A couple of weeks ago, Salon.com posted an article called “Spike heels, sex and strollers: I’m tired of lady mags pretending that motherhood doesn’t exist” where its writer, Elissa Strauss, claimed that the only way motherhood makes its way into women’s magazines is through the celebrity interview. The interview is often of the “how does she do it?” variety with a famous person who is also a mother. “Unlike the rest of us, celebrities can achieve superwomen status, they can look great and work hard and be good moms who cook excellent chicken,” Strauss writes—explaining that these celeb mom profiles don’t necessarily speak to the average working mom. I agree with this sentiment, and in general that motherhood looks different for the uber-wealthy.
Personally, I’d never really thought much about it before. Maybe it’s that I tend to read niche-specific publications, and go to them for whatever topic they might be covering—whether it’s a guilty pleasure tabloid or an author interview. Reading the Salon.com article, I found myself wondering if maybe some mothers were turning to women’s magazines because they wanted a break, rather than wanting to see themselves on its pages. But does that argument make me no different than the one that says people want to see Photoshopped images of beauty, rather than women who look like them on magazine pages?
“I want a glossy that acknowledges that women’s lives are not divided into neat categories of ‘before’ and ‘after kids’,” Strauss writes. But outside of the women-can-have-it-all (or women-can’t-have-it-all) think pieces and celebrity profiles—isn’t it true that life before and after kids is pretty divided? As someone who still pursues artistic pursuits, career goals and social commitments into my parenting life, this certainly still feels like the “after kids” era of my life (or kid, singular, as I only have one.)
So, what would a well-rounded women’s magazine look like? To me, even trying to conceive of it, it would feature more hard-to-achieve aspirations. Much as I want to maintain having some style, and eating well, I don’t want more external pressure on me to try to “have it all.” Sometimes I want to read about reality TV stars, and I’m not that interested in what they fed their kids for dinner or what brand their baby’s first pair of shoes are. Sometimes I want to read music magazines, and I’m in the unpopular camp of people who don’t find that photos of rock star dads carrying their fedora-clad kids make their bands any better or worse. Do I want a film magazine to remind me that I probably can’t go see most films because I’d have to get a babysitter and plan weeks in advance and that it might not be worthwhile if I didn’t really love the movie in the end? I don’t. I think I can negotiate my being a parent into my considerations of other things on my own.
“I am no longer fabulous enough, career-wise, fashion-wise, or really anything-wise, for titles like Elle, Marie Claire and Vogue, and I am not domestic enough or focused on my inner self enough for magazines like Real Simple and Oprah. Oh, and I am definitely not parent enough for Parenting,” Strauss writes. I wonder if I’m supposed to feel guilty for looking at fashion magazines, or recipes, if their publications don’t fully embrace me. (Being “not enough of a parent” for a parenting magazine is a whole other can of worms for me—as a queer single mom who had a heavy metal themed baby shower and blogs for a national parenting magazine—I can safely say that what or who is “parent enough” has maybe changed in the last while.)
Read about Tara-Michelle’s journey to parenthood: Single mom, donor dad: An unconventional pregnancy story>
“We know what a fabulous, cultured, powerful and possibly even feminist woman looks like, and we know what a good homemaker and parent looks like, but we are still at a loss as to what happens when we combine her into one, celebrities aside. I could use a few more tips on how to be both,” Strauss concludes. But I can’t help but wonder if she really does. Call me compartmentalized, but it seems to me like she’s finding resources for all the different facets of her life just fine.
What do you think, should women’s magazines include more about moms and motherhood?
Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a Toronto-based queer mom to a preschooler. She started off as a single-mom-by-choice, and now co-parents. You can read more of her posts here and follow her on Twitter @therealrealTMZ.