Something struck me in the five days I recuperated from my C-section two weeks ago, lying prostrate on the hospital bed, breast-feeding at all hours of the day and night, and trapped before a beautiful flat-screen TV that only played a few channels.
The cable TV talking-heads seemed obsessed with just two big stories (besides playing footage of Obama and the state of the economy), two stories that captivated the emotions and the schadenfreude of the nation, both stories about mothers, each with their own cable-given nickname: Nadya Suleman, the Octo-Mom, or the octuplets story, and the Tot-Mom, Casey Marie Anthony, who allegedly killed her own daughter, Caylee.
Every nightly Nancy Grace show was about the Tot-Mom, Grace's voice wreaking with anguish and disgust that this mother, whom we all know is guilty, Grace came right out and said, would kill her own daughter. Of course, this represents the worst image or archetype of a mother: a mother who shows no remorse for killing her daughter, who seems to want to steal the limelight away from images of her beautiful doe-eyed toddler, who wants to the shine spotlight on her own young self.
But then the complete polar opposite--the Octo-Mom, is just as universally reviled. Here's a woman who would not contemplate aborting a fetus, instead bringing eight embryos to term (OK, she only thought she was carrying seven) and yet this very pro-life decision is universally scorned. Most of my women friends comment on the selfishness of her decision, that taxpayers have to foot the bill for the health-care of her premature infants, though in another light, one could her view as purely self-less, thinking only of her children, though no one thinks of her in this way. She professes to want to be this uber-mother, who takes time to be with each of her 14 children each day, to think only of their needs--just today she said on TV that she hasn't had sex in eight years, and won't have a boyfriends till her youngest (all 8 of them) is 18. Sounds like a mother who is thinking of her children's needs not her own, right? But I'm sure this statement will be scorned, too, and it surely does come off as sounding strange, off-the-deep-end. But these two opposite archetypes of motherhood that are captivating the nation say something about the imagery of motherhood in America today, and the balancing act we moms find ourselves in, the predicament of how much do we devote to our children while also fulfilling ourselves, not losing ourselves. Here are two women, opposites in their approach to mothering (yes, one is allegedly a killer, which is obviously far from the norm) but both seem to have lost themselves, and their hold on reality, in their path towards or during motherhood. In a way, I feel for both of them.