Being a new mother is difficult; that’s never been a secret, so far as we know. Tons of newly minted moms and their partners rely on and benefit from the help of loved ones and family members who have “been there.” So why is Jessa Duggar being accused of being a bad mom when she does the same thing new mothers have done for centuries?
For the most part, mom of 4-month-old baby Spurgeon has managed to avoid some of the pearl-clutchery leveled at her sister since the announcement of their new show, Jill & Jessa: Counting On, but it looks like that might be changing soon. Just last month there was the debate over whether or not onesie-clad babies are appropriate photography subjects (really, everyone?), and now this.
In an interview with People magazine, Jessa threw out a nothing comment about how raising an infant is difficult (true) and that she was lucky to have family nearby (also true), and she noted that she took full advantage of her mother Michelle and her sister Jill’s combined baby-raising wisdom. With 21 children between the two of them, it doesn’t seem like something that’s outlandish or a sure sign of parental failure, and yet the criticism came in swiftly and brutally.
“I have advice for Jessa dump the unemployed rapper and get someone with a real job. Get away from your crazy family stop with 2 or 3 kids and raise them all yourself,” said one very wise commenter.
Another agreed. “And by advice, she means ‘someone else watching it’ because Jessa has all the maternal instincts of a pit viper.”
Sift through enough comments about whether Spurgeon’s name is the worst name or the worst name ever, and you’ll find a common sentiment accompanies the gavel bang that signals the Internet’s verdict on just how crappy a mother Jessa truly is: “Why is she so clueless about raising a baby? Isn’t this what she was raised to do? It’s not like she was working hard in high school and college to prepare herself for a job or career. This is her career choice. She needs to quit complaining and do her freaking job.”
So, a few things. Helping to raise your brothers and sisters is not the same thing as giving birth to and raising your own baby. Weirdly, babies actually do qualify as humans, and like other humans, they do not share a universal set of personality traits and habits. Crazy, we know.
And while it’s true that a little prior knowledge of which end the diaper goes on is useful, there’s some very real science that says moms who’ve spent a good portion of their youth “parenting” their sibs don’t exactly hit it out of the park when it comes time to parent their own children.
Finally, as far as relying on Michelle to coach her through colic or watch Spurgeon on occasion or whatever it is that Jessa considers “help” from her mom, it’s not like Michelle doesn’t have a binder full of IOUs for Jessa to cash in on that front. Maybe it’s just mutual back-scratching, or maybe it’s a grandmotherly love-fest over there, but if anyone should be tasked with relieving the burden of child care for her kids, it’s definitely Mama Duggar. She probably should have done it years ago when Jessa was on 24-hour Duggarling duty.
But putting the distinct Duggar flavor of who should be watching who aside, can we just establish that parenting isn’t artisanal woodworking? It shouldn’t have to be sucky and tedious and potentially painful to be good. This idea that you aren’t a good parent if you don’t take home the gold in the Suffering Olympics is getting old.
Whether it’s breastfeeding, baby wearing, no screen time, never glancing at your phone, never making use of the fantastic modern invention that is a freaking day care so you can go to your job, the bar that we all have to clear in order to be “good” at mothering is getting higher and higher.
People who parented in much more difficult times, before the glorious dawn of Google or Moby wraps or Sophie the Giraffe, didn’t turn out thriving kids because they were parenting on hard mode. They turned out thriving kids because it wasn’t a race to see who could fill up their Martyr Scouts sash with every merit badge first. It used to be OK to rely on family or friends or an amenable rabies-free neighborhood stray dog to watch your kids for a second or at least teach you how to do it better or more efficiently.
Lots and lots of parents still do that if they’re lucky enough to be able to. Yes, even despite Internet commenting boards filled to the brim with people who insist they do everything from scratch, by themselves, with nothing but giddy love for diaper blowouts and hours of boring infant staring matches in their hearts.
You won’t find a Duggar superfan here. The family has lots of problems and lots of things that are worthy of criticism and even scrutiny, especially since they’ve invited the world to watch them in their day-to-day lives. But Jessa asking two other mothers who might be able to give some valuable advice isn’t one of them. Some people Google “green poop worried what do” until they find the answers they’re looking for, and some people just Skype their sister. Neither one screams “bad mother.”
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