A woman in her late twenties named Kerri writes of her experiences as a mother. There are several young mothers in the class, and on the breaks Kerri and the others gravitate to one another. They talk shop: of nutrition and playdates and tantrums and sibling rivalry. Their conversation is lively. As the semester progresses, I note their growing addiction to one another’s company; the breaks can’t come fast enough for the group to assemble and compare notes. They seem pleased with life. They glow with satisfaction and take a vaguely superior stance toward the younger women in the class, who are not yet in the game of motherhood. Kerri makes the others laugh and has a large laugh herself.
From reading her writing, I know what her new friends probably don’t, that stay-at-home motherhood has been something of a disappointment.
Now when I look at Kerri, I see not just a student struggling under the weight of school and family responsibilities. I see a woman gripped by a quiet, middle-class despair, the same despair that spawned the work of Betty Friedan and some of the dark domestic poetry of Anne Sexton, whose “Cinderella” we read in class.
Kerri smiles and jokes with the other mothers, but I’m now in on her secret. I see her struggling with guilt about what she feels, carefully watching the other mothers and searching for clues to answer the big question: Are they really as fulfilled as they seem?
–Professor X, In the Basement of the Ivory Tower, pp. 146-147