Judith Warner’s A Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety exposes the pressures women feel to be perfect mothers. I enjoyed the book, but I’m wondering where the author found a pool of mothers so ridiculously anxious. They all worried about being judged by tiny things, like how many after school activities their kids participate in (the more, the better), or the theme of their son’s birthday party. Perhaps this explains it:
"What I see is that working and stay-at-home moms do what they do not so much by choice -- by choosing from a series of options arrayed before them like cereals on a supermarket shelf -- but out of a very immediate and pressing sense of personal necessity. There are many aspects to that sense of necessity -- money, status, ambition, the needs of the children and of the family as a whole -- all of which play themselves out, in various ways, in individual women's lives." (pgs. 145-146)
Because I’m not a mom, I was fascinated by this. The moms that I know have a much more laid back attitude. Am I hanging with the slacker moms? (I really don’t think so. I work for Parenting!)
At the same time, just reading about the pressure to create a perfect life made me dizzy. I’m pretty competitive, and I know that if moms around me were upping the ante, I would, too. The result, I’m sure, wouldn’t be more capable kids, but more miserable kids (and a more miserable mom.) But I would have a hard time cutting back if everyone else made me feel that doing less than 150% for my family was slacking.
So what’s the solution? Warner didn’t really offer one, but I had an idea. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the moms agreed to take it down a notch? Even if it’s just for one year? How about this: no more goody bags to go with the classroom valentines, each kid gets one after-school activity, no one gets judged for having a simple birthday party at home, and everyone still feels fulfilled.
Because c’mon -- you know you’re a good mom, and your family knows it, too. It’s going to take a lot more than a designer play room and expert skiing lessons to change that.