Book Review by Kimberly M. Hillier
All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership by Darcy Lockman
New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2019
Darcy Lockman’s All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership is a timely read that encapsulates the challenges mothers continue to face within the domestic sphere and beyond. Emphasizing the “invisible work” of mothers, All the Rage highlights the emotional and physical labor many mothers continue to manage, particularly after the birth of a couple’s first child. Illuminating the everyday realities for many mothers, while simultaneously challenging the systems that uphold their disempowering domestic realities, this text strives to answer the age-old question, “if so many couples are living this way, and so many women are angered or just exhausted by it, why do we remain so stuck?” (16). This review of All the Rage fittingly comes at a time where mothers across the globe are facing exponential increases in their domestic workloads due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All the Rage begins with a historical account of parenting and the reminder that gendered distributions of labor are one of the “most important gender equality issues of our time” (31). Anchoring the testaments acquired through personal narratives in data from various reports, Lockman cites and identifies global trends in unpaid care work, gender equity, and fathers’ perceptions of participation. The inclusion of same-sex couples in the discussion of domestic equality sheds light on the importance of communicating needs and preferences surrounding parenting-related divisions of labor in the absence of gendered assumptions. The connection between fathers’ involvement in childcare and martial success and happiness are undeniable factors that are heavily portrayed in the discussion of marriage and gender parity throughout the book.
Seeking to address the persisting question, “Why is it still this way?” (57) Lockman also incorporates a discussion of biological essentialism, which is often reinforced in everyday narratives, which justify fathers’ lower participation in the domestic sphere. Addressing a variety of explanatory categories, a discussion of the naturalistic fallacy and gender essentialism captures how nuanced scientific theories function to conceal and maintain domestic inequality. Utilizing cross-cultural and anthropological studies, the term “maternal instinct” is challenged and dismissed as a cause for the increase in mothers’ caregiving responsibilities.
Other chapters in the book articulate the role of gender socialization, social processes, early encounters with gender norms, and the cumulative influence they have on future ideologies and gender role behaviors. For example, Lockman highlights the ways in which mothers, the default parent, are generally more responsible for tasks that involve scheduling, registration, and overall management of the household. Referred to as “parental consciousness,” Lockman illustrates how these tasks demand mental work that has a direct relationship on overall well-being, marital satisfaction, and marital dissolution. Her discussion of moral mothering’s connection to the cultural construction of motherhood is a seamless transition into her discussion of intensive mothering.
The discussion surrounding intensive mothering ideologies demonstrates the widely held notion that the needs of one’s children are far greater than one’s own. Drawing upon Sharon Hay’s ideology of intensive mothering, this gendered model of childrearing is positioned as a central factor that impedes upon mothers’ life satisfaction through unattainable standards. Noting that while traditional pressures to be the breadwinners have eased for men, the pressures women face as traditional caregivers have not. To demonstrate the pervasiveness of intensive mothering ideologies, Lockman again draws upon personal narratives of mothers from a variety of contexts and class lines to highlight how social demands placed upon them become reflected in increased competitiveness and reigning belief that mothers are more suitable as primary caregivers.
Collectively, All the Rage providers readers with an authentic and well-researched account of the inequities mothers continue to face in the domestic sphere and beyond. Lockman’s incorporation of a breadth of research on the topic of motherhood and domesticity offers a thorough analysis of the historical underpinnings of mothers’ social injustices as well as the evolution of gender equity within the family. Her cross-cultural and intersectional approach to motherhood, domesticity, and gender equity reveals the challenges women face on a global scale and reveals the unique challenges marginalized mothers face. All the Rage adds to the current collection of texts about motherhood and domesticity and offers an insightful, humorous, and timely contribution to the conversation of mothering and motherhood.