Ciara's Reviews > Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety

Perfect Madness by Judith Warner
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i did not care for this book. warner maintained such a smug tone throughout, it was nearly impossible to read. supposedly she was inspired to investigate the uniquely dysfunctional approach to parenting that america mothers have adopted over the last thirty years, inspired by the culture shock she experienced when she moved back to the states after having her babies in france. france offers socialized health care & government-subsidized child care called creches. obviously there's nothing like that in the united states, & warner declares that american mothers are experiencing a crisis of anxiety as a result, driven by their desire to be perfect mothers, even at the expense of their own personal well-being.

one of the most irritating aspects of this book is that warner makes no bones about how she is mainly talking about middle class & wealthy mothers. she baldly states that working class/poor mothers are outside her purview, apparently just because she doesn't know any. seems to me that a real journalist would have made an effort to track some down, or look into the numerous studies & reams of documentation about working class & poor parents' struggles. but warner herself is relatively wealthy & travels in a wealthy circle, & the book is mostly cobbled together case histories of women she personally knows, mixed with a heaping helping of various studies that have been reported in the "new york times".

it's also worth noting that this is another book that was written before the recession, & as such, it seems really dated in a lot of ways. distractingly so. warner also seems to have an axe to grind with parenting styles that she does not personally subscribe to. she spills a lot of ink over how women are needlessly stressing themselves out & ruining their lives by co-sleeping & breastfeeding on demand. i just get so sick of arguments about that kind of stuff. it works for some people, it doesn't work for others, & it's all basically a matter of balancing personal priorities with what fits into your life. i got the feeling that the american mothers warner met who are into attachment parenting maybe stirred up some of warner's own weird anxieties, because i can't figure why else she would be so viciously dismissive toward them.

in the end, she insists that women need to stop fighting among themselves to be the best mom of all & start pressuring the government for better health care, child care, etc. but it's hard to take that in when it's coated in such a gooey layer of smugness & privilege. is it really any surprise that this is a really popular book to name-drop among a certain class of new york professional writers who pontificate about the mommy wars? let's just leave them to it while the rest of us get on with living how real people live.
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