Martha Stewart Vs. the Earth Mother

My inner mirror has two faces, and neither of them are mine
by Lynn Siprelle, TNH Editor

Editor's note: This was written years before Martha Stewart's conviction on lying and obstruction of justice charges. It doesn't change my opinion of Martha at all.

In this corner: The ultimate hostess, maker of marzipan wedding cakes too pretty to eat, the Woman Who Does Everything More Beautifully Than You, Martha Stewart! Martha believes in free-range chicken, surprises overnighters with their own individually monogrammed pillowcases, ragrolls the interior walls of her garage in a soothing range of blue glazes, makes the paper for her Christmas cards (mailed by December 1st) by hand, and crochets cunning little lace antimacassars for the seats of her BMW. Children? They're grown up and in homes of their own, but if they were still around, the nanny would post their best artwork on the fridge once a week.

In this corner: The ultimate nature babe, maker of organic wheat-free pasta, the Woman Who Does Everything More Naturally Than You, The Earth Mother! The Earth Mother believes in veganism, grows her own open-pollinated vegetables (and saves the seed), meditates, gives unassisted birth at home and then homeschools her children, makes all her family's clothes from fair-traded hemp fabric, bakes whole-grain breads from flour she mills herself, and bicycles to the co-op (which she chairs) for this week's delivery of soy milk with homegrown flowers in her handlebar basket and a trailer-full of extended-breastfed non-vaccinated family-bedding toddlers towed behind.

The boxing ring? My head. Somebody help me before I punch myself silly.

Martha and the Earth Mama are not polar opposites; they agree life should be gracious and beautiful, they just disagree on what that entails. On the one hand, Martha represents for me what life would be like in a Merchant-Ivory film, all gentility and tea time. On the other hand, the Earth Mother represents for me my desire to give my family an unpolluted, natural, socially aware life. I just can't decide between extremes.

Both of these archetypes are valid as daydreams. I mean, it would be wonderful to live in a Martha Stewart world for a while, but there's no room for grubby little toddler pawprints there. And while I like beans 'n' rice more than the average American, after some time spent in the Earth Mother's world I usually want a big old hunk of dead cow, barely cooked. Still, if I'm not careful I hold up one or the other inside myself as not just a daydream but a heroine to emulate, a goal to reach (or worse--both at the same time).

And here's the problem. They both embody the homemaker's greatest enemy: Perfectionism. My mother would argue with me on this point, but I want desperately to be perfect.

Don't get me wrong. I think Martha is swell. But to attain her brand of perfection she's got a staff of 50. And that's before breakfast. The Earth Mother is more formidable; she does it all herself! The thing is, though, she's even more of a myth than Martha. Martha is allegedly a real person; I've never actually met the Earth Mother. While I've seen some women at the local health food store who I suspect just might be her, I'm betting in reality they're looking for her too.

One of my dearest friends always quotes his mother to me: "Perfect," said Mrs. Moss, "is the enemy of good." Meaning that perfectionism may keep you from enjoying good results just because they're not perfect results. Perfectionism may even keep you from trying in the first place.

I always keep in mind that behind both the Earth Mother's and Martha's perfectionism (and thus, my own) is not a need to do the absolute best for themselves and their families, but a need to impress other people with how perfect they are. That, my friends, we could all do without.

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Guest's picture

This was my head too. Only I thought the earth mother won. I have found that I can me a regular Mom of my own definition and I don't have to fit other's molds. Sometimes I surprise people because they think they know all of me based on one part of me.
Joyce in Oregon

Guest's picture

I just, after finishing the lunch dishes, another load of laundry, etc., sat down for a cup of tea. I happened upon this article, in kind of a tired mood. I laughed SO hard tears were running down my face and that is not really normal for me. All that perfectionism can make one a tad too serious. This article made my week. I am so guilty of trying to be actually BOTH, and it is so funny to see how possessed we can get, and how hard it can be on our poor selves. I just found this website, I think I may have found my "people." :-) Great article. God Bless you!

Lynn's picture

This is an old piece, but I'm glad people still think it's worth something. :)

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