Is Motherhood a Prison?

Saturday's Wall Street Journal featured an essay by super feminist Erica Jong titled Mother Madness. The essay is as anti-feminist as anything one could find in Maxim magazine. I understand that I am from a different generation than Ms. Jong but it was my understanding that the crux of the feminist movement was empowering women to make their own choices. Regardless of what the choices may be.

Of course there will always be judgement from those with opposing views but Jong is outright hostile and for no good reason. She is railing against what she perceives to be the modern day shackles of motherhood that the attachment parenting community and the right have forecefully imposed upon today's women.


Today's bible of child-rearing is "The Baby Book" by William and Martha Sears, which trumpets "attachment parenting." You wear your baby, sleep with her and attune yourself totally to her needs. How you do this and also earn the money to keep her is rarely discussed. You are just assumed to be rich enough.

I am not sure how Jong reaches this conclusion. I own this book. This book has no patrician airs about it. It is quite simple: wear your baby when you are together, sleep with your child when and if you can, and yes attune yourself to the child's needs. Why are these acts dismissed by Jong as activities for only the wealthy and/or politically conservative? 

Sears absolutely mentions the importance of finding like-minded caregivers for one's children and the importance of exposing one's child to as many similarly minded relatives as well. Nowhere is it implied that one should quit their job and spend every single waking moment catering to their child's whims. I'll brush it off as sensationalism by Jong for the purposes of a kick ass opening paragraph.

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.

Of all the uphill battles that women currently face Jong chooses to tackle cloth diapering, homemade baby food, and breastfeeding? Really? Why? Are disposable diapers, formula, and jarred baby food some sort of weapon of convenience every feminist woman should have in her arsenal? The notion is laughable.

Ladies! All of our problems have been solved by greedy corporations. Who knew diaper, formula, and baby food companies were so progressive and feminist friendly.

Indeed, although attachment parenting comes with an exquisite progressive pedigree, it is a perfect tool for the political right. It certainly serves to keep mothers and fathers out of the political process. If you are busy raising children without societal help and trying to earn a living during a recession, you don't have much time to question and change the world that you and your children inhabit. What exhausted, overworked parent has time to protest under such conditions?

Who is raising their children with absolutely no societal help? Jong loses me here. She states that the political right uses attachment parenting to its advantage in order to prevent engagement in the political process but earlier she stated that attachment parenting was the domain of the wealthy. The wealthy can afford any and all societal help they desire. I have never heard of political party not catering to the wealthy.

I do however understand the comparison Jong is trying to make regarding motherhood and prison but does she know anything about prison? Sure motherhood isnt the most glamorous job in the world but at least I dont have to wear flip flops in the shower or worry about my cell mate Twan stealing my Kool-Aid to use as a makeshift lipstick. Calling attachment parenting a woman's prison is a little harsh and ridiculous.

The kind of woman that does so is the most annoying kind of woman to me. The kind of woman that makes choices because they are currently popular and then martyrs herself and whines to the point of exhaustion for choices that no one forced upon her.  No one is forcing anybody to breastfeed, cloth diaper, or make their own baby food. Give me a break.

Some women choose to attachment parent because they feel it is the best choice for themselves and their children. It is a simple as that. The women that feel obligated are not meant to engage in the practice and there is nothing wrong with that either. To blame the attachment parenting movement for the guilt and inadequacy that some mother's feel due to their own personal choices is ludicrous.

Women will always find something to feel guilty about. Perhaps it is our nature or our own internal desire to provide our children with the very best that drives the vicious cycle of guilt that consumes many of us. The answer is unclear but blaming Dr. Sears, attachment parenting theory, the political right, and celebrity parents is lame sensationalism at its worst.