The Definitive Guide to Manic Moms

Man'ic: adj. characterized by frenzy, uncontrolled by reason

Archive for Elementary School Mania

Bug Spray

No real elaboration is necessary here.  Bug spray used to be something awful smelling and toxic that humans sprayed in dark corners to kill scurrying, undesirable insects. Somehow, bug spray is now something light and often cloyingly citrusy that we willingly spray on our childrens’ skin to keep bugs off. 

It still smells and we don’t put the children in dark corners before we spray them.  The degree of toxicity remains uncertain.  But, for manic mothers nationwide, the benefits outweigh the possible harm and the memory of what bug spray once was has been successfully eradicated.  If you are ever outside in a warm, slightly marshy-feeling place with many mothers, yell “Mosquito!” and see what happens.

Symptom: Hand Sanitizers and The Manic Mom

No right thinking mother is ever without some form of Purell or similar sanitizing agent: in the car, in her purse, in school bags, gym bags, camp kits, lunch boxes, desks at school, desks at home, kitchen counter, bathroom sinks.  A manic mom’s child doesn’t realize that there is life that does not include small bottles of clear, and now scented, germ-killing viscous gel.

Some scholars maintain that hand sanitizers are possibly the single most influential factor in the evolution of the contemporary American Manic Mother.  Others think that backlashes from second and third wave feminism are more important. Others still,  think that persistent and unrealistic ideals of motherhood or internal conflicts regarding the deleterious effects of a mother working full time on her children cause mania to flourish.  But, no one explanation for the exponential growth of manic mothering is as symbolic as hand sanitizers.  It is plausible, however, that hand sanitizers are a symptom and not a cause. 

On the cause side of the debate: Hand sanitizers allow women to feel that they can indeed influence, possibly control, the world around them – which is at the heart of all manic mothering.  Particularly the world as it relates to their children.   As everyone knows, a sick child means a mom did something wrong.  A healthy, perpetually sanitized child must there fore mean the mom is doing something right and is fully in control.

On the effect side: the possession of hand sanitizer is only a very visible symptom of manic mothering.  Hand sanitizer, if it didn’t exist, would be easily represented by say, bug spray or moist wipes.  The cause is the belief in control, not the sanitizer itself.

Either way, every self-respecting manic mother is capable of instantaenously wiping out entire colonies of bacteria upon request.

Symptom: Cupcake Conflict

Baked goods are ubiquitous in the lives of manic mothers. No manic mothering high holy holiday is complete unless something, usually five or six somethings, have been baked.  Ideally, the baked good is a delicately made and exquisitely decorated cupcake.  Even more ideally, the cupcakes in question are baked from scratch.   However, this holy grail of manic mothering baked goods is now the cause of genuine turmoil.  The made-from-scratch cupcake is being challenged by expensive, designer food cupcakes purchased from the most media savvy neighborhood cupcake purveyor. 

Buying instead of making complicates the meta meaning of cupcakes for those manic mothers who are honest with themselves about their anxiety.  At the heart of this issue is what the cupcakes represent.  For some each cupcake made is not a cupcake, but a ceding of self, an erosion of the ego.  For these women buying cupcakes is a tremendous relief since the act of buying instead of making placates deeply hidden (note the “id” at the heart of hidden) cupcake smashing urges.   For others it is the buying that causes conflict, since, as all good manic mothers know – only bad mothers buy baked goods.

Share Time

The significance of a kindergarden child’s share time to manic mothers cannot be overstated.  The best manic mothers create outlines for their children’s weekly “sharing” to make sure the narrative is politically correct, not too revelatory of in-your-face priviledge and genuinely substantive.  At the very least, a good mom keeps a folder of clippings, sketches and story ideas to share with their child two or three days before the share day, during the quiet time before reading for bed. In this way the child gets the impression that the idea is his or hers and then there are two or three days left for the mom to provide guidance on an accompanying illustration.

Symptom:Long-Term School Committee Management

Truly manic moms volunteer for school committees that leverage their sometimes extensive and awfully impressive work experience.  For example, a mother who served for three years as a commissioner for the FCC might be the Communications Chair for the annual school book fair.  This is ideal for her since she knows a lot about phones and stuff.  It is important that other manic moms draw on this deep pool of experience when assembling school committees.  The fact that no one gets paid for their work doesn’t matter. What matters is the recognition that prior work experience has immediate relevance and will ultimately benefit the children.