Sex And The Married Girl: The "Madonna/Mom" Complex

Is it normal for new moms to fantasize about other men?

According to an essay in the Times magazine, yup. Explains Anna Solomon,

The baby was 3 months old. Which was supposed to be the turning point, when suddenly she would reveal herself to be human and I would rediscover my zest and oh, how glorious it would be! Nothing changed. I hadn't slept more than three hours in a row since she was born, my fatigue was unraveling into depression, my days had taken on the half-state of an early-morning dream. I was certain that I'd ruined my life, and I was thinking - with alarming frequency - of men who were not my husband, men who seemed suddenly more attractive than they'd actually been, or kinder, or braver - men who would never have gotten me into this mess.

Her friends assure her that the guilty pastime is not uncommon. But when Solomon accidentally phones one of the very exes she's been romanticizing, the results are disspiriting; she ends up feeling worse than ever and is convinced he's "in his town house, laughing at me." Ultimately she makes a clean breast to her husband (probably a good idea if you're going to write an essay about it in a national publication), the baby grows up and Solomon gets over her mental philandering.

It's cute and funny and seemed a further piece in the mothering schism we've seen taking place in our nation in the past few years. Let's call it the "Madonna/Mom Complex." On the one hand, motherhood has never been more glamorous: exquisite, environmentally friendly baby paraphernalia proliferates; celebrities and French politicians whittle their waists down to Scarlett O'Hara-like proportions within days of giving birth; career gals are back in the saddle long before maternity leaves are up; in the cases of celebrity adoptions like Madonna and Angelina, the births are quite literally virgin, bodies and wardrobes untouched by pregnancy even as faces are beatified by motherhood. Then there's the "mom" part of the equation: aggressively de-mythologizing motherhood through a series of down-and-dirty confessionals, torn-vag tell-alls, and nitty-gritty Babble conversations. Moms are earth-mother without the romance: it's more about commiseration than group glorification.

The funny thing is, that both elements do serve to glorify motherhood - or at least keep its prominence center-stage. Both approaches are a luxury, of sorts: both allow for total absorption with the business of being born as Ricky Lake (firmly in the "Mom" camp) would have it. As cults of domesticity go, we can all do a lot worse than one that focuses on the fam (in a non-political sense, that is.) But if we're to continue with the simplistic dichotomy (oh, and I am) it's going to ultimately give as skewed a picture as any classic "slash/slash" complex; two separate and unequals and never the twain shall meet. Isn't the day to day something in between the two? If we were moms - or Madonnas - we wouldn't need to ask; and maybe at the end of the day, that's the real schism.
The Three-Month Itch [NY Times]

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