I just finished reading Judith Warner’s Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety. Considering I haven’t read a book since I became a mother, that in itself should tell you a lot. But, in order to pass the time at the gym, I have been known to read the Target circular, so maybe that doesn’t really say very much. But, in either case, I read it cover to cover, and all I can say is "we are a bunch of crazy mothers."
Let me clarify that just a little. Granted, Warner’s "sample" of neurotic stay-at-home-mothers is somewhat limited to upper middle class women who spend days and nights obsessing over their child’s birthday party. But, I’m pretty sure we can all relate to this notion of the "perfect mother" in one way or another. If it’s not the parties, it’s the music lessons, the early reading, and the sports. And, while we don’t all throw ourselves into a motherhood vacuum, I’m pretty certain we’ve had our moments.
You can’t miss the strong message that Warner really wants women to believe it’s okay to work. Sure, I think working moms get hit pretty hard these days, however, it almost left a bad taste in my mouth. Perhaps she was overcompensating for the number of rather neurotic stay-at-home mothers she interviewed.
And, while I can see how many of us have become a bunch of anxious mothers, I’m not quite sure that her claims suggesting that the abounding food allergies and autism diagnoses are partially a result of our overwhelming anxiety; we may be more worried about what we eat and perhaps a bit more vigilant when it comes to our kids’ language skills, but we’re also more educated and dealing with a ton of weird hormones being shot into our food. So while the numbers of kids with such ailments and disorders may be low based on the numbers, personal experiences speak louder.
Warner tells mothers that they should demand more from society – namely respect and support. Her solution is well-meant, but perhaps unrealistic. A political uprising? A banding together of mom’s in protest? Perhaps. But how are we not to adapt to a world that may just be a stronger force? How can I promote values such as learning, living, and loving when we get the ideals of winning, scoring, and achieving thrown at us from every direction?
Warner’s book is certainly food for thought, and might be just what mothers need to make some positive changes, and ease their anxiety. However, we need more than Warner supporting this new movement. Who’s with me? - Kristen