For the past week I’ve becoming increasingly consumed with the ongoing search for Dundee woman Jennifer Huston. On the outskirts of Portland, Dundee and neighboring Newberg where she was last seen are quite close to where I live in Tualatin and my kids went to school in Sherwood.
I am not here to speculate or accuse or even try to guess at her whereabouts or what exactly went down after her bank, gas station and Rite-Aid visits (although I may have a few opinions); what I want to comment on is how this case and Jennifer are being depicted in the media. In fact, some reading this may not have even realized that her name is Jennifer. That is because in nearly every media story, blog post and TV segment, she is referred to as the “Missing Mom.” And of the photos I’ve seen in the media, the majority are of her with her kids and family. She is described as a “devoted, stay-at-home mother who volunteers at her son’s school.”
The fact that this 38-year-old woman’s entire existence has been condensed down to the fact that she is now a “missing mom” – almost without a name – is something I’ve found strangely aggravating. I too am a “devoted mom” in my mid-30s; however, while I love my children dearly and being a parent is priority number one, it does not solely define me. If she was a stock broker would the papers read “missing stock broker” and if it was a man with children would it say “missing dad” or would it call him by name?
In trying to understand where Jennifer may be today, I struggle with the fact that a clear picture of who she is outside of her role as mom has seemingly not been told: what does she enjoy doing for herself; with who; and where? As the country clamors around this case and interest continues to build, I wish that we could start calling her by name – to pay attention to who she is in her own right and potentially understand why she is missing. I appreciate that she is a mom and my heart goes out to her boys, but let’s try to find Jennifer Huston, who is not just a “Missing Mom” but a “Missing Person.”