A word of warning to any mother who writes about her child’s problems: you just might get blamed for them.
This lesson was made clear by the dramatic arc of a blog post by one Liza Long, who in describing the challenges of her seriously disturbed son garnered sympathy and praise for breaking the code of silence and shame around mental illness.
Long’s post went viral, but soon one observer, Sarah Kendzior, took the time to read Long’s entire blog and found some not entirely sympathetic statements from the beleaguered mom, such as “I quit! Let the state take care of you and your compulsive inability to stop poking people.” Kendzior also noted that Long and her husband had been involved in a messy divorce, which, while not entirely germane to the question of how to best treat a mentally ill child, did not exactly put Long in a favorable light.
It was all somehow reminiscent of the days, not so long ago, when mothers of schizophrenic and autistic children were routinely blamed by the medical profession for their child’s illness. Labeled “refrigerator moms,” these women were said to have caused the social withdrawal of the child with their lack of maternal warmth and attention. We still don’t know nearly enough about Connecticut school shooter Adam Lanza’s psychiatric history, but we can be sure that his mother Nancy Lanza will, in this tradition, be scrutinized for what she did and didn’t do, should have or could have done.
Understanding this tendency, both in society and in ourselves, Long and Kendzior have already put their differences aside. In a joint statement, they proclaimed, “We are not interested in being part of a ‘mommy war.’ We are interested in opening a serious conversation on what can be done for families in need. Let’s work together and make our country better.”