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[Guest Post] “Mommy Wars” and Parenthood

2012 August 23

Here’s a guest post from Stephanie, who has previously blogged for BadRep on feminist crafting. If you have a guest post brewing in your brain, you know what to do: pitch us at [email protected].

I found out that I was expecting a baby back in February, and since then my life has changed quite dramatically. Apart from feeling very slightly psychic (and a little bit smug) when I called early on that it was going to be a boy, I’ve become aware of lots of stories and ideas in the media that I had never really taken any notice of before.

Take, for example, the increasing need of some of the media to fan the flames of the so-called ‘Mommy Wars’, in which parents are pitched against each other in a tone that is almost ‘fight-to-the death’ in its urgency. It demands that mothers (only ever mothers- fathers are never a presence in these debates, or very rarely) pick sides: are you pro-breastfeeding or anti-breastfeeding? If you plan to breastfeed, how long for? Not long enough and you’re a failure. Too long? You’re a bit of a sicko, aren’t you? But no one ever really mentions those women who would dearly love to breastfeed, but can’t. At the end of the day, surely it’s better to have a baby who is fed and happy (perhaps on formula), than a mother and baby who are upset, wretched and hungry?

This problem was perfectly encapsulated by the issue of Time magazine that came out in May – a beautiful woman was pictured breastfeeding her toddler son with the headline “Are You Mom Enough?” Cue clutching of pearls and vicious fighting in the comments of websites that wrote about the feature. Actually, the ‘Mom’ in question, Jamie Lynne Grumet, is pretty sensible. She was quoted as saying “There seems to be a war going on between conventional parenting and attachment parenting, and that’s
what I want to avoid. I want everyone to be encouraging. We’re not on opposing teams. We all need to be encouraging to each other, and I don’t think we’re doing a very good job at that.” She acknowledges that attachment parenting, which she practices, is not for everyone.

As a feminist, these kind of arguments deflate me. It seems that some of us, in the clamour to declare our way of parenting is (or is going to be) the right one, decide that anything else is just not feminism. Cherie Booth caused an outcry when she denounced ‘yummy mummies’ who stayed at home instead of working. Again, outcry ensued across the blogosphere. But I say simply: feminism is about choice. It’s because of the work that our mothers and grandmothers put in that we can choose to go to work or stay at home, if we wish, although very often that choice is replaced by financial necessity.

I don’t know what kind of a parent I’ll be. I’m not making any hard and fast rules about what I’ll do when the baby arrives. I know, though, that I will try hard not to judge other parents’ decisions. Quite simply put, it’s none of my business. The majority of parents will choose to raise their children in the best way they know, and as long as the child isn’t being hurt or neglected, who am I to question the way someone is bringing up their baby?

  • Stephanie is a teacher by day, and a writer/crafter/blogger by night. She’s a young old lady who lives by the sea, reads voraciously and drinks a heck of a lot of tea. Her website is here. Her latest project, Ladies In Monochrome, is an online archive of ‘lost’ or forgotten vintage photographs of women sourced from flea markets and antique shops.
One Response leave one →
  1. wererogue permalink
    August 29, 2012

    My wife definitely got caught in the ‘want to but can’t’ breastfeeding gap. When our second baby was conceived, milk production shut down and our son stopped gaining weight. We had no choice but to go to formula, and when we did our little boy started shooting up again.

    I definitely agree that the messaging ends up lumping you in the ‘formula monster’ bucket, and I can attest to a number of nasty glares when I’ve fed him with a bottle in public – even when I was using bottled breast-milk! The formula-hate is a little out of control.

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