Miserable moms

Ruth Franklin writes about miserable mom books in The New Republic.

Every few months there arrives a new novel about the joys and travails of staying at home with the kids, a new study warning of the deficiencies of day care, a new article lamenting the harried state of the American family. The most successful and most incendiary example is Judith Warner’s Perfect Madness, which, like The Mommy Myth, argues that contemporary mothers are living in “an age of anxiety,” a joyless, airless world in which each homemade Elmo birthday cake symbolizes the “widespread, choking cocktail of guilt and anxiety and resentment and regret [that is] poisoning motherhood for American women today.”

All these books focus on upper-middle-class mothers, Franklin points out.

About Joanne


  1. So it’s OK for women to have choices as long as they feel bad about whatever choices they make? What a mess. I’m waiting for the book that talks about men who wring their hands over this issue (my child or my career *sigh* which to choose?!?) I expect to be waiting for a very long time. Guys seem much less conflicted about the issue of “abandoning” their children for work/careers. We should study their resilience and emulate it.

    On a different note, there is an appalling amount of baby stuff for sale – spoons that change color if the food is too hot (hint – it it’s boiling/steaming, don’t serve it!) sippy cups with ergonomic handles. I just about hyperventilated in Target looking at all the themed, color matched accoutrements. You could really spend a lot of money on that stuff. Unfortunately, having recently bought a house in the Bay Area, all I can afford is to put my kid outside to chew on the grass (it cost about a nickel a blade.)

    Then again, maybe that’s all they need. My sisters and I used to love playing with empty boxes, crayons and newspaper. Without the augmenting effects of Baby Einstein we all managed to develop our mental facilities sufficiently to qualify for the college of our choice. And my mother worked full time most of the time we were growing up (gasp!) in a demanding job as a doctor (double gasp!) Aside from occasionally finding a human brain in the bath tub when we got home from school(she was using it in a presentation for work) it didn’t impact us much. In fact – going in to work with her is probably what got me interested in science. She let me isolate bacteria from my own skin and look at my own blood cells under the microscope. Very cool!

  2. Pretty much what Ivory said.

    I grew up during the very beginnings of this, in an affluent community where my parents were (I see now) sort of outcasts because they were educators, rather than being Executive Couple.

    My mom took the pressure thing and turned it on its head. She used to roll her eyes over the “perfect moms, perfect houses” and let us play with turtles and catch potato bugs and do stuff like that.

    I think I had one “real” birthday party (as in, inviting friends rather than it just being family) growing up. We had homemade cakes but that was because my mom thought they tasted better and were better for you than store cakes – and if they were imperfect or slumped to one side, that was ok.

    Mostly, I remember growing up being loved and having a good time – we didn’t have fancy “educational” toys – my mom figured the best “educational” toy was a magnifying glass, a book about bugs, and our own backyard – but I wound up with a Ph.D. in biology, so I guess she didn’t do too shabby of a job 🙂

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I came from a very poor family. My daddy was poor, my mommy was poor, my butler was poor, my maid….