Sunday, May 06, 2012

Inventing the Issues While Ignoring the Real Issue:
Attachment Parenting vs. Feminism

What if for today's rant I said the following...

"Modern fatherhood is complicated. Fathers want to be caregivers and nurturers, but also want to be professional powerhouses. We can have both, just not at the same time. This is why working fathers generally experience feelings of guilt and inadequacy."

You might ask me what the !@$%&* I am talking about. You might stumble over the term "working fathers," because there still aren't many socially acceptable other kinds of fathers. You might think, Hmmm, guilt and inadequacy? Really?  And that's because I altered some words in the above paragraph, which was originally written about women, not men. It's yet another anti-feminist screed masquerading as part of an Important Conversation about "issues." This one, by the duped LaShaun Williams, is part of a New York Times forum that has recently been debating the false dichotomy of feminism vs. attachment parenting or, more specifically, motherhood. (I don't even want to link to LaShaun's crap piece, because it doesn't deserve more page views, but I realize that you might need/want to read it to understand my outrage, so here you go.)

It makes me sick that we are still buying in to these nonsense ideas of "working mothers" vs. "full-time mothers." Parenthood is not a part-time versus full-time thing. Once you have a child, you are a parent -- all of the time. Parenting is not a career. It is an aspect of life. No other family relationship is constantly paraded as something diametrically opposed to going to work. "Oh, I'm sorry, I had to choose between being a good sister and being a lawyer."  No, you never hear that.  But we are constantly subjected to these invented debates about mothers, and only about mothers. Never, never, never about fathers. Never are fathers asked what they are going to do about their careers when their partners are about to give birth. No one is starting a New York Times forum to talk about all the men striving to be the perfect fathers, and what "sacrifices" they will have to make in order to do so. In short, no one expects men to give up anything, ever, whether they have kids or don't have kids, but society insists that women necessarily give up something, whether they have kids or don't have kids.

Feminism fought against this double standard. It did not fight against mothers, or children, or fathers, or men, or households, or baking cookies. It fought against this hideous double standard. Furthermore, feminists rightly pointed out that the idealized notion of the mother-housewife who always stayed at home while father trotted off to work with his briefcase is a myth. It's a myth that was derived from and served to perpetuate the invented "nuclear family," the industrial revolution and the expansion of society into oil-consuming suburban sprawl. Of course when you make every family consist of two parents and three children and a dog and a white picket fence, you need an adult to take care of the young'uns, at all hours of the day. Enter the nonsense notion of the Perfect Housewife. It's a load of crap, and the sooner people realize that, the sooner we can have a real conversation about parenting issues, work, family, and life. We can't really have that conversation when people cling to the idea that the Perfect Housewife is necessary, or sacred.

If you try to conjure up an image of an 1700s-ish rural or semi-rural household, what do you see? Probably a woman who worked full-time at home, yes. Why? Because she had to WORK full-time at home. From churning butter to scrubbing floors, from mending clothes to chopping vegetables, there was more work to do. No electric appliances, no Target down the street to go pick up another six-pack of socks and t-shirts. To sit here at the turn of the 21st century and act like women had always been at home "parenting" all day, until feminists came along and ripped the babies from their arms, is absurd.

Our society has shifted from one with millions of home-centered tasks to one where most of the housework is outsourced. Not just to the people we hire to come clean it once a week, or to come mow our lawns for us, but I mean the bread baking is outsourced, and the clothes making, and the milking and many of the other things that were formerly flat-out required in each household. (Which, by the way, likely consisted of various relations and not necessarily just one father, one mother, and two-point-five children.)

And by the way, this whole "attachment parenting" business is such a dismally jargon-filled world. Parents have often had babies in their bedrooms, but now that we've named it "co-sleeping" we can have a post-yuppie Important Conversation about it. Breastfeeding, I'm told, is part of this invented "attachment parenting." Interesting. I thought breastfeeding was, you know, only how mammal species have perpetuated themselves for millennia. 

I'm so tired of sanctimonious speeches about Motherhood. I find it depressing that I am going to spend my entire life in a double standard world that criticizes women who do what is demanded of men, while rewarding men for refusing to do what is demanded of women.

"When we bring children into this world we also agree to sacrifice parts of ourselves," LaShaun writes. If this is indeed true, then let's hear a little discussion from all the fathers about sacrifices, up to and including being expected to sacrifice their careers for the good of their families.

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