I recently went to a girls-only dinner that was organized in honor of a friend who not long before had begun a prestigious new job. . . . . [and] on the evening in question, I was quickly put at ease as the conversation at my table somehow turned to the petty humiliations of motherhood.
You know what I mean: the nasty little looks, tones of voice, gestures, subtle and not-so-subtle criticism and even insults that so often seem to come the way of mothers. Harsh words delivered in all apparent innocence, innocuous-seeming observations made in a tone that cuts to the bone, odd little interactions, generally, that manage to make a mother feel condemned in the court of world opinion.
Beyond their entertainment value, these incidents point to an interesting question I’ve puzzled over many times, without resolution: Why do people so often permit themselves to dump — verbally, emotionally, with a surgically precise ability to wound viscerally — on mothers? Why do they so easily dare, not just to judge, but to give expression to their disdain, disapproval, smug superiority? And why — perhaps most to the point — do we put up with it?
Julie Graves Krishnaswami