Women Are Not Soccer Balls

This morning I saw a female cardinal. It’s easy to spot the males because they’re a brilliant red but today, the lady bird sat watching the finches and me not far from my kitchen window. I decided her presence was a power sign. She stood out, even without her man in his beautiful coat nearby. She was doing perfectly fine on her own.

I came across Wendy Piersall’s, TLC Launches New TV Show :: The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom blog post today. She brought to my attention a new TLC (The Learning Channel) TV show about stay at home mom’s. Debuting March 3, the show is “a new reality series following stay-at-home moms who are given the chance to see what life would be like if their full-time career wasn’t motherhood”.

Each episode will conclude with the mom either deciding to “pursue her new dual life” or return to her family, secure in the fact that motherhood is the only occupation for her.

Where to begin with this? A career driven woman and mother is running for the position of the United States of America and yet somewhere else in America is a culture insisting that women must choose career OR motherhood?

I cringed when I read this from TLC’s new ‘The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom’ series to debut March 3:

“Almost every woman experiences the pull between becoming a full-time mom or juggling both family and work. This show will give us the chance to learn what sacrifices and rewards there are in making this challenging and unique decision,” said TLC programming executive Brant Pinvidic. “Each episode ends up being a remarkable voyage as we see them accomplish goals they never thought possible and then make the decision about which path they should pursue.”

Which path? They have to go behind their spouse’s back to experience some sort of self worth vision quest for themselves?

Then he says,

“This show is very inspirational and gives these women many who thought they’d never have return to their careers a chance to see what they are capable of.”

Capable of?? Since when did taking care of children turn women into blobs of nothing? When did staying home become the crime of the century?

The first story on the show highlights “Adrian” who gets a chance to spend a week experiencing her “dream job” that she left behind to raise her 3 children. At the end of the week, she must decide whether or not she wants to remain a full time mom.

I worked while single, while pregnant, after my first child was born and up to the birth of my second child. Then, I stopped because the cost of daycare stripped my salary. I was essentially working for free, so I stayed home and my husband worked 3 jobs to keep us going. I grew as much of our food as possible and breastfed the babies, the second one past his 2 year birthday. I continued to volunteer and be involved with the schools and community as much as my time allowed.

The kids and I rarely saw their Dad. He and I drifted apart. We split up. I refused his support money. We shared joint custody. I went back to work by teaching myself a new career, working all day and doing freelance work at night. I felt terribly alone and unsupported by my friends. On the days the kids were with their Dad, I worked even longer hours. I didn’t date. For four years. I started a business. Founded a few web sites. Paid for daycare. Saved up money to buy my own house. Remarried. I work at home because it’s easier to raise the kids and be there for them when I’m here. I’m saving for their college, paying for their cell phones, car insurance, sports equipment and shampoo. I take them to the doctor. Attend every football, baseball, wrestling and track event and the Jazz band concerts. I run a global forums. I make dinner. I’m the maid, nurse, taxi, project manager, and gardener. Off the top of my head.

Did I mention I’m a stay at home mom, who works full time? Which part of me looks like a soccer ball? God forbid someone should have said, “Kim. You have to pick one thing to do because you’re a woman.”

Shattering Soccer Mom Myths

The producers of this new TV show might like to read the new book by Holly Buchanan and Michelle Miller, called The Soccer Mom Myth. One of the first points the book notes is that in the writer’s “Marketing to Women” seminars, over 60% of attendees are women. When Holly asks the audience how many are mom’s, she may get one or two responses. They write that of the “millions upon millions of Soccer Mom’s out there“, in their seminars, they found “only about seven.”

So, who is this TV show being marketed to?

80% of all purchasing decisions are made by women. This TV show is going to want commercials to sponsor their show. How they can target women when only a handful fall into the category of “Soccer Mom”?

Women are individuals. They want to be treated with respect and some acknowledgment that they have much to contribute. They aren’t cloned copies of each other. If one wants to work and never have children, bravo. She’s still a vital woman. If another one isn’t career oriented, fine. With any luck, she’ll be able to support herself and should be encouraged to do so without depending on someone else for her survival. If another woman who wants a family stays home to be with the kids, they need support, not attitude. Not a “What if I could do that thing I dreamed of doing” carrot dangled in their faces.

They ARE doing something. Being a parent is the most rewarding “work” I’ve ever done. However, I was quite capable of doing more.

The TV show’s tagline is “Do they have what it takes to have it ALL?

I don’t understand this statement. Someone can be hiking in the mountains picking wild flowers on a damp, springtime morning and feel they “have it all” because they’re alive. They’re in a lovely place. They feel the rising sun warming their cheeks. Contentment comes from so many places, including inside ourselves.

The TV show glorifies women who look outside themselves for validation and worthiness. They take a week off away from their family to experience “having it all”.

They return with their discovery and then asked to make a choice. Career or child raising?

I’ll take the mountain.

12 thoughts on “Women Are Not Soccer Balls”

  1. Hi Kim,
    As a working mom of 2 elementary age kids – I also find this insulting. No – I’m not a soccer mom – I have no patience for a lot of these moms who have 2 hour conversations about potty training. BUT – my kids arent neglected, they are strong, independent and empowered – and the idea that I need to CHOOSE between being a “good mom” or having a “career” disgusts me.
    I wont be watching – I have better things to do with my time, like reading to my kids and blogging :)

  2. I still can’t figure this out. I can’t stand “Wife Swap” either. Like I said in my post, when I decided to spread my wings, men supported me. Not women. It wasn’t until people (teachers, neighbors, relatives) saw how well the kids have turned out and how well my ex-husband and I got along that my choices were accepted.

    For the most part, in my small town, women don’t relate to me. They don’t understand why I have business cards. When I took over as head webmaster for the town’s Little League website and joined the Board of Directors, the reactions from women and men are very different. Support from men. Confusion from women.

    Case in point, when I posted this, I lost some subscribers from Bloglines. Who’s to say why but I find it interesting.

    That, and the quiet notes from women who send kudos when I write about women’s issues but won’t do it here in the public comments.

  3. One irony of this is that I think it’s a natural consequence of women having more economic power. Madison Avenue likes nothing better than to homogenize us; if we all have one identity and one set of preferences, they can lazily sell us all the same things. Unfortunately, we seem to keep falling for it.

    Remember when TLC was actually The Learning Channel? Now, it’s like a day-long episode of the Today Show.

  4. I’m still waiting for:
    The Secret Life of a Workaholic Dad
    We’ll follow around one career dad a week as he makes school lunches, juggles doctor appointments and baseball practice, tries to come up with something for dinner that everyone will eat and faces a mountain of laundry the size of Mt Everest. At the end of the week, we’ll give him a choice of doing all of this while still doing his regular job, or just going back to work.

    It amazes me that there is no equivalent for “working mother” in the male vernacular. While there certainly are a lot of working dads out there, they still are not “tagged” with the label that implies two jobs.

  5. Yes – something about this premise sounds wacky. “See what they are capable of?” Surely only die-hard chauvanists believe this. That’s babble of the 1920′s – when women got the right to vote.

    I think the woman (or man)who has it all is WAHM (work-at-home-mom) who has her dream job.

  6. Let’s not get twisted about ‘reality’ shows. They are all dumb. And dumber. And because they are relatively inexpensive (‘free’ actors) more and more simplistic topic hooks will wander onto the schedule.

    You might like to review the latest silly from CBC:

    ‘What happens when the women of a small town pack up and leave – will chaos erupt? Will the kids survive? Will the men pick up the slack or head to the pub? The town of Hardisty, Alberta is about to discover what life without women is really like.’

    There appears to be no bottom to this abyss.

  7. “The town of Hardisty, Alberta is about to discover what life without women is really like.’”

    No! Say it isn’t so!

    My family learns this whenever I get sick. I can be upstairs breathing tissues and the whole place goes to hell. :)

  8. I was reminded of your post this morning, Kim. I’m forced to watch The Today Show in the gym, and they had a segment on “Momnesia”. Apparently, new moms get all crazy on hormones and stress and forget stuff. Of course, we men never forget anything when we’re stressed out. I about through a dumbbell at the TV.

  9. “Does your daughter really understand that lesson?”

    Indirectly perhaps. I’ll say things like “Who fired the maid?” when I see the kitchen falling apart.

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