Emma Thompson and the Concept of the Happy Mom
Esteemed actress Emma Thompson recently took a one year sabbatical from her work because she wanted to focus on mothering her 14-year-old daughter. During the year, she taught drama at her daughter's school, cooked, and spent time with her. I have read a lot of comments about this event which relate to the popular line, "what children really need is a happy mom." Then, of course, many people write in to say that they are happier as a working mom, or happier as a traveling mom, or happier as a SAHM, etc. My issue is NOT whether or not a woman chooses to work, stay home, or some hybrid of the two - that choice should be a basic parental right. What I'm taking issue with is the oppressive concept of "the happy mom." I've been a SAHM, I've worked part-time as a mother, I've been a graduate student as a mother, and now I'm a full time working mom. Sometimes I've been a happy person and sometimes I've been an unhappy person. Why these fluctuations? Because I'm fucking human.
I'll be a mother (G-d willing) for the rest of my life. I will have emotional ups and downs. My children will learn from me that there are happy times and sad times, easy times and difficult times. I hope to be a comfort to them as much as they have been a comfort to me. I'm sure that my behavior will be as challenging for them as theirs has been for me over the course of our long relationship. When they're sitting on the therapist's couch in their mid-thirties, I hope they will work out whatever they need to work out and that they will remember a childhood with a mom who had the faults and qualities of a healthy human. They can unpack and delve into the things I messed up for them. They know I love them. Love looks different in different households. My love for my family looks happy and fulfilled sometimes, and other times it looks tired and frustrated. The "happy mom" is just another way that women are placing unreal expectations on themselves.