Many of us engage in an internal struggle on a daily basis to find the perfect balance – or ANY balance – between work, relationships, personal health, and life in general. For today’s American mother, the bar is often set so high, she can’t help but fall short no matter how earnest her attempt.
In her new book, All On One Plate, anthropologist Solveig Brown explores this cultural phenomena, outlining the often unrealistic expectations placed on modern-day American mothers and how they have shaped society’s mindset in such a way that the balance sought becomes perpetually elusive.
The book touches on the candid accounts of a group of mostly middle-class Minnesota mothers (upper and lower-class subjects were included as well) and their vulnerabilities, from doubting their ability to make best parenting choices, to wondering if they are doing enough when they already do too much.
Which begs the question: Why are mothers under so much pressure?
Through research, interviews and cultural analysis, Brown discovered several common themes in answer to this question, including:
- Social comparisons and competition
- Guilt (i.e., not spending enough quality time with kids/family/partner)
- Judging Mothers (negative stereotypes mothers place on each other)
- Blaming by society for a child’s behavioral wrongdoings or academic problems
- Common belief that mothers are the primary caregiver by default, regardless of her other roles
All On One Plate further uncovers the relationship between these underlying assumptions and the cultural changes over the last generation that “have increased the workload and stress level of mothers who are responsible for protecting their children from negative cultural influences, while preparing their kids for an increasingly competitive world” (Brown, 2016, p. 169).
Is it possible to do it all, or must the American mother sacrifice her ideal SELF in order to be an ideal mother? Businesswoman? Wife? Brown hopes these questions and others shared in her book will start a national conversation that will begin to reshape societal expectations of the American mother’s role.
As she so aptly states near the end of her book,”if we want to reduce the pressures so many mothers routinely feel, foster an environment where mothers are better able to balance work, family, and leisure pursuits, and create equal opportunities for all American children to succeed, then we need to hold fathers, workplaces, schools, communities, corporations and our government accountable for taking some of the responsibility off mothers’ plates” (Brown, 2016, p. 177).
Solveig Brown, PH.D., is an anthropologist who has contributed her research to other written works on American mothers. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her family.
Purchase All On One Plate from www.ParagonHouse.com or your local bookstores.
Written by: Jodi Hale
Jodi Hale is an editorial/advertising assistant for North Phoenix Family Magazine as well as a freelance writer. The mother of three amazing boys ages 7, 13 and 15, she has served on the PTA board of their school for more than 8 years, collaborating with teachers, staff and community members to enrich the learning environment for all students through positive and engaging educational experiences. Jodi also volunteers as a public relations specialist for Musical Theatre of Anthem, promoting the theater’s year-round training opportunities and award-winning productions. She loves reading, free-hand drawing, creating props, and raising her boys to embrace life with purpose.