Book Review: When Did I Get Like This

I finished a book! Woohoo! And this time not writing one but reading one. (Although lately reading a book has taken just about as long as writing one.)

Having already seen the Amy Wilson’s one-woman play “Mother Load” about the goofy things we moms and society make mothering out to be, her book When Did I Get Like This?: The Screamer, the Worrier, the Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyer, and Other Mothers I Swore I’d Never Be felt like an extension of the play with even more humorous vignettes from motherhood. I like that Wilson’s humorous approach in both the play and the book gives moms permission to laugh at themselves but also debunks some of the theories of what “good” mothering is “supposed” to be. Kudos to Wison for not only writing a funny, light and enjoyable book that any mother can relate to but for exposing the many fallacies out there, that a lot of us subscribe to, of what it means to be a good mom. That goes a long way at helping those of us in the mothering trenches see just what’s important — and what’s not.

I saw “Mother Load” a few years ago at a local theatre with a few girlfriends, and it was hilarious. (Check out my Mother Load review here.) At several points the three of us were laughing till we cried or nearly wet ourselves. The hilarity, though, is that Wilson and all of us moms were laughing at ourselves for taking this whole “mothering” thing too seriously and squeezing the fun out of it for all of us — us and the kids we’re mothering. Society and psychologists and magazines and books and talk shows, etc., have created this culture of “perfect” mothering, and the measure for that is of course your kids. If they act out at a restaurant, their mother is somehow failing them. If they aren’t involved in enough activities (or if they’re involved in too many), if they have a temper tantrum, if they don’t share well enough with others, if they talk back to you, and so on, then it’s the fault of the woman who birthed them for not doing her job well enough.

All that blame and guilt from not measuring up to expectations only adds more pressure and more stress. What ensues is a snowball affect, I think. An uptight, over-stressed mom enables misbehaving, cranky kids, which makes mom more uptight and stressed and kids more cranky etc. If moms could stop worrying about so much about doing things the “right” way and living up to societal expectations then maybe a cycle could be created where moms produce kids having fun and moms have more fun, etc.

The saddest part of it all is that we moms are our own worst enemy. Wilson says,

“We are sure other mothers are judging us because, well, they must be, when we suck so exceptionally. But we are our own worst enemies. If nearly all of us have these daily moments of doubt, these nagging fears of failure, the ones we are hardest on are ourselves.”

We need to stop worrying about what other moms think. I need to stop worrying about what other moms think. 1) It doesn’t matter what they think and 2) they probably aren’t even thinking it! It’s all in our my head.

I’ve gotta share one more excerpt, because it’s totally me, about stressing over birthday party goody bags.

“I found myself consumed by the Backyardigans-themed gift bags I was creating for my son’s fourth birthday party, suddenly certain they would be deemed without merit by his thirty-five tiny guests. Kazoos, bubbles, and assorted organic fruit leathers were hardly sufficient parting gifts. What was in the bags at the other kid’s party last weekend? Should I run back out to the all-night drugstore for thirty-five packs of washable markers and three dozen Super Balls?”

Been there, done that, plenty of times.

This motherhood thing can be quite maddening at times.

An excellent, light read that can be read in between all the “Mo-om! He took my (whatever)” interruptions, meals, messes, laundry and bathtimes. Read an excerpt from the book and check out Wilson’s website and blog too.


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