cover image Screaming on the Inside: The Unsustainability of American Motherhood

Screaming on the Inside: The Unsustainability of American Motherhood

Jessica Grose. Mariner, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-307835-2

New York Times opinion writer Grose (Sad Desk Salad) explores the unrealistic expectations that plague contemporary mothers in this stirring account. Grose first offers a history of the “insidious ideals” behind motherhood in the U.S.: In colonial times, women were “thought to be more susceptible to the devil while they were pregnant,” and a trend in the 1940s and ’50s saw mothers being blamed for their children’s mental illnesses. Grose then brings things up to date: visions of an “ideal,” beautiful pregnancy often hide mental health problems; women are expected to sacrifice their own well-being for their children’s needs; and workplaces are generally unsupportive of mothers’ need. She finds cause for optimism in potential societal changes that “have to be multipronged—a combination of political shifts, workplace shifts, and interpersonal shifts.” She calls for paid family leave for all workers, affordable childcare, and taking action in one’s own community by, for example, donating to a local diaper bank. Grose is candid about her own experience as a mother, and moving stories from other women who have felt the weight of “unrealistic, elitist, and bigoted expectations” add heft to her survey. Mothers struggling to keep their heads above water will find camaraderie in this empathetic outing. (Dec.)