It’s a pretty broad generalization to say this, but I’m going to do it anyway: Much of my generation (Generation X? Y? Pre-Millennial?) is, if not fully inclined toward tolerance, is at least disinclined toward intolerance. (I mean, how many of us 20-to-40-somethings are boycotting a certain brand of buttery, delicious chicken sandwich right now because we think it’s a chicken sandwich born of intolerance?)
I don’t mean to assert that we don’t all have our individual unfair prejudices—I have a friend who won’t talk to anyone wearing a fedora; myself, I simply cannot bear adult Twi-Hards—but if the motto for children of the ’60s was “Make Love, Not War,” then that of their grown adult children in the 2000s might be “Live and Let Live.”
Unless the people we’re talking about living and letting live happen to be parents who live in the city. In which case, all bets are off.
I should note now that I am not a mom, and also that I have done my own fair share of eye-rolling at bratty little kids and the parents who ignore them. But I’ve also seen my fair share of eye-rolling that seemed totally unfair: at a mom struggling to get a stroller into a store door and taking too long to do it; at a mom walking slowly on the sidewalk with her toddler; at a mom at lunch in a restaurant with a baby who is (gasp!) crying. “Don’t people get baby-sitters anymore?” the woman at the table next to me sniffed. There is, amongst many childless people I know (and even some child owners) a sort of implicit bias against moms who dare try to exist in the public sphere as … moms.
To wit: The number of friends I know on Facebook to post entire albums of their kid online is rivaled only by the number of friends I know on Facebook who have snarky things to say about parents posting too many pictures or notes about their kids online. (Meanwhile, I am still subjected to endless pictures of people’s dinners, cocktails and handbags, not to mention requests to play something called Farmville and countless Some E-cards, but nobody accuses anyone of those things “taking over someone’s identity.”)
Recently, a pal of mine who happens to be a mom-blogger took her two toddlers to an ice cream parlor for a treat. Trying to stand with her two boys and their gear off to the side enough to be out of the way of other customers, she got passed over in line: When she noted that it was her turn to the employee behind the counter, he muttered in a way she found rude about “the sign that was right there, telling them where to stand.” She got angry, left, wrote a post on the company’s Facebook page expressing her disappointment, mentioned that she would review the company on her parenting blog, and was then subsequently accused by other posters on that page of not being able to “manage her children in line.” “It wasn’t our decision for you to have children or our decision to teach them how to not stand in line,” ranted one poster. “I am sorry for your children,” wrote another.
It seems to me that she was simply complaining about customer service. And if people took issue with her complaint—her posting it publicly, her taking offense at an employee’s remark, her getting upset—well, then that’s cool, whatever. But she was a mom with toddlers complaining, and suddenly? She was clearly a sucky parent, and also just one more entitled a-hole mom, obviously. Her mom-ness was a tipping point.
Maybe this whole parent-versus-non-parent thing happen to every generation sometime in their late 20s to early 40s. But I also wonder if this phenomenon, which I’ve only really started to notice lately, is the product of a perfect storm of other stuff: a little feminist backlash plus about a billion stories about crazy helicopter parenting (not to mention a few dozen about tiger moms) plus a healthy dose of social media plus a dash of that modern entitlement so many people seem to have plus the a certain brand of judginess as seen on Real Housewives and the like?
Right now, the demographics of Philadelphia are changing to include more and more young families. Should I one day join their ranks, become a member of that rising parent class, I hope that the same folks who’ve given up their chicken sandwiches have also given up some of the knee-jerk mom-ism.