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Who is to blame for motherhood being so complicated these days?

Posted Nov 18 2010 6:42pm
The other day, I came across a couple of articles.   This one, entitled Mother Madness , sparked the next two.   In Mother Madness, Erica Jong at the Wall Street Journal tackles boldly all of the unspoken realities and misconceptions about this need to strive for perfect parenting and the competitiveness (and lack of truth-telling) that complements it.  Here's a bit from her piece
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.
Finally, someone calls out the nonsensical and impractical aspects of Attachment Parenting.  In my personal opinion, she, like so many writers who need to do so to get the attention of readers and to increase the readership of the piece itself, goes a bit overboard.  I am not sure that I would use the words "victimize" and "prison" when it comes to the actual reality of motherhood.  But, Amen to those statements as they relate to how a mother, especially a mother experiencing a perinatal mood disorder, can feel at times.  No, motherhood is not a prison, regardless of how you choose to parent.  But, YES, mothering can sometimes feel imprisoning for sure.  And, absolutely is it possible to feel victimized by a traumatic childbirth, parenting a sick baby, or going through a significant mental health crisis.

A few days after Jong's piece was published, The New York Times Motherlode blog responded by calling Jong's essay "a mishmash of old accusations against overinvolved parenting".  The writers contend that Jong just doesn't get it and that attachment parents don't generally succumb to the pressure to attachment parent, they do it because they really want to and believe it is the best for their family.  Okay, I see that side, too.  However, I would presume that this is not the case for many, many families.  I see the tweets, blog posts, and other media daily that in my opinion strategically masks over-pressuring and coercing families into everything from bed-sharing, to grinding your own babyfood, to having a VBAC, homebirth, etc...even when it may not be the safest option.  Don't get me wrong...I have NOTHING bad to say about doing any of those things, but I do wish there was a way to know how many people, if they weren't ever exposed to all the media and the play-yard conversations that I believe invoke unnecessary guilt on mothers who don't do things the "right way according to the 2010 media", would actually be cloth diapering, co-sleeping, or claiming that they don't care how many times their 11 month old wakes them in the night...God forbid CIO be considered.

A little while back I wrote  a post about parenting styles, specifically about the idea of Attachment Parenting .  Here's a snippet that kind of sums of my post:
There's more to parenting and motherhood than slings and bed-sharing, my friends.  While I totally respect people whose goal is to encourage parent-child bonding and a more gentle, responsive style of parenting than most of us probably experienced as children, I also take pause.  We have to support each other in this journey regardless of the exact path that each of us chooses.  What works for one mama may do more harm than good for another.Then, just this week in another Motherlode post, Modern Mother's Little Helpers , the author writes about mothers of this generation being seemingly more stressed, depressed and overwhelmed by the same tasks than our mothers or grandmothers.  She writes from the perspective of wondering about the sheer number of moms who are medicated and whether that is a symptom of increased mental health issues in the population or a product of parenting being so much more stressful and meds being so much more available that they are used as a first line of defense.

I don't know much about the stats regarding women who are medicated and whether or not they "need" the medications.  I do know that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders impact at least 20% of childbearing women each year.  And that, my friends, is enough to as Belkin describes, bring about a "need to talk about it".  I am certain that not all the women she's referring to have or are recovering from a PMAD.  I do wonder how many of these women who later have difficulty coping perhaps did have an untreated mood disorder earlier in their experience.  And, how many of them have a family history of mental health issues.  And, how many of them might not be peri-menopausal.  And, how many of them are just overwhelmed by the constant barrage of pressure to "do it the right way"!  

I think we need to fight back.  Not against Attachment Parenting.  Not against what those who practice AP call "Traditional Parenting".  Not against any parenting style.  Rather, against claiming and promoting a particular style in the first place.  If you truly practice an instinctive, responsive way of parenting that suits your family's needs, then why, WHY, do you feel the need to push that on anyone else?  Why is it necessary to label how you interact with your children?  And why would you think that any other family is similar enough to yours that your style would be best for them anyway?

So mamas, I challenge you to take all the labels regarding parenting out of your vocabulary.  To be very careful to say, "this is what works for us, but I am sure what works for you is probably different" when sharing about your parenting methods.  To remind yourself, and others, that no one child, parent, or style is perfect.  Then give yourself and your child a hug and take a deep breath knowing that however you (and others) are doing things is A-OK.

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