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The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women Paperback – Bargain Price, February 1, 2005

3.6 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Does Martha Stewart make you feel like you never do enough for your kids? Do "celebrity mom" profiles leave you feeling lumpen and inadequate? That's because they're supposed to, say Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels, authors of The Mommy Myth and self-professed "mothers with an attitude." Both scathing and self-deprecating, their pop-culture critique takes on "the new momism," the media's obsession with motherhood and the impossible standards which that obsession promotes. Today's ideal mom makes June Cleaver seem like a layabout: she may work outside the home, but never too much, always looks at the world through her children's eyes, makes sure to buy only educational, age-appropriate toys, and includes a loving note with each hand-prepared lunch. Meanwhile, the news media hype stories about child abduction, politicians excoriate so-called "welfare queens," and parenting experts advocate wearing your child in a sling until he moves out on his own. Romanticized, commercialized, sensationalized, and demonized by turns, today's mothers are damned if they work and damned if they don't; what’s more, the idea that the government might do something to help their plight has come to seem almost quaint. As a history of motherhood in the media from 1970 to the present, The Mommy Myth makes a fun and thought-provoking read. Yet close readings of episodes of thirtysomething don't create quite the call to arms the authors seem to have in mind; no woman likes to think of herself as a media dupe, particularly the kind of woman who will be reading this book. Straightforward policy critiques like their chilling chapter on childcare fare much better, illuminating a culture that seems to have forgotten public institutions' power to correct social ills. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In the idealized myth, mothers and babies spend their days discovering the wonders of life, reading, playing and laughing. Mom wears her baby in a sling, never raises her voice and of course has unlimited time and patience. Baby grows up safe, happy and respectful. In real life, however, it's a different story. Douglas (Where the Girls Are) and Smith College philosophy professor Michaels, "mothers with an attitude problem," blow the lid off "new momism," "a set of ideals... that seem on the surface to celebrate motherhood, but which in reality promulgate standards of perfection that are beyond [a mother's] reach." The authors examine the past 30 years of television, radio, movies, magazines and advertising to show that the bar has been increasingly raised for "the standards of good motherhood while singling out and condemning those we were supposed to see as dreadful mothers" (notably harried working mothers). Using ample humor (e.g., buy the wrong toys and your child will "end up a semiliterate counter girl in Dunkin' Donuts for life"), abundant examples and an approachable style, Douglas and Michaels incriminate not just Republican administrations and Dr. Laura, but also celebrity mothers, Drs. Spock and the evening news. While the authors are occasionally repetitive and sometimes condescend to moms who stay at home, their thought-provoking, accessible foray critiquing new momism will be of interest to liberal mothers-and possibly fathers-helping them to judge the media's images of motherhood with a more critical eye.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743260465
  • ASIN: B004J8HXCW
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,525,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Corin Goodwin on February 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a terrific book! I thought I'd just skim through it like so many of these kinds of books, but I find myself not wanting to miss a word. Every few pages I grab my husband and read a few lines aloud to him. I can SO relate to so much of what these ladies wrote, even though I definitely don't always agree with them... and isn't that the point? There are as many ways to be a fulfilled woman as there are human beings with two X chromosomes.
I love the way most of this book is written and I think it's hilariously funny except that it's not, iykwim. It's a very pithy history of feminism and 'good mother'hood -- what they are, what they're not, what they could be, and what various folks would like you to think they should be -- from the perspective of 'real' women (ie not 'experts') with real opinions which they are unafraid of expressing.
For the most part, I highly recommend this book. As women of all ages, we should know about and understand the context in which we are living our lives.
*** (Caveat: Parts of the last chapter can be skipped entirely. I think that's where the authors themselves got a wee bit sidetracked and possibly even a mite self-righteous. It is apparently inconceivable to them that some women might make choices different from theirs for reasons that don't fit so well into the binary paradigm the authors have attempted to describe. Rather than taking sides in the "Mommy Wars" perhaps they might have returned to their original proposition that many women are ambivalent about their life choices; in truth, there are trade offs no matter what you do, and life choices span a range of A to Z, not merely A or B. It's a shame, because I really LOVED the rest of this book. It's still very much worth reading, and offers PLENTY of food for thought.) ***
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Format: Hardcover
In the early months following the birth of my son, and even now, I have found myself wondering whether I am enjoying motherhood the way I'm supposed to--the way others mothers do. The right all-loving, all sacrificing way. This book illustrates for me that this "perfect" way is likely a carefully crafted illusion.
However, after I got this message, established in the opening chapters of the book, the mocking tone that the authors are fond of using began to grate and I feel that they take their hypothesis too far.
I appreciate the section regarding welfare mothers and the illuminating contrasts of media representations of moms. I like being reminded that I don't have to love and adore parenting every single moment in order to be a good parent. (Though the authors seem to believe that the only way to combat not loving every moment is to get away to your real job and make sure the kids are in a comprehensive system of government sponsored child care.)
However, the authors seem to clearly feel like there is a right way to mother--and that is to reject the cozy media images of motherhood that tell you the right way to mother (ironic, eh?). They do not seem to believe that there are mothers out there who truly believe in homeschooling, homebirthing, babywearing, extended breastfeeding, etc. and who enjoy their lives with their children (not all aspects, granted, but do enjoy it). Or, if they do recognize that some mothers are committed to these concepts, they seem to feel that those mothers have stupidly bought into a vast conspiracy to undermine women (not that they might hold these ideals because they actually make sense!).
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Format: Hardcover
Sisterhood should be powerful -- but after a brief heyday a constellation of religious, political, and commercial forces managed to split apart the bonds formed during the women's movement.

A central theme of The Mommy Myth is the ways women have been set against each other -- black vs. white, rich vs. poor, careerist vs. stay-at-home, parent vs. nonparent, -- in a series of sensationalized media catfights, thus destroying and/or subverting most of the gains of feminism.

A fascinating overview of media distortion and cultural brainwashing on such topics as "welfare mothers" (the proportions of welfare recipients who are black, who are single black women with more than two children, or who are teen mothers, are far, far from what the public has been led to believe) and news coverage of nonevents like Satanic day care sex rings and "crack babies" (turns out there's no such thing).

The chapter on marketing to children ("targets," according to the industry) is chlling.

Book is marred by overuse of cutesy, hip language: way too many "whatever"s "No, no, no"s and similes drawn from famous names in pop culture. But that alone didn't lose it the fifth star.

The worst flaw, in my opinion, is Douglas' and Michaels' serious misreading of attachment parenting. Reading over some of the reviews here, it seems that lost them a lot of symphathetic readers, too. Attachment parenting simply is not part of the artificially intensified mothering phenonmenon that the authors are exposing here. It's not a "fad" and it doesn't make mothers feel inadequate. In fact, one reason that I like it -- and the reason why I believe it when proponent Sears claims it's natural -- is because it's so much easier. Baby cries? Pick him or her up. Baby doesn't like to sleep alone?
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