The Good Mother Myth.

If you’re becoming a mother, and this means YOU to my sisters, you’ll find a copy of this book tucked into your hospital bag.

I have felt very close to this book for a very long time, way before I even read the book and discovered that it’s fantastic. I am friends with the editor, Avital, as well as contributors, Kimberly, Tara, and Sarah. And I met a few more of them when I photographed the local book release party. I also photographed Avital (Avi to me) for the book itself, which was a lovely honor.

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I have to somewhat obnoxiously admit something right off the bat and somewhat early in the post, that I haven’t struggled much with “The Mommy Wars”. I don’t know that my personality really has room for it. Since marriage and children, I quite honestly don’t mind what other people do with their parenting (unless I somehow need to) and I also don’t dwell on what people think of my parenting. I am non-confrontational and I am friendly. I like nearly everyone, until you say or do something hateful and/or intolerant and/or offensive, and that might change things for me. Only might. However, I know what it’s like to fall short of my own parenting ideals and visions. And the way they change after we finally meet these tiny people who have our hearts.

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I knew I would love this book, but I wasn’t expecting just how much it would shake my core and then lift me up – to hear the stories of many imperfectly wonderful mothers who are chiming in together with their tales of setbacks and disasters, downfalls and insecurities, and innermost thoughts on mothering in physical and emotional places that aren’t always as supportive and encouraging as they could be. As they should be. (I received a copy of this book for review, and because I really wanted it.)

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A few fantastic quotes about The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality:

“Rather than painting pictures of idyllic mothers, the pieces debunk the idea that there is one right way to parent a child.”
The Washington Post

“Debunking the myth of the ‘good’ mother one beautiful, touching essay at a time. A perfect collection for all of us interested in being the best parents we can be.”
Mayim Bialik, actress, neuroscientist, and author of Beyond the Sling

I don’t cook and clean very well. I am terrible at crafts and I love Pinterest mostly for the photography, and cookie recipes that I just send to my husband. I don’t seem to have a diligent bone in my body, or at least a very patient once. Long before kids, I was questioning whether I’d be a good wife. When the kids came, it wasn’t those domestic things that made me question my ability to be a “good” mother. It was anxiety. It was about a year into parenting that it arrived, after being dormant for a long time.

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And here is where I question my ability to be a mother, aside from the occasional TV binges and ice cream for dinner nights. It’s anxiety. It’s feeling isolated or shaky when my kids need me, or just the fear that it will be so. Generally it’s ok and I can be there for them. We all have moments or days (or longer) in which we struggle and need the help of partners/friends/loved ones.

I’m learning that’s ok. More than ok. There are as many ways to parent, as there are parents. And most of us are doing the best we can with what we have. I am impatient and I have a tendency towards situational anxiety. Everybody’s got their something.

Every story here is unique, and each one touched me in a different way. In fact, I started making notes about which chapters I wanted to highlight, and I found something in EVERY SINGLE STORY that I found relevant to my own journey. Editor Avi’s story was about her son making a birthday wish about being a big brother, a wish she was sad was most likely wasted. I do have two kids, but for a long time, I was set on having one. And there is nothing selfish about finding happiness as a family of three.

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Tara Jean Bernier’s poem in the book, “Give Me My ‘A’ In Scarlet”, amazes me each time I read it, and I was lucky to hear it spoken live. Twice.

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I was also lucky enough to hear Joy Ladin read from her story, “Confessions of a Born-Bad Mother” and I didn’t hear Kimberly Morand read “Failure To Launch” aloud, but I somehow feel like I have. I read it very early on.

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Nerissa Nields is a gifted writer and singer-songwriter, and she played beautiful music at the release party with her sister:

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Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser read powerfully from “The Adoption Aisle”.

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Stephanie Kaloi’s story, “My Little Early Perfect” had her questioning whether she had done something to trigger her son’s early birth/NICU stay, and she wrote about the back and forth driving, breast pumping dance you do when your child is in the NICU.

“Mama Don’t Cook” by Carla Naumberg made me crack up, especially when she described making quesadillas and apple slices as a dinner at her house. Same exact dinner here! I’m actually quite impressed when I pull that off.

Aly Windsor’s “An Existential Crisis Is Born” made me gasp, because she described so well what happened to me when Scarlet was born. It wasn’t right away but after about two months or so, I became obsessed with death.

I could write for another 3,000 words about every chapter in this book, but I implore you to discover its wonder on your own.

For more information, please visit goodmothermyth.com and the purchase page is HERE.

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***

From the Publisher:

As a society, we are obsessed with the notion of what it means to be a “good” mother. In an era of mommy blogs, Pinterest, and Facebook, manufactured “mommy wars” divide women and pit mothers against each other. Edited by Avital Norman Nathman—a widely published writer and blogger—The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality (Seal Press / January 2014 / $16.00) dismantles this media-fed fairytale by taking a realistic look at motherhood and providing a platform for diverse voices and raw stories. This collection of 35 candid and unapologetic essays adds a depth to the narrative of motherhood we don’t tend to see in the headlines.

With a foreword by Christy Turlington Burns—the founder of Every Mother Counts—and a contributor list that includes Jessica Valenti, KJ Dell’Antonia, Sharon Lerner, Soraya Chemaly, Amber Dusick, and many more, The Good Mother Myth reflects on stereotypes and expectations and offers some truth about what it means to be a mother today.
From professors to porn directors and musicians to massage therapists, this diverse group of women writers—some well-known and some up-and-coming— delivers a wide range of experiences and reflections. The contributors of The Good Mother Myth hold nothing back, sharing tales of mind-bending, panic-inducing overwhelm; stories of surprise pregnancies; and even confessions of using weed instead of wine to deal with the terrible twos. The honesty of the essays creates a community of mothers who refuse to feel like they’re in competition with others, or with the notion of the ideal mom—they’re just trying to find a way to make it work. Beautiful and funny, messy and heartbreaking, this compelling collection establishes new definitions of modern motherhood.

About Tamara

Tamara is a professional photographer at http://tamaracamera.com/, a mama of two, a writer/blogger at http://tamaracamerablog.com and a nearly professional cookie taster. She has been known to be all four of those things at all hours of the day and night. She is a very proud contributor to the book, The Mother Of All Meltdowns. http://themotherofallmeltdowns.com, as well as Stigma Fighters Anthology (volume 1), and The HerStories Project: So Glad They Told Me. She is also a proud Community Lead/QA Reader with Sway, and a regular contributor to the SoFab Food blog, and the Target Made Me Do It blog. After two cross country moves, due to her intense Bi-Coastal Disorder, she lives with her husband, daughter, son, dog, cat, and 11 chickens in glorious western Massachusetts.

Comments

The Good Mother Myth. — 127 Comments

  1. WOW. I LOVE the stories you shared here… I can only imagine the book is incredibly powerful. Oh, how I love this message and the beautiful light it brings to grace in motherhood. We are in this thing TOGETHER… I love seeing more women joining hands and sharing hearts surrounding our journey. That’s HOW it should be.

    I don’t get into much of these wars either T- no use for it really. Why on earth would we NOT respect each parent’s choices? Not sure of the answer.

    • I love that you’re my first comment. Up late, eating granola and drinking wine, eh?
      I never went to bed either when the conversation dwindled down.
      I can’t imagine anyone starting up a mommy war with you. Like with me, they probably know to back down way before attack. Way before! I kill ’em with glowing kindness!
      Love ya!

  2. Tamara, like you I’m non-confrontational, or at least until someone really pushes my buttons. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really learned to accept people for who they are and so my passing judgement doesn’t really enter the equation. I take this same attitude with parenting. I don’t judge others, or at least try not to. I also don’t take much heed in what others say about my parenting. It’s between my husband and I, so when I hear unsolicited advice or opinions, I just keep it moving!

    Lovely birth photos! Such sweet moments to capture! 🙂

    • I feel very similarly with growing up and accepting people better. It IS possible to push my buttons but you actually have to be looking for a fight strongly for me to even notice. I’m telling you – I am non-confrontational to a “T.” Sometimes it’s a bad thing. Sometimes not.
      And I so feel that way about it being between my husband and me.

  3. Sounds like a really great book. You are so right when you say that there are as many ways to parent as there are parents. People are different, children too, with different needs and love languages. And what I’ve learned too, in this newer phase of parenting kids who are adults (one soon to be 18 and the other two into their 20s) I still parent, differently than before, but parenting nonetheless, and that is how is should be. A cycle of love and caring until it changes and I once again become the one who needs the most parenting…from my children. The cycle of life, I suppose. I see it everyday and experience now for myself, with my own parents, as much as I didn’t want that to happen, it has. It’s here, and I’m okay with that.

    • Thank you for that perspective because I don’t have it yet, but I will discover so many things about parenting throughout life.
      My parents still parent, even if we’re adults. It’s a totally different ballpark but it’s still parenting and support. And my grandmother is 100 and my mother is her advocate/caretaker and it’s SO interesting for her to see how similar and different it is to be with her mother and then to come here and watch Des for me.

    • This describes it so well, once the children are ‘grown’. They still look to you and need you. Sometimes the parenting task feels larger once it’s ‘done’ than when they were little. They’re like ocean waves; sometimes they are way out there and you can hardly feel them, then they come rushing back towards you and take over for a bit only to start moving away again. It feels fine to me, although I do miss them when they are further away. I tend to hope for them to stay around, like the little pools of water on the beach. It is then when everything feels the warmest.

  4. Thanks for the great review, Tamara. Can’t wait to check this out. Sharing our stories is a great way for mamas to come together and realize we’re all going through the same things. And it doesn’t matter how we approach/overcome the challenges, as long as it’s coming from a place of love. Love is what makes us all great mothers!

    • That is so true! And when I said that most mothers are good mothers, I was totally thinking that all of the mothers who love their children. I know there are sick people in this world not capable of love, but I think I was writing this for the majority of parents.
      The sharing of stories. Solidarity. I love books like this! Happy we’re in one too!

  5. I can relate to you on a lot of levels with your mothering – i am not crafty, DIY, or a good housekeeper. I am going to check out this book, it aligns with my mommy values. I have met a lot of wonderful moms in my travels and have enjoyed a camaraderie that I have never felt before in my life. However, I have crossed paths with the “other kind of mother.” Which is when I remind myself of my guiding principle “we rise by lifting others.”

    • I love your guiding principle! I struggle with it, not with mothering, but with people who really push my buttons. (which is rare)
      I have enjoyed such a wonderful camaraderie in person and in this blogging world.

  6. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it is on my short list. I love Tara’s poem so much. Her delivery is perfect.

    That launch party seemed like one million years ago. You got great photographs! I remember that place being PACKED!

  7. I am so swamped this week with design jobs (not a bad thing I suppose), but nevertheless now you made me want to read this book immediately. I have heard great things about it, but your words on it here today has made me want to just lazily sit in bed reading all day. If only, the kids had school this week and I didn’t have so much to do. I am definitely downloading though and hope to some (selfish) quiet time soon! Wish me luck on that 🙂

  8. This book sounds right up my alley (although if you see my post today, you’ll see that I’ve been reading about motherhood a lot lately!) I know there are some mothers out there who are competitive and mean spirited, but unfortunately I think most of the pressure to be the perfect mother comes from within… comparing ourselves to others and finding we come up short. At least that’s what I am constantly doing, which is crazy because seriously… there are so many ways to be a good mom. And despite all my worries and comparisons, I really am doing fine.

    • Ooh, can’t wait to get there today! (Des nap = perfect blog commenting)
      I guess the competitive/mean-spirited ones are probably hiding/sitting on some deep pain and insecurity. So often I remember that and try to be kinder in my heart. It’s hard, though. I shouldn’t admit that it’s hard for me!
      You’re doing more than fine with your parenting!

  9. I’ve heard more about the mommy wars than I’ve been a part of them. We all are doing what we can or think is best for our children. And quesadillas with apples sounds like a great dinner – a little dairy, protein, fruit and carbs. The book sounds good. I’ll have to check it out!

  10. I wish I would have read this book upon having my son almost 7 years ago! These are things I know now but at first it was very hard – I’m a decent cook but not gifted with crafts AT ALL. My son loves to paint so I let him do so but we share the kitchen so he loves to help me in there, especially with baking. 😀 It’s also hard when others are trying to “help” by giving tips when really you just feel criticized. Motherhood is an adjustment, a wonderful one, but doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its struggles regardless. Great topic and book recommendation Tamara! -Iva

  11. Those stories sound encouraging and each of them is probably wonderful in its own way. Everyday now, I realize more and more that there is no right or wrong way of parenting (except in cases of child neglect and abuse but that’s entirely different story) – and I find the notion of mommy wars utterly ridiculous. We are all mothers doing the best we can, learning as we go, and each one of us has our own style. It’s our choice but all us want the same thing: to see our children grow happy and content.

    • Each story is definitely wonderful in its own way, and all so different.
      Just like our experiences are.
      I’m curious to what it’s like to mother in Croatia vs the US. Is that worthy of a post, or is it not different enough?

  12. I never experienced Mommy Wars either – except for wars within myself. I have heard of this book, but not in such detail until now. Sounds like a good one!

    • It totally is!
      And that doesn’t surprise me about you. You seem to be like I am where we do the best we can within our families and don’t try to fight/compete with others! It wouldn’t even occur to me.

  13. This sounds amazing! I’m so glad you shared it. But are you saying quesadillas and apple slices is not a real dinner? Darn it!

  14. The book sounds wonderful!! I might have to read it even though for the most part I have moved past feeling like I have anything to prove. (When the boys were little I felt like a failure more days than not!!)
    And, I can totally relate to the early birth thing – Hunter was 6 weeks early and spent a week in the NICU. I felt guilty because I had done an aerobic workout the day I went into labor.

    • Aw! I can relate to feeling like a failure more often than not.
      Then there are days like today in which we go to the park with the dog and everyone is happy. Oh, and I went to Trader Joe’s so they’re all about buttering me up for treats and snacks.

  15. This sounds amazing! Definitely want to add this to my reading list.
    I’ve had such incredibly judgemental and hurtful things said to me. Actually told I was stupid once. That I was crazy, wasting my time, too lenient, too hard on discipline: that this mother thing was “not rocket science”. Oh my gosh – I felt under a microscope constantly. There was a time I just wanted to run away with my babies from everyone and everything. Then I discovered blogging – and how to say “piss off – I don’t need your advice.”
    Except, you know – nicer. Sometimes. 🙂
    I knew in blogging my mandate would be to raise one another up – not tear down. So thankfully, within my virtual community, I’ve avoided those so called mommy wars.

    • Ugh, I can’t understand. When I come up for northern lights viewings, can I also find all of these people and give them a piece of my mind?
      And man, do I love blogging for so many reasons such as this one..

  16. So happy you’re highlighting this book and I can wait to read it. It’s true, there is more than one way to parent and my way may not be my friends way but that’s okay. I tried for so long to be a certain type of mother that I’ll never be. Feels refreshing to accept my mothering for what it is.

    • Isn’t that so nice? I really would love, sometimes, to be that mom who is calm, cool and collected and gets things done. Sometimes I’m one or the other, sometimes neither, once in awhile both.
      It’s all who I am.

  17. Wow, this is great and amazing – going to check it out now!
    Another reason why I love you: “I quite honestly don’t mind what other people do with their parenting” – yes, this.
    xoxox

    • So much! Can you imagine really caring? That would mean I was deeply insecure about myself, or something! Or that I had too much time on my hands.
      xoxo to YOU!

    • That certainly is saying something! I never thought at all about parenting until I had to. I realize some people are much more prepared/organized than I am, but it was just about getting to that birth safely!

  18. This book sounds fantastic, I have been mulling the notion of the perfect mother a lot this week as my kids have tested me and I have been way out of my comfort zone for the past few days….but I digress. The book again, looks phenomenal. I can’t wait to read!

  19. I can’t think of anything better to give to an expecting mom. Moms everywhere need to relax a little and realize that we’re all in this together! I’m sure it’s a book I would love.

  20. I think I know what I’m asking for as a Mother’s Day gift. It sounds like this book would speak to me in more ways than one.

  21. I really like that cover with the overstuffed chest of drawers. That’s a perfect picture of how I feel a lot of the time….I’m making an honest effort at putting all the right stuff in the right drawers, but bits and pieces poke out. And that makes me frustrated and critical of myself. When I look at that picture, though, I think “how adorable!” I need to spend some more time appreciating my own artfully messy parenting.

  22. Sounds cool – once the kids get into stuff – sometimes other parents judge. I remember some from my daughter’s GS troop that were pretty judgmental.

    Oh well – parenting is never easy, it’s actually a whole new ballgame now that I’m dealing with teenagers.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Aw, that’s sad! Well you seem way too cool to care about the GS troops. I’m probably more like my mom than I care to admit – she once gave her entire sorority the middle finger.
      Teenagers = uncharted territory for me. So far..

  23. First of all, you are fucking awesome….and I may have commented already but I can’t remember if I did because I think I was reading from my phone this morning and my phone is a…never mind…. 🙂
    I love this book, not just because I’m in it (whoot) but because our stories are all different yet, we share the same snippets and can relate them to any point in our journeys. I often found my head shaking in agreement and sighing as I felt like someone finally understood me.
    It really is a good book and I’m so glad that you read it and are sharing it friend 🙂 xxoo

    • My phone is that same..never mind..
      You are awesome and that’s why you made it into my post although I was sad you weren’t magically at the release party. In the frigid middle of winter, many miles from your home. I mean, really, you slacker!
      This book is a gift and you are part of that gift.

  24. I LOVED Tara’s, and not just because I know and love her in real life, either. I actually have not yet read all the essays in the book yet but after this post, now I have to. (Also, I make quesadillas and apple slices all the time… sometimes I shake things up and substitute carrot sticks…)

    • Ooh, carrot sticks! Now that is truly a dinner. I guess I didn’t realize that quesadillas are kind of on the easy side. I thought I was so advanced when I learned to make them!

  25. This book sounds wonderful! My best friend and I have often talked about the mommy wars. She works full time and I stayed home for a while, although now I work part time. I breastfed, she bottlefed. It’s silly for moms to fight each other when we can all be great moms in different ways.

    • What’s funny for me is that I had never heard of terms like “attachment parenting” or even “cloth diapers” until I moved to crunchy western Mass. I didn’t consider myself an attachment parent, or the alternative. I didn’t use cloth diapers but I did breastfeed exclusively. I used carriers, but strollers are sometimes pretty awesome, especially since I’m a photographer and I really don’t enjoy dangling my camera strap over my babies!
      So interesting that people judge.

  26. I swear I’m always talking about the children I don’t have, lol. In a way, though, I think I’m lucky that I read so many blogs where mothers talk about their children, when they mess up and when they succeed. It shows me different sides to motherhood so I know (at least somewhat) what to expect. I’ll have to make sure to grab a copy of this book to find out and learn more. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • That’s awesome. Scarlet was a bit of a pleasant surprise for us so I never really had that time to be married and not have kids, or just dream about having kids.
      You will have so much good perspective that I didn’t have. And you’ll take tons of photos, right?

  27. This sounds like an incredible book and I love that the focus is that we’re not perfect, that we’re in this together, flailing and perfect and everything in between. I honestly don’t get the mommy wars – it seems like such a waste of energy. And how perfect that you’re a part of this book in the fact that you know Avi, took beautiful photos, heard some of the readings…really awesome. I also appreciate the reminder that there’s nothing selfish about being a family of three. 😀

    • Nothing at all! Everyone loves in their own numbers. Or something. I was trying to be philosophical but it sounded kind of dumb.
      Anyway. Nothing selfish about a family of two either!
      This whole experience was special. I was happy to slightly along on the journey of everyone in this book.

  28. We all have different parenting styles. We do what we do basing on what we think is best for our kids and given the circumstances we are in. I cannot understand the bashing between parents. Tsk.
    Sounds like a really uplifting book!

    • It is! I mean it’s all sorts of things and many stories are hard, but the silver lining in every cloud is that we are all together and there’s a message about building each other up, instead of stepping on or over each other.

  29. If I ever write a book I want you to review it because you REALLY know how to make me feel like this is the book I must/need/have to have in my life. I’m itching to read it

  30. I’ll never understand mommy wars. We should be holding one another up, as this parenting this is hard work. This sounds like a great book and I need to get a copy of it for myself!

  31. Wow! This absolutely sounds like a great read! I don’t often engage in the mommy wars, but I can feel them around me. I am currently worried that the plain cupcakes I bring in to my daughter’s class will not be cool enough. Then I take a deep breath and remind myself that 10 year olds just like sugar, so they’ll be happy!

  32. It sounds like a great collection of essays (and a nice Mother’s Day gift for new moms). No parent is ever perfect, nor is every child. I think it is important to respect other parents and their styles as long as they are teaching their children to respect others.

    • Exactly. I guess..I admit..I would judge a parent who wasn’t teaching their kid to have manners! I admit that I judge people who don’t say “thank you” when I hold a door open for them. Were they raised in a barn??

  33. I’m not cut-out for the mommy wars, although i feel like i get sucked in when i suddenly start to feel like i’m not good enough.. facebook is the worst with this. anyway, i suck at crafts too. unless it’s photoshop and children’s invitations. i’m pretty decent with those 🙂

    • Facebook is bad. So is Pinterest! Instagram somehow just makes me laugh at what people photograph. I enjoy it a lot.
      Photoshop is so hard for me unless it’s just basic tweaks!

  34. What a thought-provoking book review! Sounds like all expecting mothers should read this as a prerequisite to being a mom. I was the first of all my friends to have babies. One by one, I watched each of them turn and blossom into beautiful mothers. We’re all different – working moms, SAHMs, breastfeeders/bottle feeders, co-sleepers/sleep trainers…and it doesn’t matter! They’re all beautiful.

    • I was the first of my friends and siblings to have kids! I lived in Cali for two of those years before Scarlet so I didn’t have a core group of friends anywhere except back in Jersey. Now that I live here, I have made so many friends through having kids so it’s a bit different.
      I’ll never forget that feeling though!

  35. This looks like a really great book! I think we all do the best we can as moms to raise and help our kids grow the way we want. I remember my goal this year is to be a better mom and wife and I honestly think I’m way too far from being better. BUT never say die, the show must go on! 😀

  36. The age old war among women of who know s the right way of being the right mom. Every mom has her own way to teach and each brings something to the table. : )

  37. Wow, this sounds and looks like an amazing book. I don’t understand “mommy wars” – it just doesn’t make sense to me… we are individuals parenting individuals! Every single family and approach will be different in some aspect. comparison is at the root of it I think… and if we stay away from it, there’s no need to justify, vindicate, or any need to boost one’s own self-esteem.

    Definitely putting this on my must read list. Thank you for sharing.
    xoxo

  38. Sounds like a great book. There are few who don’t get burned by the “Mommy Wars” in one way or another, so consider yourself lucky that it doesn’t bother you. And I totally believe that quesadillas and apple slices are a nutritious dinner!

  39. What a great idea to give to every new mother. Mothers fall into so many traps, and the best way I’ve found my way out of them is through sharing stories with other mothers. We all share similar trials and joys, and it’s so important to know that we are not alone – because despite being constantly surrounded by small people, mothering is so isolating.

  40. I have this book and am working on reading it for a review too. I’m glad to hear such positive raves about it! It sounded fabulous when I heard about it on a podcast and I can’t wait to delve into it! So cool that you got to hear them read their stories!

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