Tuesday, June 07, 2005

50 Book Challenge and The Mommy Myth

I decided that instead of listing additions to my what-I've-read list in actual posts, I would just put a running list below the links section on the right side of the screen -- a brilliant idea if I may say so, and I may, because it wasn't mine. I actually lifted it directly from another site, 50 Books, wherein this woman Doppelganger (yeah, I'm pretty sure that's a screen name) attempts to -- guess what? read 50 books in one year like I'm doing. I like her site because a) she's a good writer and has written about some interesting books, and b) she's embracing this challenge even though she just had her first child a few months ago and I admire that (as opposed to the bemused sympathy I felt for the woman who posted on the NaNoWriMo boards a couple of years ago whose first baby was due around the end of October and who somehow thought this was going to leave her with oodles of time to sit and write a 50,000 word novel during her first month of motherhood. I always meant to go and check her word-total later on but I forgot her screen name. If I had to put money on it, though, I'd guess she may not have ever even gotten started -- unless of course the baby was late).

And while we're on the subject of Motherhood, that revered topic, let's turn to the latest addition to my list on the right, The Mommy Myth. I would very much like to organize my thoughts on this book into one cohesive, brilliant little essay about how my own experience as a mother has been affected by all the issues addressed in the book, but -- who am I kidding? When I want to do that sort of thing, what almost always ends up happening is that I get so intimidated that I never end up writing anything at all. And so I'm going to say what I have to say a bit at a time, as it comes to me, and not worry about whether it's organized or not.

In a nutshell, this book is about how the idea of motherhood and issues of parenting have been treated by the media in such a way over the past 25 years so as to create a standard that no mother can ever live up to while at the same time masking the fact that social policy in this country has failed working families in almost every way possible. In other words -- you need to work and can't find affordable, high-quality daycare? Too bad, because if you were a good mother, you'd stay home with your kids and provide them with the kind of 24-hour stimulation, nurturing and motherly selflessness every child wants, deserves and needs if he's going to grow up healthy, successful and well-adjusted. This is America, not one of those European countries with their socialist daycare systems and parental leave policies that are going to turn your kids into little commies, you know! Look at all the celebrity moms who manage to do it all, stay thin and beautiful, and still have energy at the end of the day to profess how much more fulfilling it is to be a mother than a well-paid, famous, respected professional who gets to go to glamorous events all the time. So what if they're rich and have staffs of 15 to help them do it -- they have their priorities straight, while you who are trying to make it on the income of a regular family -- you're just a bunch of whiners! What did you think when you had those kids -- that you would still have time to be a human being with your own needs for the next 18 years?

This book is not without its flaws. In the end, it doesn't offer much in the way of solutions to the problems it brings up, and while reading it I occasionally had to remind myself that there are many things I enjoy about being a mother, that I'm happy with my choice to stay home with my kids, that I personally haven't been sucked into the fantasy of being the "ideal mom" the way the authors claim all mothers have been, and that I feel good about the way parenting duties are divided in my own personal household.

At the same time, I appreciated the fact that the authors didn't feel the need to remind the reader that none of the stuff they were pointing out meant they didn't understand that moms do love their kids and want the best for them -- that's a given. They didn't need to say it, because the whole book is about how that fact is played upon and manipulated to make mothers feel like they can never be doing enough for their kids. It's facinating stuff, and reading the book made me want to start passing copies of it out to every single mom I know, starting with those who regularly beat themselves up for whatever it is they thinking they're not doing, or not doing right. And I know a lot of them.

This is a hard job. It is not a glamorous job. It comes with its rewards, to be sure, but it also comes with days when you think to yourself, "What the hell was I thinking when I got pregnant with this thing?" It is okay for me, as a mom, to say that every moment of my day is not filled with sunshine and bunnies and rainbows and joy because I have children. It is even okay for me as the mother of an autistic child to say that I have, quite often over the years, had moments where I thought, "What the fuck? This is not what I signed on for." I am not a saint. I am not a child development expert. I am not a great housekeeper or cook. I am lazy and selfish a lot of the time. But I am still a good mom who loves her kids and wants the best for them. I do the best I can, like most of the other moms I know.

I am very, very fortunate to be able to make the choice to stay home with my children and to be happy with that choice. I am also very, very fortunate to be married to a man who earns a good salary and sees my contribution to our household as equal to his own. Nevertheless, I want good, affordable daycare for the people in our country who need it, and I think the government should get off its ass and start taking care of that. I think people should stop whining about their tax dollars going to people who need welfare and start whining about their tax dollars going to corporations that don't need welfare, not to mention to wars on countries that don't need invading. I think women's magazines should stop doing cover stories on rich, pretty actresses who have nannies and housekeepers to help them raise their children, and start doing cover stories on real parents -- not just moms, but parents -- who are doing a bang-up job raising their families without being able to afford all those luxuries. And I think everyone in the media should take a deep breath and think before they allow the next Susan Smith or McMartin Preschool or SIDS story to snowball into a crisis or circus or "epidemic" that puts all mothers on guard, or under suspicion, or both. Enough already.

You know, I think that actually covers a whole lot of my thoughts about this book pretty well. I'll probably add to it later, but really -- not bad.


Anonymous said...
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Tracie said...

No. I think it would be fabulous to have one of those "socialist" daycare systems! That whole rant was sarcastic...

Tracie said...
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Tracie said...

I just looked at the link "Anonymous" posted. Wow. What a bunch of crap. I know there are bad daycare systems out there, but that is so much the opposite of my views, I'm almost speechless. What in the world is the alternative to daycare for parents who have to work, I'd like to know? Please DO NOT use my blog to link to this kind of moralistic, anti-reality propaganda ever again.