This week has been full of kooky parenting shit on my FB.
1. Woman asserting that if you work (even from home) you are NOT a SAHM and not doing parenting right. Result: dog pile. I walk in, point out this is INCREDIBLY divisive and things calm down.
2. Woman claiming that anyone who doesn't breastfeed and makes excuses deserves to be forced to "parade around in public with a sign proclaiming she is a bad mother". I responded by pointing out the classism associated with this statement of privilege and that women decide to breastfeed or not for a large number of PERSONAL reasons. What about a woman on medication for postpartum depression? Should she harm her child either by going off meds or by breastfeeding anyway. I was the voice of reason, conversation ended.
3. Woman posting on behalf of other woman (an anti-vacc nutter chiropractor who just adopted a baby) that she needs breastmilk. She does not plan to test this milk and, thus, potentially exposes child to AIDS, whooping cough, you name it. But, you know, science. I ignored that one. Not worth it.
All in all, the tenor of these conversations can be summed up in one sentence: The women in my generation constantly feel the need to compete at mothering and it really divides us.
I am sick of it. SO FUCKING SICK OF IT.
I am not a mother. I will soon be a stepmother of two school-aged kids past what my dad lovingly calls the "larval stage" so I get lots of responsibility, didn't get to benefit from the cute baby stage, but the will come to me able to read, speak, walk, and not poop themselves, so I'll take it! And they may be the "only" kids I have because I have endometriosis and infertility is looming heavy on my mind daily. We won't be in a place to try for a baby for probably a good 2-3 more years. That really huts. I will be 30. My fertility will be nill.
I CONSTANTLY think about the problems that come with my "life choices" like grad school. Why did I have to "waste" my time doing that? Why? I was doing womanhood wrong.
Even in the planning of my wedding, I've decided not to have kids there (minus his kids if they can come) because it's an evening affair and not a kid friendly venue or reception. I am springing for a babysitter for the best man's son so he and his fiance can enjoy themselves. But now, apparently, everyone thinks I hate kids and will be an unfit mother which causes me fits of rage and sadness because I'm not a bad person. And I don't hate kids. I like them a lot. Not all of them, of course, but his kids for sure. And then I think, even if I didn't like children, that would not make me a bad person. I mean, I would think I was a bad fit for my soon-to-be-spouse but in another situation, I really would think "meh, so what, she hates kids, who cares?"
The mommy wars are killing me right now. They are divisive, which is just what patriarchy wants. But, they are also doing other awful things.
1. They limit the definition of "woman" to equal "mother". These mommy wars are technically about "mothering" but they are REALLY about choice in a much broader concept - choice to stay home or work, choice to breastfeed or not, choice to have a fucking epidural and not act like you didn't birth hard enough. Choice to NOT parent is, well, almost never spoken of. It's just assumed you "don't count" or you "hate children" (ie you are an awful fucking person).
2. They completely ignore the end-product in this incredibly myopic web they weave. The end product is a productive citizen, right? Productive citizens are not a one-size-fits-all thing. What works for my SO's daughter won't work for his son because they are different humans with different approaches to life. Maybe staying at home is best for your kids because you truly love it and they feed off of that. My students can tell if I hate lecturing on a subject. Your kids can tell if you are phoning it in every day. Maybe your daycare or nanny is better at menial child things than you. THAT IS OKAY. Kids need other people to look up to. Sometimes it is a GOOD thing that they recognize positive qualities in others. Stop with the guilt already! That's what patriarchy wants you to worry about.
3. This dialogue is built so high up on privilege it almost makes me ill. My cousin is one of these moms. She is a lovely person. She is an EXCELLENT mom from what I can tell and her kid is a solid citizen as far as toddlers go. All in all, she should be happy. But she's not. She's always trying to out-mother ALL TEH PEOPLE. I want to shake her and tell her, you seriously need to stop, it's going to be okay but no, her kid is better of than x's kid because she feeds her ORGANIC Quinoa vs. the standard ration. They are anything but rich but they get a lot of help from family and because of her ability to have a flexible but still okay paying job, she breastfed exclusively a long time, was able to make her own baby food, and had babysitters coming out the wazoo because she has both sides of her kid's family to help.
That's great, I want to tell her, but when you go on these tirades, you don't think about poor ladies. People like our grandmother, who raised 5 kids on a cleaning lady's salary. They didn't have the luxury. Think about those people. But those people get lost in the dialogue. They are even worse than "bad mothers". They even cease to exist because we can't think about people being so poor that they can't take even a few days off for maternity leave or can't take time to breastfeed. We don't know those people and we don't try to.
That's why I hate these mommy wars. They just bolster privilege and undermine solidarity that should be devoted universally to better parental leave, better protections for breastfeeding, and a better status for women who both choose to work AND stay home in society's eyes. And these aren't just things that affect people with kids. As someone who deals with the product of parenting in a university classroom every day, I can tell you that I really have come to appreciate parenting done well and I realize how hard it is to do go parenting under duress. Giving kids a good start is just better for society in general.
We can't keep fighting and accomplish these things.