Contemporary Challenges to the Motherhood Myth
8. “Save Your Tears for Your Pillow”: Tough Love and the Mothering Double Bind in Dance Moms
By STEPHANIE L. GOMEZ
In July 2014, Debra Harrell, a mother of a nine-year-old girl in South Carolina, was arrested for leaving her child to play by herself in a park while she worked at a nearby McDonald’s (Wallace, 2014). Unable to afford childcare, but in need of a job, Harrell felt she had no choice but to leave her daughter alone. People responded to Harrell’s arrest with a mixture of outrage at Harrell’s negligence and sympathy for her circumstances, yet despite the myriad discourses surrounding Harrell and her arrest, one thing remained clear: Harrell’s ability to be a “good” mother was either being questioned or defended; indeed, the entire outcry surrounding the incident centered on what it means to be a “good” or “bad” mother. Mothers are in the media perhaps more now than ever before, from Harrell to Nicole Gainey, a mother in Florida who allowed her seven-year-old son to walk to the park on his own (Schmidt, 2014), to Shanesha Taylor, a mother in Arizona who left her two young children in a locked car while attending an interview for a job she desperately needed (Grinberg, 2014). Motherhood, and what qualifies someone to be a “good” mother, is at the forefront of U.S. consciousness, and is seemingly constantly debated in the media.
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