Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 18, 2005
BLOG: Moms, Dads, and Newsweek
Michele has a great essay on how the stresses of motherhood get exacerbated by peer pressure:
This was at the height of the mommy wars. Stay at home moms and working moms were rumbling in the alleys, knives drawn and guns loaded. It was an ugly time to be a new mother, as you were constantly pressed upon to choose a side. The working mothers would attack you from one side: "You'll lose your sense of identity if you don't continue your career! You'll spend your days with formula spit on your shirt and strained pees in your hair and some day you will resent your children for making you live the life of a slave to their childhood and you'll end up an old, bitter hag with a dysfunctional family!" And the stay at home moms would counter attack: "Your child will grow up with a sense of abandonment! You'll be too tired to help her with homework or read to her! She'll look for love everywhere else besides home and eventually she'll end up on a street corner selling herself for crack!"
I realized about six months in to this mothering thing that there was a Perfect Mommy cult and half of the members lived within shouting distance of me. My kid shouted, they came running. "Pick her up immediately, or she'll feel like she can't trust you!" Ok, but my mother said to just let her cry if she's not hungry or dirty and.... "NO! Never let the baby cry, it causes irreparable damage!"
And all the while I was stuck in a game of tug-of-war between different parenting groups vying for my attention. When I say some of these women were bats**t crazy, I am not exaggerating. They followed trends like some people follow sports teams - with this undying devotion. I half expected to show up for the "How To Get Your Baby To Sleep" lecture and walk into an auditorium filled with face-painted women wearing Ferber t-shirts and holding up "Let Her Cry It Out!" posters.
And why do they want to drag everyone they know into their world of perceived perfectness? Because it justifies that world, of course. Karen, my super mom friend, was constantly trying to get me to go back to work full time. When she wasn't harping on that subject, she was throwing pamphlets at me for sports schools and dance schools. If I would just join her lifestyle, if I would just assimilate, then maybe she wouldn't feel quite so crappy over the life she was living. If all her friends jumped off a bridge....well, you know how that goes.
But it only had to be that way if you made it that way. I worked. I had friends. I had a life. I had two kids. But I didn't over schedule my kids and I didn't take on more than I can handle just so I could turn around and bitch about how much I had to handle. Martyrdom, anyone?
The whole thing is worth reading. Of course, the burdens and tradeoffs involved are real, but Michele and Lileks (who delivers a marvelous fisking of the same Newsweek article on parenting that touched off Michele's rant) have a point: if you internalize the escalating peer-group pressures, they only get worse. (I saw the same phenomenon in law school).