In an era of mommy blogs, Pinterest and Facebook, The Good Mother Myth dismantles the social media-fed notion of what it means to be a good mother. This anthology is a platform for real voices, each adding to the narrative of motherhood we don't often see in the headlines.
Sometimes, all it takes is hearing or reading about another mother who has been there, and we feel a bit less burdened or stressed.

Her kids have always slept through the night, and even if they don't, she still manages to look like she has had eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. There is always a well-balanced, home-cooked meal on her dinner table. She either happily stays at home or holds down a fulfilling job while still finding time to join the PTA, run the school's book sale and makes it to every single soccer game. Her house is absolutely spotless, and if it's not, she can effortlessly laugh it off. She has the energy and desire for a happy and adventurous sex life, and her partner is always satisfied. She is crafty, creative and embodies the perfect blend of modern woman and hipster housewife. She is usually white, middle to upper class, heterosexual and neither too young nor too old.

But above all… she's a myth. And debunking this myth is the heart-work of a smart new book aptly titled, The Good Mother Myth, edited by Avital Norman Nathman.

A new lens

The Good Mother Myth, NathmanNathman is a former teacher and lifelong learner turned freelance writer. Her work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender and reproductive rights. Most recently this work and this lens manifested into The Good Mother Myth. The book is a collection of essays from an array of mothers, each lending her voice to help create a new narrative of motherhood, in a pushback against the destructive and draining "good mother" myth.

Nathman says, "This book has been a long time coming, and it's exciting that it's finally out there! As a writer who focuses a lot of pieces on parenting and motherhood, I had felt entrenched in this topic for a while. At the same time, I was noting how others, particularly mainstream media, framed and shared stories surrounding motherhood. A lot of their headlines or pieces felt very one note, and discussed motherhood as if it was this monolith that all women shared. Yet, in doing so, there's been a bevy of voices that are either silenced or ignored, and those were the ones I was most interested in hearing from."

A community of {honest} mothers

The Good Mother Myth coverAnd hear from, she did. As the essay submissions poured in, Nathman said it became glaringly clear that she wasn't alone in her desire to hear more than mainstream stories of motherhood. This collective hunger for variety and diversity in motherhood storytelling yielded a book filled with more than 30 thoughtful, well-written and unique essays. From tales of mind-bending, panic-inducing overwhelm to a reflection on using weed instead of wine to deal with the terrible twos, the honesty of the essays creates a community of mothers who refuse to feel like they're in competition with others, or with the notion of the ideal mom — they're just trying to find a way to make it work.

Hearing more diverse stories of motherhood was the first part of Nathman's vision. But the second part — the sense of community sans competition — was equally vital. She explains, "My hope with the book is that any mother, regardless of who she is and her background or experiences, can pick up this book and find at least one essay (or, ideally many!) that she connects with. Sometimes, all it takes is hearing or reading about another mother who has been there, and we feel a bit less burdened or stressed."

Voices heard, ideas softened

Sarah Buttenwieser is a Western Massachusetts writer, columnist, published essayist and a mother to four, who are simultaneously in the toddler to teen years. Buttenwieser is one of The Good Mother Myth's contributors. About participating in the project she says, "I was eager from the second Avital mentioned her idea for this anthology to write something for it — and I felt strongly that adoption would be 'my issue,' because let's face it, there are plenty of 'Good Mother Myths' I'd be more than willing to address!"

Sarah Buttenwieser

Buttenwieser is known for her poignant, heartfelt essays about — among many topics — the open adoption of her fourth child, and this is what she chose to write about. She explains that not only is this her "known," but The Good Mother Myth gave her the opportunity to change readers' assumptions and thinking about this too often not (deeply, authentically) discussed topic.

Buttenwieser says, "I wrote an essay about open adoption that essentially tries to say it's not altruistic to adopt. It's a decision about family (for us, this was a fourth child, a daughter, after I gave birth three times, to our three sons). Although adoption is no longer a taboo subject as it once was, open adoption is relatively new and I wrote about why it felt like a good choice for us. I hope readers of my essay feel, as I hope they do about the whole anthology, really, that they moved from idea — in my case, adoption is a virtuous thing — to a much more emotional place, one that's softer. In my case, it'd be to let the word "mother" stand alone without qualifications for both me and the mom who gave birth to our daughter."

The Good Mother Myth

The Good Mother Myth is filled to the brim with essays like Buttenwieser's, ones that hope to move emotions and thoughts and, ultimately, mothers themselves out of the box that is "good."

To learn more about The Good Mother Myth, visit the website, follow Nathman on Facebook and Twitter and, of course, buy the book.

More on must-read books

Women, Food, and God: A book review
Best book club reads
Motherhood comes naturally (And other vicious lies)

Main image credit: Fuse/Getty Images

Topics: