Mommies in Melancholia

The latest trend in Mommy Blogging appears to be confessing to your mental illness. Anxiety and depression are the new “Aden and Anais” must-have muslin swaddle blankets. We’re wrapping ourselves in terror testimonials and Klonopin confessions instead of adorable pastel prints.

It was inevitable. Heather Dooce Armstrong was the pioneer of blogging for a living, and when she birthed out the Mommy Blogging genre, millions followed suit. Her first book was a confessional about her postpartum breakdown and stay in a mental hospital. Not really up to the hype, in my opinion. Being awoken nightly by your roommate who’d escaped a Satanic Sex Slave Farm so you could help her catch the vampire bats flying around your semi-private suite in the state hospital — now THAT’S worth the price of admission. Heather had nothing like that in her book of tales. Just some hackneyed dairy trebuchet impressions.

Now, every time I open Facebook, Huffpost is directing me to mommies in melancholia admitting to angst, accompanied by a montage of black and white pictures of lovely young women with darling offspring. Their bylines saying they are writers and/ or stay-at-home moms. SAHMs, to the uninitiated. And the green-eyed monster nibbles at my toes while the flames tickle the sides of my face.

During my unit on The Crucible, I taught my students in the spirit of the book that when you go to name all seven deadly sins, if you forget one, then you suffer from it. Gamely, they challenged me.

Gluttony, greed, vanity, wrath, lust, sloth… Pride? No, it’s the same as vanity. Already said it.

“Envy, Mrs. Odie,” one of my students blurts out triumphantly.

“Is it true?” asks another. I grant that it is.

Shiny fuel-efficient cars, Craftsman houses, unchewed fingernails, black pants free of pet hair, flat tummies, perfectly draped scarves, and two year-olds without tooth decay. I see these daily and I covet. I envy. I sin.

It is deadly, too. It is the death of joy. The irony that I want to get into a suffering contest with other mommy bloggers over who really suffers anxiety. You’re obsessive about your carpet? Not sure your husband’s coworkers’ wives will think your dinner party is as good as theirs? I’m pretty good at feeling sorry for myself. I get up at five. Well, I get out of bed at five. My kids just don’t buy this whole “sleep all night alone” malarky and are far more into “Mommy sure is warm and soft.” I’m always tired. I teach high school. I seem to care about my students’ educations more than they do. I’m forever behind on my paperwork. I forget to do my attendance reports. Someone always needs to take a make-up quiz. My paychecks go right to the grocery store. Parents who would probably have been too shy, busy, or passive to pick up a phone in bygone eras and call me about every assignment grade may feel no qualms about email. Email is to passive-aggression what prosthetics are to amputees. They help them get around.

Bridget Jones once joked that she was “seduced by the informality” of the medium into “flirting with [the] office scoundrel.” Teachers in today’s social media-obsessed climate tell me some parents find the informality of email removes not only barriers, but also does away with things like the chain of command. After all, the principal, board members, and superintendent have email addresses too.

My class has moved on from the Puritans to the Transcendentalists. Carpe diem. March to the beat of your own drummer. Emerson reminds us that not only is envy ignorance, but imitation is suicide (Self Reliance). I want to kick my own ass down the block when I read a SAHM’s confession that the anxiety of keeping her carpet clean gives her red, itchy hives and I suddenly morph into Dennis Miller.

Now, I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but…

When my husband worked and I stayed home with each daughter for a year, he sometimes complained that coming home was not so much a reprieve and respite as it was showing up for his second job. It infuriated me, but I get it now. I feel the same way. Only I also have the night shift. I’m grateful he makes it so easy on me. I can always count on him to throw some of my laundry in with his, remember trash day, include wine on the grocery lists. I have a partner, and I don’t know how anyone goes it alone. I also don’t know how anyone can pretend to go it alone, misleading readers about how much help she’s really getting.

I know, I know. You can’t win with me. You don’t have enough stress to justify your anxiety disorder. Shut up about your goddamn depression. Why won’t you stop covering up your fucking OCD/ADHD/Manic Depression/NPD/BPD or whatever the hell makes you flutter around your perfect little home like a hummingbird, shitting crafts everywhere you land. Just TALK about your depression already!

There’s just no making this bitch happy. Well, there actually are three ways. Zoloft, Xanax, Ativan. The holy trinity, forever and ever. Chemical relief without end. Amen.

And Odie unloading the dishwasher. That’s my porn.


About Mrs Odie

Friendly Pedant; Humble Genius
This entry was posted in Essays/Commentary, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Mommies in Melancholia

  1. KeAnne says:

    Yeah, in the infertility community we have a phrase called “Pain Olympics” to try to avoid declarations of who has it worse: oh, you *only* needed Clomid? Well, I needed IVF. Oh, you needed IVF? I needed 4 IVFs and had to go to 4 different clinics. Oh, you have a blocked tube? I have no reproductive organs whatsoever. Take that! You get my point.

    However, damn. It is hard not to wonder if these women have ever experienced any real tragedy or life smacking them upside the head before. Come live my life & then see what they have to say.

  2. On Monday I attended a demoralizing staff meeting where the district introduced its new computerized “weapon” in dealing with undesirable student conduct. At first it sounded awesome. Much like a desperately needed bathroom break after three hours of standing on your feet and no one to watch your class while you ducked out. Then we read the fine print. Take the category “Disrespect”, for example. In a situation where a student was rude or disrespectful (anywhere from eye rolling to cursing at you), the teacher was expected to consult a list of ideas for how to handle it. Upon examination, the first “idea” was as follows: TEACHER MAY HAVE FAILED TO UNDERSTAND AN UNDERLYING REASON FOR THE CHILD’S NEGATIVE METHOD OF EXPRESSION. The second one was: TEACHER MAY HAVE DONE OR SAID SOMETHING THAT PROVOKED THE OUTBURST. After that I went selectively blind and put my head down as I realized the rest of that horse shit was nothing but more ways to blame me for a kid’s shitty behavior. Because we’ve stopped expecting parents to raise their own kids or expecting kids to suffer a negative consequence for a negative behavior. I started thinking about how payday was still a week off and that we still have two kids in college and then calculating how much longer I would be able to take responsibility for other people’s behavior. I wondered if there wasn’t an easier way to make a living…like writing for money. Yeah….Dooce came to mind. She sort of passed in and out of the transom of my brain and I thought about how easy it would be to just spill my guts online and have everyone pay (in some way) to read about it. Except it doesn’t work that way for everyone. Just a few.
    Envy? It’s my middle name right now.

  3. Anna says:

    Here, you said it again well. Couldn’t agree more.

Comments are closed.