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Mother Madness Rant

On the weekend I came across an essay at the WSJ that really made my blood boil. Mother Madness, by Erica Jong, is all about how she feels modern motherhood, and attachment parenting in particular, are society constructs that are “imprisoning” and “victimising” women. It’s not often that I read something and get so riled up! As regular readers would realise, I am a big proponent of attachment parenting. I breastfed one of my children, I co-sleep (still!), I made the majority of our own baby food, and while I believe in a flexible routine, I don’t (and didn’t) follow anything you would call a schedule. According to Jong, all of these things are “a prison for mothers” and it “represents […] a backlash against women’s freedom.”

What made me laugh out loud however, was her own inconsistencies. In the early part of her essay, she criticises the Sear’s (proponents of Attachment Parenting) for assuming that parents are rich enough to have one parent at home to Attachment Parent. And yet, later, she is reminiscing about how her daughter was raised by nannies while she was off on her lecture tours. I don’t know about your family, but even if I was still working, I certainly wouldn’t be able to afford to have a team of nannies at beck and call!

I am insulted to be told that I am “giving up my life” for my child’s and I resent the implication that I am creating a child that cannot be an independent adult. In fact, there is copious research out there that demonstrates that children reared with attachment parenting principles are more secure and capable teens and adults that those who are not. And this is where I think Jong missed the most vital points of attachment parenting. You do not have to be a SAHM to follow attachment parenting; I know parents who both work, but co-sleep with their child, and then carefully selected caregivers who follow the principles of responding to the child’s needs when they are not there. You do not have to “give up your life”; next month, DH and I are going to the U2 concert, and one of the sets of grandparents will look after the kids. We still go out for dinner at nice restaurants (sometimes with the kids, sometimes without) and we still carve out moments for ourselves.

What irked me the most, though, is her assertion that those of us who choose to stay home are blindly following societal propaganda, removing ourselves from the political process and further, are “overworked and exhausted” and as such, “how can we have the time to question and change the world that you and and your children inhabit.” I could not disagree with her more! I believe that it is the attachment parenting mother (and not forgetting the mothers who follow different parenting paths) that fights to have BPA removed from our environment, who boycotts Nestle for their formula practices in the Third World, who pushes for healthier school lunches for our children. Yes, these are child-centric issues, but does that make them any less important than minimising carbon emissions or fighting for equal pay for women (which, by the way, I am also passionate about)? Just because I am not lecturing in universities or writing a best selling novel (like Jong) does not mean that I am not an aware and active citizen.

Do I believe that everyone should follow attachment parenting principles? Absolutely not. I know parents who followed Enzo’s Babywise (the antithesis of attachment parenting) and have raised beautiful, wonderful children, and I think that across the full spectrum of parenting “philosophies” all parents want is what is best for our children given our particular set of circumstances. It just really riles me up when someone like Jong can state that we women should “just do the best you can. There are no rules.” (hey, there is one line in the whole essay I agree with!) despite having basically spent an entire essay denigrating my parenting choice.

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