The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined Women

Front Cover
Simon and Schuster, Mar 26, 2004 - Social Science - 400 pages
Susan Douglas first took on the media's misrepresentation of women in her funny, scathing social commentary Where the Girls Are. Now, she and Meredith Michaels, have turned a sardonic (but never jaundiced) eye toward the cult of the new momism: a trend in American culture that is causing women to feel that only through the perfection of motherhood can true contentment be found. This vision of motherhood is highly romanticized and yet its standards for success remain forever out of reach, no matter how hard women may try to "have it all."
The Mommy Myth takes a provocative tour through the past thirty years of media images about mothers: the superficial achievements of the celebrity mom, the news media's sensational coverage of dangerous day care, the staging of the "mommy wars" between working mothers and stay-at-home moms, and the onslaught of values-based marketing that raises mothering standards to impossible levels, just to name a few. In concert with this messaging, the authors contend, is a conservative backwater of talking heads propagating the myth of the modern mom.
This nimble assessment of how motherhood has been shaped by out-of-date mores is not about whether women should have children or not, or about whether once they have kids mothers should work or stay at home. It is about how no matter what they do or how hard they try, women will never achieve the promised nirvana of idealized mothering. Douglas and Michaels skillfully map the distance traveled from the days when The Feminine Mystique demanded more for women than the unpaid labor of keeping house and raising children, to today's not-so-subtle pressure to reverse this thirty-year trend. A must-read for every woman.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - VintageReader - LibraryThing

I really, really, really like this book. I like it so much I've read it 3/4 of the way through--twice. I think my problem in finishing it is that I get so angry when I read about the things my mother ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Devil_llama - LibraryThing

One of the more important books of this century for those wishing to counteract the bright, shining stories of the "opt out" revolution. The authors do a good job of looking at the history and ... Read full review


Introduction The New Momism
One Revolt Against the MRS
Two Mouthing Off to Dr Spock
Satanism Abduction and Other Media Panics
Four Attack of the Celebrity Moms
Maternal Delinquents
Six The War Against Welfare Mothers
Seven The Mommy Wars
Nine Moms R Us
Baby Wearing Nanny Cams and the Triumph of the New Momism
Epilogue Exorcising the New Momism
About the Authors

Eight Dumb Men Stupid Choicesor Why We Have No Childcare

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 6 - Society today expects that in order "to be a remotely decent mother, a woman has to devote her entire physical, psychological, emotional, and intellectual being, 24/7 to her children."10 If she fails to conform to this ideal, she is looked upon with strong disapproval by society. Ironically, this attitude echoes the 195os when the message was the same— a mother was encouraged to spend all of her time and energy raising her children and was expected to focus on the "most...

About the author (2004)

Susan J. Douglas is the Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination, Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media, and Inventing American Broadcasting, 1899-1922. Her journalistic articles have appeared in The Nation, Ms., In These Times, TV Guide, and The Progressive.

Meredith W. Michaels is a writer who doubles as a philosophy professor at Smith College. Her research and writing focus on the way that cultural changes affect our understanding of reproduction, parenthood, and childhood.

Bibliographic information