Review & Discussion: The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality, edited by Avital Norman Nathman

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the good mother myth

 

In an era of mommy blogs, Pinterest, and Facebook, The Good Mother Myth dismantles the social media-fed notion of what it means to be a good mother. This collection of essays takes a realistic look at motherhood and provides a platform for real voices and raw stories, each adding to the narrative of motherhood we don’t tend to see in the headlines or on the news.

From tales of mind-bending, panic-inducing overwhelm to a reflection on using weed instead of wine to deal with the terrible twos, the honesty of the essays creates a community of mothers who refuse to feel like they’re in competition with others, or with the notion of the ideal mom — they’re just trying to find a way to make it work.

With a foreword by Christy Turlington Burns and a contributor list that includes Jessica Valenti, Sharon Lerner, Lisa Duggan, and many more, this remarkable collection seeks to debunk the myth and offer some honesty about what it means to be a mother.

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I’ll start with this:

Pre-motherhood, this probably wouldn’t have been a book I’d pick up and read. Come to think of it, now that I am a mother, I probably still wouldn’t have thought to pick this one up, but since I managed to win it from Laura over at Reading In Bed, I dove in right away. I was interested to see what kind of stories other mothers out there could have since just 5 months into my little guy’s life, I already have some of my own!

Before I even started this book, though, I had no idea that there were moms out there constantly seeing how they stack up against this idea of the “good mother” — a mother who gets everything done perfectly, who is seen in magazines and blogs and TV shows. I mean, I’ve read the magazines, I’ve watched TV shows, and I’m sure I follow some of these blogs, but as I read the stories in this book I felt like I was the only person who didn’t ever think about how I can live up to the “good” mother.

Maybe it’s because I never actually planned motherhood until about half a year or so before becoming pregnant with my little guy. I had kind of dove in headfirst into this and thought I was doing pretty darn good. We have our bad days, but when I thought of the “good” mother, I kind of figure that what we see on the outside is just that — what we see on the outside. Personally, I think anyone who says that they get everything done perfectly and on time, or those who have Pinterest-worthy, picturesque moments and are camera-ready all the time, managing to get their hair and makeup and outfits coordinated, with their perfect children are liars.

OK, not liars, per se, but in my eyes they’re only showing us part of their life. I have a hard time imagining that there are only good — nay, perfect — days in some parent’s lives because I’m sure we all have had at least one day that has us wanting to hide in a locked bathroom for at least 5 minutes. And if you don’t? Then I’m sure you have a nanny or something. My pregnancy was perfect and my little guy makes this motherhood gig seem so easy, but we still have times where it’s hard, where my husband will come home to me crying. Even if that’s only happened a couple times, it happens, but I still consider myself to be a good mother. I kind of hate the idea of a “good enough” mother because the amount of love I feel for this one little person is all-encompassing right now. We have fun and I get enough done that I’m happy. Very happy.

That being said, I did really enjoy all of the stories in this book. There were some that were just kind of ‘meh’ to me, but a lot of them I feel like part of me could relate to. I especially loved the essay “Mama Can’t Cook” because it was so me. Sure, I do love to cook and plan meals and all that, but there’s this part of me that wants every morself of food that will ever enter my child’s mouth to be healthy, but I also know that that is not going to happen.

I know Laura had said the same thing in her review, but I do kind of wish that there were more stories from mothers who do believe that they have everything completely perfect and manage to work, raise children, blog, and do whatever else they have going in their lives without a bad day. There were plenty of stories from mothers who talk against this idea of the “good” mother but not really any stories from those who are the “good” mother. It was nice, though, that the stories weren’t very joking in tone, but a little more serious. You know that book that’s out, Go The F*** To Sleep? Yeah, I kind of hate that book and now that I have a kid it really hasn’t changed my perspective on it. Maybe something will happen later on in life to make me want to read stuff like that, and maybe right now I’m just too in love with my little guy and still in that baby haze to really appreciate humour like that, but I’m glad that those kind of stories weren’t in this book.

There was a great diversity of stories and essays in this book, which was wonderful. I liked how it was divided up into sections and had to prepare my heart for some stories. It was also nice that this was a book of essays because it made it perfect for me to pick up, read a few stories, and put down again, not knowing when I’d have a moment to read again. In fact, reading this book made me pick up a copy of The M Word, a Canadian collection of stories (again, recommended by Laura!). Now I am very intrigued to read more stories on motherhood because I know that I will be able to relate more as time goes by!

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4 thoughts on “Review & Discussion: The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality, edited by Avital Norman Nathman

  1. I feel the same way, like I’m somewhat immune to the Mommy Wars/Good Mother thing. A lot of times I just don’t have THAT strong of an opinion. I do practise a lot of Attachment Parenting concepts, but I don’t identify as “AP” because I don’t really see the point. I was in Facebook group for Edmonton AP parents and I had to leave because it was too crazy. A lot of “OMG my family member/friend is letting their baby cry it out, what do I doooo” and I was like “um, let them parent their child?” lol.

    That said, I don’t think I’m 100% immune. I had a rough transition into motherhood and while I don’t feel like it was due to judgement or shaming or whatever, it probably wouldn’t have *hurt* to have more support, you know? That’s what I like about this book (and The M Word even more so,) it’s about different practises and perspectives and experiences without saying “this is THE way to do it” or trying to sell something (other than the book.)

    • Exactly. I feel like so long as I’m giving my child the basic necessities, showing them love and care and all that, I’m doing good. We’re both wading through this together, so it’s all a learning process! I just don’t get the whole “mommmy war” thing. We’re all mothers, we have to support one another!

      I’m glad to have found a group of moms for support. We have a private group on Facebook and we ask questions and chat pretty much every day about things. It’s great to talk to these moms with no judgment. Without them, I think it would be really tough to be on my own wading through all of this!

      And I picked up a copy of The M Word … waiting until July to read it though!

  2. I think this might be a book I’d be interested in. Not a Mom yet, but one day. And I agree with you on the whole trying to be like the “good” mothers. I bet you don’t see their “real” lives. Sure they have some great days, but I bet they have some not so great ones too. They are just not documented. 😉 Love your thoughts on this book.

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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