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The Mommy Myth by: Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels

March 7, 2011

REVIEW

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.

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