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The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined Women

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  638 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Susan Douglas first took on the media's misrepresentation of women in her funny, scathing social commentary Where the Girls Are. Now, she and Meredith Michaels, have turned a sardonic (but never jaundiced) eye toward the cult of the new momism: a trend in American culture that is causing women to feel that only through the perfection of motherhood can true contentment be f ...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published March 26th 2004 by Free Press
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Books Ring Mah Bell
After taking a lot of heat about my choice to have only one child...
And after hearing comments like, "motherhood is so wonderful!" and, "there's no better job than being a mom!"...
And after overhearing lots of "mommy wars" crap - stay at home vs. working moms. Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding...
I decided to pick up this book.

These women wrote about how eager our government is to build bombs/spend on war, but won't make sure maternity leave is covered or require quality childcare to be provided..
The Mommy Myth Trialogue

Popular Culture: It’s amazing to be a mom! I am so blissed out as I take care of my baby, and if you’re not, there’s something wrong with you! Feminism is overrated and anti-motherhood!

Douglas & Michaels, authors of The Mommy Myth: No! No! No! This is all a bunch of momism (i.e., an impossible standard of perfection in mothering perpetuated by the media). And feminists actually love stay-at-home mothers! They just think men should help more, and want more childcare op
I may be trying to drive myself crazy, or maybe it is just time for me to revisit feminism. I have read seven books in the last year that I classified as feminist. I don't know why I have headed down this path at this time. Maybe it is having a grown daughter, maybe that I know I need to be more involved in women's issues. I do know there are a couple more that I plan to read.

After reading Enlightened Sexism, I felt the need to go back to Susan Douglas' first book. The Mommy Myth makes some of t
Jun 25, 2008 April rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: happy underachievers, mothers entering the workforce
As a woman who doesn't want kids, this book was in a section of the bookstore I'd never been in (parenting), with a title that doesn't pertain to my life, and yet I started reading. I was amazed - I found a book that told me it was okay to be a woman but not a mom. Go figure! This book is a well-researched guide for mothers and non-mothers (is that the term?) alike. There are two sides to every story, of course, and this book tells that side that the media doesn't particularly glamorize. I admit ...more
Annaliese Fleming
I think this book is HILARIOUS--it's a laugh out of loud experience for people trying to raise children in this over-the-top era of parenting. I have appreciated the authors' candor in revealing how the media, hollywood and republicans have created the image of a "good mom" as a woman who is totally fulfilled by being a mother and needs nothing else to feel total bliss. Anyone who's been barfed on at 3 AM knows that to be an overly simplistic view. The history of how the media protrays mothering ...more
I was curious to see what the authors had to say about motherhood being idealized, even though I knew I wouldn't agree with a lot of what they had to say. I ended up just reading a couple of parts that I was interested in and not really caring about finishing the whole thing.

But I think they had a good point: mothers now are increasingly pressured to be totally perfect in every way--make your own baby food, homeschool, always be patient and understanding, teach your kid to read early so they're
This book was lent to me when I was four or five months pregnant with my first child. I fell in love with it immediately, recommending it to anyone who would listen. As the title suggests, it is about the raw deal women have been given about motherhood. It talks about how feminism in the 70s was about free daycare, and it confirmed what I have been saying, our society doesn't really like children. Yes it wants us to buy a bunch of crap for our kids so they can compete with other children and the ...more
Oct 03, 2007 Rudy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: maxine
of all the millions of books out there on what it means to be a mother in contemporary society, i feel that this is the best one for a couple of reasons: 1) it is not a personal account but rather a very well researched academic survey of many mothers from all different classes, beliefs, and parts of the country. It is not just the point of view of an upper middle class white mother with angst. 2) There is a lot of history and it's quite educational on the subject of the various methodolgies of ...more
Fascinating, and I think this should be required reading for anyone who is trying to raise kids in today's society. We are getting so many messages from so many sources about how to be moms and how to raise our kids and -- most upsetting of all -- how to be terrified of everything. It was startling to me to realize how many of those messages are coming in and where they're coming from. Also read another book on this topic: Perfect Madness.
I do not read parenting books. The last one I read was What to Expect When You're Expecting, and I hated it because, as Seth Rogan correctly points out in Knocked Up, "This is just a giant list of things you can't do!" Even when I felt the most at sea, the parenting book aisle repelled me, particularly the books that predicted gloom and doom for your budding Ophelia or your boy who had problems you didn't even know about... crisis after crisis after crisis!

This book was the first one I picked up
Lisa Wuertz
I found this book to be very informative. I really liked how it analyzed the media's portrayals of motherhood over a 20 year period in everything from magazines to news reports. Even though the book was published in 2004 and a lot of the references were from media in the 80s and 90s, I can still see these same trends in our current media climate. I definitely saw attitudes and cultural "norms" (both good and bad) that are perpetuated in the media that my friends, family and I have been shaped by ...more
A very interesting look at what shapes the entire concept of motherhood that exists today. This is not a parenting book in any sense of the word, but rather, a look at how media, marketing, peer pressure, etc. influences our views of motherhood. This book addresses some of the more obvious myths that exist today, such as the "mommy wars" or the "fights" between stay-at-home moms versus working moms. It also shows what a huge influence politics has had on mothers...for instance how Reagan's polic ...more
I struggled with writing about this when I read it way back in 2004, because I really liked it in some ways, but in others, it irritated the hell out of me. Clearly, there is a lot of truth in Douglas and Michaels's assessment of what they call "the new momism" -- American culture's highly idealized vision of the perfect mother -- and of how the media and many politicians have contributed to its growth. Their history of motherhood in the media is fascinating reading, and the chapter on childcare ...more
Very interesting and thorough view of motherhood and the idea of being a mother. I thought that the authors sometimes seemed a little short-sided and convinced that their version was the only right version/way of thinking. Also thought they exaggerated some things. Overall, very interesting. Would recommend to mothers or women wanting to become mothers or even women who don't want to become mothers but want to know why other women do (I'm in the last group).
Purl Scout
basically a manifesto stating that feminism and the idea that we can have it all has straight up fucked women over. can be beautifully summed up by that scene in the 30 Rock episode about the teamsters sandwiches when liz lemon is stuffing her face with the sandwich while yelling, "i can have it all!" no. no you can't, and none of us can. way to sabotage ourselves, girls. its time to get realistic.
Funny, sharp, accessible. Good analyses of media representations of gender and parenting, and how those stories (and political rhetoric) diverge from actual social changes.
Fraser Sherman
An excellent book showing how motherhood--the hard work, the challenges of having a job and a kid, the need for day care--became a common topic in the 1970s as feminism took hold, but then got dismissed for a variety of reasons. Instead the media and plenty of politicians provide lectures on how a woman's true calling is motherhood, celebrity mothers insist they never want to do anything but play with their kids and brawls break out in stores over this year's hot toy. This is about 12 years old, ...more
Excellent book correcting the revisionist history of feminism that has evolved recently in which feminists are painted as anti-mother, reminding the reader that the women's movement was the first to argue for the monetary value of a mother's work. Also addresses the intense and unfair media scrutiny given to mothers (and almost never to fathers) which judges women for their parenting choices and pits them against each other in fabricated "mommy wars." The author discusses the relatively new pare ...more
I think I read this engaging book at the perfect time in my new parenting journey. Douglas and Michaels are a breath of much needed fresh air in the midst of the diaper stench and guilt that comes standard with modern American motherhood. I enjoyed their biting, hilarious style. I realized how prevalent what the authors dub “the new momism” really is and how the ideas I’d absorbed from it were influencing my feelings towards parenthood (and not for the better). It was a relief to realize how thi ...more
I found this book fascinating and a call to arms for all women, not just mothers. Douglas and Michaels, both mothers themselves, present a disturbing picture of how political, religious, media and pop culture influences have shaped the definition of what it means to be the best mom. Using a pleasingly sarcastic tone, the authors tore apart political systems (mostly Republican, although Democrats played their roles) that singlehandedly ensured Americans never received any federal support for chil ...more
While this book started out on the right foot, somewhere along the way, they got sidetracked. The last several chapters turn out to be a call for government funded day cares. I sympathize with the plight of single moms. I don't agree with handing over another aspect of our lives to this government. Take a long hard look at our education system. As a woman that has made the choice not to have children, I certainly don't think it is my responsibility to pay for the children of those that decided t ...more
This was a wonderful book, and I would mark it as *must read* for any woman who has children, wants children, or is ever planning to be in the same room as another woman who has or wants children. It is thought provoking, informative, horrifying, snarky, and fascinating to the point where I couldn't put it down.

Especially since I grew up in the 80's and 90's (which the authors cover from a mom perspective), it was so fascinating to learn how icons of my childhood, from Care Bears to satanic day
Mary Beth
I am more than halfway through this book, and have been struggling to finish it. I think the authors have many valid points, but I am not enjoying the snarky, sarcastic tone with which they choose to make said points.

It is alarming how prevalent the "celebrity mom" seems to be. She, and her perfect life, appear everywhere, baby in tow. It's as though an infant is the new "it" bag. The authors point out how various media glorify this relatively new monster--but anyone with a good perspective on
The Mommy Myth is full of important examples of media and governmental obfuscation, hyperbole, backlash, ignorance, hypocrisy, and just plain crazy shenanigans. The discussions are supported by thorough and convincing research.

The book made me feel enraged, frustrated, better informed, more skeptical, and deeply reflective about the influences that have shaped my own ideas of motherhood. I was surprised how much I have been unconsciously influenced by some of the news events (welfare "reform",
I think everyone should read this book, not only because of the critical analysis on the media, but also due to the historical background provided. It is mainly linear and I learned a lot from that alone.
Also, for the most part the authors make an effort to describe multiple perspectives on the issues discussed. At times I found the commentary ridiculous but sometimes I laughed, but still- anyone like myself who is used to reading long texts of analysis and statistics SHOULD appreciate the humor
Lisa R.
Jul 02, 2008 Lisa R. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Smart women
I loved this book. I may be biased because Susan Douglas was one of my professors in college and she was absolutely fantastic, but this book was funny and eye-opening. It's basically about how the media sets up all of these expectations about motherhood and what it means to be the perfect mom (what the authors refer to as "the new momism"), and how, ultimately, we cannot achieve or fulfill any of it (nor should we want to, because it's bullshit).

Some people have criticized this book for being an
While it was certainly amusing in spots, and spot-on in others, my overall reaction was this: "Bitter Much?"

I was interested in the overall message that our perception of motherhood is largely based on the media representation of some idyllic bliss, but after the repetitive over-the-head bludgeoning of the thesis that all women are victims I kind of rolled my eyes.

You don't like the message that your kids get on tv commercials? Turn it off. You don't like the messages directed at you in print a
Ryan Mishap
Snappy and sarcastic, but well researched, this book describes how individual media and political campaigns, the backlash against feminism, the marketing and entertainment juggernauts, celebrity culture, religious right-wingers and others helped shape the "new momism." This is their label for the sneaky idea that feminism was so successful that now women are empowered by choosing to stay home and lose themselves in their children--while staying sexy, of course. In fact, it turns out that what we ...more
Liz Stoller
It might not be fair to give this a rating since I only got a few chapters in.
However, it felt like the authors were hammering in the same points using a very aggressive tone - if that makes sense - which made it difficult for me to read.
I felt like the authors were often rolling their eyes through their words and make the world out to be a very hostile place for mothers, and especially one where stay-at-home moms are constantly at war with working mothers (and vice versa). Maybe I am not the ta
Favorite Quotes:

The new momism...redefines all women, first and foremost, through their relationship to children.

But motherhood is, in our culture, emphasized as such an individual achievement, something you and you alone excel at or screw up. So it’s easy to forget that motherhood is a collective experience.

The women she talked to ‘believed children would answer basic existential questions of meaning’ and would ‘provide a kind of unconditional love that relationships with men did not.’ They o
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“It's 5:22pm you're in the grocery checkout line. Your three-year-old is writhing on the floor, screaming, because you have refused to buy her a Teletubby pinwheel. Your six-year-old is whining, repeatedly, in a voice that could saw through cement, "But mommy, puleeze, puleeze" because you have not bought him the latest "Lunchables," which features, as the four food groups, Cheetos, a Snickers, Cheez Whiz, and Twizzlers. Your teenager, who has not spoken a single word in the past foor days, except, "You've ruined my life," followed by "Everyone else has one," is out in the car, sulking, with the new rap-metal band Piss on the Parentals blasting through the headphones of a Discman. To distract yourself, and to avoid the glares of other shoppers who have already deemed you the worst mother in America, you leaf through People magazine. Inside, Uma thurman gushes "Motherhood is Sexy." Moving on to Good Housekeeping, Vanna White says of her child, "When I hear his cry at six-thirty in the morning, I have a smile on my face, and I'm not an early riser." Another unexpected source of earth-mother wisdom, the newly maternal Pamela Lee, also confides to People, "I just love getting up with him in the middle of the night to feed him or soothe him." Brought back to reality by stereophonic whining, you indeed feel as sexy as Rush Limbaugh in a thong.” 47 likes
“To emphasize how truly backward our society is...let's finish with a little quiz. Let's do it like Jeopardy.

In 1990, this government required companies to give a new mother a year's leave at 90% pay.
Answer: What was Sweden?

This country provided nurseries for most children over eighteen months.
Answer: What was Sweden?

Nearly half of the children under three in this country were in publicly financed nurseries, and nearly 95% of children three to six were (and are).
Answer: What is Denmark?

In this country, 95% of children aged three to five are in preschool.
Answer: What is France?

This country provides care for one quarter of children under three in wholly or partially subsidized nurseries.
Answer: What is France?

In 1984, this country gave workers twelve weeks of maternity leave with pay.
Answer: What is Brazil? (Yes, Brazil!)

This country mandated eight weeks of maternity leave WITH PAY.
Answer: What is Kenya? (You heard us, Kenya!)

This country provided none of these things; instead, to help mothers and small children, its magazines featured profiles of rich celebrity moms who could show women how to do it all.
Answer: What was the United States?”
More quotes…