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Sunday
Nov212010

Let's throw the assumptions out with the bathwater

I'm late to the party, I know. It is a party I didn't want to attend. I read Erica Jong's essay in the Wall Street Journal on the Madness of Motherhood and I yawned. Ho hum. She isn't saying anything that Hanna Rosin, Margaret Wente, and plenty of others haven't already said. She sounds like the broken record of old guard feminism and I didn't feel I had anything to add that I hadn't already said ten times over. But finally, after reading Erica's daughter, Molly Jong-Fast's essay Growing Up with Ma Jong, in which she talks about the difference between her own choices and those of her mother, it clicked. The assumptions are the problem.

In Erica's rant about attachment parenting and environmental correctness amounting to female victimization, she says:
Someday "attachment parenting" may be seen as quaint, but today it's assumed that we can perfect our babies by the way we nurture them. Few of us question the idea, and American mothers and fathers run themselves ragged trying to mold exceptional children. It's a highly competitive race. No parent wants to be told it all may be for naught, especially, say, a woman lawyer who has quit her firm to raise a child. She is assumed to be pursuing a higher goal, and hard work is supposed to pay off, whether in the office or at home. We dare not question these assumptions.

Erica's assumptions in this paragraph are as big as the assumptions she accuses others of making. I do not assume that I can perfect my babies by the way I nurture them. I know that genes, their peers and other outside experiences will have a greater impact on who they become than my nurturing, regardless of how intense it is. I do question assumptions, which is why I have read The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears (which Erica refers to as today's bible of child rearing), but I have also read The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris (according to Malcolm Gladwell "a graceful, lucid, and utterly persuasive assault on virtually every tenet of child development"), Hold on To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate, and Feminist Mothering by Andrea O'Reilly. That is really just the beginning of the reading that I've done, nevermind the thinking and the writing that that go along with it. My conclusions (not assumptions) from all of my reading, and thinking and writing, is that attachment parenting is the right parenting style for our family. It is right because I see it as the easiest way to develop the type of relationship I want to have with my children, because it is the parenting style that most allows me to respect them as human beings, and because it is the easiest way for me to parent. Who wants to get up and make a bottle at 2am, when you can just roll over and flop out a breast? This has nothing to do with perfect babies or higher goals. It has to do with human beings making choices that are right for their family.

Molly Jong-Fast's essay provides a lot of insight into the animosity Erica Jong appears to have for attachment parenting. Molly writes: "To my mother and grandmother, children were the death of a dream; they were the death of one's ambition."  She then goes on to conclude:
Ironically, it was because of my mother's hard work that I have the life I do now. She worked hard so that the women of my generation could have the choice to work or to stay home. She slept in hotel rooms in San Diego so that I could cuddle with my own children. She spoke to large groups of women in Toledo so that I could work at the school book fair. We can devote ourselves to our work, or we can decide to be 1950s June Cleaver types. And that's because of the sacrifices that my mom and her feminist comrades made.

My mother made sacrifices so that I could have choices, and perhaps that makes her a better mother than I will ever be.

While I don't disagree with Molly's last sentence, about her mother and other feminists of that generation having made sacrifices so that we could have choices, I cringe at her characterization of those choices. More assumptions. I do not have to be either devoted to my career or June Cleaver. The gift that my generation of feminists will give to our daughters is the gift of flexibility. The option to have a successful career and cuddle with our children. The option to choose a mate who will share the nurturing role. The option to request flexibility in the workplace. The option to start a business. The option to use part-time child care. The option to bring babies to work and the option to bring work home. The option to have options.

My generation of feminists struggles with work-life balance, there is no question of that.  But my hope is that our struggles, and our victories, will pave the path for our daughters to have both the career and the family that they want to have and for our sons to do so too.

Photo credit: istockphoto
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Reader Comments (53)

I couldn't stand her essay either, and was just as interested in her daughter's. I agree -- she assumes too much, and clearly doesn't understand what attachment parenting is all about. I also agree that we're working so our children have flexibility -- I know that's what my mother ultimately wished for, but never knew how to achieve. I can only hope I do a little bit better.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSuchada @ Mama Eve

Wow. Thanks for articulating this so eloquently! The crazy unbalanced life of career and cuddling that I lead is definitely in the hopes that my daughter will have the options to do the same, but with more support and also less...angst or the feel of counter-culturalism.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

"My generation of feminists struggles with work-life balance, there is no question of that."

I suddenly realized that I may be a feminist too ...... but I am really just an ordinary person making the best choices with the available options I have right now.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTrexxd

Fantasic. Really loved this one. It's funny, sometimes when you're reading someone elses thoughts how they suddenly click in your mind. Certain family members are always asking me to justify my AP style and I'm usually not very good at putting my reasons or thoughts into words, but when I read this line: "...I see it as the easiest way to develop the type of relationship I want to have with my children" I thought, BINGO!! I read your blog tonight because the title caught my eye but it seems I've actually taken away from it my future answer to all the prying questions. Thanks!

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterClare

"Who wants to get up and make a bottle at 2am, when you can just roll over and flop out a breast? This has nothing to do with perfect babies or higher goals. It has to do with human beings making choices that are right for their family."

Haha! I love it! Someone hit the nail on the head in the comments to Jongs article - the article in it's entirety is a justification of her choices she herself made as a parent. As she states, family members mainly raised her daughter while she sought a career. That's fine, that's her life, but why the need to trample on almost every parenting style in existence - except her own.

Also, while she ranted about how much we all STINK as parents, she didn't offer any real suggestions for how (in her eyes) aspects of parenting could be better and easier.

It was just like a big long "you all stink, you're not doing it right, I'm the only one who did it right, you're all stupid" rant.

Love your reply to her argument - well done!

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCherie - Natural Mama NZ

One of my friends posted that article on her facebook, and it made me mad.

If you read anything else by Molly Jong-Fast, you would realize that Erica Jong writing an article on parenting is an absolute joke. Read "The Sex Doctors in the Basement" by Molly Jong-Fast and you'll find out. Ms. Jong hired therapists to "fix" her daughter instead of being a mother to her, and she was friends with Joan Crawford (of Mommie Dearest fame).

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

This is an excellent analysis. I am grateful to the feminists who fought for choice. Because of them, I had far more options than my mother had. But the next step has to be achieving reasonable balance. And not JUST for women, because as long as 'balance' is reserved for women, it will contribute to the stigma that comes with valuing your family life alongside your career.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

Cherie:

Much like Hanna Rosin's "Case Against Breastfeeding", I think Jong's "Case Against Attachment Parenting" is nothing more than a (possibly guilt-ridden) "It didn't work for me, and therefore IT SUCKS" kind of rant.

On your point about her not offering any real suggestions, you are right. She didn't offer any there. However, in a follow-up letter to the New York Times, she did say that "mommy bloggers" should stop trying to one-up each other and instead work on getting more support for mothers (e.g. maternity leave). That letter demonstrated her complete lack of understanding about what a lot of mothering bloggers are trying to do.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I am working my way through ideas on feminism and motherhood, (and going through your previous posts).

I really like your thinking, and I totally agree that an AP choice is about making our family life work for us - not about upping anyone else. I have grown up enough as a mother to know that every choice a parent makes is in context. While other parents make choices that I would never make (CIO, choose to formula feed, spank etc), I know that these choices are made for a myriad of reasons, reasons that are deeply personal (and political).

However, I get a little annoyed when it is assumed that I am judging because I make different choices. My impression is that the person ranting is insecure in their own choices and so defensive of those choices that they loose perspective and essentially undermine their point.

I was so hurt by an online discussion where it was said that SAHM are undermining all that women have achieved, and putting their financial security (and that of their children) at stake. To the first statement, it is not my duty to go and and earn a wage because another women deserves a promotion. And to the second claim, financial security is not the whole package. I can understand a mother making that her priority, but I expect the same understanding towards my position that it is not my priority. Also, within the second claim is the deep seated problem of non paid work not being counted. I would think that the work that is required to raise a family (by a parent/family/non paid person) should be included in the GDP, and recognized for it's contribution to the economy. It boggles my mind that someone feeding a bottle to a baby is 'working' and a breastfeeding mother isn't. That a teacher standing in a classroom is working, and a mother homeschooling is not. And all the implications that has for the financial security of the person feeding or educating the child.

My thoughts on these issues are still raw and percolating, but thought I would try and start getting them out here.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I think the issue bubbling under the surface, and implicit in your discussion is that our society takes issue if your number one priority is something other than career. Is this really a healthy approach to work no matter whether you are male or female? (You're right on the money as far as I'm concerned. Until we expect and recognize our male partners can be just as competent in the parenting department as ourselves and demand parental leave then we are lost. ) A work environment that demands absolute devotion, provides little relief in the form of vacation, holds you captive via health insurance (I'm in the US) and a population plodding along with the idea that this is the way it has to be needs a bloody good shake up.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTepary

"We can devote ourselves to our work, or we can decide to be 1950s June Cleaver types."
How utterly arrogant. Only a born-and-bred elitist could possibly ignore the third option that is the real legacy of old feminism and applies to nearly every mom I know: No choice but to do both.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Thank you for writing this, Annie. I'm 'late to the party' too-- still working on a blogpost on this one. I've been writing, backing away, writing again because this is a topic that could be, indeed, an entire PhD dissertation. Or two.

What I want to know is, where are these Extreme Parents Jong seems to think exist? Sure, there are hard-core AP adherents whose lifestyle reflects AP ideology. But no one does it perfectly, all the time, inasmuch as no one does *anything* perfectly all the time. It's no more a "prison" than anything else. The prison of judgment is all around us, wherever we choose to be within its gates.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnita

Perfectly said. Definitely what bothered me most about Jong's diatribe was her assumptions that parents choose A.P. out of a feeling of obligation or guilt, and not because they see it as genuinly a choice that they like. And the assumption that it creates a "prison" is quite the straw argument. No one I know who practices A.P. to any degree feels like it is stifling. On the contrary, we feel it is freeing because it is easier and creates fewer battles with out children. She also doesn't understand that parents don't have to be zealots about A.P., but can alter or omit some practices as it suits their family.*

*For instance, I work outside the home full-time, but still consider myself and attached parent. A possibility Jong doesn't think exists.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

Exactly!

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterradmama

I know very little about Erica Jong and I don't think I need to click over and read her article. I know this- parenting for me is about what comes naturally. There are times when I am not sure what the right choice is or I need ideas, then I turn to books. I educate myself and make the best choice for my family. And I don't label myself as a particular kind of parent. I wouldn't pigeon hole my child with a label, so I won't do it with my parenting choices.

It feels to me that there is a lot of debate and judgement about which is the "best" way to parent. I don't believe there is a best way only what what works for you and your kids.

Annie, this is an outstanding response.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill

I am really bothered by the quote that for her mother having a child was the death of dreams. I wonder how a child feels about herself knowing she was her mother's death (and perhaps not really wanted)? It seems that would really affect your view of yourself and your relationship with your parent. Does she have many choices beyond hating her mother, dismissing her outright or feeling grateful that she got to have a life? I feel sad for her knowing her birth was not welcomed but dreaded. Good points you have made, as usual.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRashel

[...] Let’s throw the assumptions out with the bathwater. [...]

As a full time professional working mom I would like to state for the record that it certainly IS possible to practice attachment parenting and maybe those stressed out parents wouldn't loathe Dr. Sears as much if they took his advice. It isn't about "mothering rules" it's about understanding. I am still nursing my toddler and co sleeping and do not feel by any means I am "running myself ragged trying to perfect my children." Although as a perinatal psychology professional I will say that my children are at a great advantage because I respect them and respect my own human nature, womanness and mothering emotions. Yes, the time en womb DOES make a difference, but are your children doomed if you have a glass of Shiraz or have a fight with your husband? Not by any means. It's the ability to understand, to parent and not ignore, to face the issues and not pretend they don't exist. It's a balance. All of life is a balance. Be yourself and parent from your heart.

Some women choose to go back to their careers, others do it for monetary reasons, but the balance of career and family is possible, healthy, strong and proud just as it is healthy, strong and proud for those who do stay home and raise their children. Attachment parenting is not only empowering for the woman, it is empowering for the children, letting individuality and creativity shine. Allowing a mother to be a mother, providing a warm breast, a cuddle at night, a shoulder to hold on to while going for a walk. It's not "perfect" - it's human.

...and by the way, I like Gisele, Angelina and Madonna! ;)

hugs,
Jill (working AP mama)

Baby Blessings,

~ Jill Diana Chasse ~

perinatal psychology consultant ~ intern midwife

click above for our new workshops, specials and news!

"Experience, Understand, and Enjoy the Magic of Motherhood"

Jill D. Chasse, PhD, MSpsy, MPA, CHt

Co-chair APPPAH Communications Committee

Birth Options Alliance board member

professional member of CAPPA, APA, IACT, API

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill Diana Chasse

Yes, while I appreciated Molly's response more than her mother's original essay, I too was rubbed the wrong way by her assertion that the choices for women are so black and white: you stay at home & be a loving attentive mom, or you work out of the home & be detatched (& held back by the responsibilities of childrearing like she believes her own mother felt). Sigh.

There is so much MORE to women than the boring SAH=GOOD, WOHbyNecessity=badbecauseyoucouldandshouldbemakingmoresacrifies, WOHbyChoice=BAD debate

I cuddle my children, volunteer at their school, AND devote myself to my work. As does my husband. The one-dimensional-parent model just doesn't fit either of us. Really, who DOES it fit?

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkelly @kellynaturally

kelly:

I think as Lauren pointed out, it is a very narrow group of privileged women that it fits. Those who can afford to stay home without giving work a second thought and those who can afford to hire the perfect nanny, go off to work and not give child rearing a second thought. Most of us, by choice or by necessity, privileged or not, are somewhere in between.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

yessss!

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpomomama aka ebbandflo

i think that read in context ie. the age in which these opinions were originally formulated, both essays make sense. having been born in the mid sixties to a woman whose working life did indeed end with babies, i know only too well the frustration that having options thwarted leads to, and how much it affects mothering/parenting. i sense the disappointment of earlier feminists that we are now "throwing it all away" by not climbing the corporate ladder but instead SAHM-ing. i'll also echo Molly's closing remarks that her mother's battles paved the way for the choices i can now make as a mother, and repeat Amber's comment that we still have a ways to go before parenting is given its just status in the community for both men and women.

until parenting is seen as an equal opportunity endeavour, women/mothers will always shoulder the major part of whatever burden is perceived in raising children/looking after the home. i do agree with Jung Snr's remarks about enslavement of women with certain parenting trends, some men do see this as a cop-out of their responsibilities if it's women-only work.

and it's not just the parenting - who is it who usually takes charge of the green initiatives in a household re: recycling, buying organic, cooking from scratch, upcycling, composting, ethical choices .....? this has also been shifted on to a woman's plate as women's work in all but the most enlightened equal partnerships (yes, they do still exist but prob not among the readership of this blog)

if read in context of time and period, Jung Snr's essay makes very much sense .... and can be seen a gauge of how far women have come (and still have to go)

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpomomama aka ebbandflo

"this has also been shifted on to a woman’s plate as women’s work in all but the most enlightened equal partnerships (yes, they do still exist but prob not among the readership of this blog)"

this should read/infer as "yes, unenlightened partnerships do still exist but prob not among etc etc etc" rather than insult a whole swathe of the blogosphere

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpomomama aka ebbandflo

pomomama:

While I think that both Molly and Erica's feelings make sense, it is their projection of their own situations/feelings onto all of society that bothers me. Similarly, I have no problem with Hanna Rosin saying that she really didn't feel like breastfeeding her third child. But to turn that into a diatribe about how breastfeeding keeps women down and really isn't beneficial anyway, is ridiculous.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Very well-written response. It's sad when the very intelligent belittle and trivialize complex topics like parenting and parenting choices. It should be more about supporting each others' choices and creating a society that also supports those choices - makes them possible. The likes of Erica Jong could be powerful voices on this issue.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Annie, I agree with your concerns about assumptions. Assumptions are something we all make and we all have to question for ourselves. However, what bothered me about Erica's essay was more the tone, bitterness, judgment and resentment that came through. I think she could have made her points (some of which I believe are valid) in a different way. Instead, I think people are reacting negatively because of the tone more so then the ideas.

For example, the book "Under Pressure" by Carl Honore, talks a lot about how there is culture of "hyper parenting" where we seek to perfect our children and by doing so we 'take over' childhood, impacting the ability of our children to develop self esteem and independence. I don't think this is necessarily linked to Attachment parenting, as I see many attachment parents also moving in the direction of adopting 'slow' parenting principles which reject much of the hyperparenting pitfalls. But I do think the existence of this parenting culture was part of the point Erica was trying to make, albeit lost within her tone. Just think about all the 'teach your baby to read, baby Einstein, ect. ect.' things that society seems to tell us we need to make sure we give our babies a 'head start' in school. When really, they learn best from talking with us and interaction with their world.

I also think there are implications for feminism of the way we characterize the ideal (very attached) parent in our society. I personally believe that parenting your child how you choose is practicing feminism and I don't see it as right wing conspiracy as Erica seems to be alluding too. But I do think that practices that tie women to their children, such as many AP ones, do challenge older views of feminism and require a re-working of our feminist theories. But bloggers like you have shown you can be an attachment parent and still stay very involved in society and the political, which totally hurts Erica's point. Thank goodness for the internet.

Anyway, my point is, I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to Erica's post. I think if we challenge ourselves to look past her judgment and resentment, she does have something of value to say. I personally wasn't yawning.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen (amoment2think)

Kathleen:

I agree that there are some good arguments out there against hyperparenting or helicopter parenting. However, I think anything Erica had to say that is of value has been said better by other people already.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Fair enough. That is very true. But I do think in reacting to her tone and perhaps her assumptions as well, people missed her point.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen (amoment2think)

I'd ad the way Jong conflated AP, greeen,helicopter and hyperparenting into to one style or method is another problem with her essay. She clearly did not do enough research to know the differences.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

I would like to also challenge the assumption that women, or people in general, have no worth to society if they are not earning a wage. It's thinking like that that will ensure that the pink collar ghetto remains intact. The caring professions are undervalued - nurses, teachers, caregivers, etc. - do not make wages comparable to their manual labor counterparts. In my opinion this is largely in part because women (mainly, though not without exception) have been "giving it away for free" for millennia. By undervaluing the role that mothers - who epitomize the caregiver ideal - play, we undervalue all caregivers.

Secondly, I reject the notion that the important work my feminist foremothers did to enable my education and human (not just professional!) advancement means that I now carry a burden or owe them a debt of gratitude. I certainly don't owe them a debt of gratitude that they then get to define.

I consider myself a feminist. And my definition of feminism means that a woman should have the opportunity to pursue a meaningful life, whatever that means to her, free of barriers to access based on gender. I suppose that's why Ms. Jong's article didn't set me aflame. I have my meaning. My life is rich, emotionally and intellectually. And I don't get paid one red cent to live it.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristine

Let's be careful not to stereotype SAHMs as being privileged financially. I hate when people assume that the only way I get to stay home with my kids is because my husband makes a ton of money. He doesn't. Not everyone has the option to stay home, I know that, but it's not fair to paint SAHMs as simply a wealthy class of women. We are just as varied of a group as mothers who work outside of the home.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Megan:

I agree that not all SAHMs are wealthy, but I do think they are privileged.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Kristine:

I agree that one's worth to society is not defined by one's wage. In addition to the valuable work that mothers do, and the valuable underpaid work of caregivers that you mentioned, there are also volunteers around the world who do a great deal of important work that is not paid.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Another issue with Jong as well as Wente and Rosin, is that they assume that AP, "natural parenting" and "green parenting" are currently mainstream... While these things are definitely common amongst my peer group (friends and co-workers) and perhaps perceived as trendy by many, I'm fairly certain that those of us who practice any of the above are still the minority. That said, I think (without stats to back it up) that the hyper-parenting and helicopter parenting is much more mainstream.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Thanks for writing this, Annie! I too resent the idea that our choices have to be black or white... definitely most of us are somewhere in between.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

In your opinion, is privilege and staying home to care for your family something that is associated with Western societies, or in all societies? And is this a privilege that should be made available to all families?

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

These are two different Megan's BTW

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

So true. Arguing from a false sense of oppression seems to be a trend in itself.

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

Megan:

I think that having options = privilege and that is true regardless of the society that you are in. In some societies, women may be pressured to go back to work and staying home is a privilege. In other societies, they may be forced to stay home, and going to work would be a privilege. The option to be able to choose one or the other or both, rather than being forced to do one, or the other, or both, is what I would call privilege.

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Definitely! I resent it when those who do not agree with certain parenting choices (AP, natural, etc.) condemn those choices as self-oppression. I certainly do not feel oppressed by my choices. In fact, many of those choices (breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby wearing) provide more opportunities because they are less expensive than the alternatives, freeing up cash for other fun things. I wish I had more options (i.e. to work part time or not at all), but the choices I do make do not oppress me. Last time I checked oppression could only be determined by those who are experiencing the oppression and can't truly be identified by casual (or critical) observers.

November 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I'm really appreciating this discussion. I've *just* gotten over the near-coma of rage that Rosin's article induced me into, and now THIS Jong article. What troubles me the most is feminists picking up the Rosin/Jong work and positing them as The Only Feminist Perspectives on Motherhood. The idea that breastfeeding or cloth diapering is inherently imprisoning to women would be laughable if it weren't being picked up by so many women. When I see this linked on FB there are so MANY "Right on!" comments. I agree with your take on these articles as personal rants by people who don't like certain parenting styles for whatever reason. But then to turn around & tell me (a feminist mother) that I am working to Oppress Women because I breastfeed and co-sleep makes me so angry I can hardly function. To me this is actual stealth anti-feminism, because it *reduces* women's choices and judges those choices, without understanding them at all. I'm also driven crazy by the argument that my parenting choices are somehow a judgment leveled at other women. My passionate commitment to BF and natural birth have nothing to do with someone else's decision to formula feed and have a C-section. Can't we have a more intelligent & respectful conversation, please? The only thing that makes parenting blogs erupt into greater ridiculousness are "discussions" about vaccination.

November 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

Amen! I'm pretty sure it's impossible for a minority to oppress a majority. I get so tired of these bitter criticisms of women who are in fact the marginalized.

November 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

Anon:

I don't think it is impossible for a minority to oppress a majority. That happens in plenty of countries where there is a small, rich elite that oppresses a large population of poor people.

November 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I agree completely. I was so turned off by the Jong article, I don't see why we can't just say, "Hey, do what makes sense for YOU." I laugh at the idea of AP parents thinking they can "perfect" their children by doing AP, as that so doesn't fit *any* of the AP parents I know... ; )

I also don't get why we have to make this finite choice between being a SAHM vs WOHM, as if a mother is one OR the other, and never both. Most SAHMs that I know, myself included, plan to stay at home with our children until they start school. At that point, we'll go back to our careers. Will that gap in our resumes affect our career track? maybe. But it's not like we've decided we'll stay home forever and never ever contribute financially to anything ever again.

I also get annoyed by the "feminist" attitude that staying at home means going against the feminist movement. Like you, it seems to me that feminism is about giving CHOICES. Being forced to work when you'd rather be with your children is no better or more "liberated" than being forced to stay home when you'd rather have your own career.

Why must people keep assuming that what worked for THEM must be the ONE way for EVERYONE to do things?

November 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

I don't know if Jong still lives in Manhattan, but I (who live in Brooklyn) have met at least one example of the specimen, a wealthy Manhattanite couple whose 3- or 4-yo was watching videos to learn math and how to read, taking French classes and also working with a French tutor, and speaking Spanish with her weekend nanny. This couple may or may not have been doing AP, but "Extreme Parents" they definitely are. Jong doesn't seem to understand what AP really is, and it seemed to me that in parts of her essay she was talking more about parents of this privileged type than about the rest of us.

November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachael

Thanks for this post, Annie. I never bothered to read Jong-Fast's essay. Who knows if I will, but this quotation stood out for me: "To my mother and grandmother, children were the death of a dream; they were the death of one’s ambition." My mother sometimes projected a similar idea, implying that my ambitions were doomed if I were to have children, even as she encouraged both my ambitions and plans to eventually have a family! I like to think that she would appreciate the flexibilityI have to care for my family andpursue my aspirations. Flexibility: what a great word, thanks.

November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachael

This.

November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJFM

[...] I wrote last week about Erica Jong’s essay on attachment parenting, a lot of people commented both here and elsewhere that one of the big problems in her article is [...]

[...] Years Rebecca Stanisic of A Little Bit Of Momsense 4 Years Ago Today Annie of PhD in Parenting Let’s Throw The Assumptions Out With The Bathwater Amanda Jette of Stay-At-Home Mayhem I Am The Greatest Mom Alive (now with busted up shoulder) [...]

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