Do you believe that modern motherhood undermines the status of women? Breastfeeding, cloth diapering, making your own baby food, co-sleeping, attachment parenting. Is this “naturalistic” approach to mothering bringing us back to the days of “barefoot and pregnant” in the kitchen?
Author Elisabeth Badinter seems to think so. In her new book, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, she goes on to explain why she thinks educated women who become stay-at-home moms have lost their minds. An excerpt from a recent interview with Marie Claire:
ELISABETH BADINTER: There’s a feminism that was born in the 1980s in the United States that defines women through motherhood. I find this dangerous. From my point of view, motherhood is a choice, not an obligation.
MC: You’ve written about a “naturalist” strain to modern motherhood—breast-feeding on demand, natural childbirth, eco-friendly washable diapers, homemade baby food—that pushes women back into the home.
EB: Unquestionably. The gains of the previous century—epidurals, bottle-feeding, disposable diapers—allowed women to reconcile their roles as mothers with the necessity of being financially independent. This 21st-century project of naturalism, which makes the female into an animal again, is a rejection of those gains.
Homemade baby food is terrific if you know how to cook and have time to make it. But why demonize commercial baby food, which is balanced, quick, and accessible to fathers? While we’re waiting for biodegradable diapers to reach the market, I would choose disposable diapers [instead of washable ones]. Between the protection of the environment and the protection of the liberty and free time of women, my choice is made.
MC: You’ve also spoken about how all-consuming motherhood affects couples’ relationships. You write, “If the woman breast-feeds for months, even years, how is the couple to retain intimacy?”
EB: If 24 hours a day the woman is reduced to her role as a nursing animal, even putting the child in the bed between the father and the mother, the father is completely put aside. I think this is very hard for men, and I think the child becomes a factor in the separation of the couple.
Breast-feeding a few weeks, sometimes a few months, OK. But when it’s recommended that you breast-feed your child for one year—six months exclusively, with nothing else, day and night, on demand—there are obvious consequences for a couple.
MC: Do you believe that the benefits of breast milk are exaggerated?
EB: It’s true that mother’s milk is perfectly adapted to the needs of a child, and that it evolves according to the growth of the baby. It’s excellent. But frankly, the formula manufactured today is almost as good. And if it’s beneficial to the life of the mother, it’s worth it to give a bottle. We should stop telling women that when they give a child a bottle they’re bad mothers.
Read more of the interview here: Elisabeth Badinter New Book Interview – Elisabeth Badinter on Modern Motherhood – Marie Claire
What are your thoughts?