In its "Room for Debate" section, the New York Times hosts some high-profile moms on whether "women's obsession with being the perfect mother destroyed feminism." That's the contention of French feminist Elisabeth Badinter in "The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women," which was just published in the United States.
The lively group of short essays features a variety of views, and it turns out there's not even real consensus on what constitutes feminism. Here's a sampling:
Mayim Bialik, actress and author of "Beyond the Sling," doesn't believe that attachment parenting and feminism are inconsistent with each other. The women who practice attachment parenting, she wrote, "are not competitive corporate-minded trendy celebrity divas toting secret nannies on the side, nor are they perfection-driven bored subjugated barefoot lonely women setting feminism back 200 years. They are educated, humble, devoted women who believe it is just as much a feminist choice to be a parent as it is to not be one."
"I wrote a book about parenting after I had two children. Now I have five children and I laugh when I am asked when will I write another book. I laugh because I feel like I know less now than I did in those early, heady days of new parenthood, when everything was possible and I felt like my choices were dictating the kind of children I would have," wrote Maria Blois, author of "Babywearing: The Benefits and Beauty of This Ancient Tradition." A parenting ideology has to fit the life and priorities of those who use it. It is not really something to fight about, Blois said.
French moms don't embrace guilt like American working moms do, said Pamela Druckerman, who wrote "Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting." "They feel as overstretched and inadequate as we do, and absolutely recognize the temptation to feel guilty. But they don't valorize this guilt."
Erica Jong, best known perhaps for her book "Fear of Flying," notes that perfection is a goal, but it's often unattainable for moms, who alas need to sleep some time. "If you are preparing organic baby food, breastfeeding on demand, washing cloth diapers and co-sleeping, there's little time for writing, filing, painting, data entry, making music, nursing, engaging in politics, teaching or appearing on TV to tell other mothers what to do." And what's possible varies, she noted, depending on your financial situation, as well.
There are also essays from stand-up comic and TV show writer Heather McDonald, blogger Annie Urban of PhD in Parenting and columnist and blogger LaShaun Williams. They all have much more to say on the topic. You can check it out on nytimes.com.
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