The clue­less mama

Why do we give celebrity moth­ers with no med­i­cal de­grees so much cred­i­bil­ity?

SundayXtra - - FRONT PAGE - By Jes­sica Grose Jes­sica Grose is a fre­quent Slate con­trib­u­tor and the au­thor of the novel “Sad Desk Salad.” — Slate

NEW YORK — Last week, the ac­tress Ali­cia Sil­ver­stone re­leased a book called The Kind Mama: A Sim­ple Guide to Su­per­charged Fer­til­ity, a Ra­di­ant Preg­nancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Health­ier, More Beau­ti­ful Be­gin­ning. It’s chock-full of at­tach­ment par­ent­ing lessons and dan­ger­ous mis­in­for­ma­tion. The Daily Beast com­piled some of the book’s more out­ra­geous claims. These in­clude the no­tion that post­par­tum de­pres­sion is caused by eat­ing pro­cessed sug­ars, al­low­ing your baby to sleep in its own crib is ne­glect­ful, the di­a­per in­dus­try is “fu­elled by cor­po­rate­backed pseu­do­science,” and most trou­bling, that some chil­dren are “never the same” af­ter they get vac­cines.

Sil­ver­stone’s book is just the lat­est in a plague of ris­i­ble, crunchy par­ent­ing books writ­ten by celebri­ties with­out med­i­cal de­grees. Fel­low at­tach­ment par­ent and non-vac­ci­na­tor Mayim Bia­lik pub­lished a book called Be­yond the Sling in 2012. Jenny McCarthy, who won’t let go of the re­peat­edly dis­proven no­tion that vac­cines cause autism, has writ­ten sev­eral books on preg­nancy and baby-rear­ing. Why do these things keep get­ting pub­lished?

It’s the un­for­tu­nate con­flu­ence of two re­lated 21st-century trends: our ob­ses­sion with celebrity moms, and our fo­cus on “nat­u­ral” par­ent­ing. Sixty years ago, Lu­cille Ball wasn’t even al­lowed to say the word “preg­nant” on tele­vi­sion; in 1991, when Demi Moore ap­peared nude and sev­en­months-preg­nant on the cover of Van­ity Fair, it was con­sid­ered “vul­gar.” Now, People mag­a­zine has an en­tire sec­tion de­voted to par­ents and kids, B, C and D-list celebri­ties try to main­tain their rel­e­vance by be­com­ing mommy blog­gers, and not a day goes by with­out a celebrity an­nounc­ing her preg­nancy on the red car­pet or her new ad­di­tion on Twit­ter. Hav­ing a baby some­how bur­nishes their nor­mal-per­son bona fides, and makes them re­lat­able. Stars: they’re just like us! Some of them have uteri!

As any crit­i­cal reader of celebrity cov­er­age knows, stars are not just like us. They are bet­ter look­ing and have more money, time and sup­port. Which is why it’s so ag­gra­vat­ing that they are pro­mot­ing at­tach­ment par­ent­ing tech­niques that are in­ac­ces­si­ble to most work­ing par­ents. When Ali­cia Sil­ver­stone tells other moth­ers that they are bor­der­line mon­sters if they don’t let their kid sleep in a fam­ily bed, not only is she not con­sid­er­ing the lat­est sci­en­tific ev­i­dence on co-sleep­ing, she’s also telling work­ing par­ents who des­per­ately need a good night sleep they’re not do­ing right by their chil­dren.

Same goes for elim­i­na­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tion, other­wise known as potty train­ing your kids be­fore they can even sit up on their own. Sil­ver­stone and Bia­lik push EC in their books, and be­cause they have the money and the help to watch their kid 24/ 7, that method of potty train­ing worked for them. If you try telling your lo­cal day care that your six-month- old goes di­a­per-free, they will prob­a­bly laugh so hard tears form in their eyes be­fore they chuck you out the door.

Most of these things are just silly, not dan­ger­ous. But even the dan­ger­ous ones — like the an­ti­vac­cine thing — are a prod­uct of the blithe priv­i­lege of the wealthy celebrity mom. As Lindy West puts it in Jezebel, “Spread­ing hys­ter­i­cal mis­in­for­ma­tion about vac­cines (even if you’re just crit­i­ciz­ing vax sched­ules and not shilling a di­rect vac­cineto-autism con­nec­tion) might not seem like a big deal to fam­i­lies that can af­ford high-qual­ity outof-pocket med­i­cal care, but it is a very big, life-and-death deal to the low-in­come and im­muno­com­pro­mised.”

The rea­son these books are still pub­lished is also, ob­vi­ously, be­cause they sell: At the time of this writ­ing, Sil­ver­stone’s book is No. 4 on Ama­zon’s list of books about mother­hood. So this is a mes­sage to all the book ed­i­tors out there. I im­plore you, please stop giv­ing these women book deals. Or, more fea­si­bly, since pub­lish­ers want to make money off these moms, for the love of God, hire a fact-checker to clean up their mess.

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