Sunday, November 14, 2010

Erica Jong and Her Mother Madness

So it seems that the article published in the Wall Street Journal by Erica Jong has really hit a nerve for those that have read it. My initial response was defensive and aggressive. Those of you that know me, know that I find a way to settle down and realize what is really going on before writing about something I am passionate about. In this case I needed to think about what the article was really saying. After a few days of marinating the ideas Ms. Jong talks about, here is my response. Overall her article is trying to tell moms reading the WSJ, keeping in mind who the target audience reading this newspaper is, to not feel guilty when parenting, she does it by criticizing those Moms that are doing things that she considers "attachment parenting."

Not only does she attack the idea of cloth diapering, breastfeeding, carrying your baby in a sling, co-sleeping, making your own baby food, and other aspects of AP, she also attacks Dr. Sears, a doctor that has science on his side. Unfortunate for her, the ideas of Attachment Parenting have been greatly studied and are actually the way that humans have been raised since our existence. While it is true we don't live in the Stone Age anymore, it has become the trend to study some of these habits still practiced in villages across the globe. Much of the research is very encouraging for those that chose this type of parenting style. The University of Notre Dame has conducted studies that show that much of what AP and other parenting styles that encourage breastfeeding and continually holding your child, shows a higher ability to become independent, secure, trusting, moral individuals with a high self-esteem and empathy towards others. Isn't that what every parent hopes to reach in raising their child? Her article also mentions AP as if the parents that practice this type of parenting are extremist deep-end parents that don't allow others to care for their children. Well Ms. Jong is deeply incorrect. Most of the AP practicing parents that I have met are parents that look for other like-minded families, creating a tribe or village in which they know their children will feel safe in and the parents feel safe congregating their children among. If only Ms. Jong had actually taken a moment to perhaps understand this type of parenting style a bit more. If she did, it isn't apparent in her article.

Finally, it is important to emphasize the one thing that she does mention only at the end of her article worth valuing: "...do the best you can. There are no rules." This statement is very true and one that I hold close to my heart because had I followed the rules, I probably would not have breastfed my child. I would not have listened to my instincts because much of what she says, many people think and are not reluctant to tell you. Many times I was told from complete strangers to people in my own family and friends,"your baby should be sleeping through the night by 3 months, your baby needs to cry it out to learn how to sleep, your baby isn't full--give him formula." I tried some of these rules and they didn't work for my family--it isn't fair to make one parenting style invalid and wrong in order to make others not feel guilty. Usually for me, guilt rises when I start to compare myself to other people and what they are or aren't doing.

Ms. Jong if you truly had every intention on helping those Wall Street Journal career moms feel better about working 50 hours a week, it would have been better to spend the pages of this prestigious newspaper writing about how comparing your parenting styles to others are what make for a guilty society. Comparing yourself to a mom that is a stay at home mom when you are unable to is where the guilt takes over. Instead it would have been valuable to reassure career moms that it isn't always quantity that is important but quality. Quality of a good caretaker at home or the day care center where your child is. Quality of time spent when you are home with your child doing things that build your relationship up with trust and love. That is what is the most important.

As for attacking Madonna, Angelina Jolie, and Gisele Bundchen, I'm not even certain what she was hoping to do there. No one I know looks up to these individuals because they are merely entertainers even when it is their real lives, it is still entertainment to the rest of us. If she wants us to take her seriously, she needs to present some research and studies done that state mothering/parenting in this way is madness. Until then, this just seems like another article written by a feminist stuck in the past. It's time to move forward and realize we are not our parent's generation...a generation keep in mind that has been labeled one of the "most selfish, self-absorbed, and self-preserving generations." In fact in another article written by Professor Gregory Foster, titled "Baby Boomers: The Ungreatest Generation" he writes speaking about his generation that "our most visible members are unrepentantly shameless self-promoters, intent on being someone rather than doing something." I think in this case, Ms. Jong is more focused on being a feminist rather than being an example of a career mom. She fits the bill here, and unfortunately for her most of the moms today are of another generation and be it reactionary (as she calls it) or wanting to not be like our parents, we are armed with studies proving that what we are doing can help make the next generation a better society. While I know that doing all that I do as a mother doesn't guarantee that my child will be a genius or never get sick, I know that I've done the best that I could, in an informed and well-educated manner.

To read Ms. Jong's article, click here.

For more information on the research done by the University of Notre Dame, click here.

To read Professor Gregory's article, click here.

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