Today as I tried to catch up reading through all my RSS feeds I came upon Erica Jong’s article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Mother Madness.” More interesting to me, I think, than the actual article are all the comments that lash out at Erica for her views on attachment parenting. Her article condemns attachment parenting, and questions whether the wave towards mothers and parents being expected to not only attachment parent but do so in a sustainable and green way is actually a way to “imprison” women in motherhood.
I think Erica is being a little dramatic in order to write a good, controversial article. But I do think she hits upon something. I live in Eugene, Oregon, a place where good jobs are hard to come by. For that reason many very educated, intelligent women I know don’t work. They can’t find a good “career” job, so instead they choose to stay at home with their kids. I respect that. But sometimes I feel that some of these same women don’t respect me and my choice (and good fortune) to have a career in Eugene, and to leave my kids with a nanny during the day. I dropped out of a mommy and me group after feeling too much pressure about cloth diapers and home-made food. I got tired of listening endlessly to discussions about what method was best to clean cloth diapers and remove the stench of urine and poop from them. Which, incidentally, brings up the questionable environmental gain with cloth diapers when you count all the water, detergents and energy involved with cleaning them. I got tired of not being able to relate to any of these stay-at-home moms and, more so, tired of feeling guilty because I worked. When my very active, very rowdy little boy would be too rough, I felt everyone was thinking – aha, that’s what happens to your child when you work and leave him at home with a nanny.
I think this is what Erica is getting at. Women need to be supported in the choices they make. We need to understand that pressure to be a certain kind of mother can be very destructive to women. When Gisele Bündchen says that women should be required to breastfeed, does she understand that it is not possible for some women? I have been lucky on many counts. My boys all loved to breast feed and were good latchers. I have an office environment where I am the boss and I can make time to pump 3 times a day at the office (I am actually pumping now as I write this – with my great Easy Expressions hands free bustier). I also have my mother who travels with me and the baby, so that I can continue to breast feed and go on business trips. But I know I am lucky. What if I didn’t have all that? What if I couldn’t afford to bring my mom with me? What if my babies didn’t latch well, and instead made me bleed, and have terribly sore, cracked nipples? Or, what if I simply didn’t have enough milk? It is easy for Gisele Bündchen to say mothers should be required to breastfeed because she has many, many resources to make that a reality.
I think the issue that always gets lost with articles like these, and then comments on the articles ranting the opposite opinion is that, for women, the most important thing is the ability to CHOOSE. A woman who can attachment parent, and make her own baby food, and wants to use cloth diapers, should. But one who doesn’t, or can’t, shouldn’t be made to feel guilty by the media or anyone else. When we tell a woman she can’t make the best choice for herself and her baby, that is when we put that woman in prison.