Here, not for your pleasure but for your ease of navigation, are summaries of some of the blogs I happened upon. I'm sure that there are plenty of other excellent posts out there, but I didn't find them before my interest began to burn away. (A final aside: I wonder whether my rapid burnout is another sign of that learned helplessness that Warner targets in her book.)
- Getupgrrl at Chez Miscarriage offers an excellent and succinct set of historical comparisons debunking the possibility that Warner says anything new. The point I most which I had made: "Interestingly enough, the cure for maternal overparenting has also remained the same throughout history: more sex!" Grrl points out that the cylical nature of mother bashing reflects "large-scale social and economic patterns." I think you could also talk about generational conflict, but regardless of that digression, I'm inspired to begin drafting a blog-worthy history of recent American motherhood.
- Elizabeth at Half-Changed Life analyzes the independent forces that drive SAHM and WOHM moms to ramp up their "parenting," and what happens when the groups collide. My personal "ouch" moment: "Some at-home parents feel the need to justify their decision by giving their kids every bit of attention and stimulation possible. This is how they prove that they're not wasting their expensive educations." Yes, yes, guilty as charged. Half-Changed Life also picks up on and praises an Elle piece by Warner that puts American superparenting into an international context, where it looks decidedly unique and weird.
- Over at Birch and Maple, a pointed question for all of us who worry about doing the right thing by our kids: "Doesn't striving for perfection really just mean you can't deal if you're not in control?" I confess, sometimes I think my entire experience of parenthood, including infertility, circles around questions of control. The author, Orodemniades, compares the subjects of Warner's article (or, more precisely I think, the subjects of Quindlan's column) to an infamous category in the infertile world: Pottery Barn People. Because I've never quite gotten that metaphor, I appreciated Oro's summary: "They have it all, yet they still whine." Hmmm, I think I'm a PBP.
- The Mental Multivitam declares Warner's subject to be, not mommy madness but mommy stupidity -- she targets the hand-painted paper plates -- and later adds that "reading, thinking, writing, learning, laughing, living are more worthwhile pursuits than whining." The author approvingly quotes a friend's declaration that "Loving others, especially our husbands and children, is really so much more inspiring." Of course, Warner might be exploring precisely how today's mothers should best love their children (and the husbands, too).
- Barbara Curtis also takes up the question of women whining, labelling Warner's topic one appealing primarily to "every narcissistic, infantile and elitist woman whiner." Among her other criticisms of Warner's subjects, Curtis makes a telling point about Warner's proposal of part-time childcare for stay-at-home moms. She asks: does Warner "assume there's some subclass of women who are too stupid to do much other than care for the kids of the more "gifted" working and stay-at-home mothers?"
- Curtis's take-no-prisoners approach sparked a debate, inspiring her to follow up with an essay in praise of stay-at-home motherhood -- boredom, loneliness, exhaustion and all:
"this is a brief season in your life. When your kids are leaving, you will hardly believe how fast it all went. ... As I sacrificed to give everything I could to my kids ... my own life was being stretched and enriched. ... So even though it looked on the outside like my life was consumed by motherhood -- and it was -- inside there was a well of creativity being formed. When it came bubbling to the surface, I began to write. And because of the discipline of 12 years of putting others before myself, I actually had something to say."Curtis's final zinger: "the impact [of] all these whiney, negative stories on motherhood must have an impact on [children's] tender spirits, must make them feel like burdens rather than blessings."
- Jennifer Lynn Arnold of 4 Boys and a Mom joins Curtis in pronouncing that the years of intensive motherhood are "but a season." She believes that Warner's subjects are correct to feel depressed and overwhelmed, because their attempts to do all things by halves have led them to neglect their most important charge, their children. Arnold echoes many evangelical Christian bloggers when she writes:
"God designed us to be maternal and to be the helper. We are driven to not fail as a mother as instinctively as we are built to breathe in, breathe out, blink! ... There is not [a] rule that says a woman has to become a mother, but by God if you are going to than you better have your priorities straight. Let me clue you, that means putting your child's well being before your, pride, ambition, goals and self indulgent pleasures. It is when we fight against that and do not have our priorities straight that we feel bad and stressed out."I was surprised, though, that Arnold thought Warner's catalog of mommy depression was a condemnation of SAHMs who are happy with their lives. I think this defensiveness arises from Arnold's belief that the modern women's movement is responsible for transforming women from "helpers" into "competitors." One offshoot of this transformation? The types of intensive parenting behaviors Warner catalogued, which Arnold asserted were intended not to improve children's lives but to compete with other moms.
- Geeky Mom also targets a culture of mommy peer pressure, and believes that maternal competition makes it very hard to step off the perfect parenting race track. She doesn't think Warner is writing about elitist problems: "I live in a very middle-class neighborhood. No one drives fancy cars or sends their kids to private school, but there's still enough pressure to make some of us (me) feel like they're not doing enough." Geeky Mom refocuses on Warner's claim that working women are responsible for too much of the burden, not just of childcare but of community care. She thinks Warner's proposals are a good place to start.
- More on the question of peer group and peer pressure at City Mama. In an upbeat manner, Mama attributes her laid-back mothering style to laziness and a healthy ability to forego judgementalism. She also connects Warner's topic to the rising use of SSRIs, something I would hope Warner herself addresses in her book. City Mama closes with a rousing invokation of sisterhood: "No more living in fear of what others will think. No more judging. No more competing. We are hurting each other by doing that. We are making our sisters feel terrible about themselves and their parenting choices. ... And ultimately it's our children that will suffer." Of course, it's precisely the question of why we do this, why we can't just let it go, that inspired Warner to write her book.
- Over at The Bleat, a stay-at-home dad named James Lileks eviscerates Warner. He flat-out rejects any suggestion that society is to blame for mothers' anxieties, and targets instead "the latest set of internally contradictory expectations thrown at women’s heads like a big frozen watermelon." It's a good if infuriating piece, worthwhile if only for the 'I'm outside this debate because I'm a man' attitude, and ends with a slacker dad manifesto: "When it comes to expectations about gender and roles and accomplishments and the latest theories about childrearing, I have a secret mantra: I don’t care." Then again, one of Warner's topics? Why exactly so many women are unable to be the slackers here extolled.
- Childbearing hipster also extols an "I'm lazy and it's wonderful" approach. Hipster's excellent advice? "Find yourself a good solid core of people who love you and your kid, get together, mix up a pitcher of margaritas and let the rugrats go wild. Good. Happy. Take it as it comes. Do what works for your family, and if it isn't working, find out what does. Don't beat yourself up, and don't let anyone else beat you." Hipster lives among an enviable community of supportive and happy families, precisely the environment Warner loved so much while she lived in France. Warner's point, of course, was that while Hipster's community might be attributable to individual effort and luck, in France, the expectation of community support for mothers and family life is treated as a socially mandated right.
- Back on the Daddy track, Jim McQuiggen of Patriside complains about Warner's exclusion of Dads, especially SAHDs. McQuiggen writes, "Many of the issues that Ms. Warner identified rang true to me: lack of decent childcare in this country, corporate apathy to the plight of parents, economic stressors, and yep, the thud you hear is my head pounding the wall." Ultimately, though, he labels Warner's subjects "congenital whiners" whose elitist lives are no where near as difficult as his own: he doubts Warner's theses will gain traction in the Heartland. McQuiggen implicitly raises a key methodological question: is Warner correct when she asserts that we are an aspirational people who allow the values and behaviors of the upper middle class to shape our behavior regardless of our own social and economic level?
- Middle-Aged Divorced Woman chimes in to report how different her own mothering was, twenty years ago. Reporting on a lost culture of laid-back mothering, MAD Woman explains that "When I was raising kids ..., we kind of all hung out together. We played with Lego's a lot, watched Sesame Street some, but mostly what we did when we got bored was go on a walk. Sunny days, snowy days, cloudy days. Doesn't matter. They've got all kinds of sports and Accelerated learning for kids, but I think going on walks provides the best education there is." Like Warner, MAD Woman encourages today's moms to relax their standards and re-think their goals. Also like Warner, she understands that personal behavior changed as society did: family walks are more difficult when "Developers do their best to bulldoze every last bit of woods and fields so they can build acres of gigantous, humongous, dreary, ugly "luxury Executive Homes." ... Do they leave anything un-built, spontaneous, free, un-controlled? No. Not even a sidewalk."
- Suzanne Galante rides to Warner's rescue over at Mother-in-Chief. Galante thanks Warner for validating her blog's subject: the plight of mothers who did believe they would have it all, only to find themselves profoundly "let down." She writes, "My whole family respects what I am doing as a parent, as a writer, as a woman, as a person. They all love and respect me. I wish I could manage the same for myself." Galante pairs Warner's diagnosis of "learned helplessness" with her own experience of "learned hopelessness": "We are so focused on creating the best learning environment for our kids by reading to them, taking them to play group, art class, swim class, the park, Germ-boree [etc] ... it seems impossible to figure out how to change things so that our worlds become a better, less insane place to live." She closes by highlighting and cheering Warner's proposed solutions, although Galante doesn't really explain how the solutions address the problems she identifies.
- The RetiKhah at Kol Ra'ash Gadol obviously agrees with Warner's implicit conclusion that today's mothers are oppressed. She invokes backlash theory: "We no longer have the guts to call our society and government to account for inventing new ways to keep us in the kitchen and the home, and then set those working at home against those working out of the home by confusing us about whom to blame." In a very brief post, the question of dads -- where are they and what are they doing -- gets first mention.