The Mask of Motherhood

As I’ve written on here before, becoming a mom changes more of life than you expect it to. I always thought that having a child wouldn’t change THAT much. Sure, I’d have a little guy to tote around with me everywhere I go, but other than that, no problem.

And, as every mom who is reading this knows, that’s not exactly how it is. And that’s what this book talks about—why are moms these days so unprepared for the step into motherhood? As she journeys through each stage of becoming a mom- pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding, meeting the baby for the first time, the juggling act between mothers and fathers and schedules, and finally the affects of a baby on a marriage, Susan Maushart talks about the masks that women wear. In her research, many moms said, “why didn’t anyone tell me….?” You fill in the blank. Some things women are very prepared for – especially pregnancy…maybe not so much labor (I mean, no information is gonna help you out in that one),… and definitely not in breastfeeding and the later areas. Written from a feminist perspective, Maushart thankfully does not blame “the patriarchy” for everything… she puts significant blame on the silence of women… we hide behind a lot of “it’s great” masks, which doesn’t do anyone else any good.

I think this was one of the books that really helped Nancy Beech (in her appendix of Gifted to Lead… I think), and I think it was a good piece to help in the “adjusting to mom” stage of life.
One thing that was particularly interesting…. no matter how egalitarian a couple was in theory, very few couples remained this way after the birth of their first child. If someone stayed home, the mom did. If neither stayed home, most of the caring for the children and family things like planning the meals, dressing the children, making doctors appointments, researching day cares, stuff like that, was left to the moms. And housework was almost always mostly on the woman. I’m not sure what conclusions to draw from that, if any. I just think it’s an interesting phenomena. I guess no matter how much people want to be progressive, the traditional is hard to get away from.

A big thing that I drew away from this book was how tricky the balancing act is of young motherhood. Does the mom work? The dad work? Both work? What is the repercussion of the decision for kids to be in day care, good and bad? Which will be the most fulfilling to the mother- staying at home, working part time or working full time? Which is best for the family [mother, father and child(ren) all taken into consideration]? For our family, this has been a discussion between Jake and I for the past few weeks especially. Now obviously I’m staying at home, but what happens when we get back to the states? Thankfully we have more time to discuss, and obviously we won’t be able to make decisions until the time gets closer, but it’s been good to think about now. This book, especially the Juggling Act chapter, helped me in thinking about the pluses and minuses of each.

If you are a new mom, or a soon-to-be new mom, what are some of the things that you wish that someone would have told you? What are some of the things that the soon-to-be moms are discussing with their husbands about the coming of the new baby? What were some of the hardest adjustments for you, becoming a new mom?

For me, I wish someone, an older mom, would have warned me about the ever-lurking loneliness that can come with staying-at-home… I think that could be the hardest thing for me as well. And one thing I learned from this book—okay, I learned from real life, but was confirmed that Asante wasn’t abnormal… moms (and dads, I guess) shouldn’t expect a full night’s sleep during the preschool years… if it’s not feeding and diaper changing and retrieving pacifiers early on, then it’s teething, sickness, nightmares, or falling out of bed later on. Who would have known? I had no idea. And the author talked about that she found that most mothers exaggerate their child’s sleeping habits… on the good side, that is. Anyway, that’s mine. What’s yours?

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