Recent months have generated a series of books and related articles on the quandary, enigma, challenge and deceptions that some feel are a component of modern mothering and by extension, parenting. Books, written by those who would appear to be if not active participants in that which they decry, the authors (all women so far), have at least been the beneficiaries of the choices and freedoms that have flowed to them. These choices and freedoms result in large part from decades of feminism, which in turn, is a result of many trends and realities, including reproductive choices that did not exist before the mid 20th century.
Several months ago, a book by Amy Chua Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was excerpted in the Wall Street Journal. A heated debate was sparked in response to Chua’s intense (an understatement) focus on performance of her highly accomplished daughters.
Begin the trend of responses promoting differnt parenting styles.
Shortly thereafter, we were treated to a counterpoint by Pamela Druckerman’s book, Bringing up Bebe which advocated a more parent-centered laissez faire approach to raising successful children.
Another marked counterpoint to current passions for things organic, pro breast feeding child-centered approach to motherhood is in the book by French author Elisabeth Badinter, The Conflict – How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. Among her points include a critique of the “‘radical condemnation’ of alcohol and cigarettes during pregnancy and most important, the mothers who buy into it all.”
On this point alone or at least the alcohol part, we must stand in solidarity. The science on fetal alcohol syndrome was developed based upon women who consumed significant amounts of alcohol during pregnancy. If we apply common wisdom from the ages to this question of whether alcohol and pregnancy is dangerous, we must conclude that the findings do not support this. The data indicates that billions of women who have enjoyed a drink went on to become pregnant and those who continued to enjoy a drink often while unaware of their pregnant state during the most teratogenic 1st trimester end up giving birth to healthy children. We have progressed from such adult behaviors to a situation where anecdotes of woman close to delivery are being denied requested drinks at restaurants by well-intended servers.
The latest is a screed from The Atlantic Magazine article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor who took a two year leave to work for the Clinton State Department as the director of policy planning. Her decision to return to her day job is in part due to issues faced as a mother of a 14-year-old son needing her attention.
Common to all of the above is that the authors are accomplished women who can engage in lively intellectual debate on the choices that they have. The debate is healthy and will continue forever, with each generation of parents believing that they have discovered the truth that eluded their parents.
Many in fact have written on the phenomenon of parenting guides over the centuries:
Bottom line: Parents are anxious about raising kids, theories abound, truths of the past become today’s heresy and publishers and writers will never run out of material.