Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Jury of Her Peers

When I was in college I took a class in Women's Literature. One of the works we read was A Jury of Her Peers, as short work by Susan Glaspell. The full text is available here and it's an excellent and quick read. At any rate, I've been thinking about that story a lot lately and the idea of a jury of my peers and what they might excuse. Once upon a time, it never crossed my mind that I might be tempted to thwap a dog but then Penny started barking just as I got Megan down the other day. I never thought I would grow tired of holding a sweet faced baby, especially one that was smiling and loving until earlier this week when Megan had needed to be held constantly for several days- teething and lack of sleep having gotten the best of her. I never understood the motivations of shaken baby syndrome until an epic round of nap battles with Charlie while I pregnant with Megan. Giving into the impulses is still unforgivable but these unfathomable thoughts can be understood by a jury of ones peers.

Mommy blogging gives such an interesting change in perspective to what was once secret. I often think about my mother and her generation as well as those that came before. They seem to have lived up to so much more than I, at least, manage. They had dinner on the table at 5, a clean house, and children that slept without black-out shades and sound machines. I have to remind myself that they also had valium, evening cocktails, and all manner of "help." I'm sure that all manner of things were shared over coffee cake and tea but they were never publicly recorded as they are now. It seems to me that those poor women of our mother's generation were determined to do it all and appear to make it all effortless. I sometimes feel looked down upon by women of a certain age when I point out that I won't be attending x,y, and z because I don't have childcare or that it will be from a box because that's all I have time for. At the same time, it seems that the mothers of our time have a certain level of confidence our predecessors lacked. We can admit to things falling down about our heads, the crazy thoughts you have 45 minutes into a nap that isn't happening, and the dreadful pain of post partum depression. We no longer have to prove that we can earn the bacon and cook it up as well. We have moved past that (to an extent) and can let it all hang out in cyber-space. At the same time, the secret camaraderie that created the jury that secretly acquitted Mrs. Wright no longer seems to exist. We constantly divide over breastfeeding, sleep training, where we will work and what we will label ourselves. While we are all there for a mother struggling through some difficulties there are other times that unproductive criticism seems to come from the woodwork. The public sharing of the many burdens and frustrations of mother hood is so very welcome but where did the sympathetic jury go?

1 comment:

Medley said...

Another big difference in days of yore: your neighbors wouldn't call child services if you let your kids run around outside unsupervised for hours. That allows you some time to clean the house and get dinner on the table. Also, you were 'allowed' to put kids in playpens, whereas it's bad form these days.