What the discussions are actually about are (mostly) attachment parenting and feminism — whether attachment parenting is feminist or not-feminist or challenging to a woman’s autonomy. There are many interesting comments, which reflect varying degrees of thoughtfulness, insight and generosity. A few:
Here are examples of what mothers who practice attachment parenting are concerned about. We can about what hormonal contraception does to your body and your brain. We research why doctors prescribe birth control to teenagers and adults who don’t have a “regular” menstrual cycle. We object to routine inductions with pitocin and interventions during labor because of the risks to the mother and the baby. We believe that breast milk is biologically and nutritionally superior to anything formula manufacturers tell you is equal to it, and that sleeping next to your baby releases positive hormones that facilitate bonding. We have empowered ourselves and refuse to endure a male-centered obstetric history that has taken women’s bodies and molded them to their preferences for their convenience, their comfort and for their world view.
Now tell me how attachment parenting is inconsistent with feminism?
I actually don’t think attachment parenting has to be inconsistent with feminism, but the pressure and the insistence that it is The Best Way can be incredibly alienating and shaming. And also? Attachment parenting requires a whole lot of time and luck. And doesn’t exactly lend itself to having a mother who works outside the home. If it works for you, great — do it! Parenting is hard, and if you find a style you like, go on. To me, it sounds like a nightmare of epic proportions.
Which is why I’m more or less on Team Heather McDonald.
Being a mother is part of who you are, but it should not be all of who you are. There is no parenting secret that ensures that your children will grow up and be successful adults. So why would you want to sacrifice your career, your financial security and oftentimes your happiness all in the name of motherhood? To me that is putting all your eggs in one basket, pun intended.
No, I did not breastfeed, make organic baby food or co-sleep with my children. I instead slept with their father, and I am still happily married to him today.
Yeah, basically that.
My least favorite contribution is from LaShaun Williams, who appears to be competing for the Jr. Phyllis Sclafley position:
Modern motherhood is complicated. Naturally we want to be caregivers and nurturers, but, socially, we also want to be professional powerhouses. And, the truth is we can have both — just not at the same time, as dedication to one often results in forgoing pieces of the other. Understandably, this is why working mothers generally experience feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
And, for that, we can blame feminism — a movement that, while liberating women to follow their dreams, devalued marriage and the familial and societal benefits of homemaking and encouraged self-indulgence.
And yet somehow fathers can be good dads and also professional powerhouses. What a mystery! Blame feminism! And blame those women who are so self-indulgent they want to be able to make enough money to feed their kids, or live their lives in some way that is not 100% in the service of another. Heartless bitches.
Pamela Druckerman points out that guilt over inadequate parenting isn’t helpful; neither is obsessing over your children:
The French intellectual Elisabeth Badinter points out that, in general, French mothers haven’t succumbed to this spiral. They feel as overstretched and inadequate as we do, and absolutely recognize the temptation to feel guilty. But they don’t valorize this guilt. To the contrary, they consider it unhealthy and try to banish it.
French mothers don’t love their children any less. But the dogma of attachment parenting — which helped plant the fear of bottles and babysitters in American mothers — never took hold in France. French moms believe it’s unhealthy for mothers and children to spend all their time together, and that kids need a bit of distance to build autonomy and resilience. And as Badinter points out, what are mothers supposed to do once their kids are grown?
From what I’ve seen, Americans are starting to doubt whether martyr mothering is a good idea. For starters, it feels lousy. Then there’s the obvious paradox: Should we sacrifice all our pleasures for our daughters, only to have them do the same for their own kids in 20 years? And as the first generations of “teacup children” head off to college and try to hold down jobs, we’re wondering whether this new style of parenting is even good for kids.
Annie Urban talks about fathers:
Too often the discussion about women’s choices (stay at home, go back to work) ignores the role of fathers. To achieve meaningful equality, we need to push for a society that values fathers who strike a balance between their career and their family life too. Women shouldn’t have to be equally uninvolved parents to reach their goals; they should be able to ask their spouses to step up too.
Attachment parenting can make it easier for a working mother to bond with her children when they are together, but it isn’t something she can do alone. It requires a partnership (at a minimum) and a village (ideally) that rejects traditional patriarchal models of motherhood and instead adopts a nuanced flexible approach to balancing work, family and community.
Which is all lovely, but lots of women don’t have. And ideally, women wouldn’t “be able to ask their spouses to step up too.” Parents should just do their fair share of parenting.
But my favorite, despite the stupid title (if I hear “STOP JUDGING!” one more time…), is from Maria Blois:
It seems to me that we are targeting the wrong culprit in this debate. Attachment parenting does not do anything to us, it does not “destroy feminism,” it is not “bad for working moms.” It is simply an ideology we can use within the context of our own life and priorities. Like any tool, it can be misused and wielded as a weapon of judgement.
Parenthood is humbling beyond measure. Let us be kind to one another.
What a radical idea.