I miss on out all sorts of atrocities because I don’t watch television. One that I recently discovered via Girl with Pen was a recent NBC show that culminated on Mother’s Day called America’s Favorite Mom. It’s one of those American Idol-ish contest shows with a “theme” and “ordinary people” contestants and that perennial American favorite, audience participation via voting. Or something awful like that. The reality show as contest genre is about as simple-minded as entertainment gets these days. I would personally rather watch reruns of Happy Days after Fonzie jumped the shark than any of these 15 minutes of fame shows.
America’s Favorite Mom is a nausea inducing enough concept, the creators of the show have Donny and Marie hosting it and divided the idea of motherhood into categories. There are levels of motherhood. SAHM who are cleverly renamed COE (Chair of Everything) Mom’s who haven “given up careers to do it all for their families”. Wow. I am impressed to the point of being teary-eyed already. Military Moms – and no they didn’t mean really strict – these are the women mothering from a distance as they promote and protect the ideal of freedom in countries that would swath them in fabric from head to toe and deny them the right to have a career outside the barefoot, pregnant and chair of everything that keeps them tied down. Naturally there was a category for the Working Mom and the Single Mom (though that should have probably been the Single/Working Mom), hailed as the Wonder Women they are. Finally, there was the category for the Non-Mom.
Non-Mom? How can one be a mother and not a mother at the same time? It almost reads like a riddle. But the answer is really quite simple, a non-mom becomes a mother through adoption.
There is a reason why people in the land of my birth are so morbidly fixated on the idea that biology trumps all in matters of family and this show is a perfect example of it. We are taught to believe that the only real family are those people who are related to you by blood. Well, all people who are related to each other by DNA are taught this while the rest of us know better.
I was adopted when I was not quite two weeks old. Aside from my daughter, I haven’t a known genetic tie in the world and yet I am not wanting for family. There are my two older girls, Rob’s daughters with his late wife, Shelley, who I sometimes refer to as my step-daughters but mostly just reference as the “the girls” though neither are at 23 and 25. I have two sisters, a brother, two nephews and six nieces (if one counts my brother’s girlfriend’s daughter and my youngest sister’s three daughters who were adopted when they were small by three different families- which I do). I have a brother-in-law by marriage, and ex-sister-in-law by common law standards and my oldest nephew’s father who was never even achieved common law status but is family none-the-less as is his daughter by another woman who is my nephew’s sister. And this is just my most immediate family before I start adding up mothers-in-law (I have two), sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law (a problematic count because there is Shelley’s family to consider) and Rob’s nieces and nephews (another interesting problem for the genetic census takers). Of the ten first cousins on my dad’s side, which includes my siblings and I, five of us are adopted.
In addition to my family, I also am the mother of a little girl conceived through IVF. In some people’s eyes, the blind ones, that makes me a real mom. In other’s, just as blind, it does only by technicality.
I am uncertain where the idea that the best kind of family is a bio-family came from originally. There is certainly much legal precedent that babies are better off with biological parents when adoptions are contested. I remember babies Jessica and Richard, adoption nightmares that even as an adult affected me quite a bit.
Teleflora, which sponsored the mom contest apologized for the non-mom label, issued an apology and redesignated the category “Adopted Mom” but only after the fact. After the marginalization and reinforcement of a pervasive stereotype had done their damage. My favorite part of their contrition was when they cited that they actually employed people who were adoptive parents. Kind of like how racists always have some black friends and sexists love their wives and mothers.
Biology is the least of all the factors that go into being a good parent, as anyone with good parents or who is a good parent will tell you. Perhaps Teleflora and NBC didn’t run across any of these people in the focus groups that allowed them to come up with their awful contest.