Not every pile of twisted steel and rubber that is swept aside in the Internet Meme Demolition Derby is a mustache twirling villain like The Original ADHD Medicine, or My Parents Spanked Me as a Kid. Sometimes an internet meme goes viral because it has a tantalizing message, one that looks completely wholesome and good, yet still has problematic implications that we need to unpack. Today’s meme is like that. We’re still gonna reduce it to a smoking pile of jagged debris. but we’ll try and be nice about it.
Pictured is what appears to be a Caucasian woman with her adorable newborn swaddled in her arms. They touch nose to nose, eyes closed in blissful enjoyment of what we assume is one of the brief moments in which the newborn is not screaming, puking, pooping or supporting the Donald Trump campaign. It’s an Anne Geddes scene in the making. I always assume she drugs those kids.
Anyways the text reads…
In 30 years from now it won’t make a difference how much money I had, what kind of car I drove, or what clothes I wear. What matters most is that I made a difference in the life of my child and that they remember a mother that raised them right and loved them unconditionally.
This somewhat uplifting message comes from Worldwide Mamas, a mommy-centric Facebook community that appears to be full of lovely people who want to share their parenting experiences. They don’t post about abortion or circumcision, which I suppose goes a long way to avoiding controversy and hurt feelings. They seem like good people. Let’s tear them to little bits… but with love in our hearts.
The first assertion this meme makes is that in 30 years none of the mom’s supposedly frivolous material concerns will “make a difference”. Which is complete nonsense. The kind of nonsense that only a well off white woman who can afford an Anne Geddes photoshoot would propagate. Sure this woman doesn’t think about any of those things, because she probably never actually has to think about any of those things. I’m willing to bet that this woman drives a newer model car that is the right size for her family. She can make time for the routine maintenance necessary to keep it running at peak efficiency. Her clothes are probably nice, she has no problem putting together a wardrobe appropriate for her job. Her job (or that of her spouse, or a combination of both) compensates her well enough to assure her that she can plan 30 years into the future.
If you are a long time reader of Grounded Parents or Skepchick you can probably see where we are going with this. The ability to ignore such concerns is a sign of Privilege. The sad truth is that, for a very large portion of the US American mom population, each of the concerns that Mrs Naked Meme Lady blithely ignores may very well have a huge impact on where their little bundle of poop is 30 years from now. That is because the United States is, despite the rhetoric of our politicians, not a particularly class mobile society. How much money your parents make is hugely important to your prospects. Only someone who hasn’t had to worry overmuch about the bottom half of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs could ever seriously entertain the notion that loving their child unconditionally is even close to the most important difference they make in their lives.
This meme also implies that any mom who indulges in a fancy car, some nice shoes or a better job is robbing from the evidently limited supply of unconditional love that is absolutely necessary for raising their little vomit factories right. This sublimation of a woman’s personality into an idealized motherhood is a patriarchal notion that serves to shame women who have desires or dreams of their own. Once the baby pops out and you make the transition from woman to mother, society suddenly changes their expectations of you. Whilst they certainly disapproved of your smoking and drinking and reading before motherhood, now that you have a tiny little person on your hands all that will have to go by the wayside so you can focus 100% of your efforts on making sure that 30 years from now that little person isn’t an ax murderer, or if they are then at least the remember a mother that raised them right and loved them unconditionally. Like Norman Bates’ Mom.
Ok, are we being a little hyperbolic? Sure, it’s a comedic column, we exaggerate for effect. Anybody who has ever met me knows I wub widdle babies the way the Internet loves cats. But memes like this aren’t harmless. They perpetuate stereotypes about women, mothers and children that make the job of parenting and the lives of mothers more difficult. The set an unattainable standard of self sacrifice, putting the perfect mom on a pedestal that only the most fortunate can reach. They affect the way we look at women who don’t have the privilege to choose their car, wardrobe or career based on personal preference but instead on economic reality. And when the kid goes bad 30 years down the road, as even the best raised children sometimes do, we’ve a ready scapegoat at hand.
As always, if you find a parenting or child related meme in your social media landscape that pisses you off, send it to us here through the contact form, share it on our Facebook Page or tweet us @GroundedParents.