one of the best parts of facilitating this little makeshift blog is that readers regularly send me recent and provocative articles about the state of modern motherhood. thank you, and keep ’em coming!
the last two articles i received are friction-inciting commentaries on the cultural construction of motherhood. one deliniates the high child nurturing standards held by american women. the other investigates the high career-related standards held by this same set. taken together, these articles reveal a veritable fog of ridiculous expectations obscuring nearly every aspect of women’s lives.
the first is a wall street journal article by erica jong describing the attachment parenting craze as a sort of self-inflicted prison for mothers, who, despite their best kid-wearing, cloth-diapering, baby-food-making efforts are never able to meet the socially accepted standard for mothering, which was created in large part by dr. sears. but no matter what one’s thoughts are regarding attachment parenting, it’s hard to disagree with jong’s lament: “rarely does a new mother hear these golden words: “do the best you can; there are no rules.”
the second article is jessica olien’s slate magazine exploration into the culture of motherhood in the netherlands, where part-time work, outings with friends, and self-care are celebrated ways for moms to spend time. as opposed to the guilt felt by american mothers who remove themselves from the full-time workforce, dutch women do not seem to link their self-esteems to their workforce prowess. the conclusion is that the drive that american women have assumed in order to further women’s progress has “set us up for a world in which none of us is having any fun.”
“…american women as a whole are not getting any happier. if anything, the studies show that we are emotionally less well-off than we were before.”
high standards have the potential to launch us into more meaningful, productive, and useful lives. but perhaps something has gotten lost in translation between our feminist fore mothers, who constructed domestic co-ops and deconstructed glass ceilings, and those modern women who have inherited big tasks that have somehow become detached from the big dreams that birthed them. what was once a grand vision of equality seems now to feel more like a universal clamoring for perfection in every arena. the guilt that ensues squelches the kind of big dreaming that women once had for the state of the world. and so, in the words of jong, we reduce our visions to the scope of our homes and families. “[we] substitute our own small world for the world as a whole.”
standards ought to be the bi-product of dreams, the way they came into this world in the first place. so perhaps the key to generating a world that is fairer (and for heaven’s sake, MORE FUN) is to leave our faithful posts as the keepers of the rules and ideals. if we join the ranks of the dreamers, perhaps the standards we generate will make more sense in our contexts. perhaps standards will not imprison us but free us. but the only way to get there is to start where the women before us started: with a vision of a better life.