Ann Dunnewold, a therapist specializing in moms and postpartum depression, has written Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box in response to what she has identified as the current mommy paradigm, one in which moms are not allowed to focus on their own needs and instead feel compelled to “overparent” and overprotect their children. Although this book is filled with so much good stuff that I wanted to underline every single sentence, I actually don’t relate to the assumption it’s all based on, one in which I supposedly think I’m not a good enough mom. Dr. Dunnewold wants us to embrace the mantra that we are “perfectly good” mothers, and I do. I am a perfectly good mother. So there. Yay for me and my self esteem.
This doesn’t mean I love every minute of it. I am indeed comforted by Dunnewold’s reminder that one doesn’t have to love the daily acts of mothering – diaper changing, playground loitering, lice extraction – and can still love her child.
Similar to the raison d’etre for RookieMoms.com, Even June Cleaver encourages mothers to give themselves permission to pursue other interests and satisfy their own needs for fulfillment, whether through work, socializing or private time. By placing her own needs last, Dr. Dunnewold explains, a mother sends the message to herself and her children that “Mothers do not matter.” Yikes. I don’t want to be a part of that. Note to self: Give kids plenty of opportunities to see that Mommy can be busy with other priorities.
Even with just two and a half years of parenting under my belt, I can feel the draw towards overparenting. I am indeed the modern housewife who is not all that interested in the housekeeping, not obsessed with pleasing the husband, but instead is completely child-centered. This is what housewife-ing has become. It’s not that I think my son should be enrolled in karate, figure drawing and violin lessons all at once, but that I feel an internal pressure that goes something like, “Hey, you chose to have these kids. You better give them 110%.” So unlike Dr. Dunnewold, I don’t blame a media’s portrayal of mothers; I blame my own temptation to channel my achievement and intellectual energy into parenting the way I previously channeled it into my job.
After reading Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box, I consider myself warned against this tendency toward extreme parenting. The potential risk of having kids who cannot solve their own problems, make their own happiness, or control their own impulses is too great. We have to back off.
A truly helpful philosophical approach the author provides is to substitute black and white, all-or-nothing thinking with rational thinking based in reality. The irrational thinking with which we sometimes punish ourselves includes a great deal of “shoulds”, the author suggests. Thinking “I am sick of the playground” (and feeling badly about that) implies that one should love the playground. “I forgot the juice boxes for soccer practice” implies the ridiculous absolute that “good moms never forget.”
Dr. Dunnewold shares a story about a mom named Julie:
Every night Julie tossed and turned, stuck on what remained on her list from that day, rather than what she did accomplish. For mothers, the tunnel vision is full of value judgements about which activities are important, too… I should get it all done…She felt better when she stopped fretting and took credit for the time she had spent with her son. Her perfectly good mantra become “Look what I did do today.”
As an activity on RookieMoms.com, my partner-in-crime Heather recommended that we focus on did-do lists rather than to-do lists. Based on the comments, this suggestion seems to have resonated really strongly with readers, probably because it’s a way to practice the “perfectly good” mantra. This has actually become a daily routine for me. I keep my datebook next to me and add things in that are accomplishments, not just requirements. So hang on for a second, I have to write down that I just wrote this perfectly good sentence.
> See what other Parent Bloggers have to say about this book
> Buy the book on Amazon.com