April 29, 2012 10:56 AM

War on Mothers, attachment parenting and breastfeeding

the colflict.jpg This book review - handed to me over lunch by my husband Tripp - appeared in the Wall Street Journal 4/20. It shows the twisted, convoluted thinking of the War on Motherhood side. Every sentence soaked in the supposition that there is nothing fulfilling about motherhood, that it's all about me and not about love.

I've sent it on to my friend Martha Sears for her comments - hope she has time.

The loathing for breastfeeding and attachment parenting - the lack of understanding that any woman could feel differently than these frozen-hearted judgmental women - well, it's simply staggering. Check the comments too.

Women's War on Women

Modern mothers have a serious problem on their hands, and it's other mothers. Elisabeth Badinter, one of France's foremost intellectuals, has identified a creeping zealotry that is out to fold us all into its bosom. Naturalism, she notes, has become the touchstone that good liberal mothers measure themselves against: Childbirth should be unfettered by painkillers; co-sleeping gives your infant untold psychological advantages; and breast-feeding must be practiced rigorously. This regimen turns motherhood into a full-time job and in the process makes fathers irrelevant.

"The Conflict" was first published in France, but its message is most pressing in the Anglophone world, where a vast industry peddling organic baby foods and anxiety is sucking the joy out of motherhood. Ms. Badinter's polemic is sardonic, urgent and gripping. Sometimes it may sound as if she is advising mothers not even to consider breast-feeding, or encouraging pregnant women to smoke and drink. But she is only trying to redress the balance: This is a cry for freedom.

One of the things that makes extreme mothering so insidious, Ms. Badinter suggests, is that it has been sold as a feminist principle. Feminism made a U-turn in the 1980s; a new wave of feminists began to focus on the differences rather than the similarities between the sexes. "The vulva came to represent woman," she writes. "There was a powerful swing toward celebrating the sublime state of motherhood as women's true destiny."

There was another force at work, too. Contraception had given women control over the decision to have a baby, and that new control, Ms. Badinter argues, increased their sense of responsibility. With contraception, she says, "the gift of life is transformed into an infinite debt toward a child that neither God nor nature insists you have." The advocates of extreme mothering "have an extraordinary weapon on their side: a mother's guilt."

Enemy No. 1 is La Leche League. Founded in the 1950s by a group of Catholic mothers from Illinois who were disturbed at society's lack of respect for breast-feeding, the group now has chapters in 68 countries. It still bills itself as a support group for mothers who want to breast-feed, but in Ms. Badinter's telling, it's a sinister cult. A good La Leche mother spends at least a year doggedly offering milk on demand. The league claims that it is fighting for the right of women to control their bodies, but by now that's a hard sell; there is no doubt that it has won the ideological battle--even the World Health Organization and Unicef strongly recommend breast-feeding in all countries.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

Posted in Feminism, Mothering | Permalink


I don't think labeling those who disagree with AP as " frigid, hard-hearted exoskeletons of womanhood" is any less part of "the mommy wars" than that WSJ article.

I went shopping for a baby shower gift yesterday. I haven't looked at that stuff in seven years, and seven years ago I was expecting a surprise gift from God, twelve years after my first, nine years after my second. My main thought at that time was that I didn't have room for all that stuff and would make do with what I had. My main thought yesterday was "who buys all that junk" and at the shower I learned "who".

What does that have to do with your post? Well,IMO (and I'll admit,it's an opinion) we've all been affected by marketing, whether it is marketing for the latest super-deluxe musical jiggling baby bouncer or for a sling, we are taking our mothering cues less from our own mothers and more from those with an agenda--whether that agenda is pushing more stuff or pushing a version of motherhood that only the heroic elite can hope to achieve. Without advocating child neglect, I will say there is wisdom the the saying "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy".

Posted by: RAnn | April 29, 2012 11:47 AM

Actually, I reconsidered my rant and edited it - thanks for the nudge, RAnn.

However, I don't think you understand what I'm saying. I do not write rants against working women or judge their choice.

But I deeply resent the fact that they feel free to rant against those of us who choose to stay home and raise our children, making choices about how to do the best job we can.

What you - along with them - seem to be failing to see is that breastfeeding and attachment parenting is not based on pushing merchandise. In fact, I would guess that there is a certain anti-materialistic streak in this cohort.

As to the heroic elite - I'm not sure why you are denying women who make these choices their authenticity and dignity. I made those choices and I do not consider myself a member of the "heroic elite." That really sounds like a veiled put-down.

And when you say "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy," you seem to be saying that mamas who choose to put motherhood first can't really be happy????

I'm here to tell you that's not so. The years I put motherhood first were the happiest and most satisfying of my life.

Posted by: Barbara | April 29, 2012 12:09 PM

Sick. But I will say this: Moms do need to be kinder to other moms. Not all of us CAN breastfeed, even with expert help. And some of us choose C-sections in order to save our babies lives. Others, after carefully examining the evidence, decide co-sleeping is too dangerous and choose a baby bed attached to the grown up bed or even (!) a crib. None of this makes us less loving mothers.

Posted by: Kristina | April 29, 2012 6:20 PM

While I find this article to be over the top against attachment parenting, the biggest problem seems to be the attitude that only ONE way of mothering can be correct. I just read a Psychology Today piece that accused mothers who use formula of "starving their children" and suggested that anyone who didn't breastfeed, co-sleep, and be sure they or another adult held their child 24 hours a day was unworthy to parent, or to raise anything more complex than a goldfish. We all need to realize that, within certain bounds of safety and care, there are an infinite number of variations on exactly how you parent your children. There are many things that affect this - your life situation, your child's inate personality, your gifts and personality, where the child fits in the family order, what extended family is present, whether you need to work for your family to get by, etc. ad infinitem. We need to stop judging one another's parenting, and start supporting one another.

Posted by: melissa | April 30, 2012 10:59 PM


Posted by: Barbara | May 1, 2012 8:21 AM

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