Why did you write this book?
We have been friends for 12 years. We met in New York City long before having kids, and both ended up in San Francisco. After each having our first child, we quickly realized that motherhood was harder than we had ever imagined, and wondered why no one else we knew was honestly talking about it. With one of us still in the working world and the other at home with kids, we realized that, no matter what choices we made, we questioned them. So we became each others’ confidantes. We knew there would be no judgment, ever, for calling at 10 p.m. crying, asking for advice on the issues we were struggling with in motherhood. So we began a quest to diagnose the underlying symptoms—why moms are so guilt-ridden, why they judge each other, why we seem to have lost our true selves in becoming moms. We started talking to moms everywhere—friends, neighbors, colleagues, extended family—and concluded that our generation of moms is grappling with a different and very new set of challenges compared to those of previous generations. After conducting in-depth interviews with more than 100 moms across the country, we realized the trends were too similar, too widespread to ignore. Once we got to the root of the issues, all roads always led back to the same thing: insane expectations.
Having conducted over 100 in-depth interviews with mothers across the country, what did you find was the common thread among them?
We found it fascinating that in almost every interview, it took moms on average 22 minutes to get beyond the “everything’s great” banter. When they reached this “22 minute threshold,” something amazing inevitably happened. Pleasant conversation gave way to true feelings, and more often than not they confessed to having more ‘bad mom’ days than they cared to admit. And they were all convinced that other moms were somehow doing it better.
Why are moms today so reluctant to talk about how they truly feel?
We were raised to believe that we could and should do it all. The expectations that come with this are enormous, and as a result, our generation’s definition of what a good mom is, or what it takes to be a good mom, has become nearly impossible to fulfill. Women today feel lucky for all the choices they have, and when they make a choice, they feel like they can’t complain about it.
What can moms today do to relieve some of the pressure they’re feeling?
Moms are often making choices that are driven by the expectations that others have of them, or that they have of themselves. The first thing a mom can do is to understand and reexamine her expectations—discover what they are and where they’re coming from. Learn to prioritize things and make conscious choices based on what’s right for you and your family. By making peace with these choices, you can give yourself permission to let go of the guilt, not judge yourself, learn to say no, live in the moment and start to truly honor yourself.
How are these impossible expectations affecting the state of modern marriage?
As with the expectations we’ve placed on ourselves, most women have certain expectations of our husbands going into parenthood—yet we rarely address them, and it’s pressuring marriages in new and unexpected ways. What also makes it hard is that we have ‘imaginary expectations’ of what we think they, our husbands, expect of us as mothers. Many of us imagine that our husbands judge us for not being their vision of a ‘good mom,’ and we scramble to live up to that. The most important thing we’ve come to realize through our journey for this book is that couples discuss the expectations they have of each other, prioritize and if need be, negotiate them.
You talk about ‘dirty little secrets’ in your book. What are they?
The very last question we asked moms in our interviews was to confess their dirty little secrets of motherhood. Here are a few of our favorites:
- “I’d trade my husband for a housekeeper”
- “I wish I had my own apartment where no one touches my stuff. And my husband isn’t allowed to visit”
- “I lost my job but still dropped my son off at daycare and pretended to look for a job while I went shopping and got a manicure”
- “I can’t believe I gave up nine months of drinking for this”
- “If I have a crazy day and I find myself talking to someone on the cell phone, I’ll sometimes just hang up and her and pretend it was bad reception”
- “I practically live in my car, and on some days I’m so busy that I don’t even have time to pee. So… I wear Depends.
How has writing this book affected your lives?
The process was incredibly rewarding. Every day we sat down to work on the book, we would laugh and we would cry. We have been truly enlightened by writing this book. We now feel we have the tools and perspective to be happier moms. We’ve given ourselves permission to not feel guilty when things aren’t perfect. And we’ve redefined what motherhood is for each of us in a way that we can thrive and better enjoy the journey.