What's So Scary About Advice from Other Moms?

The very misleading headline reads, “Isla Fisher Offers the Best Mom Advice Ever: Don’t Give Advice!” Isla Fisher, the actress best known for having the patience to marry Sascha Baron Cohen, a.k.a. Borat, recently did a press round to promote her new kids’ book Marge in Charge. One interviewer remarked that the mother of three must constantly receive requests for parenting advice. The actress and author replied quite smartly that she “does not give parenting advice as a public figure.” This suddenly makes her a goddess among mothers for not sticking her nose into other people’s business.

Let’s not forget that the industry promoting Fisher as a Mom Hero is the same industry that makes its money off of publishing parenting advice. But there’s more to the sheer misinterpretation of Fisher’s statement than mere hypocrisy. Underlying the notion that other mothers should keep their opinions to themselves is the belief that women can’t handle disagreements within the ranks, and – even worse – the assertion that disagreement fuels anger, hatred and even mom depression.

Time magazine’s recent cover story on mom shaming is a prime example of the current theory that moms can’t handle the pressure of other people’s opinions. New mothers especially create a faceless “they” who sits as judge, jury, and executioner. If a mother doesn’t do what “they” say when it comes to birthing, breastfeeding, and overall parenting, she feels like a failure. She bows out of respectable mom society because she can’t handle not fitting into the theoretical crowd. No wonder Fisher is presented as a hero in contrast to this clique-ish milieu.

I am fortunate to have cultivated a wonderful group of real life mom friends. We trade stories and tips and are always more than happy to help each other along motherhood’s sometimes rough road. Underlying every conversation is the belief one friend best expressed as “you do you.” As grown women, we can respect other people’s opinions without necessarily taking them on as our own, or condemning them for their own parenting choices. Motherhood has taught us that we must be fearlessly independent thinkers and intensely empathetic listeners. This lesson has served our friendships well.

Where are these portrayals of mothers in the media? Of strong, confident women who are as heartfelt as they are headstrong? Why are mothers condemned to the image of confused, fearful weaklings riddled with depression and anxiety? The very threat of postpartum depression is driving women to ingest their own placentas in an attempt to ward off what is being marketed as an inevitable part of new motherhood. Why?

Despite what a lot of mom media would like you to believe, becoming a mother is an empowering experience. Not only are you the one calling the shots, the person you’re speaking to wants to follow your rules. Your children (unlike anyone else on this earth) are driven by a deep desire to listen to every word you say and to follow through to the best of their abilities in order to make you happy. What’s more, your love for them will motivate you to own your role as a mother in ways you never thought possible. An entire pack of doctors, school administrators, teachers and, yes, even other mothers will have no choice but to listen to you speak and will obey your wishes when it comes to the way they interact with your child. This is the reality of mothering. And it’s the kind of empowering reality we deserve to see much more of in parenting media.