I imagine being a stay-at-home mom looked a lot differently in the 1950’s. Did they even call it being a “stay-at-home” mom then, or just being a mom?
Most of us can pull up a mental imagine of a 1950’s mom at home with her vacuum, apron, and high heels. “Perfect” in many ways, but as we know now today, way too subservient to be happy, “suffering” in silence as secondary citizens.
Now, pull up a mental image of “mommin'” in present day. For some reason, what pulls up for me is an image of a mom on the floor, coffee in one hand, kids climbing all over her, hair messy, and sweatpants/leggings on with a look of exhaustion on her face. I’m sure many of us can relate to this image. My question is, will this image too one day be looked back on as a skewed social construct?
I started watching The Handmaids’ Tale last night on Hulu. The book, written by Margaret Atwood, is one of my favorites. Basically, it’s about a dystopian society in which, among other things, the government controls their people based on the fear of being “ratted out” by their peers. It got me thinking about the societal mental prison we, as millennial moms, now live in as well.
Personally, I feel like I am SUPPOSED to feel miserable as a stay-at-home mom. I notice this most when I’m having a good day and as soon as my husband calls or comes home to ask me how I’m doing, I give out an exasperated sigh. My voice and posture changes as if I have struggled all day and the kids were just terrible. I start to rattle of all the things that “his son” has done to me today. I DON’T want to put this burden on my husband, but I feel like if I said my day was amazing, I got to hang out with my kids, watch them grow and learn, and watch TV (and occasionally go out shopping or hang out with a friend) then I would be rubbing it in his face that he has to go to work all day to support me doing so.
The same thing happens when talking to mom friends or even on social media. We change our expressions to match what we think we should be saying. You hear a lot about how people only show their highlight reel on Facebook and other social media platforms, but have you also noticed that moms tend to vent on there as well. With my mom friends I tend to play down how good life is and complain about a lack of sleep or time, or how busy we are. We don’t want to look like we are actually enjoying life or we might be “ratted out”.
Those who do look like they have a “perfect” life are immediately taken down in conversations. If a mom looks half way decent (hair done, makeup did), other moms will comment (if not out loud, to themselves) how she must be neglecting her kids somehow. If a mom gets sleep, they must be making their kids cry it out or, God-forbid, not co-sleeping. If she works and is successful, her kids must be raised by someone else. If she has a nice body, oh it’s all about her or she doesn’t breastfeed, or plastic surgery. Why do we feel the need to comment or bring others down? I believe it goes back to the societal pressure we feel to NOT be perfect and to keep each other from doing the same. Are we putting OURSELVES in the same box as 1950s housewives were put into?
We know that “Comparison is the thief of joy,” but how do we justify just being joyful without seeming selfish, too good, or stuck up. Are we too afraid of being “ratted out” or worse yet, unfriended to be happy? By projecting an image of happiness in our motherhood duties, the 1950s housewife failed to obtain true happiness. The same can be said by the image of a miserable millennial housewife. Either way, we need to avoid the extremes of our life and feel more comfortable in our own skin, in our own ups and downs and stop judging others. As mothers we need to come together and lift each other up no matter where we are in our journey.