This Pandemic is a Bad Mother
August 12, 2020 5:09 AM   Subscribe

"The mothers I know who are more anxious than ever, or those who are now experiencing anxiety for the first time, are afraid to tell their friends for fear they will be seen as lesser, weaker mothers. In addition to roasting and sous viding and baby-wearing and account-managing and storyboarding, mothers are also supposed to maintain morale. Talking to some people about freaking out is infinitely worse than freaking out." An essay on anxiety, self-definition, judgment, motherhood, and parenting during a pandemic from Lisa Taddeo (Guardian).
posted by MonkeyToes (7 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
"Reconnected is the wrong word. The right word could be found in the back of her Suburban, between her panties and his crushed pack of cigarettes."

Powerful and well-written, thanks for posting.
posted by rpfields at 8:58 AM on August 12, 2020

It's me down to the cigarette. I've been thinking almost obsessively since March - "What would a 1950's housewife do"? She wouldn't complain. She would get all the things done, she would just stay up later and work harder. She would laugh it all off with the other housewives and maybe roll her eyes just a little, but she would keep up appearances. She would keep morale up (and she also probably wouldn't smoke as openly or as much as I do).

Keeping morale up? That's a bridge too far for me. I wish I could, but it betrays everything in my being to try to smile and laugh when I'm worrying and fixating on the chores and my job and whether the kids are doing ok and how I am going to keep us safe. Nevermind that I have aspirations that are miles from being a 1950's housewife. That is nevertheless what I am trying to be.

Maintain morale. Yeah. I've been thinking about how I can explain to my eldest and my husband - that they really need to help out around the house and follow the covid safety rules I'm setting out especially once school starts because if I don't get that help then not only can I not keep us safe but I will be exhausted and broken and more likely to be hospitalized or die if I get it.

Not very sunny.
posted by kitcat at 1:08 PM on August 12, 2020 [12 favorites]

kitcat, thank you and holy shit, do I wish you strength. I have a similar voice in my head, and daily ask myself "What would a sensible, levelheaded 1930s farm wife do?" and some of the time, I go do that thing. Get up. Shower and dress and go to work. Make sure the littler boxes are done, look after the geriatric cat, harvest something from the garden, hang the laundry out to dry, stack the woodpile against the winter to come, take a walk so I get some exercise...I can't laugh any of it off. When I take a selfie these days, something light to post, I can't make my face look happy. It just won't. Every worry shows. I can't fake it, I don't have the energy, not even to be self-deprecating and funny to friends. People ask how my kids are and I say I don't know, they've gone feral and I am not kidding. How do you maintain morale when you're living on entirely different shifts? (The younger one and her friends are online together all the time. They have recently decided to take turns reading each other bedtime stories, and Christ almighty, I am a bad mother because I am exhausted and just grateful that she has found a way to cope.) As for my own morale..."I ate the brownies because they were all I had. I ate them all." If I could indulge in guilty pleasure, guilty oblivion, I would. I'm not proud of that. But I get it.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:06 PM on August 12, 2020 [13 favorites]

MonkeyToes, my god I wish you strength too. That's a good one, I'm adding 30's farmwife to my repertoire. Sigh You are not a bad mother. You are keeping your eye on them. They are fine. The farm wife would likely be more than satisfied with that, ironically.
posted by kitcat at 6:29 PM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Morale. Oh yeah. That’s the straw that breaks. I was telling my mom about all the things I need to *do* and all the worries I have and then I said, “And even worse, I can’t be a bitch about any of it.” Because I’ll harm my marriage. I’ll ruin my child’s sense of love and security. I will give up on school before I give up on my kid’s sense of love and security. Right now, things are in balance at sacrifice of my sanity. Can it be so tenuously held for a great length of time? Is this just a privilege my family will have to give up? A mostly sane and loving mom and wife? We all have to make sacrifices. Don’t we?
posted by amanda at 7:22 PM on August 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

MonkeyToes- my mom was born on a very isolated farm in 1935, sixth of seven. Her mom kept a bottle marked poison on a high shelf in the kitchen and sometimes threatened to take it. That's the only 1930s farmwife I have any actual knowledge of.

Last recession, it made total sense for me to be the one to stay home with the three kids while the other two adults brought in cash but it went on until the youngest started 1rst grade.

One day dinner burned cuz a drool-fingered light bulb exploded and two of the kids cut their feet and while I was dealing with that the uncut one went to where I'd been mopping up tracked in dog poop and gave her eyes a blast of Murphy's Oil. Nobody had done anything wrong and everybody got hurt anyway.

The women came home to a charred capon and bloody little footprints and said wow I can't believe you are managing so well and that if they could take a contract that would leave me alone for five weeks with their two girls and my son we'd be solvent with a cushion. At least they asked, right? I was simultaneously flattered and queasy but it was what made sense even to my strained faculties. I shaved my head that night and it never really grew back. And these are good kids as kids go but I still felt like I was preparing for war. There were five pregnancies out in the barn that would drop during that time. 37 days that would pass like molasses.

It's just hard in a way nothing else is.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:27 AM on August 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

Maybe the better analogy is prarie wife. Farm wives get to go to town once once a month, or at least visit the neighbors on Sunday. Now going to the neighbors is out and even the shopping is an anxiety fest. I was at the grocery store yesterday and it was a cascade of unpleasant decisions. "Argh, no frozen breakfast sausage, all they have is ground pork almost past its date, but it'll save me a trip... They're out of Windex, all they have is this 'glass and surface cleaner' at twice the price of the Wal-Mart brand, but it will save me a trip, so..."
posted by wnissen at 12:36 PM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

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