The article is entitled Mother Madness and the tagline reads
Spend every moment with your child? Make your own baby food and use cloth diapers? Erica Jong wonders how motherhood became such a prison for modern women.
Hm. Well, I’m spending every moment with three children. I don’t make baby food, but the baby does eat the food I make. And yes, there are cloth nappies in the bathroom.
But I’m not feeling imprisoned. Not by motherhood, not by attachment parenting, not by anyone else’s expectations. You see, I went into this willingly, eyes open, and that’s no prison.
Nearly 11 years ago, when I had Big, there were no cloth nappies in the house. When she weaned at 4 months she weaned on to baby food in jars, and she was at nursery while I was at work. And that was a far more restricted environment, though I’d still hesitate to describe it even as house arrest. But the thing that limited me were my understanding of society’s, and my, expectations. I daresay that I didn’t look imprisoned at all – I was a good modern woman and feminist, charging up the career ladder and having it all.
I expected that I would work, that I would have a career, that I would raise my child well – home education was on the cards before she was even born, so I thought we would use nursery for a couple of years and then drop out at the relevant age. And that, to some extent is what we did. Looking back though, it wasn’t good for her, and it wasn’t good for me. Fortunately (though it didn’t seem all that fortunate at the time) I was offered redundancy when pregnant with Small, so I was at home for the next couple of years with them both.
Cloth nappies made an entrance. And I tried for home made baby purees.
I was still trying too hard.
Attachment parenting is only hard if you make it hard by expecting more of yourself than you can do. It’s easier in many ways than the alternatives. Breastfeeding, if you get past any tough bits, is an awful lot easier than having to faff about with bottles, especially when you are out and about. It’s there, it’s on tap, it’s the right temperature and the right consistency. Baby wearing is a whole lot easier than wrestling a pushchair in and out of shops, and baby is happier for it. Cloth nappies are no more difficult than disposables given that there are clothes that need washing – cloth in my experience tends to mean fewer explosion disasters so fewer baby clothes to wash.
So I’m sorry, Erica, but I’m not feeling imprisoned by my attachment practices. Actually, I’m feeling rather liberated by them. I know that we are lucky atm, in that we’re getting by without me working, but I’m looking into ways of working around the children anyway. Because I want to. Because I do set some value on myself as an income generator, and that’s probably the last vestige of society’s expectations lingering on. But also because it’s good for the children to be involved in every part of our family life, working together to build an income, grow our own food and look after each other.
I have to admit, there are parts of this life that would be easier if we did have a tribe of similarly minded families close around us. And to some extent it seemed to me that is what Erica was saying in the original article. It would be great to occasionally be able to pop out at the drop of a hat, and have a neighbour about to keep an eye on the children for example. But having to plan excursions ahead is a price I willingly pay, and I don’t think I’ve given up my feminist principles to live this life. I’d be happy to debate it with Erica too, if anyone knows where she can be found 🙂