Scary Indeed

I guess I must have a number of Facebook friends, acquaintances from high school, who are stay at home moms. Because I constantly see posts about the hellish everyday life of these frazzled ladies, and all of them, without fail, frame the issue as though the sadomasochistic nightmare they describe is the only possible way that Americans in the twenty-first century could go about the business of raising and loving our little ones. Consider the blogger “Scary Mommy,” just one representative of a cry for help from every desperate corner of the internet:

What a goddamn nightmare. And the really scary thing is, in neighborhoods all over this country, the very same thing is happening (read the comments section if you don’t believe me). Which is crazy, because without a doubt the kids would be so much happier in a group setting with lots of other kids and the mom would be so much happier doing something more fulfilling than cutting plums and trying not to yell. This is a structural problem in our society, and until we all figure out together that the old immigrant urban extended family had something right — with a bunch of mixed age kids hanging out pretty independently, playing together and learning from one another, with parents, grandparents, and neighbors nearby to mellowly supervise and also enjoy each other’s company — these little hells will be all too common. It’s such a bad scene, for the moms and the kids. In the meantime, perhaps this unfortunate person could think about getting a co-op going with other parents, and trade off so that a couple of the parents take all the kids one day and the other parents can do something else on their “off” days. And then there’s always the demand for free high-quality European-style subsidized day care, which would solve this lady’s problem straight out.

What these bloggers and their commenters never seem to acknowledge is that the isolation of the nuclear family, especially in its super privatized suburban iteration, is a stupid way to raise children and a waste of (largely) female energy. They ought to be reminded that in the 1970s, women realized that this was a fucked up situation for all involved, and they fought to transform it. Not successfully enough, since what most women got instead of liberation was the chance to be doubly stressed at home and now at some stupid job too. So lots of (mostly upper) middle class women decided just to stay home and here many of them are, back in the 1950s. But this is a retreat from women’s liberation that is bad for everyone.

All of us need to take up the fight for a domestic life that breeds happiness rather than neurotic people — cuz if you think these kids aren’t internalizing your repressed resentment, Scary Mommy, you’re dreaming — and the first thing we have to do is to stop pretending that this state of affairs is anything but a defeat of liberatory feminist political struggle. Mommy bloggers, like so many today, are incredibly good at articulating the minutiae of the personal. Sadly, far too many seem to have missed the memo that the personal is political.

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