Cult of Perfect Motherhood
When I was in college, I was a women’s studies minor, and in my feminist theory course, we read Betty Friedan’s classic “The Feminine Mystique.” I have to admit, I didn’t really get it at the time. I mean, I got that women in the 50’s didn’t have a lot of career opportunities, and that being a housewife wasn’t super fulfilling for Friedan.
But I didn’t GET IT, not really…not until I had kids of my own, and was juggling a career and kids and feeling pretty alone and isolated. And then I realized why the idea of women connecting with each other and talking about their personal lives was so powerful, and so profoundly feminist. Because, motherhood can be isolating, but moms coming together? That’s one of the most powerful things there is.
Parenting is really hard. Not having-cancer-hard, or famine-in-Africa-hard, but still pretty freaking hard. It’s exhausting in way that is hard to describe, partly because I’m too exhausted to think clearly enough to come up with the right words for it. I’m not just physically tired, although I have a 2 year old who STILL wakes up to scream at night for no apparent reason, but also emotionally. It’s not always easy to be “on” the way you need to when you’re a mom, and I feel overwhelmed a lot.
Parenting is also hard because kids don’t come with instruction manuals, so it’s hard to know if you’re making the right choices, and easy to doubt yourself. (Although, kids DO seem to come with an inexhaustible supply of unsolicited advice from people who think they know how to raise your kid. I’m looking at you, elderly friends and relatives and random people on the internet.)
Being a mom can also be a really isolating experience, especially if you’re the first of your group of friends to have kids. When you don’t have other mom friends to talk to you, it’s really easy to worry you’re doing this whole parenting thing wrong and ruining your kid’s life.
But when you connect with other moms, it’s so powerful. It feels AMAZING. It takes away some of the fear and the guilt when you hear that lots of kids take a trip to the ER before they’re 2 (my son’s was because he took a header over a ride-on toy into our TV stand and gashed his forehead), and that every parent is struggling to get their kid to eat their vegetables (Peas. That’s all he’ll eat. I am so sick of peas), and that we’re all overwhelmed sometimes.
When we form a sisterhood of moms, we’re all stronger, less scared, and more self-confident. And when moms are strong, we can do anything. We can change the world. That’s some powerful stuff right there. I feel like I’m a better parent when I can feel the amazing sense of sisterhood that comes from being in a room filled with other moms, knowing that none of us are alone.
Because, as Frankenstein said:
Indeed, Frankenstein. Indeed.