It's not about politics. It's about shaming moms.
I understand that the media loves to get its claws out during an election year, but there’s a story circulating today about Chelsea Clinton and her family that offends me to my core as a person and, more specifically, as a father.
Aww, why is she so mean? What a HORRIBLE mother. How could she?
That’s what the story is saying, right? It’s strongly implying (and almost flat-out saying) that Chelsea is a bad mother because she wasn’t there for her young daughter on such an auspicious day. I'm sure most working moms can totally identify.
But, then, if you actually read the story and look at the accompanying photos, you realize that this is all just another mommy witch-hunt. It’s another case of a mother being publicly shamed because she’s not PERFECT. Because there’s a perception that she somehow hasn’t done enough for her child because she didn’t make a public appearance with her ONCE.
Are there election politics at play here? Sure, but it’s deeper than just Hillary vs. Trump animosity.
The sad fact is if Chelsea’s husband Marc hadn’t been there for his daughter’s first day of school — no one would’ve said ANYTHING.
Not Fox News. Not Trump’s Twitter. Nothing. It would’ve been a non-story. That’s because there’s a huge double-standard in the world when it comes to priorities for moms and dads.
For dads, their careers are always given priority over everything else. If a dad can’t make an after-school event because of a work conflict, that’s totally understandable. If a mom can’t make it, she’s going to be getting side-eye from the PTA for the rest of the year.
Moms can’t win. And I’m saying that as a dad.
When my daughter was a toddler, almost every single time I took her out in public, someone would stop us and say how wonderful it was to see such an engaged daddy spending so much time with his little princess.
For the record, that shit has NEVER ONCE happened to my wife.
MOMS CAN’T WIN.
And the details of the “OMG, Chelsea missed the first day” story make the double-standard even more glaring.
First of all, Chelsea’s daughter is TWO, so it’s not like the first day of kindergarten or college. It’s the first day of freakin’ PRE-SCHOOL. And the story assumes that Chelsea hadn’t visited the school before or prepared her little one for day care (which she probably did).
Second, Chelsea’s husband Marc and her daughter’s nanny were both there. Um, how much representation do you need? And why isn’t her father’s presence enough? The story even tries to downplay the relevance of Marc’s appearance by noting that he was on his phone for most of the walk to school.
Um… who cares? We have no idea what he was doing. Checking his phone during a walk doesn’t make him a checked-out dad. He wasn’t checking his phone while she was in an unsupervised swimming pool. He was checking his phone while she was in a stroller being pushed by another caregiver. Let the man check his emails in peace.
The worst part is that we, as a nation, know that Chelsea is kind of doing something important at the moment.
She’s campaigning for her mother who is RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.
It’s a big deal, particularly since Hillary has recently been sidelined with pneumonia. Chelsea didn’t “miss” that one walk to school because she was getting a mani-pedi. She “missed it” because she’s involved in one of the most important and contested political campaigns of the past century. And even if she weren't doing such important work, even if she were just doing the kind of work that most working moms do, it would still be important.
This is what she was actually doing that morning:
But, even though we all know that, there are still stories like these that will try to diminish her as a mother because she wasn’t photographed taking one particular walk to school.
Everything about it is insulting. It’s insulting to Chelsea. It’s insulting to mothers, because, essentially, this is the media telling them, “Hey, if you’re not standing in front of the school on the first day, forcing your kid to hold a Pinterest chalkboard with an inspirational message, so you can Instagram their every milestone” — you’re a bad mommy.
(Not to mention what a privileged criticism that is — “Hey, do you not have enough time-off from work to make appearances at every single event on the school calendar? Well, I guess you just don’t love your kid enough…”
It’s insulting to fathers, because the dad was RIGHT THERE the whole time and yet the media is saying that his presence was worthless because Mommy wasn’t there too.
This made-up scandal is mommy-shaming at its worst. And it actually jumps over into generalized parent shaming as well.
Moms are human. Dads are human. And no one “missed” their kid’s first day of school. At the worst, a parent didn’t experience that first day in the way the media expected and they’re being crucified for it.
We need to stop having impossible expectations for mothers and then tearing them down the second they don’t meet our fantasy Carol Brady-level of indentured momitude.
Let’s give Chelsea and her husband a break and stop trying to turn this into a mom choosing work over her daughter, because it’s just not true.