Thursday, May 10, 2012

Is anyone mom enough?

This Time Magazine is getting ready to hit the stands this week and it is already causing quite a stir. The debate is really about Attachment Parenting...this image is most likely designed to 'cause the stir.' You can watch a pre-issue interview with the author and you can read through Dr. Sear's website about attachment parenting to get an idea of what is going on...well, at least part of what is going on. What few seem to be discussing, amid the rampages of to nurse a toddler or not, is the perpetuation of what has been deemed "mommy wars." In other words, yet another way to pit women against women.

In becoming a mother I am convinced that no harsher judgement against women exists than in motherhood. Endless judgement, often disguised as 'well meaning advice' confront us every where we go, by just about everyone we come in contact with...what mother hasn't been told what her crying infant needs from a 'well-meaning' stranger while at the check-out in a market?  And this advice comes with a looming legitimacy because after all children are at stake! But like so many of these related issues and very loud public debates, moms often find themselves in a place that is silenced...we're not to talk honestly about our fears, our inadequacies, our ideas. We are supposed to have the answer, the right one. And we often present ourselves as if we do, because not to invites further judgement (how could you not know breastfeeding is better?  how could you not know to prop a pillow up if you leave your not-yet moving-on-her-own infant on the bed?)  But in a sea of mixed 'expert' messages this can often leave us in an endless cycle of second guessing. And we learn that we are not to trust ourselves and we are not to be too honest about motherhood because if we are we risk being met with silence from other mothers who are also too afraid of being judged.

In my experience, moms love and adore their children, they are also exhausted and annoyed by them.  We are trying to do our best, we are trying to sort through all this conflicting 'advice,' do right by our kids, not lose ourselves, integrate a working life (and maybe even a civic one) all the while fielding constant interruptions by little I write this my 4 year old is sitting next to me talking non-stop about her 'homework' which is being written all over my work notebook. Did I mention she is also supposed to be in bed? 

In fact, I had to interrupt my writing this blog to tend to my crying 5 month old (guess that makes me an attachment parent) who was asleep and to read a nighttime story to my 4 year old in hopes to move that little non-sleeper closer to sleep.  This is the reality of most moms I know.  Whether in the paid labor force or not, we are juggling many demands on our time and selves.  We confront the notions of 'perfect motherhood' in the same way we must battle the notions of 'ideal beauty' both of which are largely perpetuated by media, and internalized by ourselves and our sisters.  We are so caught in a cycle of obtaining this perfection that few stop to question a society that fails mothers...and almost every way. 

 As a society we have set a clear delineation of which women should stay home with children and which should not, thus protecting a long-established class bias in our society.  As well, we feed these so-called 'mommy wars' of pitting women who have a 'choice' to stay home or not against each other, regardless of socio-economic class.  Damned if we do, dammed if we don't.  As a culture we embrace the notion that we are on our own in raising children and admonish any who needs/wants/demands state assistance in raising children. We don't adequately fund child care, in fact child care workers make far less than those who care for our cars.  Child care in this country is often lacking quality (especially if you look to lower-income care) and as such most mothers report a great deal of apprehension and fear about non-family child care.  While some of our workplace culture has changed to accommodate the working mother, few have addressed the issues of the working father.  In fact, we continue to have little discussion about men as fathers, their roles in the home, or any true expectation of egalitarian parenting.  Where accommodations for women in the workforce do come, women are all too aware of the unofficial costs.   We are mommy tracked, overlooked for promotion, our loyalties are questioned because we are not available after hours, we are far more likely than our male counterparts to move to part-time positions, and we have more fragmented work histories which make us less financially stable.  Much of this is because of that aforementioned expectation that women should figure it out on their own.  And lest we forget, we did once have a society that fully funded child care to support women in the public labor force...only it did so when it could argue benefit to the state during wartime.  Now our country takes an out, convincing the populous that to fund child care or early education for kids, or free lunch programs, or library hours and programs, or after school unfair to hard working Americans.  We embrace the notion that 'not my child, not my problem' instead of recognizing the grand benefits to funding children and families across economic lines, as a society as a whole, not divided by socioeconomic class.  It is, as most all other industrialized societies have long figured out, a commitment that returns itself many times over in creating a more productive, beneficial, healthy and
happy society. 

Rather than continuing with these mommy wars, these judgements against how we mother, let us turn attention to a fight that really could make a difference.  One that focuses on what social support we could fund if we prioritized family, included fathers in our expectations, and respected motherhood.


Jennifer said...

As always, right on the mark! Thanks for helping us collectively see the pressure we are under so we don't feel crazy.

Katie W said...

I have always been aprehesive about the idea of state run childcare. Socioequaliize the economic division being one of the biggest issues for me. If there were some way to truly equalize the care such that an executive's child would receive the same quality care as a janitors'. But looking at our public schools I see marked differences between more and less affluent neighborhoods. Obviously, something would have to be done on the national level to rectify such inequities, but I wonder how many others are willing to support such a "socialist" proposal.