Tuesday, April 7, 2009
In 1963, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique and wrote about the lack of fulfillment in middle class housewives' lives. It was very controversial, yet became a bestseller. It was deemed one of the most influential non-fiction books of the 20th century.
Fast-forward to 1998. Marg Stark publishes What No One Tells the Bride. Like Friedan, Stark interviewed middle class women and identified sources of stress and frustration in their lives. Her book is "a readable self-help guide for brides-to-be and newlyweds who are trying to adjust to this often anxiety-ridden passage in life and to solve the consequent identity crisis." When I was first told about this book, I had been married for one month. The women who told me about it were also newlyweds, and I remember thinking that this was the 90s' answer to Betty Friedan--the book that talked about the things that nobody wanted to talk about.
The reason I am thinking about these things is that yesterday, Oprah interviewed the authors of Dirty Little Secrets from Otherwise Perfect Moms, Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile. The entire episode was women talking about things that nobody had told them--largely frustrations and anxieties that come along with motherhood. Again and again, the women said that they were afraid to admit to not loving every second of raising their children, that they felt they would be judged if they acknowledged the slip-ups and not-so-picturesque moments in their new lives with children.
I found all of this fascinating. If we go by the popularity of these books alone, here we are, 46 years after Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, and it seems that not much has changed. Do I agree with this? Not necessarily. But the consumption of these books indicates, at the very least, that a common thread is a lack of support and honest community for lots of moms and wives.
I never ran out and bought What No One Tells the Bride, and I probably will not purchase Dirty Little Secrets. The thing I found most hopeful in watching the episode is that I had heard every one of the "secrets" the women talked about, largely from women around me. It was comforting to know that already I have a support network that so many women have yet to realize. The biggest thing that comes out of this, in my opinion at least, is a more grounded, honest, and consequently real happiness and fulfillment that stems from my home life. I think that's pretty fantastic, and I feel really fortunate.