Review: The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality

The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality
The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality by Avital Norman Nathman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am woefully late to the party on this review, especially considering (and full disclosure) that Avi is a dear friend of mine, as are some of the contributors to this anthology. In my defense, I knew pregnancy wasn’t too far off for me when the book was released, and I didn’t want to over-inundate myself with mommyhood before it was time. Then, I had every intention of reading this right away when we got pregnant, but my first trimester had a few other ideas. Long story short, I’m finally feeling better, have some time off, and was able to breeze through this book in a few short days. Seriously, it’s that good! I didn’t want to put it down.

For this anthology, Avital wanted to create a space where women could debunk the myth of the “good mother.” You know the one: She always has her hair done and her high heels on while every outfit is meticulously planned and perfect. Her house is always cleaned and her fridge and pantry are always stocked with organic, wholesome goodies. Not to mention that her marriage is perfect, too, and she does it all while raising perfectly behaved kids whom she has been breastfeeding for over two years. She never has a meltdown, or goes a few days without showering, and her kids will probably grow up to be geniuses.

Well, guess what? That mom actually doesn’t exist.

This anthology completely turns the “good mother myth” on its head. The women featured here bravely and honestly share their stories from new motherhood through their children’s teenage years, showing us that no one is perfect, and, in fact, that is the beauty of parenthood; the little imperfect moments not only challenge us to learn and grow as people and as mothers, but often provide the best opportunities for love.

At times heartwarming and humorous, at others heartbreaking and humbling, The Good Mother Myth is a must-read anthology for all mothers at any stage in their mothering careers. I found it particularly helpful as a first-time mom-to-be as a reminder that I am not going to be perfect, and that’s just fine.

I gave the book 4 stars instead of 5 for a few small reasons. First of all, though there was an amazing amount of mothering diversity represented in the book – from adoptive mothers to trans mothers to lesbian mothers to working moms to stay at home moms and so on – I didn’t see a ton of racial or class diversity represented. While I know the intent of the book was to focus on motherhood and its varying manifestations (and, because of the diversity of types of mothers, the book does that beautifully), I do think that much of the image of the “perfect mother” is embedded in race and class privilege, and so it would be beneficial for many, many moms out there to see how others navigated through the “good mother myth” in different ways because of their race or class. There are a few essays here that do this, but I was craving a few more with that focus.

Secondly, and this is the curse of any anthology, I was left wanting more at the end of many of the essays. A perfect example of this is K.J. Dell’antonia’s essay, “Lucky American Girl.” While she says, “This is a small part of the story of a year in my life…” right at the beginning of the essay, Dell’antonia managed to completely draw me into the story and then cut me off right as it was getting interesting, leaving me without a lesson to be learned or an analysis of the situation and, therefore, unsatisfied.

All-in-all, though, The Good Mother Myth is a fantastic anthology and one that every mother, regardless of how old her kids are, should read. Buy several copies – one for yourself and one for every mother you know!

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