Lie Down and Die

The History of Miserable Motherhood (and an Unmapped Plug)

Stephanie Phillips / 11.14.19

“I declare if I tho’t I was to be thus occupied for the rest of my life, I would — I was going to say — lie down & die.”

So wrote a new nursing mother Laura Wirt Randall in 1828, as quoted in the book Scarlett’s Sisters by historian Anya Jabour. To which we reply, “YASSS GIRL.”

In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, Jessica Grose documents the historicity of early motherhood having always been miserable — her piece, as it happens, is called “Early Motherhood Has Always Been Miserable” — and it validated my own experience and that of the many fellow mothers/friends I reached out to with the link.

Grose cites evidence dating back to the Middle Ages of motherhood not living up to its currently-Instagrammed hype: children seen as evil, women wanting to escape to the wilderness or feeling trapped or “being reduced to a state of melancholia.”

She writes:

Today’s Donna Reed is the momfluencer on Instagram with the beachy waves, Mont Blanc marble counter tops and diaphanous earth-toned wardrobe. Her cultural power still threatens to overwhelm all of the realistic, funny writing and performance of [Ali] Wong, Angela Garbes, Nefertiti Austin and Amy Schumer, who are expanding our narrow and confining definition of the “ideal mother.”

“Each new generation of mothers will need searing honesty from their peers,” she says in her conclusion, and wouldn’t you know that we at Mockingbird are HERE FOR THAT. Released last year, Unmapped: The (Mostly) True Story of How Two Women Lost at Sea Found Their Way Home has still not found its way onto every bookshelf in the world — but it should!

In it, Charlotte Getz muses:

Motherhood is a role that’s been played since the dawn of time. It’s been depicted in art, music, film, and religion as one of the most revered positions a woman could endeavor. Billions of women embody this role at any given moment. So why do I so often feel like I am playing a part I’m unsuited for? I don’t think I’m alone in this. Mothers today are overwhelmed, dissatisfied, guilty, pulled in every direction — we are not enough.

Or you can read my story of being trapped on an elevator with my son:

It’s possible that the lack of ventilation is affecting my sanity. It’s also possible that motherhood is.

Such gems! Such wisdom! Such a mess — but never fear, because (as always, here at Mockingbird) there is hope, as Charlotte writes:

Motherhood is blessed, and motherhood is hard. One truth doesn’t negate the other.

And I reflect:

I’m now captivated by this view that I never would have taken in had my child not led me to it. A view I never expected.

Read more in Unmappedand if you order now, you can get your copy in plenty of time for Christmas (the season of messes…and hope)!


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