In response to "Mother Madness" by Erica Jong
It has come to my attention, through a plethora of ill-researched and inflammatory articles, that some people believe that Attachment Parenting is imprisoning and victimizing women; that it is anti-feminist. I strongly disagree and abject to these accusations and I would like to explain why.
I am an "attachment parent." I believe that it is my job to make sure my child is as secure, safe, and healthy as possible. To me that means breastfeeding, child lead weaning, baby wearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, buying or making natural toys, and making sure my child consumes as little processed food as possible. That is my choice. It is a well researched choice and I am extremely satisfied with it.
I actually feel that there is nothing more feminist than CHOICE. I have a master's degree, but I have CHOSEN to stay at home and raise my son. I have family members who are willing to watch my son if I were to work, but I have CHOSEN to politely thank them and stay home to raise my son. It's nice to know that I can go back to work when and if I want to, but for now I'm CHOOSING to stay at home. I also CHOOSE to use cloth diapers, breastfeed (past 1 year *gasp!*), and cook from scratch. I do not feel pressure to do these things. As a matter of fact, since the day I announced my pregnancy, I felt pressure to go against my instincts, to ignore my research, and to follow a more mainstream idea of parenting. As a strong, independent, and intelligent woman, I was able to ignore that pressure and continue following my instincts and sticking by my choices. What is anti-feminist about that?
Believe it or not, I enjoy staying home with my son. I think that I have a fantastic job. I get to spend time with my son, spend time working on my hobbies which include knitting, cooking, researching miscellaneous topics, and preparing to go back to school to obtain my PhD (what can I say, I love learning). The only expectations I have are my own. No day is ever the same and our hours are spent laughing, learning, and enjoying each other's company. Sure, I have tough parenting moments, but those have little to do with my parenting choices and everything to do with the nature of being a parent. No matter how you CHOOSE to parent your child, you are going to have tough moments, tough days, and tough phases. Parenting is enjoyable but not always easy, no matter how you CHOOSE to parent your child.
Also, I have never felt more liberated! Not only do I get to CHOOSE, for the most part, how I spend my days, but I'm helping our family achieve self-sustainability. And what can be more liberating than being self-sustaining? I enjoy growing, harvesting, and preserving food, especially when that means I won't be dependent on a stranger's quality assurance. I know what's in my food and I know where it came from. You can't often say that about what you buy in the grocery store. I enjoy knowing that my diapers are free of chemicals. I enjoy knowing what is in my laundry detergent, soap, and household cleaners. I enjoy helping my family save money and prepare for the future.
If anyone feels trapped, it is my husband. He is stuck going to work every day. He doesn't get to chose what he does with his day, he doesn't get to work on his hobbies during the week. He doesn't get to spend mornings cuddling in bed with his son. We decided, as a family, that it was best for him to be the one who goes to work, but that doesn't mean that it isn't hard for him to say good-bye to us every morning. That doesn't mean that it isn't tiring carrying the financial burden all alone. I very much appreciate and respect his sacrifice and I try my best to let him know that. He also understands that we are working towards a goal and that it won't always be like this.
We are working as a unit towards a common goal: to become as self-sufficient as possible in the hopes that my husband will one day have to work minimal hours and we can spend the majority of our days together, as a family, just enjoying life. That, in my opinion, is the way it should be.
The author of the article published on your website asks, " Is it even possible to satisfy the needs of both parents and children?" I would answer, "Yes." My needs are very well met. My son's needs are very well met. My husband's needs are also well met. Has it been a struggle? Absolutely. But that has little to do with attachment parenting and everything to do with our society's aversion to families. How is it that we have come from "a woman's place is in the kitchen" to "a woman's place is in the workplace"? It's amazing, the amount of flack I have taken because of my CHOICE.
Jong continues, "Indeed, although attachment parenting comes with an exquisite progressive pedigree, it is a perfect tool for the political right. It certainly serves to keep mothers and fathers out of the political process. If you are busy raising children without societal help and trying to earn a living during a recession, you don't have much time to question and change the world that you and your children inhabit. What exhausted, overworked parent has time to protest under such conditions?"
I'm protesting now, aren't I? Actually I find that my CHOICES are a type of protest. Instead of buying from big box stores and large corporations, I chose to make, grow, or salvage most of what our family needs. It is my protest against the lack of ethics shown by such stores and corporations. Buying my meat from a local farmer who pastures his animals is my protest against factory farming. My using cloth diapers is my protest against the diaper companies who, most times, won't even let you know what you are putting on your child's bum. I have never been more politically active than I am as a stay at home mom. Because we have less money, we spend less, we have less. We don't participate in the disgusting mass consumerism and materialism that is so rampant in our culture. We CHOOSE To evaluate our lives and decide what is important to us. How is that not politically relevant? Also, I would say that I am no more tired than your average person who is trying to earn a living during a recession. Many people are taking second jobs, working over time, and accepting lower wages for hard work just to make ends meet. What makes them more able to question and change the world than me? During naptime I can research political candidates, write letters, make phone calls, do research, and use my voice in a multitude of other ways. What full-time employee can do this on their lunch break? I would say that being a stay-at-home mom has empowered me, if anything.
And, wait, there's more! "In the oscillations of feminism, theories of child-rearing have played a major part. As long as women remain the gender most responsible for children, we are the ones who have the most to lose by accepting the "noble savage" view of parenting, with its ideals of attachment and naturalness. 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."
There are no rules, only suggestions. I feel no guilt about my child, even though I face pressure every day to become more mainstream. I have CHOSEN to be the PERSON who stays home with my child. It could have been my husband, but since his job paid more, we decided it was best if I left mine, if I wanted to. And I did. Maybe the discrepancy between the salaries of men and women is something that you should spend your time writing about. The last thing I need is yet another person telling me what I'm doing wrong as a mother. It seems that your article is a bit hypocritical.
If you parent differently and you feel that my way is inferior to yours, good! You should feel that your parenting is superior. If you don't, then you are doing something wrong.
If you ever want an educated woman, who is currently a parent, to write educated articles on motherhood for your website, you know how to contact me.
A satisfied attachment parent, by CHOICE.