The lesser-known maladies of motherhood

A humorous look at the myriad ailments brought on by parenting.

Globe Digital Illustration; istock photo

Was J.D. Salinger right? Are mothers all “slightly insane”? As lovely as motherhood is, most moms do suffer from a malady — or 20. Moms in the grip of Post Partum Paranoia feel judged at all times, by other mothers, teachers, medical professionals, in-laws, spouses — children, even. The compulsion that makes mothers e-mail endless pictures of their children? That’s Uploadorrhea. Christmas Cardiac Attack makes working moms feel inadequate at the arrival of others’ cute — and punctual — holiday cards. Dads suffer from diseases too, of course. Fatherhood Onset Sensory Loss renders men unable to detect the sound of a baby’s cry or the odor of a dirty diaper. But in honor of Mother’s Day, we reveal the most common diagnoses.

Napo-monomania: The sufferer can think of nothing but the timing and duration of her child’s nap. Symptoms include the posting of passive-aggressive signs reading “Shhh . . . nap in progress” and the loss of friends whose children have incompatible nap schedules. Napo-monomaniacs exhibit hostile behavior toward grandparents and other caregivers who let the child fall asleep at the wrong time, a misstep the napo-maniac fears will cause the child to give up his nap — a catastrophic event.

Loco-vora Extremis: Moms with this disease flip out if a non-organic, non-locally grown blueberry touches her beloved child’s lips, reacting as if it will lead to instant poisoning death — or worse. At picnics, birthday parties, and family gatherings she quizzes the hostess over the origin of the food served and, in severe cases, forces her child to go hungry rather than eat a conventionally grown piece of fruit. The disease is related to the China Syndrome, which causes similar stress about toys made overseas, and clothing fabricated from non-organic cotton.


Post Art Project Stress Disorder: An anxiety condition resulting from a severe visual trauma, such as the appearance in the home of a large, impossible-to-store art project. Clay figures, life-size self-portraits, dioramas — all can trigger PAPSD. In the throes of it, a victim alternately feels the need to move to a larger home with more storage space or to surreptitiously toss out the art in question, leading to fear of eventual discovery, and, down the line, possible psychosis in her children.

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Homework-aholism: Homework-aholism can ruin the life not just of the mother suffering from it, but from the child whose homework she is obsessed with. The disease turns normally sweet, easygoing mothers into unrecognizable, tyrannous versions of themselves — interested only in making sure their kids get their homework done, and done perfectly, before any other after-school activity or snack can be enjoyed.

Mom-nesia: Motherhood-induced memory loss. In the early stages, the stricken forgets to send in permission slips, can’t recall why she’s entered a room — (“I was looking for something, I just know it”) — and unwittingly schedules multiple activities for the same afternoon. In later stages, the mom-nesiac puts milk in the cupboard and the Cheerios in the refrigerator, and forgets most of what she learned in school. Beyond adding up donations for the teacher gift or figuring sunblock SPF levels, she can no longer do simple math.

Munch-hausen’s Syndrome: Moms suffering from this disease feel the constant need to snack, almost as if they were toddlers themselves, and are unable to achieve the goal of every new mom: losing the baby weight. Little bags of Cheerios, animal crackers, juice-filled sippy cups are consumed by mom, not the child they were allegedly prepared for, leaving children hungry and cranky.

Goodnight Terrors: This condition makes mothers spend an entire evening out worrying that they’ll mistakenly — tragically — return home before the children have fallen asleep, and, despite spending $60 on a baby sitter, or using up their husband’s good will, will still have bedtime duties. Warning signs: peering in the windows of your own home peeping-Tom style, staying out much later than necessary so as to avoid the dreaded line: “Mommy, give me a kiss!”


Mama Mea Culpa: In this most pervasive disorder among mothers, the sufferers worry that because of their failings, their children will not be happy or well-adjusted adults, or athletic enough, or proficient at the piano, or get into Harvard. In milder stages — which, to be frank, are rare — MMC can lie dormant, until sparked by a seemingly minor trigger: learning of another child benefiting from a great sports coach or music teacher; the sight of other kids playing outside when hers are inside on the computer, complaints from the children themselves that “other mothers aren’t always working like you are.”

Overactive Volunteer Disorder: OVD compels those afflicted to agree to any school-related volunteering request that comes their way. When confronted with the horrifyingly loaded question “Can I ask you a huge favor?” they always say yes, and as a result, end up leading the magazine drive, acting as class parent, organizing the teacher-appreciation luncheon, chaperoning field trips, and running the fall fun festival. OVD victims age prematurely, burn out completely, or become insufferable.

Carpool Tunnel Vision: Mothers suffering from this syndrome make all decisions about what extracurricular activities their kids will do based on the possibility of a carpool. The afflicted spend more time making spreadsheets, gossiping about other carpoolers, and driving to distant homes to pick up children than they save by being in a carpool.

Pre-Playdate Stress Disorder: This renders a normally confident mother insecure when asking another mom if her child can come over. Flashbacks of the “dating world’’ overwhelm the victim, and she’s plunged into fear of rejection — but not for her child, the catalyst for the social interaction, but for herself. Some mothers respond by taking themselves out of the “mommy dating” game all together, denying their children playdates, while others buy new outfits and clean their homes excessively pre-playdate, stocking the fridge with snacks suitable for a high-end cocktail party.

Grouchus Interna: This involuntary mental reflex — an internal Tourette’s — results in the afflicted mother muttering or thinking unpleasant things about their husbands or other alleged co-caretakers. It strikes most often when the partner in question is shirking some parenting duty, or is seen relaxing while the mother is changing a diaper, unpacking groceries, or doing laundry.


Schlepp-orrhea: An obsessive condition that compels mothers to treat any travel, even a trip to the corner store, as a major expedition requiring enough food, water, and other supplies to make it through a desert. Schlepp-orrheacs can be recognized by their large back and fanny packs, Purell-on-a-rope, and strollers packed like Conestoga wagons.

Schlepp-orrheacs can be recognized by their large back and fanny packs, Purell-on-a-rope, and strollers packed like Conestoga wagons.

Multi-Taskaria: This stress disorder has worked its cruelty on virtually every working mother. Symptoms include grocery shopping while texting while pushing a pre-schooler in a shopping cart while listening to an older child talking about his day while trying to keep the dry cleaning from falling on the supermarket floor, while trying to remember if the lettuce in the fridge is fresh (enough) or if new lettuce is needed, while mouthing “hello” to a friend she hasn’t seen in a year because they’re both too busy to get together.

Vanishing Identity Disorder: Causes the mother’s given name to be lost, forcing her to answer, or at least nod, when a medical professional, salesperson, or teacher calls her “Mom,” as in “How does Mom feel about bringing in 200 gluten-free cupcakes to tomorrow’s bake sale?” Or: “Mom, we need to talk about Ethan’s flossing.”

Beth Teitell can be reached at Follower her on Twitter @bethteitell.