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Go ahead. Scream. This New York Times columnist says a common denominator among moms is guilt.

:Screaming on the Inside" is published by HarperCollins
Jessica Grose, HarperCollins
:Screaming on the Inside" is published by HarperCollins

In her effusive praise for “Screaming on the Inside: The Unsustainability of American Motherhood,”reviewer Kim Brooks described the book as a “fierce, timely, unflinching chorus of woe.”

In her effusive praise for “Screaming on the Inside: The Unsustainability of American Motherhood,”reviewer Kim Brooks described the book as a “fierce, timely, unflinching chorus of woe.”

In the new bestseller, Jessica Grose chronicles how unreasonable expectations are baked into our culture, along with stereotypes that feed that narrative.

“Society is really set up to conceive of the mom as the primary parent in a heterosexual couple,’ she said.

Grose visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about her research which led her to mothers of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds, moms who work full time, part time and every combination of balancing parenthood and work.

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. I'm George Prentice. Good morning. You probably won't have to close your eyes to imagine the well, the “perfect mom.” She's all over DIY, right? All the videos with appropriate lifestyle tips, balancing work, wellness and home. And at the height of the pandemic, she ran the classroom for the neighborhood kids in the living room, and she got up at 5 a.m. to meditate and, of course, work out. Well, that's crazy. But too many of us have embraced that stereotype, particularly in Western cultures. And that is at the beginning of a new book. It is called “Screaming on the Inside: the Unsustainability of American Motherhood.” It is one of the most talked about books of the New Year, and we are honored that its author and New York Times opinion writer Jessica Grose has graced us with some time this morning. Jessica, good morning.

JESSICA GROSE: Good morning. Thanks so much for having me.

PRENTICE: As an introduction, I'm going to ask you to share a paragraph from your book and your introduction of your book with our listeners. And it begins with…”But while the parenting fiasco…” Could you share that? Could you read that for us?

GROSE: Absolutely. “But while the parenting fiasco of COVID 19 was a crisis, it was also the culmination of more than 200 years of unrealistic, elitist and bigoted expectations and the laws that flowed out of those expectations. What is so insidious about these ideals is that they shapeshift, they reflect whatever is in vogue, but at their core is always self-abnegation.”

,PRENTICE: So I'd like to talk a little bit about that realism… that sometimes is elitist and/or bigoted expectations and how it is baked in. There was one example in your book that just jumped right out. It truly painted the word picture for me, and it was a couple who were doing their best to be egalitarian, and he decided he'd be in charge of certain things. And she the others. Could you talk a little bit about that?

GROSE:. So, this couple really tried from before the time that they had kids to make everything equal and be extremely aware of the ways women took on extra domestic labor. So, I will never forget, when I interviewed this woman, she told me she had her husband read the sociological, sociological book by Arlie Hochschild called Second Shift, which describes just all the ways that women, not just moms, take on extra work at home. So, they did their best inside their home, but they realized that they also had to train everybody outside their home. So, the husband's job was, I believe, to take on the pediatrician, assigned the pediatrician appointments and the dentist appointments. And even though he wanted this responsibility, the receptionist at those offices would always call the mom no matter how many times she said, please call my husband. They would keep calling her and asking her, “Oh, don't you know his schedule?” And she, as a working mom with lots of other responsibilities, would say, “No, I don't know his schedule, please call him.” And that's just a small example of the ways in which all of society is really set up to conceive of the mom as the primary parent in a heterosexual couple.

PRENTICE: You even had an example of a mom just basically trying to help put together a kid's birthday party and wanted to just give details of the party to another dad. But he bristled because he wouldn't take a strange woman's phone number.

GROSE: Yes. So that was a column I did. And it's multiple dads. This mom tried to get the dads contact to set up a birthday party for her child, and multiple dads felt very uncomfortable giving their phone numbers to a woman they didn't know well. So, there's multiple layers of stereotypes, of ideas, of ways in which different genders don't interact in a normal way. I think around parenting responsibilities and a lot. We're going to have to unpack, move forward to really get to a point where dads, even dads who really want to be equal partners are able to do so. I think a lot about statistics showing that even when dads get paternity leave, which is quite unusual in the United States, we are one of very few countries in the entire world that doesn’tt have paid leave at the federal level. So even when American dads are lucky enough to have paternity leave, they don't take the whole leave because they often suspect correctly that they will be punished by their employers. They'll be seen as less committed, less responsible. And that really hurts all of our families.

PRENTICE: And indeed, we can really get wrapped into that national debate. And indeed, we need to keep having it about the possibility of federal paid leave. But. I mean, you ask us to in particular, I mean, all of us, right, to sit with our emotions about parenting and including those emotions that aren't always positive. And don't be afraid to do that.

GROSE: Absolutely. So, there's an idea called maternal ambivalence, and it was popularized by the late psychotherapist Rosa Parker. And ambivalence is really the idea that you have many conflicting emotions at once. And every single human has conflicting, intense emotions about everything. So, it's not realistic that we won't have the highest highs and the lowest lows about our children, just like we have about everything else. And I tell a story in the book of a friend who was telling me that she was ambivalent about her second pregnancy. And even after doing all this research and writing this whole book, my first response, my gut response was to be, you know, push back on her and tell basically tell her to put a happy face on it. Be like, oh, when the baby's when the baby gets here, you'll be so happy. Babies are so cute. You're just a little nervous. And I was so grateful, honestly, that she pushed back on me in that moment and said, you know, I'm just feeling really ambivalent about it in this moment. And people are really uncomfortable with that. And it just opened my eyes to the way in which they're just feelings. Everybody has feelings. We don't have to feel so guilty about having these feelings. They don't mean that we don't love our children. They just mean that we're full humans with the full range of human emotion.

PRENTICE: And I'm going to read something here in the next chapter: “”In the next chapter, When you see the unjust genesis of many of our current mores, you might just realize you're doing a great job listening to your own values. So, I am certainly not the first to call this book fierce and unflinching. And yet to be clear, this is not an indictment. Large swaths of this book are like a love letter to the best parts of ourselves. So, Jessica Grose, New York Times opinion writer who focuses on parenting and author of the book “Screaming on the Inside the Unsustainability of American Motherhood.” And perhaps the most important part of the book is your dedication to your daughters.

GROSE: Thank you so much for having me and for those kind words.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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