Monday, March 07, 2005

The Mommy Whine Continued

The Washington Post ran an article about Judith Warner's new book, Pampered White Moms, Complaining. Newsweek ran an article on it a few weeks ago which launched me into a rant.

This article was a bit more interesting -- especially the part near the end, where it talks about how the author's father despised her. That got me thinking, how much of this insane, inane Mommy competition has to do with the fact that these moms didn't get enough love when they were kids? Do they think being hyperactive, hyper-involved, hyper-competitive is going to give their children the warm fuzzies? It seems like these moms are trying to get the love they felt was denied them which they so desperately crave. Love they think will come from the respect thats given them when they bake the perfect cookie for their child's expensive private school. Or when they get their kids into the right schools, which will get them into more right schools, which will ensure that the kids will grow up to be rich and prosperous and loving their mommies.

Have you seen these kinds of kids when they grow up? They don't love Mommy in a healthy way and they really don't like her at all. They resent her for all the pressure she put on them and they don't enjoy her company. They complain about her the way she complained about them when they were growing up. They see her as the same burden as she saw them. They have serious issues and relational problems and spend lots of money on therapy which offers little relief, at least while she's alive. They either turn into the unhappy, hypercompetitive people that their moms were or they become irresponsible slackers who blame everyone else for their troubles. Or, they say 'screw her and her warped values' and they turn into fabulous parents. Who can tell?

Since I've already ranted at length about this book, I only wanted to address a couple of things raised in the WaPo article (thanks the Rob the Llamabutcher for the pithy abbreviation for the local rag).

Hanna Rosin, the article author, writes about the women addressed in Warner's book:
Over the past century the type -- the privileged suburban mother, looking
perfect but feeling hollow -- has emerged every generation or so asking for
understanding, for what she's lost, for all the work she does. This is Mrs.
Dalloway, and the wives lurking in John Cheever's novels. This is Gloria
Steinem's woman matching slipcover materials, chauffeuring Cub Scouts and
Brownies, "afraid to ask even of herself the silent question -- 'Is this all?' "

Is this all? That really gets me. No, its not all, there is infertility, cancer, horrific traffic accidents, deaths of children, miscarriage, poverty, disease -- but, oh, they didn't get those? Just a minivan or an SUV and a home worth more than a half million (I know I'm low-balling). Please. Yes it can be hard, but they can't honestly think they've got it harder than anyone else on the planet. Who has it easier? People like them (privileged) in their 20s -- okay, but thats transitory and I'm betting these women had a nice time in their 20s too. I did.

"She's so right," she says about Warner. "It's insane, all the scrambling
that we do. We try so hard to be perfect moms."

So stop doing it. No one is victimizing you but you. The bottom line for me is I can't imagine how these women really think that they are being good moms to their kids. It seems to be more about appearing to be perfect moms to everyone else. They are probably screaming at their kids at home because they are so tightly wound. Or ignoring them because they are exhausted. It really seems to be at cross-purposes with actually mothering the kids.

Okay, I don't get it. But I think there is a lot of suffering out there and I think its important to take responsibility for the suffering you are causing yourself and others. And if I am causing any suffering by writing this I can either stop writing it or you can stop reading it.

1 comment:

Susannah said...

This reminds me of an old Erma Bombeck column or story from one of her books, where she profiles this woman who is the "perfect" mom, listing all of the various things the woman does (baking cookies for the school, volunteering, etc.). At the very end of the story, she notes that this woman's kids actually spend all of their time at the neighbor's house, where the mom there plays cards with the kids, talks with them, and lets them have a little casual chaos. Sums up for me in some ways my goals for motherhood -- to be a mom that is accessible with out being smothery, fun without being totally without limits.