Her kids have always slept through the night, and even if they don’t, she still manages to look like she has had eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. There is always a well-balanced, home-cooked meal on her dinner table. She either happily stays at home or holds down a fulfilling job while still finding time to join the PTA, run the school’s book sale, and makes it to every single soccer game. Her house is absolutely spotless, and if it’s not, she can effortlessly laugh it off. She has the energy and desire for a happy and adventurous sex life, and her partner is always satisfied. She is crafty, creative, and embodies the perfect blend of modern woman and hipster housewife. She is usually white, middle to upper class, heterosexual, and neither too young nor too old.
But above all…she’s a myth.
These lines have haunted me since I read them. They’re the first words to sear the introduction of the cutting-edge new anthology: The Good Mother Myth edited by Avital Norman Nathman.
Nathman’s premise is simple: As mothers, let’s break down the myths that divide us and change the current narrative of motherhood to include a rich, diverse array of voices.
And that’s exactly what she set out to do with a collection of 40 pieces and an introduction written by Christy Turlington Burns.
Here’s what you need to know about this book. It’s broken into 5 sections: Mama, Don’t Fail Me Now… In the Mama Trenches, Inside Mama’s Mind, Mama By Any other Name, and “No Good” Mama. The writing is impeccable and the messages are poignant covering everything from mental health to teen mothering to adoption, which means this book not an easy read.
Each author blazes the pages and seemingly leaves nothing unsaid. I flipped through this book slowly, letting the words of one mother marinade before moving on to the next.
The thread that wove each unique story together was close to this memoirist’s heart—we really are all more the same than we are different. In this case, our sameness lies in the underlying message we all send ourselves that there’s a way to be “good.” While each of our internal monologues might differ, we do each have an imaginary picture in our minds that we can’t live up to and that we’re constantly negotiating and contending with.
I read the bulk of this book during a hard winter week. The snow was thick, our pipes proved brittle, and we ended up water-less. I was stretched, stressed, and snappy. But I also had the nagging feeling that I should be able to handle this, to go out with my friends, to not complain, to buck up. When in reality, I just wanted to cry and to have someone help me.
I saw one of my myths written in the way I felt—mothers have the answers and the ability to take care of themselves and everyone around them. Mothers know what to do when the going gets tough, or at the very least when the pipes break.
When Nathman and I discussed the book she said, “I want to create room for the actual lived stories of moms on the ground.” And this, too, stayed with me.
This collection is about opening conversations, yes. But it’s also about impacting mothers in their day-to-day and bettering their experiences by ensuring they know that the perfect lady they’re trying to live up to…doesn’t exist. We can let go of her and live our own stories, with wild abandon.