Are you sick and tired of the media's representation of motherhood? Tired of the constant images of mothers looking permanently happy, radiant, slim and contented? Have you had enough of reading interviews where 'yummy mummies' describe how fulfilling motherhood is, how they got their figure back in three weeks flat, and completely redecorated their 10 bedroom mansion at the same time? Me too!
So are Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels. In 'The Mommy Myth' they start by debunking the myth of the 'celebrity mom'. While the high profile mothers are describing abandoning their careers to bring up the kids, fathers of course can carry on with their careers unhindered by child rearing duties.
From Lady Di to Cindy Crawford and Martha Stewart, the overwhelming message from magazines, TV and newspapers is that we are not good enough mothers. We aren't trying hard enough, we aren't thin enough, and hey! shouldn't we be running our career in parallel to motherhood too?
Of course later many of these mothers admit that it was not all as rosy as they had made out, suffering Post-Natal Depression and simply not finding motherhood all-fulfilling years of pursuing a career.
Next under the microscope is the US press representation of mothers. 'Welfare mothers', mothers who leave their children in childcare or with nannies, mothers who stay at home, mothers who crack under the stress and harm their children. In every case, a mother's place is in the wrong. The British media represents mothers in very much the same way, so the message of this book is just as relevant to the UK.
The authors are American and references to celebrities, TV shows and news stories are US centric. However most will be familiar to British readers. There are sections of the book which are specific to the frankly appalling maternity leave and childcare provision in the US. They are fascinating nonetheless and a warning to us on what could happen if we let it.
The book ends with chapters on just how advertisers play on our guilt at 'not being good enough mothers' to market their products, TV shows, clothes, and a closing chapter on the overwhelming media conspiracy to make us feel that whatever we do as mothers we it will be wrong.
This book is fascinating, laugh-out-loud-funny yet frightening. It begins where feminism tried to liberate women and ends where we seem even more trapped than 50 years ago. This constant expectation of perfection harms us and so harms our kids. We need a break. Thank-you Douglas and Michaels, for starting the backlash against the myth of the Perfect Mother.