Sunday, February 9, 2014

Book Review: The Good Mother Myth

The phrase "Mommy wars" is repeated enough times in current society and social media click bait that it has become nauseating. No matter what road a mother pursues in life, she is wrong for something. For everything. For nothing.

Christy Turlington Burns talks about the (pointless) struggle of the Mommy Wars and mother guilt and the ways to start changing attitudes and absurd practices in the introduction to this amazing collection, "The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality":

"As the myth grows, so too do the negative consequences of its saturation in our lives. The so-called Mommy Wars, mother's guilt, peer judgment, mental illness and postpartum depression have all been caused or exacerbated by the unrealistic expectations promoted by the Good Mother Myth. It's insidious on a systematic level as well, because as we focus so much energy on the red herring of perfection, we are forgetting the institutional problems, such as how far the United States is behind other countries in many ways: from reproductive freedom and equal pay to not having mandated, paid parental leave, not to mention dealing with a corporate culture rampant with sexism that does not favor working mothers."

I may have stood up and cheered after reading that and I had barely cracked the book. The rest of the contributors are just as thoughtful, blunt and awe-inspiring as Burns is in the introduction.

Soraya Chemaly in her piece, "The Unapologetic No," states:
           "The same way that school budgets don't take this workforce into account, our Gross Domestic Product doesn't take the work women do as mothers (and a slim few men as fathers) and homemakers into account either. It is, technically, 'leisure time.' It's called 'nonmarket household production' and it is just 'too hard' to measure. Imagine that."

Or T. F. Charlton in "The Impossibility of the Good Black Mother": "I could tell you that I don't want to be seen as the Good Mother. This would be a lie, and an unnecessary one. Part of my struggle is to the challenge the notion that good motherhood cannot exist in bodies like mine. But I can tell you something I want even more: a world where respect is seen as inherent in humanity itself and therefore the rights of all mothers, and all people, are universally respected."

The contributors are mothers of all shapes, sizes and from all walks of life. Diving into this collection feels like grabbing coffee with your best friends because the writers pull no punches. Their direct approach to their lives and the stories they tell are comforting because we are all human and to separate women based on some arbitrary measuring stick is pointless, stupid and solves absolutely nothing. Think of what could be done with the energy and effort extended to dividing women and mothers and parents; we can refocus it to changing the sexist and outdated policies that still exist. That would be wonderful to see.

A must have addition to any bookshelf because it is a collection that you will find yourself referencing time and time again.

(Photo Credit:


  1. BAM. Now I know what I want to read next, and I've been so unmotivated to read that I haven't picked up the three books sitting by my bed. Now I want to go hit B&N immediately!