When I began reading ‘The Juggling Mother: Coming Undone in the Age of Anxiety’ By Author, SFU Lecturer and East Van Mom of 2, Amanda Watson, I didn’t expect to feel so exposed. The book, released in September, explores the representation of the modern mother in popular media. Characters like Mila Kunis in ‘Bad Moms’ and Leslie Mann in ‘This is 40’ are women we laugh along with. We see their chaos and it reflects our own…. Sort of… They are thin, beautiful, secure financially and even when their houses are a ‘total disaster’ they’re still somehow perfect. The Juggling Mother confronts the desire to reject these shiny stereotypes while simultaneously scrambling to embody them. The author weaves her personal parenting experience into her research and shares the struggle in passages like:
As I prepared to go “back to work” – to the extent that preparation is possible – I would daydream about how to secure my reputation as someone who could skillfully juggle my first year of new course preparations and life with a new baby. I envisaged myself floating stylishly through the corridors of higher learning, taking on meetings with a smile to convey the ease with which I was conducting my responsibilities.
It is many new working mother’s promise that they will resume the professional life they excelled at before. We won’t reveal our lack of sleep, we’ll never arrive with dried cereal on our blouse and unless asked directly we won’t ever mention the baby’s latest and cutest accomplishment. COVID-19 has lifted the veil on many working moms, exposing messy homes and rambunctious children.
“COVID has cracked the Juggling Mother open,” explained Watson to me. “While women’s unpaid work has long been known to women themselves, that frantic juggling act is now front and centre, and it’s worse than ever as we go without our support networks during COVID. We can’t un-see how unfair this division of labour is. We’re burnt out and can’t hide it.”
As I read Watson’s stories about childcare struggles, perpetual guilt and the nagging priority shuffle between career and family I recognized many of my own struggles. Unfortunately, as I dared to hope, the book doesn’t end with a solution. There is no hack or trick to resolve the daily scramble. We are living proof that women carry on. The juggle of the working Mother continues, invisible balls and all.
Jenn Wint is a writer, communications strategist and a public relations specialist. She is passionate about storytelling and community. Jenn lives in East Vancouver with her husband, 3yo son and 1yo daughter. You’ll find them hanging around Vancouver’s playgrounds, water parks, coffee shops and anywhere that bakes fresh cookies in-house!