A few weeks ago, Lizzie Skurnick of The New York Times wrote an article called “Chick Lit, the Sequel: Yummy Mummy” that opened this way: “Earlier this year, an icon of youthful abandon — bubbly, blond, a perpetual adolescent — left the grove of girlhood and gave birth to a baby boy. No, not Britney Spears. The puckish heroine Bridget Jones, whose fictional diary of the urban dating life was a best-seller a decade ago, and whose recent journey to the delivery room has been serialized in The Independent in Britain.”
Now doesn’t that make some of us feel old? Cute, chubby, cigarette-smoking Bridget… a mom? Is she going to be exhausted, even chubbier, and frantic as all get out? Let’s hope not. Or is she going to be clad in designer gear, sporting Manolos and manicures, nanny in tow?
Clearly, it’s hard to write a humorous, entertaining book about the ordinary life of an ordinary mom. Not humorous. Not entertaining. This so-called “mom lit” is supposed to do for mothers what romance novels do for the love-lorn: provide a temporary haven from reality. (Readers can still feel like good mothers while indulging in bad mother fantasies.)
Skurnick continues: “And society’s view of the maternal years is changing. From the television soap Desperate Housewives, in which managing play dates and sewing costumes for the school play take a back seat to engaging in steamy affairs, to US Weekly’s obsessive investigations into celebrities’ “baby bumps,” motherhood is suddenly sexy.”
So… this isn’t just escapist fare. Now we’re being told not only do we have to be CEO’s at home and in the office, but we have to be sexy too. And chic. And loving. And happy.
Anyone else out there feeling the pressure?
Women spend their pre-baby lives striving to learn, achieve, and succeed. Then along comes junior and suddenly everything women thought they would feel and swore they’d do as a mother, goes right into toilet – oh, excuse me, the diaper genie. To an ambitious, lively woman, motherhood can be intensely lonely and bewildering. Living the fantasy of being the perfect Yummy Mummy can provide some relief, sure. But not when we start to add that to the ever-increasing list of things we should be achieving as modern-day moms.
As soon as we mature out of the fantasy stage and are faced with the long-term challenges of parenting in a consumer-driven, high-octane culture, where do we turn then for comfort and inspiration? The media tells us to do more and try harder, or helpfully points out who’s to blame for the current state of affairs. Mothers of school-age children are faced with a hyper-competitive environment in which getting support and sharing helpful ideas becomes harder and harder.
Seems to me, there’s room in this dialogue for novels and non fiction books that look at the daunting, serious side of motherhood, without being a daunting and serious (i.e. boring) read. Why not dig a little deeper and look a little harder for the answer to moms’ malaise?
Deepak Chopra talks about discovering our own “archetype” in order to fulfill our true destiny. Translated loosely, this means slowing down and turning inward so we can identify our real selves and our innermost desires. In turn, this helps us find genuine happiness, no matter what trials we face in everyday life.
Mom lit, or whatever publishers want to call it, serves a valid purpose, but of course most mothers I know aspire to more than just being yummy mummies. Dreaming of sexy stilettos and slinky silhouettes is just fine, but in the long run mothers must find a way to come face-to-face with themselves rather than the image of themselves as they wish they were.
Move aside, Carrie Bradshaw, hello… me! This process of self-realization can be a life-altering experience, especially if moms have been sleepwalking – or manically multi-tasking – through junior’s early years. But it’s the only way we’ll be able to figure out what really makes us tick, and, as a consequence, what will make our lives as mothers more fulfilling and our families happier.