I've been following the debate surrounding Erica Jong's article in the wall street journal critiquing Attachment parenting, mainly for being too demanding on women, and not allowing them the time to be involved in political activism, in fact she calls it a tool for the political right. Now, I don't usually rant in this space- but excuse me just this once.
I've been noticing this trend for a while- that the tenets of attachment parenting come under attack for being too hard on the mothers- things like Baby wearing, breastfeeding and co-sleeping all exist under a microscope, any possible danger is weighed so carefully and the practice is questioned. These things make life much easier for the mother, you can either carry your kid everywhere, or put it in a sling, buy food for it or breastfeed it, wake up at night and disturb your own sleep or sleep with the kid, it's not about fashion, or a choice, because for most women the choice is not there, they can't afford child care and so if you have a child you care for it,- in whatever way is easiest for you, it's that simple. I have a theory that these practices are so challenged in mainstream society because they are so politically challenging, they challenge the way we look at individualism, and food supply, and western ideas and ideals.
The assumption that Ms. Jong makes is that women who are at home raising their children (especially the ones in the "prison" of attachment parenting), are operating only in the private sphere, she assumes as do many academic feminists, that mothering takes place outside of the public sphere- meaning that it does not affect our public institutions, politics, economics, or practices. I would argue the opposite, the raising of children is most definitely a political act; in the ways that we sort out the challenges of feeding our families, divide labour in the home, and shape our children's viewpoints. While they occur in the private sphere, these actions affect the public sphere in many ways.
The personal is political after all- a mother who buys organic, and cloth diapers, and breast feeds, one who raises her children to know how to solve conflict in a gentle manner, or even to cook is affecting how our world runs. Not to get too Marxist here, but the idea that women's unpaid labour somehow exists outside of the political is naive at best, and it does women a great disservice- it assumes that the work that falls to women (and likely always will-unless someone figures out how to get a man pregnant), such as mothering, is less important than paid work outside the home. It assumes that the only way for women to affect change, and to impact the world we live in, is to put aside 'women's work' for 'men's work', and that argument is a dangerous one.
Okay, rant done, thanks for indulging me.