A guest post by Emily Culp ’11
My roommate gets regular handmade cards from her mother. The most recent features a cutout advertisement for pudding on the cover. The inside reads: “Thank you for ‘pudding’ so much effort into keeping in touch. We love hearing from you.”
Talk about a Power Mom! Not only does she lovingly handcraft a card, the card is not for a birthday or holiday; it’s to thank her for keeping in touch. It may not surprise you that these cards arrive regularly, that this mother flies here from out west every family weekend, and that she never fails to pick up the phone.
Part of me is incredulous. But a wiser part of me remembers that my own mother has been known to not only celebrate my birthday, but to rewrite Rodgers and Hammerstein lyrics and cross-stitch samplers for my friends’ birthdays. Is my own mother, then, a Power Mom?
I can’t quite define the phrase “Power Mom,” although there are scores of blogs, novels, and memoirs that try. Urban Dictionary even takes a stab at it: “a woman who is able to seamlessly raise children, participate in their activities, keep a household, attend school themselves, maintain a romantic relationship…, complicated hobbies, and numerous other activities all at the same time.”
Frankly, this ideal seems impossible. Indeed, Ayelet Waldman points out that the women oft-cited as paragons of motherhood are not only unrealistic but, in fact, unreal: June Cleaver, Marmee, Mary Poppins serve as fictional ideals for today’s mothers.
Funny how comparatively easy it is to define what makes a good father; he is someone present and supportive. Moreover, society evaluates men according to The Package Deal: home ownership, marriage, career, and fatherhood. Women, one might argue, have more of a litmus test when it comes to success. As Edie from Desperate Housewives asks, “No matter what else she does, if a woman isn’t a good mother, she’s a failure, right?”
Recent events have brought us a real-life domestic goddess: Michelle Obama, Mom-in-Chief. Her choice to portray herself first and foremost as a wife and mother (and thus to downplay her lengthy academic and professional credentials) has made her explosively popular among the public. Michelle’s very existence suggests that the Power Mom standard has become a realistic goal. Michelle seems awesome to me (as does my own mother), and yet my roommate’s mom strikes me as somewhat over-the-top. So I have to wonder: Is a Power Mom to be lauded for her accomplished nurturance, or scoffed at for her blatant overachievement?
This parents’ weekend, take a look around you. Just how many Power Moms were necessary to create the Middlebury community- students, faculty, even President Ron- as we know it?