My friend Debra Levy, also a Past President of Mothers & More sent off this letter to Dr. Phil earlier this week. See my earlier blog post, Time to Remodel the Conversation about Motherhood, for links to send your own messages to Dr. Phil (thumbs down) and to Maria Shriver (thumbs up).
October 20, 2009
Via Overnight Mail
Dr. Phil McGraw
Dr. Phil Show
5482 Wilshire Blvd., #1902
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Re: Mom v. Mom Show, Air Date October 14, 2009
Deja Vu, Dr. Phil
Once upon a time two mothers who worked for Mothers & More www.mothersandmore.org had a conversation. Our talk turned creative as it so often does between a wonderful mentor and friend and we began to share a joint fantasy about handing out an “Apple Pie in the Face” award to companies, public figures and individuals who disparaged and trivialized mothers struggles to accomplish all the work they do, both paid and unpaid.
We laughed it off, but it stayed in the back of our minds.
The opportunity to fling such a “pie” came several years later, in 2003. Our membership got word of a Dr. Phil Show entitled “Mom v. Mom” and reaction to it quickly spread throughout our organization. One member email loop, the POWER Loop, became a place for reactions to the episode. Within days we awarded Dr. Phil and his show an inaugural Mothers & More’s Apple Pie in the Face Award. http://www.mothersandmore.org/Advocacy/drphil.shtml
Motherhood in our society is so often paired with “Apple Pie.” Motherhood is the a’ la mode of everything. We avow and revere both. Both animate our culture as icons or the subject of national debate. With the award, Mothers & More was loudly proclaiming: we are not going to let you pit mother against mother. We know what you are up to, media, creating sensational ratings on our backs.
Our award opened up the eyes of mothers, and was even discussed in a book by Miriam Peskowitz (co-author, The Daring Book for Girls) called The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars. http://www.mamazine.com/Pages/feature15.html
Sadly, Mothers & More’s action didn’t stop Dr. Phil from hitting ‘rewind’ with his formula: pit mothers against one another and let them go at it.
I guess it works, the illusion that mothers hate one another, are filled with jealousy, envy, judgment.
I guess it works because on October 14, 2009, Dr. Phil put on another “Mom v. Mom” show.
This is not our experience in Mothers & More. Through our connections to thousands of women and our organization’s work, we share the a belief in mothers, in their ability to make decisions for themselves and their families. We believe that together, mothers are powerful. Mothers live in a society where the “pie” – opportunity – is too small, where the options for workplace customization and flexibility are too limited, and where support for mothers as whole people is tossed aside for ratings and self serving stereotypes.
The real revelation, Dr. Phil, is that your set up is purposeful and deliberately leads mothers to blame themselves and each other. We continue to see through you.
Women have more in common, you say, because of their devotion to children. They have a share of other things in common too– a desire to care for themselves and their families, to be supported, to be recognized as individuals and to pursue their ambitions – be they related to work or family.
It won’t work anymore, Dr. Phil. Get a new mental map – change the lives of mothers in this country, starting with yourself and your show.
Dr. Phil, you ought to be an architect of something better. Rather than replaying the same old tape, explore a new blueprint for your show. Take this opportunity to examine your own outdated assumptions about mothers.
Drafting a new blueprint starts here, Dr. Phil. Enclosed, please find copies of the recently released book , now number nine on the LA Times Bestseller list- by author, Kristin Maschka, This is Not How I Thought it Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood
I suggest that you and your staff review this book before your next “Mom v. Mom” show, especially the section on drafting a new blueprint. This is a book that every mother and father should read. I challenge you to have Kristin and representatives of Mothers & More on your show to help you rewind – and once and for all, erase – the tape for your “Mom v. Mom” show.
Debra J. Levy
Past President, Mothers & More
Improving mother’s lives through support, education and advocacy.