I Am Not My Children

Quick quiz: What picture do you use as your Facebook avatar?

According to Katie Roiphe, if you answered, "My kid's", you are erasing yourself and making Betty Friedan turn over in her grave. According to Katie Roiphe, men don't do this. According to Katie Roiphe, you are spending your time at dinner parties talking obsessively about your kid(s) instead of talking about books or movies. According to Katie Roiphe, we are all constructing our identities solely around motherhood. According to Katie Roiphe, we are all too involved with our children and that's why they can't play independently.

To which I say, Katie, when are you going to stop assuming that your experiences with your friends constitute a sociological study? And why don't you get some different friends?

It's not that I disagree with Katie, exactly. I do feel that our generation of mothers is the most overly involved and self-critical generation of mothers ever. I do worry that kids today aren't learning to self-entertain or problem solve. It makes me sad when we only celebrate women who have chosen to be wives and mothers as well as rocket scientists, instead of women who have chosen to be rocket scientists and knitters and aunts. Or whatever.

But to say that our generation is going to disappear because your academically and professionally gifted friends can't talk about anything but their kids? That's ridiculous. I don't know know Katie personally, but I know that she is a professor at NYU. So let's assume her friends, for the most part, are fellow New Yorkers. She mentions how educated they are. I'm going to guess that they are also financially secure, because it's pretty hard to host dinner parties when you are poor (and over 25). That's a pretty small slice of the population on which to make assumptions.

When I look at my Facebook friends, for example, most of whom aren't upper middle class New York academics, I see a lot of pictures of people with their kids. Or even - shocker - alone. A lot of the men also have pictures with their kids. Of course, I realize this is about as scientific as Katie's sampling*, which kind of proves my point. Or maybe we're just more enlightened in the suburbs?

To quote the article about using your kids' picture as your avatar:

But this particular form of narcissism, these cherubs trotted out to create a picture of self, is to me more disturbing for the truth it tells. The subliminal equation is clear: I am my children.

Not to dismiss Facebook as a place where you can discover social trends, but are you fucking kidding me? As someone who loves social media, who self-identifies as a mommy blogger and who spends way too much time on Facebook, I found some subliminal equations in Katie's article: 

If your social media presence comprises your entire identity, you've got bigger problems than being your children. 

If you put so much thought into your social media presence among your alleged friends on Facebook that your avatar picture indicates your soul's health, you need to stop using Facebook. 

If you feel the need to bitch about your friends' lack of interest in the world around them in an article for Slate, you need new friends.**

If you feel that women are disappearing into motherhood, write something engaging to bring them out. Don't write an article slamming them. 

If you feel that your friends represent womanhood as a whole, get out and meet some new people. 

If you think your friends aren't parenting their kids the way you would like, cite some studies about effective parenting techniques. 

If you think your parents did a better job raising you than your friends are doing with their own kids, then parent like they did, not like your friends. But also ask yourself if your own wonderful parents spent so much time judging other parents. 

I mean, I wonder what's more indicative of someone's sense of self: a hastily thrown together Facebook profile or an article written for a well-known website? I can tell you that I've spent more time writing this blog post for my obscure blog than I did choosing what photo to use as a Facebook avatar. 

But just because that's true for me doesn't necessarily mean it's true for Katie Roiphe. Right? 

*If you would like to make it more scientific, please like my Facebook page and expand my informal sample.

**If you're a real life friend of mine who starts getting on my nerves? I promise I'm not going to blog about how all people who are obsessed with their cats are mentally ill. I'll probably just stop asking about your cats, or maybe I'll avoid you or something.


Soapbox Girl said...

Well I'm not a parent and most of my friends aren't parents and I was just at a party where all of us were talking about our pets. Should I be worried that this Katie person will think we're erasing ourselves with our pets?

And would Katie think I'm erasing myself because I have a picture of one of my 2 kitties as my FB photo? Because I'd tell her that my FB picture is currently a cat because I was tired of looking at my bald self wearing a hat.

Good grief. I'm starting to think armchair psychiatry should be an Olympic sport.

Jennifer Zimmerman said...

For Katie Roiphe it totally is. And yes, Katie would probably have a lot to say about you all talking about your pets instead of what she deems acceptable.

From Tracie said...

I occasionally have a profile picture that is me and my daughter. Honestly, my husband is much more likely to have our daughter as his picture than I am. Maybe that just makes him a weird unmanly-as-defined-by-Katie-Roiphe man....but I'm okay with that.

I think some people are just looking for things to complain about, and clearly she is one of those people.

Cindy Lou Who said...

I don't have a facebook account anymore. Well, I have one but have long since forgotten how to access it. And my avatar? Is a picture of my little puppy's sock monkey. What does that say about me (other than I only signed up for the facebook account to do some thing or the other for the band and was trying to avoid all those fucking people who I quit facebook to avoid in the firts place)

LucidLotus said...

Sometimes I have a pic of my kid, sometimes myself, sometimes a kitty in a pirate hat. Wtf does that say about me? I live for pirates?