In just over a week, Erica Jong’s Wall Street Journal essay, Mother Madness, has become the stuff of Internet legend. Jong’s piece, which questions why modern mothers would put up with the prison created by motherhood and green living, notes:
“Attachment parenting, especially when combined with environmental correctness, has encouraged female victimization. Women feel not only that they must be ever-present for their children but also that they must breast-feed, make their own baby food and eschew disposable diapers. It’s a prison for mothers, and it represents as much of a backlash against women’s freedom as the right-to-life movement. “
While I can’t speak for the Inhabitots team in full, I do know that many of the mama writers here aren’t happy with Jong’s sentiments, self included. Jong’s essay includes many mistaken assumptions. Read on to discover Jong’s four biggest mistakes as I see them.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Mistake #1: Attachment parenting and green living is the norm.
After ranting on and on about how attachment parents are basically bumbling idiots who blindly follow whatever we’re told to do, Jong closes her piece with the following, “”We need to be released from guilt about our children, not further bound by it. We need someone to say: Do the best you can. There are no rules.”
It’s ironic that Jong insists mothers be “released from guilt,” considering her piece attacks the choices of what, in reality, is an extremely small percentage of parents. Reading Jong’s essay you might assume that the entire planet is breastfeeding, co-sleeping and stock piling homemade baby food and that unsuspecting mothers see these practices and just fall in line like sheep.
Jong says, “green parenting—homemade baby food, cloth diapers, a cocoon of clockless, unscheduled time” is the new ideal. However, her assumptions about the new ideal are sorely off. For example, did you know that fewer than 10% of U.S. parents use cloth diapers? In the U.S. fewer than 40% of women are still breastfeeding at six months. A 2006 study showed that just 15% of children and parents co-sleep.
Where’s this massive attachment parenting and green living movement? I haven’t seen it. Parents making attachment parenting and green living choices aren’t the sheep in this scenario, but rather the exception.
Mistake #2: Our peers are judging us.
There are “I’m so much better than you” crunchy, attachment parents out there. I’ve met them and they drive me nuts. They go nuts if you vaccinate; they howl if you bottle feed. Yes, that’s annoying, because all mamas should be allowed to walk their own path.
However, the majority of parents who have judged my choices surrounding attachment parenting and green living, aren’t other like-minded parents, but parents who believe in cry-it-out methods or who think that wearing a baby is akin to spoiling. I’ve been judged time and time again for co-sleeping, unschooling and for stuff as seemingly benign as refusing to use paper towels.
Jong wrongly concludes that attachment parenting peers are laying on the guilt and forcing us into parenting methods. In reality, it’s not my peers I have to worry about. It’s the parents who don’t agree with attachment parenting that I get the most slack from.
Mistake #3: Babies are the ultimate accessory.
Jong, herself a mother, acts as if women never have babies by choice. It’s true that about half of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, but unplanned also doesn’t always mean unwanted. According to Jong, women want babies mainly because we’ve, “Endured an orgy of motherphilia for at least the last two decades… In our day motherhood has been glamorized, and in certain circles, children have become the ultimate accessories.” Many women choose to become mothers. Not all mothers are simply jumping on a baby fad bandwagon.
Jong saying so points out, yet again, that she’s sure we can’t think for ourselves. It’s insulting. My son has never been an accessory.
Mistake #4: Attachment parenting and green living are the enemy.
Jong’s main point seems to be that by taking part in co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby wearing, keeping the planet healthy and other such nonsense, mothers today are setting themselves up for disappointment and giving up their own life to boot. Jong says:
“Someday “attachment parenting” may be seen as quaint, but today it’s assumed that we can perfect our babies by the way we nurture them. Few of us question the idea, and American mothers and fathers run themselves ragged trying to mold exceptional children.”
It’s not my job to follow a set attachment parenting plan or to raise an exceptional child. My son, like most humans, was already exceptional by default, at birth. My job is to help make sure we’re all as happy, safe and healthy as we can reasonably be. If that’s nurturing my son, so be it. God forbid I have a child and then actually stick around to raise him.
Almost everything I’ve done as a parent I’ve done because one, they’ve benefited my son and/or two, they’ve benefited me. For example, breastfeeding and co-sleeping was so much easier than bottle feeding. Who wants to get up at 3am to heat a bottle when you can roll over, feed your baby and get back to sleep? My son cried less when I carried him around. I LOVE less crying, so carrying him around, when possible made sense. A happy baby and mama is nothing to sneeze at.
All parents face tough choices, but hopefully most parents can find a balance that works for them. Finding that balance is much easier when we’re allowed to do what’s best for our family without being attacked. The fact that Jong implies that parents who make informed, personal choices are nothing more than sheep and victims of female oppression is incredibly insulting and not helpful.
What do you think? Get the conversation started in the comments below.