Monday, October 5, 2015

Book Review: Breaking the Good Mom Myth, by Alyson Schafer

This book was one that initially caught my eye and then turned into a lot more. As I flipped the pages, I was chanting "Hallelujah baby!" as if I was in a black Southern Baptist church for Sunday morning Mass. It perfectly summarized everything that I have been experiencing since I became a mother.

You see, we women have this unrealistic idea of motherhood from god-knows-where; that having a baby should instantly turn us into this perfect martyr who bakes cookies, looks fabulous, is never late to an appointment, and can do it all. And then when we realize what motherhood is actually like....we feel bad about ourselves and feel inadequate. I went through it, as well as every other mum I know. 100% of us either are currently running on empty or just recovered from it. Yes, welcome...

This book questions every single one of those beliefs, or "myths" - in chapters. The author challenges the belief that the mother should be self-sacrificing, that the mother should always put her children first above herself and her marriage, that the mother should constantly play with her child....just to name a few. All to be considered what is a so-called "good mother" (who makes these rules anyway?!). To that, I say a major "F-off" because it is simply not realistic in the day to day life. I mean seriously, when was the last time you were able to work, play with your child all day, and cook an edible dinner? It's more like "pick one of the above"....ha ha!

Needless to say, the book really spoke to me, and it also made me feel a lot better about myself by making me question these unrealistic expectations.

Here are some quotes that really spoke to me:

"Contemporary parenting is fraught with worry and anxiety, isolation and performance pressure. Yet, one of the most pervasive cultural myths of our time is that we're meant to be totally enjoying it."

"[Mothers] take on child rearing with the same driven attitude and perfectionism that our achievement-oriented, competitive culture espouses for seemingly every task these days, from education to careers to driving, cooking, and sure, why not go for your black belt in yoga while we're being ludicrous?"

"It wasn't always this hard to hit the good mother mark. In earlier times we had tremendous faith in children, believing they would develop just fine, with minimal interference required. We treated children as robust and capable, and were aware that they could manage life. We made demands on them, and we expected them to adapt and accommodate as needed. They weren't thought of as so precious and vulnerable back then. Nor did we carry the sole burden of "making or breaking" our children. Previous generations had the benefit of sharing the load."

"[Mothers] feel guilty if we attend to our own needs, believing we're selfish if we aren't fully concentrating on our children."

"It's hard to look after our own needs when our culture so reveres the acts of self-sacrificing mothers. Just watch the admiring expressions on people's faces when they hear the family folklore's of how Grandma 'never bought anything for herself', how she 'always made sure the children had enough,' and how she often 'went without' to provide for them."

"We need to re-examine the heroic and saintly status we bestow on that iconic selfless 'good mother' who lives her life for her kids, subverting her own needs, and risks losing her own sense of self."

"We're doing double duty and run ragged, yet we believe we're supposed to be able to do this mothering thing in a seemingly tireless and stress-free way. If we're taxed physically or emotionally, we see it as a mark of failure. What do you mean you don't want to be with them at every waking moment? Isn't playing with trucks all day fulfilling enough for you? Why isn't making play-dough sculptures stimulating your middle-aged mind? Are you bent? What else do you need, women? Why do you need to get away? Why do you need something more? Isn't this what you're supposed to be doing and loving? How come you don't seem to be coping? Other moms seem to be able to shower and dress, why are you still in your pajamas at 11 am? How come you're choking back tears? You're loving this time of your life, right? Who wouldn't wanna be with kids all day baking cookies. What's your problem?"

"Self-care needs to take on a wider meaning in our society. We need 'meta-self-care'. Meta-self-care means recognizing that mothers, like everyone else, need to feel personally satisfied in their own lives and feel good living in their own skin. Tending to children may be your life ambition and you may find it a joy, but you are a whole person and a human, not a mother machine. We need enrichment too, and we can get it through diverse means. We have other relationships and roles, desires and aspirations. Attending to the whole of our person doesn't make us less of a mother, or less loving to our children. It doesn't diminish our mothering if we also celebrate and enjoy being a wife, a sister, a friend, a community member, a professional, and more. Life is rich and complex."

"Moms and dads are the captains of the family ship. They drive and direct the whole family system. It makes perfect sense to keep your leaders clear-headed and content so they can lead properly."

"When we believe the myth that our children are a reflection of us, we end up treating them as chattel, as possessions that affect our worth in some way. This means that you're allowing your value as a person to be predicated on the actions of another human being."

"The commonly held belief of our generation is that all the family energies should go to the children. I would like to challenge that myth. Good mothers who put their children first, subordinate the importance of their marriage. We seem to believe that our marriages are made of titanium and are able to withstand the neglect and abuses that can sometimes come with starting a family."

"Children have been given such a high value in our modern society that the new baby becomes the exalted one around whom all other activities must be organized."

"I believe children join a family. In order for children to achieve a sense of belonging, they need to feel 'a part of' the family, not above the others, nor below them. It is in being equal, and through participation and contribution that we feel connected and a part of our families. Everyone participates in the give and take of family life - even the baby. We all work to meet everyone's needs."

"Your relationship serves as the children's big 'guide book' to how humans get along. Being emotionally healthy yourself and being in loving and respectful relationships is the best environment to create for your children - bar none. Everything and anything else can be endured if your children have this piece in place! If you want your children to be loving, caring, and cooperative, let them see you being loving, caring, and cooperative with your partner."

"Your marriage cannot sustain an 18 year hiatus while you raise kids, and a vibrant marriage will help you enjoy your children more."

"Children who have a mom that is a constant playmate come to expect that she will continue to always be a playmate."

"Unstructured free play is the way children learn. Playing is the 'work' of childhood. When children don't have clear set of instructions but are left to create and explore - they will."


Dear readers, which quotes spoke to you?



  1. Alexandra, it's been a while since I commented- sorry for the MIA status. :-)

    I love this post and I think the sentence "Contemporary parenting is fraught with worry and anxiety, isolation and performance pressure" can be changed to "Contemporary motherhood is fraught with worry and anxiety, isolation and performance pressure." I still don't see dads being held up to the same standards mothers are held up to. I don't think the day will ever come when moms are not held up to unrealistic standards but I do wish that mothers would stop being so hard on other mothers.


    1. So true...

      Have you seen this? I am so obsessed with this right is soooooooo hilarious!

  2. @ Alexandra

    The bollywood raises the figure of mother to another level. A popular image of the mother is a cliched scene where the son is about to commit a crime, and the mother kills him thus choosing moral and justice over her motherly love or mother choosing here righteous, honest son to that of here immoral and dishonest son.

    1. LOL..............outrageous! I should do a post :)

  3. "The commonly held belief of our generation is that all the family energies should go to the children. I would like to challenge that myth. Good mothers who put their children first, subordinate the importance of their marriage. "
    "Children have been given such a high value in our modern society that the new baby becomes the exalted one around whom all other activities must be organized."
    I truly thought this was just an American thing.

  4. I liked all the quotes! Should read if when I become a mom and my perfectionist tendencies rear their head ha ha

  5. I especially like the quote about free unstrucured play time...

    It's somewhat irrelevant, but I was wondering if Maya is bilingual, and if yes how did you install bilinguism. I'd love it if you would do a post about this if you feel like it. I'm beginning to feel a bit concerned about baby T's language skills. (Pad)

    1. She is not unfortunately. I keep asking hubby to teach her but he says "my mom will teach her".....LOL...


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