I read Erica Jong’s Mother Madness and decided to write this.
In case you haven’t read it, Jong’s essay is published in the Wall Street Journal. It’s an essay directed at philosophies of parenting, namely Attachment Parenting, which, she argues, “place” undo demands on modern parents, mostly mothers, who presumably have other modern demands, to essentially be everything (nurturer, feeder, provider) to their children.
She argues these philosophies of parenting attempt to “exert control in a world that is increasingly out of control.”
I can’t say that I agree with everything that Jong says in her article.
But, I do believe that there is something about her argument that rings true.
That “something” is that modern society has changed what parenting can look like for most modern Americans and that in spite of this change many Americans, not simply some of those striving to follow the principles of Attachment Parenting, persist in trying to make it all work for the sake of our children and a desire to hold on to the sacredness of parenting as it “once was” practiced, we often tell ourselves.
As it was once practiced, and continues to be practiced in some places in the world distant from my own, we often tell ourselves, perhaps subconsciously more than consciously, parenting was “natural.”
When times get tough in my own modern world of cell phones, expensive childcare, nannies, painful Baby Bjorns and other contraptions that mimic what once was and continues to be in “those other places” in our head, we, or I, often like to imagine that world (or those worlds, as it is past and present) to keep us, I mean me, going, I think.
In my head, there are some cultures in distant times and places, “mother” and father” are not exclusive terms, but are applied to a variety of aunts, uncles and other adults. These aunts and uncles and other adults live by one another and support one another.
Kinship is not exclusively biological in the villages, cultures, nations in my head.
In my real world, things are, well, different.
Kinship is made exclusively biological in my modern society by family homes spaced too far to travel by foot (or car), DNA tests, spoken and unspoken codes of personal responsibility and fierce independence at all costs, social security numbers, and tax benefits.
In my modern world of work, Frequent Flyer miles, too elderly grandparents, working aunts and busy uncles who must work to pay their mortgages, and Skype, “mother” and “father” have had to become exclusive terms, for the most part.
While desiring to have the help found in the “natural” villages in my mind, I know all to well that such villages are hard to come by in my modern society.
In my modern society, if I wanted a reliable village who could, on an hour’s notice, assume my role as “mother,” I would have to make some phone calls to one or more previously unknown persons who would inevitably be under my payroll.
Such truths of the modern society, not a parenting philosophy, in which I live in breed men, and mostly women, who make parenthood, as some outsiders looking in may very well assume to be, a prison shared by the closest biologically invested parties.
Parenthood, and motherhood in particular, are acts decreed by natural law that only come to be perceived as burdens in a society that has little room for parenting and mothering on their own terms.
In this society, my society, parenting and mothering must be made to fit in with everything else. With 40+ hour work weeks, there is not enough time in the day for some parents to gently parent children to sleep, to breastfeed children every two hours or more, or to wear children willfully in a sling.
In spite of this truth, most are in denial. I’m in denial. So rather than blaming this society, I blame everything else.
It’s tough, I think, to acknowledge this truth, this truth that society has made parenting an inconvenience for some (if not most), but it must be acknowledged.
It must be acknowledged so that we as mothers and fathers can see more clearly what is and IS NOT the source of our frustrations with children who do not sleep through the night or eat on more clearly defined schedules.
It must be acknowledged so that we as mothers and fathers can see more clearly our priorities in this modern society and figure out what we can and CHOOSE NOT to do.
It must be acknowledged so that we as mothers and fathers can more clearly see what choices are REALLY available to us when we become, in our own minds, overburdened with the thought of not being as good as we think (or thought) we could be.
It must be acknowledged so that we, specifically as mothers, can think about what it really means to make it our business to judge other mothers who say they can not do such-and-such because their lives, bodies, schedules are too (fill in the blank).
It must be acknowledge so that we, specifically as mothers, can think about what it really means to make it our business to demean “those backward women” who attempt, in spite of the very real demands of modern society, to sleep with their children, breastfeed, and wear their children in organically made slings and wraps.
It must be be acknowledged so that we can give ourselves permission to forge our own paths in parenting and to begin to change our society and culture to become accommodating of our whole selves (i.e., not just the selves that contribute monetarily to making this society work, but the selves who are also mothers and fathers).
It must be acknowledged… you get the point. I could literally go on with this, but I want to hear from you, has modern society really changed what parenting can look like for some if not all parents? Or am I totally off the mark with this?