There is a concept called ‘The Man Box’ that I love because quickly and easily explains how male violence is perpetuated. I think that this concept is also helpful for understanding the ways in which parenting myths are spread and motherhood is policed. So I give to you The Mom Box.
What is the Mom Box? Essentially, it’s all of the characteristics, beliefs, and rules that Western culture use to define who a good mother is. It looks something like this:
The Mom Box
See what I mean?
But it doesn’t end there! After the definition of what it means to be a good mom is squished into this narrow little box, next comes social policing to make sure that any mom that tries to call herself a good mom fits the box criteria. We do this by using negative labels that shame moms who behave in ways outside of the Mom Box with the intention of pushing them back in.
It looks something like this:
(Be kind about my graphic design skills. I’m good at lots of other things)
As you can imagine, this generates a lot of fear because in reality none of us fit this ‘good mom’ definition all the time. Or most of the time. Or ever.
Does that mean you’re a *gasp* BAD mom? Nope. But sometimes we feel the need to prove that we are a good mom by performing this type of motherhood in front of others. It looks like every other mom fits easily into the box and we worry that there is something wrong with us, so we fake it and hope that nobody notices and sees us for the phonies that we are. And sometimes that faking means that we judge other moms to prove that we are indeed selfless and child centered and loving. What we are left with is this rigid, narrow, oppressive definition of what makes a good mom and a society full of women pretending to meet this standard.
What if threw this box away? What if we didn’t have to pretend? What if we weren’t good or bad and were just a bunch of parents doing the best we can?
I know it’s scary, so I’ll start.
Hi. I’m Olivia. And I let my 10 year old watch the Walking Dead with me because I don’t want to wait until he goes to bed before I can watch it.
Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP