method of lizzy

preservations… for posterity

Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety

This time the bargain bin really panned out. I picked this up on a whim, after the juxtaposition of motherhood and anxiety caught my eye.

I spend more than my fair share of time on the internet, and one of the things that I like to read about is motherhood. I read blogs and message boards like I want to learn about the real deal, the raw and unadulterated account of the realities of motherhood. From my years of very informal research, I’ve learned that one must sacrifice many of the pleasures in life for the sake of the children. Don’t expect any more nice vacations or meals out. Don’t expect time to yourself- not to sleep, read, go to the gym, or simply veg. Certainly don’t expect your husband to help out. The only pleasure you will find in life will be through your children. The woman’s identity fades into the background. Her career, her marriage, her sense of self all suffer when she buys into the culture of sacrificing self for the sake of the children.

The old saying “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” has lost it’s effect. Indeed, the needs of the mother should be as important as the needs of the child. Taking care of yourself is a precondition to taking good care of your child. A self-fulfilled mother makes happy children. But read many accounts from real women, and you will find that making mama happy is very low on their list of priorities. A woman cannot be “everything” to her children, try hard as she might. Raising children is an important and meaningful charge, but it shouldn’t be seen as the one’s life’s work. Warner charges that such women “make a fetish of hand-sewn Halloween costumes and homemade baby food”. I think this also has something to do with living in the age of Martha Stewart.

I’d roll my eyes if it weren’t so relevant. This book really spoke to me, as a perfectionist, a feminist, and as a woman who wants to have children. Too many woman allow themselves to be defined by motherhood, just as I have allowed myself to be defined by various titles. It was only recently that I decided enough was enough – so what if I was X, Y and Z? I can’t allow myself to become completely defined by one or two labels.

This book rocked my world. I became more of a feminist. I valued my relationship with my husband even more. I (finally) started to honestly own up to my limitations. There was no way I could make homemade baby food, never let Junior watch TV, and have a clean house while I breastfed continuously for years on end. Instead, I’ll do the things that I find important. I’ll do what works for my family. But I will not sacrifice myself or my marriage for my child’s temporal needs. When the child is older, will he give a damn that he ate homemade babyfood? No way. But I will remember the years of his youth, and I want to look back on them fondly, not as a time when I was stretched beyond my limits.

July 3, 2007 - Posted by | alternatives, anxiety, books, culture, introspection, motherhood

1 Comment

  1. I have a couple years until we’ll be ready for kids, but I still love researching parenting. I’m not sure why — I just love reading all the pros and cons to issues, like homeschooling, cloth diapers, discipline, and even the kids vs. childfree debate. This book sounds like it would be very interesting. I’ll have to check it out.

    Comment by Dallas | August 15, 2007

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