While reading Time magazine’s recent cover story on Millennial parents, I came across a statistic Time said was from a BabyCenter report: “It surveyed 2,700 U.S. mothers ages 18-44 and found that nearly 80 percent of millennial moms said it’s important to be ‘the perfect mom.’” (I haven’t actually been able to find this stat from BabyCenter itself yet – though I did find a poll claiming 77 percent felt pressure to be the perfect mother — a slightly different issue, but one that still requires that there be a concept of a perfect mom.)
As someone who’s occasionally lumped into the millennial category (I’m the tail end of 1978) I’ve been pondering what this means. What is the perfect mom? What do other people picture when they picture the perfect mom?
This is an intriguing exercise to identify the stories we tell ourselves, and to question where those stories come from. After all, if nearly 80 percent of people want to be like something, or at least feel pressure to be like something, it’s worth pondering what that something is.
For instance, does the perfect mom work? I’m willing to guess that in a reasonable chunk of people’s imaginations, work seems like something that would take mom away from the kids, and a perfect mom is always available, so therefore no. And yet there could be a different story that kids need food, shelter, and health insurance, among other things, and consequently, the perfect mother is able to support her children financially, whatever any other adults in the children’s lives happen to do. I’m not sure how we square this. Maybe the perfect mom is independently wealthy, or owns a successful home-based business based largely on passive income?
Other aspects of the perfect mom might serve to identify one’s reference community. For instance, in someone’s imagination, the perfect mother makes lovely little bento box lunches for her children daily. In someone else’s imagination, the perfect mother would never entrust her children to someone else’s schooling. When you homeschool, the lunch box thing isn’t so crucial.
Another question: what size brood does the perfect mom have? To some, the perfect mother would have numerous chicks, but if the perfect mother is also constantly available, this creates some problems for all situations where n>1. If the perfect mother attends all soccer games, but two children have soccer at the same time, our perfect mother’s head is going to explode.
(Perhaps the perfect mother can be in two places at once).
When you picture the “perfect mother” what image comes to mind? For whatever reason, the image that came into my mind first involved baked goods, but given what we’re learning about sugar, that’s a complicated matter too. How about you?
A note on comments: I’m still having to manually approve comments in my new website set-up, even if you have posted and been approved before. I don’t quite understand this, but I promise to check frequently so we can get a real discussion going.
In other news: Live in the Philly area? I’ll be speaking at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El on Remington Road in Wynnewood on Wednesday night at 7:30. It’s free; you can RSVP here.