Saturday, September 13, 2008

Susan Maushart on motherhood

Why is it that we're tempted to undervalue motherhood? During her seminar on motherhood, Heather shared this wonderful quote from The Mask of Motherhood, where Susan Maushart discusses feminism, work, marriage and motherhood:

The current generation of mothers feels not only constrained, torn and frustrated: they feel cheated, as if an important secret of adult life has been withheld from them. (It has been, of course.) All things were meant to be possible. The discovery that only a few of them are achievable, and some of those are mutually exclusive anyway, comes as a nasty shock.

That we could have ever believed otherwise is the legacy of 1970s feminist fantasies, according to Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University. ‘By treating marriage and motherhood as obstacles to women’s progress,’ Glendon argues, ‘first wave feminist thought actually helped reinforce the idea that the only work that counts is work for pay outside the home.’ As for the rest of life – the ‘motherhood thing’ most emphatically included – well, we were implicitly assured, that would all fall into place somehow. We swallowed this, Gendon suggests, not because it made any sense (it didn’t), but because we so badly wanted it to. The fantasy of ‘having it all’ has been so alluring, we have been willing to give up almost everything – even our common sense - in the quest.

Isn’t it time we grew up? Glendon suggests sternly. ‘The grown up question is not can all our dreams come true,’ she writes, ‘The real question is whether we can do better than we’re doing now.’ … There is no such thing as Supermom. Lots of women may appear to have their cake (as mothers) and be eating it too (as paid workers), yet the net result feels suspiciously like emotional bulimia…’ (pp.178-179)

Artwork is La Noche de Los Pobres by Diego Rivera; emphasis mine.


Louisa said...

Gosh what a helpful quote...thanks for posting it here!

Sharon said...

Thanks for this brilliant quote.
~ Sharon

mattnbec said...

"emotional bulimia" - what a great way of putting it! Very vivid indeed.