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- Published on Amazon.com
This anthology, as well-intentioned as it is, has one very significant short-coming: the amount of mothers this anthology missed equals the majority of mothers they are trying to market this book to in the first place. These are all professional writers, either formerly or currently or on the side. As with the similar anthology, "Bitch in the House" (Harper, 2003), these essays contain mostly professional women of middle and upper-middle-class families with dreams of success in their chosen field of writing and a husband who doesn't seem to exist.
Because of this, "Mommy Wars" exposes only one very thin layer of the entire picture. If the editor wanted to end the invisible cat fight that she claims all mothers engage in, why didn't she flag down those twenty-six minivans?
In fact, the message this book sent to me was that the "war" only exists between mothers of past, present or future success, in writing or other competitive, professional writing-related fields. To the mothers in this essay, everyone is out to get them, out to compete, because of the cutthroat business they are a part of. Perfectionism, to them, is synonymous with feminism, with motherhood. Success is that mark of a good mother. Success in her children, well, that's even better. That's perfect.
On a more positive note, a handful of mothers had very unique experiences (unique in terms of the content of this anthology). The only essay I truly felt moved by was the first, "Neither Here nor There" by Sally Hingston. This essay left a very poignant message: the mother admitted that she was a bad mom after years of thinking she was perfect. She was brave enough to write that she called her sick teenage daughter a "whack-job" in front of the therapist, who scolded her after her daughter said it was fine; her mother says that sort of stuff all the time.
To me, the mark of a good mother is not that goal of mutual success in herself and her children and the awards won by both, but the mother who can admit that she has failed. One who can admit, honestly, that being a mother does not make her infallible. That her hopes and dreams may not suit her offspring.
The other essay that stood out was a hardened look at two-generations of postpartum depression and how it wasn't a choice to stay home that caused the mother so much pain-it was something beyond her control. Something that had already been in her life, yet she was unaware of it. Here is a real internal conflict; one that is impossible to escape without help. One that any mother could experience, regardless of her career.
Unfortunately, many of the essays blended together in a boring shade of, "Who cares?" The tiresome repeats consisted of: mother has writing job of some sort, mother gives it up for children, mother attempts to go back to work or thinks about going back, mother does or does not, mother angsts over decision and sees her faults in other people, husband is pointless, there is no conclusion. I stopped after stuffing myself frustrated with a majority of them, then declined to do more than skim the rest.
Take the advice of reviewers of "Bitch in the House", and doubtless this anthology too, and find more variety. If the professional writing mom continues to be evaluated as the representatives of the rest of the women in the world, I won't listen anymore.