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May 22 2018

A Belated Look at the New York Times' Dreary Take on Motherhood

by Charlotte Hays

On Mother's Day, I yearned to write something about the New York Times coverage of the holiday.

I am not a mother, but I nevertheless sensed that motherhood is probably not as dreary as the New York Times Mother's Day package made it out to be. Somehow, I felt unequal to the task of defending motherhood against the paper of record, however.

Fortunately,  the Weekly Standard's Phil Terzian was up to the task  and has ably dissected the Times' depressing take on Mother's Day (and by extension, motherhood). Here it is from the magazine's Scrapbook section:

Yet there it was, a lavishly illustrated layout on pages 22-23: “Stories of Motherhood, Told by Six Women.” It seems that “last year, the Times asked its audience to share stories about becoming a mother [and] received more than 1,300 responses.” Six essays were chosen to be excerpted, and their collective flavor may best be captured by their individual titles: “The World Was Hers. Then She Became a Mom,” “When Having a Child Doesn’t Make You Happy,” “They Saw Dad. She Was Mom,” “Her Mom Had Five Kids. She Wanted Freedom,” “One Sister Felt ‘Cheated,’ the Other ‘Terrified,’ ” and “A Mother’s Promise: You Can
Be Yourself.”

Our initial reaction was to wonder whether all 1,300 entries were as dolorous and hostile to the idea of motherhood. Then we began to suspect the editors carefully sifted through the stories to find six that perfectly matched their own presumptions. We tend to lean in that direction since the story entitled “A Mother’s Promise: You Can Be Yourself” was written by a woman whose late husband had been “an activist from El Salvador”; we remember all too well how the 1980s Communist insurgency in El Salvador was celebrated in the pages of the New York Times.

Whatever the reason, The Scrapbook concedes that if the purpose of the paper’s special Mother’s Day feature was to make motherhood sound calamitous and nightmarish and, ultimately, to discourage procreation, it succeeded. As a short-term marketing strategy, this might make sense. In the long run, however, it could prove fatal to the enterprise. Even future generations of Times subscribers are dependent on somebody, somewhere coming to terms with the hideous prospect of motherhood.

Not surprisingly, IWF staffers who are mothers had a more uplifting take on the subject.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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