James Forsyth

<strong>Is it our guilt that makes us so critical of Britney?</strong>

<strong>Is it our guilt that makes us so critical of Britney?</strong>
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Ayleet Waldman has a sure to be controversial piece in this week’s New York Magazine arguing that the reason society is so keen to jump on bad mothers like Britney Spears is because mothers are acutely aware of their own failings. As Waldman writes,

The single defining characteristic of iconic Good Motherhood is self-abnegation. Her day is constructed around her children’s health and happiness, and her own needs and ambitions are relevant only in relation to theirs. If a Good Mother works, she does so only if it doesn’t harm her children, or if her failing to earn an income would make them worse off. She takes care of herself for their sake, to make them better people: “She is in shape and works outside of the home so she can be a good role model.”

Being a Good Father is a reasonable, attainable goal; you need only be present and supportive. Being a Good Mother, as defined by mothers themselves, is impossible.

One way to find consolation in the face of all this failure and guilt is to judge ourselves not against the impossible standard of the Good Mother but against the fun-house-mirror-image Bad Mother. By defining for us the kind of mother we’re not, the Bad Mother makes it easier for us to live with what we are.”

I’m sceptical of the argument but it is well worth reading the whole thing.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

Topics in this articleSociety