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December Book Club: The Perfect Mother

The perfect mother: a title bestowed upon the best moms and coveted by many. This woman can balance everything. Her children are carefully dressed and well-behaved. She can manage a career and be present at home and for all family events; she is expected to provide food for every function and to volunteer for everything. She looks gorgeous and has the best marriage or relationship. She is the perfect mother.

Sounds unrealistic, right? Because it is. And in Aimee Molloy’s The Perfect Mother, we see how desperate some mothers can become when striving for this title.

The book opens with the disappearance of a baby. Baby Midas, as he is quickly dubbed by the media, is the 8 week old son of Winnie, one of the main characters. She and her friends from the May Mothers group were out for a night away on July 4th, and in the short time they were away, a parent’s worst nightmare occurred. Midas was taken from his crib, unbeknownst to the babysitter and without any witnesses.

The judgment, despair, and guilt surrounding Winnie and the other mothers in the aftermath of the disappearance is all too familiar – it echoes the societal and personal expectations and pressures placed on mothers today.

The media scrutinizes Winnie and the other mothers – Nell, Collette, Francie, and Token, the lone father in their group – for more than just the disappearance. Their night out is documented and dissected as if a night away from their children and responsibilities is a criminal offense. Winnie’s actions — before, during, and after the disappearance — are twisted by the media; this makes everyone, even her friends, wonder if she could have done something to her baby. Her friends examine their own lives and actions, and everyone seems guilty of something in this story.

Many of our readers felt they could relate to the characters.

Jen and I both could relate to the struggle with being a working mother. It is not only difficult to leave your children so soon after birth; like Nell, mothers often have to return to work because they are the financial provider and cannot afford to not be working. Mothers often end up using vacation or sick leave just to care for their baby or other children. As Jen stated, ” I either felt like a bad mom or a bad employee for those first 6 months or so,” as she struggled with a newborn and a deployed spouse.

All the mothers were faced with struggles that are relatable. Breastfeeding or formula feeding? Working or staying home? Feeding too much or too little? Sleep schedules, co-sleeping, city living, suburbs … it seems endless. Ashley commented, “Becoming a parent throws a lot of learning in your face and oftentimes the moments when we learn the most are when we are immersed in it.” Yet there was an undercurrent of pressure and judgment for all the mothers, something that I think is the most relatable for all of us.

The plot twists and turns, and the ending is quite surprising. No spoilers!

Aimee Molloy keeps the mothers and readers guessing until the very end. Was there ever a “perfect mother” in this all-to-real story? No – because there is no perfect mother. Every parent is forever learning and adapting, just like the characters. As Erin stated, “No one is perfect and the information out there about how to raise kids/be a mother is so overwhelming and often contradictory.” If this book showed us anything, it is that every parent is trying his or her best and to not judge too harshly; we all have secrets and struggles.

Read with us next month – we are reading “Raven of the Sea: An O’Brien Tale” by Stacey Reynolds. She is a military spouse and also is featured in our Holiday Gift Guide!

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