of it. I remember it well. I'm still there some days. Apparently, I'm not alone.

I was lost even further when a young mom stood up and commented on the "war" between SAHM's, WAHM's, and working moms. The tensions between these groups are legendary. One of your panel moms made an excellent point that could have been pulled apart and dissected by you and your author-guests with so much more empathy and compassion. The subject deserved more attention than it got. In spite of that small failing, I was reminded, again, that I am not alone in that conversation either.

Overall, you did a great job of exposing the hard parts of the "job" of motherhood. You successfully laid bare all the nastiest and most desperate times that moms across the country feel. You targeted the monotony of the days. Over and over. (The days, I mean. Not you.) You reminded us all that we are not alone. That we should, no, must support and encourage each other. That we should be confident that the choices we make are indeed in the best interest of our children and, therefore, are right for our family. That we need to give each other the safety to "be" what we are. That the snarkiness and swiping at each other must stop. That we can NOT do this journey alone.

But, Ms. Winfrey (can I call you Oprah?), you left millions of young moms just hangin'. You failed to give concrete ways that we can DO all these things. HOW do I get support when my twins are on different feeding and sleeping schedules? HOW do I ask for help when I feel like I'm drowning in post-partum depression; when a shower feels like an insurmountable task? HOW do I get a date night with my husband when my toddler is laboring under an extreme case of separation anxiety? HOW do I feel confident that my choice to stay home with my kids is right, when I feel like said kids are spinning out of control? HOW do I take a shower, do the laundry, grocery shop, wipe noses, wipe butts, raise mannerly kids who DO SOMETHING with their lives, check homework, balance the checkbook, wipe more noses and more butts, and be a good friend that supports the mom next door who is busy wiping her own little noses and butts all day long?! And still be a good little wife when the hubster strolls in the door?

This show was a good starting point. But it should be Part One followed by another whole show on HOW to do this thing called motherhood. The right way. Together, linking arms with the other moms in our lives. I feel like you had a golden opportunity to give tools to millions of moms and you missed it. You left us hangin' Ms. Winfrey.

There are tons of groups out there to support and encourage moms along the journey of parenting these treasures whom have been gifted to us for this short season of their lives. Resources that moms can access, in their communities, in their school districts, and from the comfort of their own homes. You touched briefly on the blogging community. What a segue that could have been, to featuring some of the great Mom-blog communities out there. 5 Minutes For Moms is one such resource, accessed on-line daily by tons of moms for information, support, connection and a sense of community. Many regions have MOMS Clubs, small, community-based organizations for women who need the safety and camaraderie of NOT being alone during teething trauma and toddler tantrums. Finally, MOPS International (Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers) is a nation-wide ministry that exists to create community between women during what can be the hardest years of parenting and molding our little ones.

These are just three of the tools that you could have presented to the motherhood community on your show. Instead, I was left thinking that I really need to pick up those books (what were they called again?) and read them to get some answers. 'Cuz we all know I need ONE. MORE. THING. to add to my "to do" list that never ends. I was left overwhelmed by the things I should be doing, stressed that I'm not doing them, and frustrated that ya left me hangin'.

Finally, I was really quite saddened to realize that the hour was coming to a close and there was little or no discussion as to WHY we all do this, some of us several times over again. Why do we hang in there, showerless day after showerless day? Why do we willingly (and sometimes at great cost to ourselves, our budgets, and our sanity!) pursue this calling of motherhood? Here again was another missed opportunity. This was your shot to infuse the audience with the reminder that they are molding and nurturing tomorrow's doctors, lawyers, moms, coaches, and yes, even presidents. What we do now, in this pressure-cooker of raising our kids, will make or break this great nation. What we GET to do is pass on our traditions, our identities, our beliefs and our passions. What we GET to do is be the launching pad from which these amazing little rockets will burst forth and explore the universe that we only dreamed about. What we GET to do is be a mother. It IS the hardest job in the world. But it is also the most amazing privilege anyone can imagine. And, in the weariness of our over-scheduled lives full of over-blown expectations, it's sometimes the most-taken-for-granted thing we do. Sadly.

Really, Ms. Winfrey (I just can't bring myself to call you Oprah!) I appreciated the laughs. I'm still just juvenile enough that stories about snot and poo and potty dilemmas make me giggle. But, the laughter turned to tears when I realized that the hour was over and I am not alone. I still had no idea how to change it. Ya left me hangin'.


The Gang's Momma

This letter was written after
Monday's show, partially
in response to a lively discussion
I started on my Facebook page.
While not all of the experiences
here are my own stories,
they are certainly representative of
many of the young moms I've
been privileged to know
in the 14 1/2 years since
I became Momma to my first
little Gang member.

And I would have posted this
on Ms. Winfrey's website.
But it was way crowded over there
and I didn't want to "join" one more
forum or website. I don't need one more
thing I "should" check in on these days!


a Tonggu Momma said...

Well stated. Truly.

MississippiZen said...

By all means, run, don't walk, to Oprah's page and post that letter! You truly stated what millions of moms were thinking when that hour was up!

Who knows, maybe you will get an invite to be the voice for all of us!

Salzwedel Family said...

Thank you. You truly, truly need to get that letter to Oprah (er, excuse me, I mean Ms. Winfrey). Great post!

Classic MaMa said...

I didn't see it, but I agree with this letter. We seem to have a lot of time to whine, but little time to ecourage, to lift up, to edify.

Natalie said...

Listen, if you don't send that letter to Oprah, I will do it for you. It's perfectly stated with humor, intelligence and sincerity. Let me know when she calls asking you to be on her Part 2 show!!

Promises Fulfilled said...

I did not see the show either, but this was written so well and I completely agree with the other ladies that this needs to be sent to Oprah.

On another note, I love the new look of your blog! :)

its_baxter said...

Now, I teach, but I'm definitely not a mother yet, and I think this is great, Tracy!! :) What passion, desire and quest you show :) And if I may say so, what great little ones you have!

TCC said...

Should I just say "ditto?"

I didn't see the show.

Incredibly well written letter that needs to be sent to Oprah.

Want you to let me know when they have you on the show so I actually make time to watch it - or tape it. :)