Judith Warner's Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety has struck a chord among middle-class moms guilt-tripped into being time-martyrs and trying to micromanage their children's lives. A mother of two, Warner lives in Washington, D.C.
WHAT'S DISTINCTIVE ABOUT MOTHERING IN THE "AGE OF ANXIEFTY"? Parenthood now is all about performance: ours and our kids.' Women, whether they work or stay at home, are driving themselves crazy trying to do everything for their children.
WAS IT DIFFICULT FOR OUR MOTHERS? We're more driven. At every moment, we expect to maximize potential for bonding and education. I realized that with all the playacting and singing I'd done, I'd basically become a TV set with 24-hour children's programming. It's soul-draining.
IS IT BAD FOR CHILDREN AS WELL? Yes. I'd made my daughters too dependent on me for entertainment and stimulation. It was time to sit back a bit.
THE MOTHER YOU INTERVIEWED CALLED THIS STATE OF AFFAIRS "THE MESS." HOW DID WE GET HERE?
We live in an age of such competition and insecurity—financial insecurity, job insecurity—that it feels as if you have to run twice as fast to stay in place. Since society isn't solving families' problems, women take on the responsibility of creating a more perfect world for their children.
WHAT CAN BE DONE? Fathers need to share parenting more equally. And society needs to put its money where its mouth is on family values, with schools people can believe in and more affordable, better child care. We are becoming more aware, and that's a first step to ending the madness.