Dear Moms: Eat the Damn Peach
What we can all learn from a popular mom comic who became the center of an internet pile-on.
When I return home from picking up our two kids from daycare and after-school, I immediately walk to the kitchen to begin prepping dinner. When my husband gets home, he goes into our bedroom, shuts the door, changes his clothes and decompresses for 15 minutes or so.
To be honest, I never even thought about this difference until I stumbled across The Great Peach Controversy of 2022. If you don’t know what that means, congratulations, you probably have healthy boundaries regarding your social media usage.
Here’s what happened: A few weeks ago, Mary Catherine Starr, the artist behind the popular Instagram account @MomLife_Comics, reposted an illustration she made in 2020. It depicts how she and her husband react differently when they stumble across the last peach on the counter:
It’s the type of relatable content that Mary Catherine’s account regularly serves up, illustrating how gendered parenting norms can make motherhood more challenging. The cartoons frequently show how moms spend nearly every moment multitasking, while dads take breaks to work out or browse the internet. Moms have internalized the notion we must sacrifice our own health and happiness at the altar of motherhood. When presented with a peach, moms save it for the kids. Dads eat it.
For those who are unfamiliar with her work, the peach cartoon could look like an indictment of dads. It only takes a moment of browsing her comics to see that Mary Catherine is actually critiquing social norms that make moms feel unable to eat the peach (or pee alone or exercise in peace). But, of course, the internet is not known for embracing nuance. This week, the cartoon went viral on Twitter, where it was decided that Mary Catherine is a “whiny” wife who secretly hates her husband.
“What began as hundreds of ‘get a divorce’ comments has now developed into scary threats, images of me killing myself, release of my private information, and online harassment towards me [and] my husband on all of our platforms,” she said in an Instagram post responding to the controversy.
If you’ve ever wondered why America can’t seem to muster substantive support for working moms, such as paid leave and affordable child care programs, the pile-on against Mary Catherine provides an illuminating clue: We still can’t admit we have a problem. When women acknowledge what sociologists have long known is true—that American working moms do more chores, child care, worrying, organizing and sacrificing than working dads—we are deemed ungrateful misandrists.
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Now, it seems, we can’t even admit these truths in our own communities.
“Mothers have carved out this space on the internet for ourselves where we are able to talk candidly about our challenges,” says Mary Catherine. “I don’t have say, ‘I love my children and husband dearly,’ because that’s a given in our community. We’re talking about the parts of motherhood that aren’t as wonderful. I don’t think the world is ready for women to really tell the truth of our experience. Or if we do, it means there’s something wrong with us, as opposed to something wrong with the world.”
So we stay quiet while shouldering more and more of the household burden. Then we feel incredible guilt when we can’t manage an unmanageable load. That guilt serves a purpose: It keeps us from complaining. When we are preoccupied with what we can do better as individual mothers, we have less time to demand more of others (cough, men, cough, lawmakers). And vilifying women like Mary Catherine who challenge this status quo as husband-hating hags is one of the oldest forms of sexism around.
“People want to put women in boxes, and they want to call a mother a good mother or a bad mother, and if you say something the world at large thinks is bad, then you’re a bad mother and a bad wife, and that’s the end of the story,” she says. “There’s no gray area for women to be multidimensional. We’re not able to hold two truths in us at this point in our culture, because people still want women to be quiet and do what they’re told.”
Despite the frightening attacks, Mary Catherine plans to continue creating her comics, but there’s one thing she wants us to learn from her: Eat the damn peach. We gain nothing from denying ourselves pleasure. That’s what her followers encouraged her to do, so she turned it into her account’s summer mantra.
For me, that means taking the time to unwind when I get home, just like my husband does. I’ll pour a glass of wine and put on some good music while I make dinner. What does eating the peach look like for you?
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Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a practicing board-certified pediatrician, author, speaker and full-time working mom. Dr. Whitney is a Stanford University-trained private practice pediatrician whose expertise spans the public health, direct patient care and media worlds. She is also CEO and Founder of Modern Mommy Doc and The Modern Mamas Club App. Book Dr. Whitney today!
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