By JJ Keith
Genre: Nonfiction, Parenting
What's the first thing a woman does when she thinks she might be pregnant? She Googles. And it goes downhill from there. While the internet is full of calming and cheerily supportive articles, it's also littered with hyper-judgmental message boards and heaps of contradictory and scolding information. Motherhood Smotherhood takes parents through the trenches of new parenting, warning readers of the pleasures and perils of mommy blogs, new parent groups, self-described "lactivists," sleep fascists, incessant trend pieces on working versus non-working mothers, and the place where free time and self-esteem goes to die: Pinterest (back away from the hand-made flower headbands for baby!)
JJ Keith interweaves discussions of what "it takes a village" really means (hint: a lot of unwanted advice from elderly strangers who may have grown up in actual villages) and a take-down of the rising "make your own baby food" movement (just mush a banana with a fork!) with laugh-out-loud observations about the many mistakes she made as a frantic new mother with too much access to high speed internet and a lot of questions. Keith cuts to the truth--whether it's about "perfect" births, parenting gurus, the growing tide of vaccine rejecters, the joy of blanketing Facebook with baby pics, or germophobia--to move conversations about parenting away from experts espousing blanket truths to amateurs relishing in what a big, messy pile of delight and trauma having a baby is.
JJ Keith has written about being a crappy attachment parent for Salon, explored the disturbing undertones of Thomas the Tank Engine for TheRumpus.net, come out as pro-vaccine for TheHuffington Post, interviewed Samantha Irby for Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, differentiated being judgmental and having an opinion for Role/Reboot, admitted to a bare knuckled brawl with a dude for The Nervous Breakdown, examined the phenomenon of "don't touch the bump" t-shirts for Babble, and explained what new moms have in common with teenage boys for The Hairpin.
Her writing has been syndicated in the Sydney Morning Herald, iVillage Australia, Mamamia, and Alternet, and she's taken her work to the stage with The Moth, Happy Hour Story Experiment, Write Club, and Expressing Motherhood and spoken about parenting issues with APM's Marketplace, HuffPost Live, and on a panel at the 2013 LA Times Festival of Books. Her micro-memoir won a $2,500 prize from Reader's Digest and was anthologized in The Best Life Stories: 150 Real-life Tales of Resilience, Joy, and Hope-All 150 Words or Less!
She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her two children.
The vast majority of chatter surrounding parenthood is junk. All of these seemingly divisive decisions—like pain meds in labor, newborn sleep arrangements, and scheduling—are often phrased as moral imperatives from both sides. Screw that. Take care of your kid. Do what works. Babies are more durable than we give them credit for. As a parent, I can be wrong as long as I realize it and change. That means it’s okay to make educated guesses and then sort out the consequences. And it means I have to play this parenting gig by ear, which is disquieting for people with control- ling tendencies like me. But I must control my tendency to be controlling or else I will imprison myself. Infants cannot be micro- managed, nor can toddlers, children, teenagers, spouses, or nan- nies. Parents who want to be perfect can knock themselves out, but I’d rather they not blame the institution of parenthood (or worse, their babies) when they go two years without finishing a sentence, sleeping through the night, or having sex.