The Definitive Guide to Manic Moms

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

Archive for Symptoms

Symptom: The Idea of Snacks

There are times when snacks are important, even vital – like excessively long stretches between meals for toddlers, whose stomachs are small and whose behaviour will otherwise degenerate significantly.  Or, for exceptionally tall, hungry men with low blood sugar issues.   Manic mothers have no snack discrimination and provide snacks for children way beyond the point of physical or healthy need.  The resulting continuous stream of snacks falls into two categories: first, organic and healthy (carrots, celery, whole grain crackers, no nuts) and second, incredibly unhealthy and processed (lard-slathered food store cupcakes, Cheetos and Hi-C “juice” boxes (see Worrying About Cheetos)).  The former category includes foods no child would willingly chose first if given the option.  The latter category includes foods that have been proven to kill people,  if eaten in sufficient quantities. 

The important fact to remember for our purposes, however,  is that in both cases the snacks are completely unneccesary – in the middle of a soccer game, for example. 

Because of the irrational impulse to provide snacks, manic mothers create endless opportunities for snacking:  “special” school snacks, holiday snacks, tea time snacks, sports snacks, car snacks, playground snacks.   When a manic mother can’t provide the snack herself, she is often in a position to make every other mother involved in the activity or event provide  them through The Snack Schedule

Stop and think about that.  A Snack Schedule.  A schedule is a plan.  A snack schedule is a plan to have a snack.  WHO plans snacks? If you are provided with a snack scheudule or find yourself publishing one, be on guard.


Symptom: Organizing Potluck Dinners

When is a potluck dinner not a potluck dinner? When it is a perversion of the original intent of a potluck: bringing people together to have fun in a way that makes it easy for everyone.   When a potluck dinner is suggested by manic mothers it actually accomplishes just the opposite (making work for people who don’t really want to eat together at all and would rather be doing something else and eating other food). In addition, when organized in a thoroughly manic way, a potluck dinner must include at least three rules (ie. no kids, or must take place in the next six weeks, or no cold entrees).

Potluck dinners require manic mothers to utilize their best attibutes: organizing other people for the sake of their mutual offspring, showing a sense of commisseration with the burdens of other mothers and subtley raising the bar for other parents by highlighting her own willingness to committ to her child’s life by incorporating it wholeheartedly into their own social calendars.  Sports teams and PTAs are often the catalysts for pulling together a potluck.  The illusion that the potluck creates is that it is easy,  because no one person has to do everything.  Instead, everyone is assigned a food or food category they don’t really want and never actually asked for.  However, participating in the potluck with good cheer is essential, because Everything is Great (see link for more information).

Symptom: Using “Reply All” in E-Mails

The rampant use of “Reply All” in the propogation of useless e-mails is a particular MM characteristic. Because manic mothers are endlessly trapped on a merry-go-round of social events related to their children, they constantly need to communicate with and coordinate many separate groups of people.  The result: a manic mother cybersphere filled with such pithy missives as “On my way from yoga!” or “Will bring celery next Wednesday.” 

There are several contributing factors to the prevalence of this habit: 1) an effort to be helpful by letting everyone know what’s going on, 2) a lack of awareness of the volume of e-mails that some people are dealing with, 3) a basic lack of understanding regarding e-mail etiquette. 

A better use of technology for communciation regarding large group events using these types of message would be Twitter – the status update medium.  In general however, this technology has not been adopted for these purposes.  A school auction meeting Twitter feed, for example, could go a long way to reducing the volume of status update e-mails.

Symptom: Using Themed Shopping Cart Seat Covers

Mothers who are stewing in the culture of maternal anxiety know that a child’s exposure to a food store shopping cart, especially the handle, is only slightly less dangerous than letting the same child play with a petri dish of Ebola virus. 

It used to be that a shopping cart seat was eyed warily or even wiped down surreptiously.  The Shopping Cart Seat Cover (SCSC) has changed the field of play. Think about this for a moment:  plush (comfortably padded), sanitary (anti-bacterial), multi-functional (multiple pockets for snacks, wipes, phoned, keys)  covers can sit in FOOD STORE CARTS for 30 or so minutes.   For a cool $20.99 the SCSC will stop any and all threats in their tracks or actually make them mobile – depending on your perspective.  For the design-minded, the covers come in Hawaiian, Silky Oriental, Black Toile and Sexy Leopard patterns.    A small price to pay for a santiary stroll through the aisles.

Symptom: Driving as a Competitive Sport

In manic mom culture driving is a badge of honor.  Manic mothers experience the equivalent of a round trip, cross-country drive every seven days. (This does not include weekend travel sports driving, which can involve spouses/ex-spouses. )  Typically, daily driving starts in earnest at roughly 8:15 am and ends at or about 7:45 pm.  A minimum of three hours and three stops is a basic requirement. Without excessive driving dedicated to her children’s enrichment, a woman cannot qualify as truly, deeply manic.

Driving as A Competitive Sport includes several Types of Drivers:

The Good Mother:  This early stage is made up of mothers who drive everywhere all afternoon and weekend, because to leave their children for any time at all, especially if it involves endangering their lives by putting them in other peoples’ cars, is unacceptable.   Letting other people drive them is also clearly a form of neglect.  After all, what are the sacrifices for, if not to be with your children every possible minute?   In this stage, mothers try  to make the most of drive time.  Expressions like “quality time with the kids,”  “great book on tape,” and “learning a foreign language” are dead give aways that a woman is in The Good Mother Driving stage.  Also popular are “mobile office,”  and “thinking time.”   See “Everything is Great.” In Stage One women don’t actually realize they’re in a competition.

The Pissed Off, Resentful Mother: It can take a while to transition from Stage One to Stage Two, but it is almost inevitable.  These are mothers who want to support their children’s interest, want to carpool, but can’t get organized and don’t want to impose on others. So, they drive, but resent it.  Bitter grumblings include phrases such as “Can you believe this? I’ve been in this car for 6 hours!” or “Dinner? You must be joking! You’re joking, right?”  and “Oh my f**king God!”  Manic mothers in Stage Two begin to sense the competitive nature of the sport when they realize not all mothers feel the way they do.

The Deer-In-Headlight Mother: These mothers are completely panic stricken. They binge e-mail to arrange carpools and are so overwhelmed by dates, times and logistics that they can’t keep anything straight, thereby exponentially increases the volume of driving-related communications. These women are inexperienced and possibly in the throes of a nervous breakdown.  This stage is a necessary prerequisite to Stage 5. 

The Fringe Mother: These women technically are not manic.  They are happy to participate in carpools, but let the panic-stricken-binge-email moms organize.

And, finally, The Guru Driving Goddess: Mothers who arrange carpools, but don’t actually drive. In order to reach this stage of manic mother nirvana, you have to have been every type of mother listed above.  Pay Attention To These Women, they have a GIFT or, a special skill depending on your perspective:  they manage to get other manic mothers to drive for them. They kinow its a sport and they win!

Symptom: Fascination with Authenticity

Authenticity means a lot to manic mothers.   The word is leaden with significance and imparts a seriousness to a mother’s otherwise possibly infantilizing activities.  This is particularly true in regard to reenactments.  
Childhood is ripe with opportunities for renactment.  Average preschool and elementary age education is filled with history lessons, civics classes, literature and historical celebrations that require real food, real construction and real costumes.  For the manic mom REAL is the key word and she will go to any length necessary to ensure that her child(ren) benefit from the most authentic reproduction of the food, shelther or clothes in question.  For example, no puritan feast would be complete without real cornbread, made the way the puritans did.  But, what ensures that the bread tastes and looks authentic is not the recipe, but the fact that it is served by a mother who is dressed as accurately, historically, as possible.   The same goes for corn husk dolls. In order for children to make authentic corn husk dolls their mothers should buy corn, husk it, dry the husks, desilk them and then the child will know what the husks felt like to Mayflowerettes.   Entire costumes are sewn and purchased for children and mothers, sometimes several times a year, to ensure that reenactment events are  as “authentic” as possible. It’s not enough for the children to dress up. It’s only authentic if their mothers do as well.
This is also true for themed birthday celebrations  where dressing up as a mommy mermaid or as a fairy  godmother is very effective.  Conflicted manic mothers have also been known to dress and cackle as witches, which is sometimes frightening to small children. 

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.