Motherhood, that is.
There are still some countries where you’re considered a success as a mother if you manage to keep a majority of your babies alive till their fifth birthday. Success in less dangerous countries is considered to be a slightly more complex affair. So complex in fact, that’s it’s virtually impossible to succeed at it.
As far as I can figure it, you have to be really, really rich – but only by virtue of having a really, really rich husband (and yes, he has to be a ‘husband’) because otherwise you’re obviously a ‘career’ woman (points deducted for that). You then have to devote yourself to your children’s lives sufficiently that you’re not considered remote, but not so much so that you can’t organise fund raising ‘galas’ for worthwhile charities. So, yes, you can have a nanny, but must still gush to OK magazine that you ‘do everything’ for your children.
That seems to be about the only way to ‘succeed’. The really important fact, of course, is the really, really rich part. You have to be rich enough to not give a fuck what anyone says.
But, oh, for the rest of us!
Well, the rest of you anyways. I’m not that rich but I still don’t give a fuck what anybody says about how I raise my kids. Honestly. I’ve tried and tried and I just don’t.
I think it has something to do with being completely outside any ‘mainstream’ philosophy of mothering. Being a feminist mother can do that to you, you see. Nobody bothers writing polemics attacking us specifically because, statistically-speaking, we’re a blip of no significance. Sheesh, most people have never even heard of us, never mind figured out ways to make us feel bad. Sure, I get attacked as a feminist and I get attacked as a mother, but as a marriage of the two? Nope.
I can talk mothering with anybody from a corporate-cruching career mother to a bonded-on-with-superglue attachment mother and find enough uncommon ground around raising kids that if I wasn’t already perfectly happy being the-weirdo-in-the-corner, I’d take it personally. But I am, so I don’t.
And as ‘feminist mothering’ is my over-riding thing about mothering, all the rest – breast or bottle, disposable or cloth, sling or pram, SAHM or working – is just so much background noise to me. I just don’t care that much because I don’t think it matters that much, at least not in terms of whether they make me a ‘bad mother’. Kids will grow regardless and will be, more or less, OK. It’s a cliche, but as long as you make your kids feel loved – and there are many different ways to achieve that – the rest is just gravy.
And I know that some will argue that all those ‘versus’ debates are as much a part of a feminist mothering philosophy as any other mothering philosophy, and I’d say that’s true. In a way. What, for example, could be more feminist than the debate around SAHM v. working mother? But I’m less concerned about the fact of whether I – or others – stay at home or work, and more concerned that my kids grow up with an understanding of why we have that debate – and why we don’t have a similar one about ‘working dads’ – and why it shouldn’t even be a debate.
My feminist mothering is more centred on a state of mind than anything else. You may say I’m wrong but – as you may guess – I don’t really care.
In short, I’m way more concerned about what goes on in their heads than what goes in their mouths or on their bottoms. And about how they understand why I do what I do, rather than what I actually do.
And I know that attachment mothers will tell me that their parenting is about their kids’ minds, too, fostering, they argue, emotional security. To which I say, yes, you might be right. And I know that critics of attachment parenting will tell me that such parenting is about creating over-dependent kids who can’t grow up. To which I say, yes, you might be right.
See how that works? Because I don’t really care, I can be that bloody blasé, but more importantly, I don’t know who’s right. Do you? Is it even possible to measure ‘right’ in such a way? For every person telling us they were kept in a sling till they were 12 and they’re perfectly fine, I’ll find you another telling us they never had a conversation with their career-mad mother till they were 17 and they’re perfectly fine, too. And vice versa, of course because people love to blame their parents for stuff, don’t they? That’s how Oprah made her millions, after all.
Seems to me it’s all a crapshoot, so you may as well just pay yer money and take yer choice. Because one thing’s for sure: we’re all making choices we think are right. And to me, that’s the best we can do. And, on a personal level, choices are ‘right’ if they for work for you and your family, even though politically such choices may have undesired ramifications.
Now before you think I’m getting all up myself without a stick, I don’t know if my feminist mothering will turn out to be right, either. Who knows, maybe Boogie will grow up to be a Page 3 ‘girl’ and L’il Boo will grow up to be Jeremy Clarkson. And then, oh, how we’ll all laugh!
But I do it because I think it’s right and I don’t give a flying fuck what anybody else thinks because they’re not going to be sitting beside me on the Jeremy Kyle show in 15 years time while my daughter tearfully recounts her Barbie-free childhood and the audience throws rotten tomatoes at me. Nope, that be just me in the single seat of shame watching L’il Boo hold his sister’s hand as he nods sagely before telling the story of the day he wanted to wear a dress and I let him.
*My apologies for this post which seems to swerve off in multiple directions in a distinctly direction-less fashion. It started out as a piece on attachment parenting and the current debate about it following the publication of Badinter’s ‘The Conflict’ and Pollitt’s piece about it on Alternet. But sometimes I just can’t stop myself from rambling streams of consciousness. You know how it is. I’ll focus eventually. Probably. Oh, and you should know that I’m not particularly happy with this post because it kinda says what I mean, but it kinda doesn’t. Live with it.
Interesting random fact about attachment parenting: the first time I ever heard of it was years ago when I caught a documentary on TV about it. The longest segment of the programme featured a group of attachment parents sitting around while their offspring gathered around tables in the middle of them undertaking an activity which seemed fairly untypical for toddlers. Had you asked me afterwards what attachment parenting seemed to be about, I would have replied, ‘Apparently, it’s about teaching small children to play with sharp knives.’ Because that’s what they were doing; cutting fruit and veg with kitchen knives. Actually, I understood even then that this was a fairly small part of the philosophy, but from the length of the segment – and the astonished-but-concerned tone of the commentary – you’d have thought it was the mainstay of the movement. Clearly, we were supposed to laugh at these weirdo parents with their zany and child-harming ways. I did laugh, but only at the producers for being such a bunch of morons.