Here is an excerpt from an article titled Mommy Madness(full piece here) which is itself excerpted from her book Perfect Madness about mothers driving themselves crazy trying to be supermoms:
“Women today mother in the excessive, control-freakish way that they do in part because they are psychologically conditioned to do so. But they also do it because, to a large extent, they have to. Because they are unsupported, because their children are not taken care of, in any meaningful way, by society at large. Because there is right now no widespread feeling of social responsibility—for children, for families, for anyone, really—and so they must take everything onto themselves. And because they can’t, humanly, take everything onto themselves, they simply go nuts.
I see this all the time. It never seems to stop. So that, as I write this, I have an image fresh in my mind: the face of a friend, the mother of a first-grader, who I ran into one morning right before Christmas.
She was in the midst of organizing a class party. This meant shopping. Color-coordinating paper goods. Piecework, pre-gluing of arts-and-crafts projects. Uniformity of felt textures. Of buttons and beads. There were the phone calls, too. From other parents. With criticism and “constructive” comments that had her up at night, playing over conversations in her mind. “I can’t take it anymore,” she said to me. “I hate everyone and everything. I am going insane.”
I looked at her face, saw her eyes fill with tears, and in that instant saw the faces of dozens of women I’d met—and, of course, I saw myself.
And I was reminded of the words of a French doctor I’d once seen. I’d come to him about headaches. They were violent. They were constant. And they would prove, over the next few years, to be chronic. He wrote me a prescription for a painkiller. But he looked skeptical as to whether it would really do me much good. “If you keep banging your head against the wall,” he said, “you’re going to have headaches.”
I have thought of these words so many times since then. I have seen so many mothers banging their heads against a wall. And treating their pain—the chronic headache of their lives—with sleeping pills and antidepressants and anxiety meds and a more and more potent, more and more vicious self-and-other-attacking form of anxious perfectionism.
And I hope that somehow we will all find a way to stop. Because we are not doing ourselves any good. We are not doing our children—particularly our daughters—any good. We’re not doing our marriages any good. And we’re doing nothing at all for our society.
We are simply beating ourselves black and blue. So let’s take a breather. Throw out the schedules, turn off the cell phone, cancel the tutors (fire the OT!). Let’s spend some real quality time with our families, just talking, hanging out, not doing anything for once. And let ourselves be.”
From PERFECT MADNESS by Judith Warner. To be published by Riverhead books, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. © 2005 by Judith Warner.