Attachment Parenting: More Guilt for Mother
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Badinter blames intensive mothering for distorting feminism and pulling women back into the home. But one could also say it’s a socially approved way of withdrawing from a workplace that, in addition to all the usual sorrows and pains, has been sexist in general and hostile to mothers in particular, and of resolving the frustrations of the double day—women’s greater domestic burden. (These are also features of French life, despite France’s excellent daycare system.) America is famously unfriendly to mothers—no paid parental leave, a lack of affordable daycare, patchy after-school, long workdays, little vacation. Even legally mandated paid sick days are controversial. Individual mothers manage to negotiate these shoals—after all, most mothers are employed—but overall, lack of social supports is America’s way of telling them they don’t really belong at work. Their real job is at home.
Work/life balance is usually listed as a “women’s issue.” That’s because “life” in that context does not mean socializing, learning new things, volunteering or enjoying yourself. It means the traditional work of women—raising kids and doing housework. For similar reasons, the trade-off of shorter hours for no promotion is called the “mommy track”—not the “parent track,” and certainly not the “daddy track.”
Where Badinter goes wrong is that she blames women for adapting to this unjust state of affairs by moralizing their own subjection and making it the basis for their identity. This lets men off the hook yet again. For the “mommy wars” to end, maybe the “daddy wars” have to begin.
Katha Pollitt is a columnist for The Nation. Her most recent book is The Mind Body Problem: Poems (Random House).