Alpha mom

Once a 100-hour-a-week senior vice president of Saloman Smith Barney, now she’s turned that intensity into raising a child. What’s a mother to do? Become an “alpha mom.” New York Metro reports on Isabel Kallman’s plans to become the Martha Stewart of motherhood. She is founding a business:

an all-day, all-night, on-demand cable channel where “mothers seeking excellence,” according to press releases, would be able to find “the latest, best-of-breed information” on everything from preconception and child development to how women can “maintain their style, sophistication and sense-of-self upon entering mommyhood.” Isabel’s channel, Alpha Mom TV, was for “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.”

The alpha mom’s goal is to dominate all the other mothers on the playground.

Which didn’t sound too cuddly, but as Isabel’s business partner, Vicky Germaise, explained, that was the point. The logo of Alpha Mom TV is not pink and blue but red, white, and black, she said. If not to become strong, for what should a modern mother strive? “Soft and mushy mom?” Come on, said Vicky. “Betty Crocker’s over!”

The “alpha mom” has no maternal instincts, so she turned to book learning and nannies.

The more Isabel’s child demanded of her, the more she went out to learn. 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.

This was motherhood’s magic bullet, the most valuable lesson Isabel learned in her studies: “It takes a village.” Isabel quickly hired one. Her son was just 2 weeks old when she retained a night nurse. When he was 5 months, “I started realizing I needed to get out more,” and she brought on a nanny. Then after about a year, when she started working, “I obviously needed more help,” so she hired a regular babysitter as well—also often employing her father and an Alpha Mom intern.

Now she works 100 hours a week on her Alpha TV network so she can spread anxiety to other mothers.

This is a funny, sad piece. I wonder what will become of baby Ryland. At least, his father sounds semi-sane.

Update: Thanks to Photon Courier, here’s Sheila O’Malley’s tribute to good-enough motherhood. Like Sheila, I love Jean Kerr’s Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.

About Joanne


  1. Doug Sundseth says:

    “I try to use something called ‘empathetic communication’ with him,” she said. “I try to intellectualize the process, because it’s easy to get mad.”

    File it under “People unclear on the concept”.

    “A lot of it is very intellectually thought-out and very scheduled, almost like they have a business plan for their children.”

    “But I don’t want you to think this is a knock on them,” she went on, “because they’re under so much pressure from the media and other parents.”

    Clearly it can’t be the fault of these insanely driven people. There is no reason to believe that they could withstand “pressure”. I’m sure their “high-powered jobs” are entirely devoid of pressure.

    I’ll just stop there. I only followed the link to make sure it wasn’t from “The Onion”; sadly, it wasn’t.

  2. It’s people like this, not some preconceived shiftless poor folk, who are the best argument for parenting licenses.

    (The father, by the way, believes in DNA. Poor kid! She believes in mega-nurture and he’ll always have the sneaking suspicion that it was her genes when Ryland wants to run away to Peru and become a sardine fisherman.)

    Interesting the TV idea – I think it’ll be more like HGTV — people who WATCH home improvement rather than doing it, who WATCH parenting rather than talk to their children.

  3. How depressing. For all the energy and study this woman’s put into parenting, she doesn’t seem to like her son very much. (Or her husband for that matter.) It sounds like Ryland is getting the worst of both worlds – no affection and no discipline.

  4. The Alpha animal is the leader. The rest of the pack is submissive to the Alpha. I suppose there will be a lot of advertising on the Alpha Channel incorporating leather goods and spike collars.

    I’ll never know what it’s like to be a mother, at least in any sense other than the slang. So, I’ll never understand the psychology of any mom giving in to some Alpha’s ideas of what’s good for HER kids. Are moms that insecure? After thousands of generations, have moms lost the capacity to rear their children without a Mistress to whip them into line?

    Bad mommy, when was the last time you cut out for a Latte? Get out woman, that’s what nannies are for…

    Apparently I had it wrong. Parenting and especially motherhood, really don’t require sacrifice. Wow, turn on, tune in and drop out for a Mocha Latte. (Sorry for paraphrasing you TL, it was heartless.) Here, I thought motherhood was about wiping butts and kids puking on you. In my next life I want to be a mom!

    The only time my wife ever gave in to books on kids was to verify childhood illness symptoms before making a panicked call to 911. The worst was a case of scarlet fever — we had to cancel my daughter’s birthday party she fell so ill. My wife and my mom walked the branches of their motherly knowledge tree and both came to the conclusion it may be scarlet fever. A quick check of Dr. Spock and we were in the ER in minutes. Apparently my mom and my wife’s mom raised their daughters with motherly knowledge. I thought Scarlet Fever was something Demi Moore got after she lettered in adultry…

    The interesting part was that the FEMALE doctor on call denied it was Scarlet fever. The instant (10-30 minute) strep test went positive as soon as it hit my daughters mouth. Moms 1 Professionals 0. Oh, all of our doctor’s have said you can’t smell the strep infection — well my mother in law said you could, my wife said you could and I have smelled it myself — Moms 2 Professionals 0. (For anyone interested, it is a very astringent smell on the child’s breath. The worse the infection, the stronger the smell. When my daughter had scarlet fever, you could smell it in the room!)

    Of course, if mom is a CEO, she probably won’t have time to bother with mundane tasks like teaching her daughter how to be a mom or her son how not to be like his dad. And some moms are just not fit to be moms, but alas, medical science has replaced Darwin in many of those cases.

    As for baby Ryland, it should be obvious, he’ll be the Beta animal, momma’s little whipping boy looking for an Alpha to save him from himself. In Political terms, he’ll become a liberal.

  5. If this were a man, the hand-wringing would be half-hearted at best. How sad that this obviously talented and driven women has to subsume her ambition for the sake of her child into some weird competitive version of motherhood. How many male CEOs are expected to do that?

  6. She badly needs to read Sheila O’Malley’s post on pass-fail motherhood:

  7. Michelle Dulak Thomson says:


    If this were a man, the hand-wringing would be half-hearted at best. How sad that this obviously talented and driven women has to subsume her ambition for the sake of her child into some weird competitive version of motherhood. How many male CEOs are expected to do that?

    “Has to”? What do you mean? “How many male CEOs are expected to do that?” Well, zero, in the normal sense of “expected” (although some do, I think). You think she isn’t enjoying doing this? She has a little project all her very own.

    Well, except for the massive support staff.

    See, Ivory, I don’t pity rich women who think they just can’t cope with so esoteric a thing as a baby without hiring several people, partly because I’ve known so many women who’ve raised children with no “support staff” at all. (And, no, they didn’t all turn into potheads or high school dropouts or petty criminals, either. Go figure.) If she’s used to working 100 hours a week, I rather suspect she could do the job herself. Even toddlers sleep sometimes.

    “This obviously talented and driven woman”? Yep. Talented, sure; driven, sure. But by what?

  8. Ionfairy says:

    Perhaps Ryland will become a Kancho/Dick
    Assassin (see previous article).

  9. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    I’ve had enough of ‘Alpha Moms’….who are raising a generation of spoiled, narcissistic wimps. Bring back moms with dignity, grace, wisdom, common sense….somewhere in between June Cleaver and Gloria Steinem.

  10. I thought it was very sad that she forbade Dad from rough-housing with the kid. THe channel is video on demand, so it’s not like real TV or ever real cable. It’ll vanish within a season or two.

  11. Reginleif says:

    Ivory has a point, in that society does expect women, but not men, to “subsume their talents and ambition” into parenthood when they reproduce.

    That’s why I’m childfree. Ms. Kallman had that option, too…but didn’t take it. No, she decided that a baby was “eminently doable,” something she could pencil in between power lunches and reading the NYT.

    I agree with Alan that self-absorbed women like this, with no common sense, plenty of money, and a hunger to make more by guilt-tripping other women with their half-assed “advice,” do not deserve an iota of sympathy.

    I reserve it for her unfortunate son, for every teacher and nanny who’ll have to put up with him, and, to a lesser degree (because he went along with Alpha Mom’s commands), her hapless husband. Who wants to bet he’s having an affair?

  12. Michelle Dulak Thomson says:


    Ivory has a point, in that society does expect women, but not men, to “subsume their talents and ambition” into parenthood when they reproduce.

    Does it? Why then are “housewife” and “stay-at-home mom” and the like not badges of pride and honor? Why is the constant message of advertising, television, film, &c. that the normal woman has a salaried day job, preferably a really demanding one?

    “Society” must be sending out distinctly mixed messages here. The one I receive generally equates “stay-at-home mom” with “boring illiterate who couldn’t get a paying job to save her life, so has to make do with raising kids.”

    As for Kallman, I’m grateful that she’s not personally doing her “subsuming” in my neighborhood, but unfortunately there are a lot of her.

  13. I read articles like this and I really just do not understand people like this who bother to have children. I ran into so many who treated their kids like a barbie doll. They were 30 so it was time to have a kid. They would palm off the kid all day long and talk about the quality time they spent. The problem is that kids also have non-quality time and they need their parents then as well. These idiots think they can palm off all that time and reserve the good stuff for themselves and that makes them good parents. Maybe it is me but that is not what I would want in a parent. If you can’t handle the good and the bad without having to hire an expert to tell you what to do, then why bother having a kid in the first place. It makes me think of those people who have pets as accesories to carry along with them. She is treating her kid as an accesory to herself and later she will talk about how she worked so hard to make him a success. Give the kid a chance to be a kid and not an experiment in how to make yourself look good.

  14. There are two people involved in making this family. A woman and a man. The woman has a tough demanding job. The man has a tough demanding job. We may wonder why they choose to have kids but they did and they pay their own way so what’s the problem?

    Yes, they don’t do it the way you might choose to. Yes, they don’t spend a million hours with their kids. Yes, they have outsourced the care of their son. So what. They have a right to care for their kids any way they want to. You may not like this but it is none of your business.

    In reading this, no one came out and strongly stated that Dad should quit his job and devote himself to his boy. After all, there is no one to take care of their child and someone needs to take responsibility! But many of you blamed Mom for choosing this. What’s up! Why is the woman always the villain?

    I long for the day that talented men and women *both* wake up and think “Gee – should I have a family or focus on my career? It’s not right for me to expect my spouse to carry the burden alone.”