Ok, so am I the only one here who thinks the rapt media attention this week on some of pop culture’s most troubled moms is.... well.... sad?
I don’t mean sad as in “pathetic,” although one could certainly make that argument, too. I’m thinking “sad” here as in heartaching.
I'm not trying to be preachy. But really, let’s take a look at some of the news that’s come out this week about Teen Mom reality star Amber Portwood and “Octomom” Nadya Suleman – moms who pretty clearly fit that “troubled” category.
Yesterday, a judge ordered that Ms. Portwood, who starred in the MTV reality television shows “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant," serve a five year sentence for a felony drug charge. (Her sentence had been suspended on condition of finishing drug rehab, but she dropped out of the program.) Prosecutors say the now 22-year-old mother was arrested on May 24 after she failed and lied about a urine test.
Meanwhile, Octomom is publicly wavering about her new solution to strip to earn more money for those 14 children. Celebrity news reports say Ms. Suleman had booked a gig at a Florida strip joint (where she would only have to take off her top, she insisted), but that she backed out after she felt the club owners weren’t showing her enough respect. This comes after she filmed her own porn movie (due to be released this summer), which she called the “most liberating thing I’ve ever done.”
The Internet world and celebrity media are loving every second of these mama train wrecks, with posts, news tidbits, comments, you name it.
And it all kinda makes me want to cry.
Because, you know, both of these women have kids. They may have turned themselves into caricatures (or maybe we turned them into caricatures for our own enjoyment and ridicule), but they’re still people. And mothers. I mean, Portwood has a three-year-old daughter, whom she will for the next couple of years see primarily in a detention center waiting room. And Octomom said she got into the commercial sex industry – however positively she spins it for the media – because she was broke.
“If it’s a job, and it’s a well-paying job, and it’s going to allow me to get out of here and move in a safe, huge home that they [her kids] deserve, I’m going to do it,” she said.
So, we have moms with drug problems. Incarcerated parents. Impoverished women selling their bodies for money.
It should be sad. Even more so because these are real, important, and troubling social issues that impact scores of women across the country, albeit not often in the spotlight of television cameras.
Maybe you'd think we’d use these gruesomely public examples to delve into a debate about solutions for the underlying social problems. Or maybe we could just take a look at our own lives, say a blessing for how fortunate we are, and resolve to think more of – maybe even try to help – the less fortunate.
But no. We watch instead with horrified, judgmental glee.
Maybe this is because public moms like Portwood and Suleman are outlets for all our privileged mommy angst; a release after worrying about which car seat is the best for baby, or whether we’re doing well by Junior to put him in soccer practice rather than extra art class.
It’s like the snarky media coverage of New Jersey’s Tanning Mom, Patricia Krentcil, accused of endangering her daughter by taking her into a tanning salon. (Coverage that is still as glibly nasty today, with new photos of Younger Tanning Mom, once an aspiring model, making their rounds online.) We love to bring a Bad Mommy – usually one lower down the socio-economic ladder, always caught in the media glare – to a public hanging.
It shows that the rest of us might be struggling moms, but we’re not Bad. Not like Tanning Mom. Or Octomom. Or Teen Mom.
No, we’re Good Mommies, at least in comparison.
And because we feel self satisfied, the social problems underneath those Bad Moms’ struggles can continue.