I’m sure it started earlier than this but I began to notice it when I was pregnant with my first child. “You shouldn’t drink wine, or eat peanut butter or shell fish. Don’t gain more than 30 pounds (which I misunderstood to mean per month vs. the whole pregnancy).” “You should read aloud to your baby in vitro so that they will be able to read earlier.” “You shouldn’t be stressed out when you are pregnant, it’s bad for the baby.”
After my first pig squealer was born it got much louder and more intense, “You should breastfeed but not too long otherwise that will be creepy.” “You should hold him all the time.” Or “If you hold him too much, you will spoil him.” When he was a week old and I was contemplating retiring from motherhood I took him to the mall and was accosted by an older woman who said, “You should never take a new baby out of the house especially not in the cold!” When I shared some of my anxiety with the husband one of one of my friends, he said, “You shouldn’t be nervous. Nervous mother nervous baby.” Thanks, that was helpful.
The war on my body began at about the same time when people would ask if I’d lost the baby weight yet (I still haven’t lost it, he’s 19-years-old). Tabloids screamed at me that famous mothers walked out of the hospital in their skinny jeans, I should do that too. I should be a calm, patient mother, dress fashionably not slutty but still be sexy enough to attract teen-aged boys (the MILF rule). I should not ever let myself go, gain weight, or walk out of the house without looking just right.
Things didn’t improve much as he and his siblings got older, “You should hire a tutor to make sure he’s ahead of the game.” “He needs private lessons if he’s going to make a basketball team.” “Have you hired an ACT tutor yet or a college counselor? You should really do that to make sure he can get into the very best college he can.” “Do you help your kids with their homework? Pack them only perfectly balanced organic lunches? Cook gourmet meals each night? You really should be able to do all of that.”
“Are you a good wife? You shouldn’t work outside of the house if you don’t ‘need’ to. A good wife should let her husband be the breadwinner and happily take on the job of house slave (kind of like Dobbie from Harry Potter).” As my children got older I realized that my job was to wait for repairmen, laundress, grocery shopper, chef, errand runner, and maid, all done during the hours my children were at school. “You should always be home for your kids after school otherwise they will be rebellious deviants. And while you are at it, don’t age at all, no wrinkles or gray hairs. You should look like you did on your wedding day. Oh, and be happy about all of this!”