Thursday, July 08, 2010

Motherhood: The New Oppression

I recently read an article called "Motherhood: The new oppression" by Margaret Wente. You know, there's nothing more dull and unoriginal than a Boomer whinging about how much better things were back in her day.

But by modern standards [my mother] was a mediocre parent. She smoked. She drank. She drove us around without seatbelts, while she smoked. ... Now we know better. The obligations of responsible mothering have been ratcheted way up. They start before conception, when you must swear off alcohol and tobacco so as not to harm your hypothetical embryo. Abstinence from all things, including ice cream (you can’t gain too much weight!) extends through pregnancy. Natural childbirth? Of course, preferably at home. Epidurals are for losers.
Sure, Peggy. Let's all go back to the good ol' days when smoking was good for you, nobody's life had ever been saved by a seatbelt, everyone sprayed DDT in their backyards and a good wife and mother always had a martini in one hand and Father's slippers in the other when he got home from work... and a bottle of Valium in her flowered apron pocket. Ah, nostalgia!

I have to agree, though. Man, it was oppressive to quit drinking for nine months! I don't know how I lived like that! The cold sweats, the shakes... it was like detoxing in prison, lordy be! And smoking... I quit smoking 3 years before I got pregnant because it's, ya know, bad for you. But ironically, when I got pregnant, the first thing I wanted to do was light up a fag, dude. However, The Man (The Woman?) stood in my way, tsk-tsking about birth defects and junk. Like being in freaking chains, I tell ya.

Mothers are our own worst critics; we don't really give a crap what the other mothers are doing, we worry about what we should be doing. And we usually end up choosing whatever works. We don't take other mothers out into the street and shoot them for letting their kids leave the house without sunscreen. Who has the time? I have yet to be chastised by anyone for buying disposable diapers. Neither is there a Cloth Diaper Mommy of the Year Award, and I have never met a CD'ing mother who expects to win one. Yes, we plan to make our own baby food... because we're cheap and pre-packaged baby food is a scam. We can mash up what we eat and feed it to the baby; isn't that just being savvy? If you think we're all trying to live up to this laughably high standard, you're wrong. We're just doing what makes sense and works for our families. If the fact that we are educated about the products we buy bothers you, I'm guessing your retirement portfolio contains a lot of Monsanto stock or something. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Heck, I enjoy a worm-free apple as much as the next guy.

By the way, Peg, don't you think your own mother had some impossibly high standards to live up to in her day? In your mother's day, a "good" mom would never dream of working outside the home. She would never feed her family frozen dinners or pre-packaged cookies. She would always be caught up on the laundry, ironing and dishwashing. She would be a skilled seamstress and sew the latest fashionable outfits for herself and her children. The list goes on and on. Did your mother live up to all these standards? If she was a reasonably happy human being -- and it sounds like she was -- she probably didn't. What makes you think it's any different now just because the criteria for "good mom" have changed? We all still "cheat." It's mostly the people looking at motherhood from the outside who think we're all killing ourselves to live up to this impossible standard. Trust me, we're not all like that. Most of us are like your mom.

So, thanks for worrying about me, but I don't feel oppressed, sorry. Yes, I gave birth without an epidural... because I wanted to. I also breastfeed because I want to, it's free and I'm too lazy to mix formula. I also use disposables because I want to. Oops, I'm a bad mom! Except, nobody has said this to me, so I'm not sure why you're worried about it.

I wish I could say I don't know whether my baby's bottles have BPA, but I know they don't because it was banned. I guess I should get on the Internets and find some cheap Chinese bottles just to prove I don't care about my kid ingesting fake estrogens? But I'm sure you're not saying I should, nor should I be blowing second-hand smoke in my child's face like I don't know what could result from that, and I'm sure you're not saying I shouldn't use a car seat when the baby is in a car. So I guess I'm not sure what you are saying. Maybe you're saying we women these days are too darn educated for our own good. OK, guilty as charged.