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07/23/2005

The most annoying profile New York magazine has ever published — and that's saying something

New York magazine recently published a profile of one Isabel Kallman, a self-described "Alpha Mom" of two-year-old Ryland. What's an Alpha Mom? Why, it's "the new breed of 'go to' moms who are constantly looking to be ahead of the curve and 'in the know' on the newest innovations, hippest trends and research breakthroughs" — "you know, the maven of mommyhood, the leader of the pack. Definitely dominant."

Okay.

Now, any time I post anything even subtly critical of other mothers, I get smacked for it, and probably rightly so. This time, Isabel's words (and those of writer Randall Patterson) speak for themselves, and I have little to add. But because I am the kind of person who involuntarily squawks, "Oh, my God, holy shit, would you look at that?!" when I pass a gruesome accident, I cannot let the article go entirely unremarked. To wit:

"Motherhood did not come naturally to me," Isabel says. "Maybe for some it’s innate, but for me, it wasn’t, and I learned it by pounding the pavement in New York."

Yes, I understand you can learn a lot about being a good parent by walking the streets.

...after ten years on Wall Street, Isabel felt something missing from her life: passion. She had begun talking to Craig (her husband by this time; she liked his drive, too) about finding a new product, when the discussion somehow got knotted up with having a baby.

"Wait, wait, I know! We'll call it...Baby™. It'll take an untapped market by storm! Now to work out an advantageous production deal with a sweatshop in Myanmar. And if I start seeing knockoffs being sold by those grubby, disgusting street vendors while I'm out there pounding that pavement, I'll be bringing a lawsuit faster than you can say Bugaboo."

It was soon decided that Isabel would take some time off, consider her career options, do the baby while she was at it. And the baby, she thought, was eminently doable, "something we really dedicated time in our schedules for."

1:30 PM: Manicure.
2:00 PM: Lunch at desk.
2:30 PM: While waiting for scheduled important phone call, think about "Ry-Ry."
2:31 PM: Try to conceive of a more annoying nickname for child. Fail.
2:32 PM: Important phone call. Stop thinking about "Ry-Ry."

Reading the most current texts, consulting the hottest experts, she began learning how to be a mother to 21st-century children.

"Did I mention that Baby™ will immediately make all earlier baby and baby-like products obsolete? It will be a 21st-century child — meaning we can charge a bundle for future upgrades."

This strikes me as the saddest passage in the article:

No expert told her not to worry about it, just to do as she pleased. They talked instead about the right way of parenting: that you don’t, these days, just prop your child in a playpen with a bottle or put him out in the yard like a pet. You breast-feed him. You play with him. You wear him on your body so that he gets used to your voice, develops language skills more quickly, "becomes," says Isabel, "a smarter baby." But she could never pull that one off. The more Isabel’s child demanded of her, the more she went out to learn.

The more Isabel's child needed mothering, the less comfortable she felt simply doing it.

And the more she learned, the more she was told to stay close — and the more people she hired who could do that for her.

Ouch.

[The cable channel Kallman is launching, called Alpha Mom TV] will be like a support group or a church — the church of the immaculate perfection. Goal-oriented parents can go there and find comfort that they're not alone, that others are also struggling to grow the perfect child.

Good Christ, the perfect child is the last thing I'd want. I'd have to clean up my act, and that's just not going to happen. But then this channel is clearly not meant for the likes of me: the only goal toward which I am currently oriented is to stop shoving Cheez-Its into my bloated face so that I can fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans again.

Proof that I am the coldest bitch in the world:

She still has days that she’s incredibly insecure and worries that she's not doing it right — as when Ryland was rejected from the Harvard of 2-year-old programs, and Isabel wept.

...That kind of made me laugh.

Isabel deeply respects Dunn’s "theory" that mothers need not be perfect — "and the fact that she can point to research."

...Aaaaand so did that.

"You know what I love? I have absolute control over my day. I carve out the time I want with my son and the time I want with my husband. Everything I do is on my own terms."

Wow. That doesn't sound like the parenting with which I am familiar. In my world — less impeccably managed, to be sure — I go with the flow. I don't "carve out time" for my husband and son from everything else I'd rather be doing, as if being with my family were another action item to tick off a never-ending list. And very little I do is absolutely on my own terms; if I'd wanted my life to revolve strictly around my own desires, I'd be single, childless, and probably deeply unsatisfied.

Isabel feels "so lucky to have someone so astute business-wise on my personal board of directors," but also seems to believe her husband doesn’t know beans about parenting. Craig speaks of Ryland's birth as a time when he felt a love he'd never felt before, "so pure and instinctual." He describes parenting since then as a matter of "instinct of what's right and common sense." Isabel, for her part, says instincts are not to be ignored, but she prefers "making an informed decision, rather than one in a vacuum."

Let me get this straight. In the article's only mention of love, Isabel's husband admits to feeling an instinctual connection to his son — and yet he's the one who doesn't know much about raising a child?

But then who am I to comment, when it sounds like what they're doing is working so brilliantly? For example:

Isabel wants Ryland to be happy, and he can’t be happy unless he’s in control. Thus, when he wants a cookie, she gives it to him. Thus, when in the car he wants his shoes off three blocks from the destination, she takes them off.

For anyone who hopes to achieve such similar familial nirvana, but worries that she'll fall short, there is reassurance:

With the right planning, resources, and work ethic, you can, too, be a perfect and fulfilled woman, raising a perfect and happy child.

You know what? No, thanks. I'll settle. I'd rather expend my planning, resources, and work ethic on improving my dexterity as I try to retrieve Charlie's dropped pacifier between my unpedicured toes while I carry him upstairs howling. At the moment, that's achievement enough for me.

A tip of the retroverted uterus to sdn for pointing me to the article.

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