Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Mama Bear Myth

The Urban Dictionary defines “Mama Bear” as a mom who can be cuddly and lovable but also has a ferocious side when it's necessary to protect her cubs, and suggests “a tough, aggressive, and protective mother, often going to extreme lengths to protect her child, usually her son, and herself.”

There are a number of memes and blogs saying things like, “If you mess with my child, I will unleash my fury and destroy your world” or “I may seem quiet and reserved, but if you mess with my children, I will break out a level of crazy that will make your nightmares seem like a happy place.” And a favorite: “You ain’t seen crazy yet … but you will if you attack my children physically or verbally. Hugs! Love, Mama Bear.”

Yes. All well and good. Sounds bold and protective. Except you don’t really mean it. I don’t believe you. When asked this question, “Is working to try to prevent environmental damage for the future really a part of being a good parent?” ninety-three percent of the public (men and women) agreed in an anthropological poll and study by MIT investigators. Yet, where are you? Where have you been on the great threats of our day?

You will overreact to some perceived slight and call it being Mama Bear. You will get all Mama Bear on those of us who might cast a glance aside if your child is having a public tantrum and we have the nerve to let a touch of annoyance cross our face, as though your child can act up anywhere but we are not allowed to have any feelings about it. Because you’re a Mama Bear. “Don’t mess with my cubs.”

Here is why this doesn’t ring true. You aren’t fighting the most important fights for your children. You are busy insisting you can breastfeed wherever you wish, and your children are allowed to run amuck in a restaurant and we have to tolerate it because they are kids and tough nuts to anyone else in the vicinity. You cheer on a mother who punched another woman for daring to speak about a tantrum the child was having. While you are doing these things, your kid’s real and actual future is in trouble. Your kids and your kids’ kids are in profound trouble, but somehow, this doesn’t bring out the Mama Bear in you. Why is that? Why are there so many moms claiming to be mama bears sitting back and doing nothing when climate catastrophe can be seen on the horizon, or when the chemical industry teams up with bioengineers to alter your children’s food supplies in dangerous ways?

We have the very real threat of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the chemicals they can tolerate on our dinner tables. You can’t be bothered. With all the studies pointing to danger, we ask you to use your mother bear might and vast numbers to help fight, but apparently it’s too much trouble. Your daughter’s reproductive rights are at risk, but you won’t go vote because you can’t or won’t make the time. BPA bleeding from plastics are affecting your kids’ long-term health, reproductive health, your unborn kids’ health and development, but you haven’t taken the time to even know what BPAs are. The research is everywhere, but you don’t know and do not care to educate yourself. Climate Change is here and it is causing widespread disruption to the point where your kid’s future is going to be very tough - full of droughts, famine, intolerable heat and dangerous cold, diseases, shortages. Scientists just warned that the oceans will be completely destroyed by 2048. Where’s Mama Bear on this urgent warning? Too distracted? Too tired?

You are not a Mama Bear. You fall for every convenience out there because you are so busy. You give your kids fast food and chemical-laden plastic-wrapped processed crap, because being a mom is tough and you are tired and don’t have time or energy. You are putting your kids in very real danger. No, it’s not the immediate and very real danger of a bully or a snarky comment in a store. It’s the slow, deadly danger of cancer. Or sterility. Or developmental difficulties. Where is your fury and your crazy here? Where is the Mama Bear now?

This is where I get a lot of “You aren’t a mom, you don’t know.” What I do know is that people like me who don’t have their own kids are fighting for your children. We are fighting on a pretty grand scale, as a matter of fact. We’re trying to make sure your kids have a future here on this planet. We are thinking ahead. I know we’re in trouble here, and I know you brought your kid into this world, but you aren’t really thinking about their kids with your Mama Bear claims. I am. I’m thinking about your kids and their kids and all the kids, everywhere, while you are busy growling about your kid getting a behavior correction from a store employee.

So before you get all Mama Bear and smack me down with a giant paw, why don’t you listen for a moment, and take the time to realize that I am on your side. I’m on your kids’ side. While you are all riled up in the moment, I’m in it for the long haul. Yes, there are some super-awesome moms out there. There are moms out there fighting the big fight, there are some really good Mama Bears out there. They see the whole picture, and this little piece is not aimed at them.

Think about this: actual mama bears raise their cubs then never have anything to do with them after about their second spring. Is short-term parenting what you are modelling for your children? I doubt it. Let’s drop the bear myth and end the misplaced ferocity, or better yet redirect your focus and anger to the real threats by fighting for your children’s future.  Let’s work together for the long-term future of children everywhere.