The Myth of the Frazzled Modern Mother

Today’s mothers are frazzled. Falling apart. Utterly incompetent, overwhelmed and unable to cope with the demands of daily life. At least that’s the impression you’re going to get from pretty much any day’s sample blogs, “lifestyle” newspaper articles, or just about any column in the ever-proliferating parenting magazines and advice sites.

I disagree. Vehemently. I’m surrounded by extremely competent and on-top-of-it mothers. Heck, 9 out of 10 days, 9 out of 10 hours, I’m that extremely competent mother myself. And you know what? So are you. And that whiney blogger over there? And that friend of yours who posts nothing but negative status updates on Facebook? She’s a competent mother and human being too. Really.

She’s just making herself look bad—frazzled—incompetent—by putting what used to be private moments of despair and downtime out there in the public sphere, for everyone to see… everyone to comment on.

For everyone to remember. Hyper-focus on. But that’s one moment. One hour. One crappy day. OK, maybe a string of crappy days—in what’s actually a pretty good life.

I live a pretty good life. And yeah, I have moments of panic, frustration and utter madness. At times stretches of arduous tough days: those first weeks (months) post-partum. Never-ending flus. Life-altering illness and events. Confluxes of life events when everything piles on top of me and I want to throw myself a big pity party or crawl under my comforter and never come out.

But those are exceptions in a full, fulfilling, fun life. Exceptions (on topic: my friend Marie had a great post recently about her mantra “There are no bad days, just bad moments” and how it works on “one of those days”; have a peek). Most of the time, I’m pretty on top of it. Damn-right competent. And baby, so are you.

 So here’s the big question of the day for you: is it good to broadcast those moments of despair? To post “So tired!” “If only they would sleep!” “Could anything else go wrong on this shitty, shitty day?” as your Facebook status? To blog about “the worst day ever?”

I’m not sure. I can see how you can build a cogent argument for each side. Sharing them crappy moments is the first step to getting support, a “I’ve been there too!” from a friend—which is sometimes all you need to shake off the blues and move on—or an offer of child care or food delivery—which you desperately need to get through that day or moment. But because you’ve shared them in the public space… well, they’re there, reminding all and sundry, including yourself, of that bad moment, bad day. Contributing to the Myth of the Frazzled Modern Mother.

Long after you’ve moved on.

What do you think? Are you a frazzled mother? Is it a myth? Do you inadvertently contribute to it? What can we do to combat it? Or, is it real?

A few days after I wrote the first draft of this post, I stumbled across this lovely post by Amy at Small World at Home, “What I don’t show you,” which isn’t precisely on this topic–but fits into the larger discussion of presenting in public space. More food for thought…

B0007445 Postnatal blues

Postnatal blues (Photo credit: wellcome images)

2 thoughts on “The Myth of the Frazzled Modern Mother

  1. Pingback: Sunny (finally!) Thursday | Nothing By The Book Days

  2. I think it is good to show both side to the story. I also feel that once upon a time (or maybe it was never so) when everybody was so very private those that were struggling felt isolated. If one only shows up with it all together what does that say to the mother who really finds herself having hard days. Does she then label herself with ppd or feel she is going mad? She might wonder what is wrong with me? I think we need to be humble and real but all the while reach for a better feeling. Isolation make things worse for mothers – we need to show good days and bad days. I think it levels things out. Humanity is what we are showing – something we want our kids to feel safe within…
    I never pay attention to labels anyhow.

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