I don't usually do this, but I would really like you to read this article before you read my post. It's not too long and totally worth it.
In my dream life I am the "perfect" mother. By perfect, I mean that I breastfed exclusively for a year, made all of the baby food for my kids, and the weekends are spent in museums with TV watching being a very rare occurrence. Like I said, in my dream life. M pointed out the article linked above and when I read it, it really struck a chord in me. I never imagined that the ideas that have become accepted in motherhood over the last twenty years could be viewed as a burden or even a prison, but if I am honest with myself, I admit that it feels that way, sometimes.
I don't totally agree with everything that Erica Jong says, and she comes across as being almost as hard lined as the proponents on the other side, but I think she has some very valid points. It is easy to forget how much motherhood and its ideals are perpetuated by the media. In this age of social networking, I would say that it is even worse. If someone makes a comment on twitter that they were uncomfortable seeing someone breastfeed in a restaurant, they are attacked and verbally beaten until bloody. My question is, why wasn't there a place that the mother could go and quietly feed her child? Why isn't that the norm in a society that so clearly thinks a good mother = a breastfeeding mother? We expect mothers to breastfeed, but there is very little support. Lactation consultants in hospitals are an absolute nightmare of conflicting information and the state laws that require employers to set aside a room for pumping are inconsistent and weak. So, basically, we are supposed to be comfortable breastfeeding in public, but we are also expected to take the abuse and defend ourselves when people object.
If you open up a People magazine, there are entire subsections devoted to pregnant celebrities and celebrities with babies. I'm sure their research tells them that the readers like to see that celebrities are just like them, raising their children. Really? Just like opening a Cosmo makes me feel like crash dieting, seeing some perfect looking celebrity mom does not help me, either. I'm not going to make assumptions about Angelina Jolie or Madonna and say that they are using children as accessories. Maybe they are, or maybe they just love children. My issue is with the depiction of it all. Women shout from the rooftops about the horrible things that supermodels do to our daughter's body images. How can they put these skinny girls in magazines when it's not realistic? Shouldn't we also decry the entire spreads that are put in magazines about women losing all of their baby weight in six weeks? Why aren't there photos of Angelina with pink eye that she caught from her kids, or Giselle with toddler puke all over her? This fake ideal that is constantly being pushed and that people eat up is a sort of prison. Just as looking at a fashion magazine makes me feel bad about the size dress I wear, reading an article about celebrity mom doing it all with no mention of the support she has from nannies and assistants is deplorable. Getting help is not shameful, but that's the way it is treated.
It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable with my choices as a mother. I'm not looking for anyone to tell me I am doing a good job or that I should do whatever I want as a mom. Until I read this article I didn't realize how much of a burden the barrage of do this, do that or you are a sub-par mom was weighing me down. I think that attachment parenting is great, but it just wasn't a reality for me. I am a strong advocate for breastfeeding, but the reality is that it's extremely tough and not everyone can make it work. I breastfed my kids for six months until my supply was literally nothing and they got formula for the rest of the time. I made some of their baby food and fed them plenty of the jarred stuff, too. If I really need to get something done on the weekends, I turn on Nick Jr. I never let my babies sleep in bed with us when they were tiny because I just didn't think it was safe. I hug and kiss them as much as possible and it annoys them sometimes, but that's just too bad. I miss the kids when I drop them off at daycare, but when L comes home and counts and names the planets, I can't really say that being in daycare is a bad thing for him.
I think that all moms do a little helicopter parenting and little hands off parenting. Sometimes, it's as simple as just reading what your kid needs. I am lucky because my job doesn't include a long commute, so a mom that barely gets home in time to tuck the kids in might have different views about all of this, but I do know that some of the things that I am seeing in magazines and on Twitter and Facebook are a little disturbing. If moms are being victimized by the expectation that there is an ideal mother who can work and carry a baby all day, then we need to start by not victimizing each other. I'm not always going to agree with the choices that another mom makes for her kids, but I can't possibly know the inner working of their lives. Is this feminism? I have no idea. I have the luxury of not really having to answer that question. The combination of work and home is my life and it's not really a "choice" as the feminist movement loves to call it.
I think that this quote from the article sums is up for me:
"We need to be released from guilt about our children, not further bound by it. We need someone to say: Do the best you can. There are no rules."
What do you think? I am really interested to hear your thoughts on this article. If you are a mom-to-be or a mom-in-waiting, I am looking for your input, as well. As a follow-up, Erica Jong's daughter wrote an article about what kind of mother Erica was and it is worth a read, as well.
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