Blending history of science, cultural criticism, and memoir, THE GOOD MOTHER MYTH pulls back the curtain on the flawed social science behind our contemporary understanding of what makes a good mom.

Unlearning Our Bad Ideas About How to Be a Good Mom
by Nancy Reddy
St. Martin’s Press, January 2025

When Nancy Reddy had her first child, she found herself suddenly confronted with the ideal of a perfect mother—a woman who was constantly available, endlessly patient, and immediately invested in her child to the exclusion of all else. Nancy had been raised by a single working mother, considered herself a feminist, and was well on her way to a PhD. Why did doing motherhood “right” feel so wrong?
For answers, Nancy turned to the mid-twentieth century social scientists and psychologists whose work still forms the basis of so much of what we believe about parenting. It seems ludicrous to imagine modern moms taking advice from mid-century researchers. Yet, their bad ideas about so-called “good” motherhood have seeped so pervasively into our cultural norms. In THE GOOD MOTHER MYTH, Nancy debunks the flawed lab studies, sloppy research, and straightforward misogyny of researchers from Harry Harlow, who claimed to have discovered love by observing monkeys in his lab, to the famous Dr. Spock, whose bestselling parenting guide included just one illustration of a father interacting with his child. This timely and thought-provoking book will make you laugh, cry, and want to scream (sometimes all at once).

Nancy Reddy‘s previous books include the poetry collections Pocket Universe and Double Jinx, a winner of the National Poetry Series. With Emily Pérez, she’s co-editor of The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood. Her essays have appeared in Slate, Poets & Writers, Romper, The Millions, and elsewhere. The recipient of grants from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Sustainable Arts Foundation and a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, she teaches writing at Stockton University and writes the newsletter Write More, Be Less Careful.

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