Friday, November 12, 2010

On the Madness of Modern Motherhood

This piece is in response to the article by Erica Jong posted by Bummis on Facebook. The article can be found at and her daughter's response can be found at

Both are very interesting articles and raise the issue of how far have we really come and are we going backwards. Erica does make the point (and I agree entirely) that there is way way way too much pressure put on mothers and expecting mothers.

I think Erica and my mother have a lot in common (except my mom is pro-cloth and pro-breastfeeding if only because of the financial savings). My mom was never famous and never tried to be, but working was important to her because she had grown up in poverty and was going to do everything she could to make sure we didn't do the same. My grandmother's advice to us all growing up was to get a job so that we wouldn't be financially dependent on a man (and, given her circumstances, it was appropriate advice).

Yet here I am, feeling very lucky to be able to stay home with our daughter while my husband brings in most of our household income.

What has changed? Family law has certainly changed dramatically in Canada since the 1970s. If we ever get divorced I won't be left with nothing. That provides security to the stay-at-home mom that didn't exist back in my grandmother's day.

That being said, I have to reconcile my current at-home status with my feminist beliefs (if you'd have asked me in my late teens and early 20s if I'd ever be a stay-at-home mom I would have told you NEVER). What has changed? I fell in love with my daughter and with motherhood and love it far more than any job I have ever had. Not all women have that experience and I fully support those women who can't wait to get back to work - staying at home is not for everyone.

As a stay-at-home feminist, I think several things have to change if we are truly going to achieve equality:

(1) Women's salaries have to increase - we have to get equal pay for equal work. Otherwise men will continue to earn more and households will continue to revolve around mens' careers.

(2) (This is the one that really really bugs me.) People have to get used to seeing babies, toddlers and children in public spaces. Not just seeing them when they're behaving themselves, but seeing tantrums, crying, etc. If children are confined to the home except when they're on their best behaviour, then women are confined to the home. Society as a whole benefits from the bearing and raising of children, yet society as a whole (in Canada) appears to be unwilling to accept children's presence unless the child is going to a child-specific event or is behaving well.

The airplane is a great example. Everyone thinks your baby is soooooo cute on an airplane until she begins to cry. A little crying is sometimes OK but there is a point where the crying becomes unacceptable for example if it's a toddler crying for an hour steady because she's just left her grandparents and doesn't know when she's going to see them again (speaking from personal experience on this one).

The case of the woman in BC who was told to get off a city bus because her daughter was having a tantrum is a perfect example. The woman then had to walk home with her daughter, and both of their bags. Further, when she complained about being kicked off the bus, she received a tonne of backlash online.

I could go on and on and on and on, but the point is that if we want women to have more freedom, we have to give kids more freedom to act out and to realize that kids act out even with good parenting. There's nothing better when your kid is having a tantrum in public than another parent coming along and saying "been there, done that".

And, lets face it, if we stop to think about it, some tantrums are downright funny. I'll never forget when we were at the checkout of a major department store and went to check my daughter's diaper because things were getting a bit stinky. She objected to me checking her diaper and promptly threw herself down on the floor yelling "just farted mommy, I just farted" over and over.

So what am I doing to effect social change? I AM taking my daughter out in public even if she's grumpy, has a dirty face, and is wearing a witch costume on top of a princess dress on top of her cloths one week after Hallowe'en. What else am I doing, I am supporting those other parents who take their kids out in public (whether by necessity or choice) and have to deal with tantrums while they're grocery shopping. In my experience, there's nothing better than being nice to a mom with a grumpy child to help take the pressure off that mom a bit.

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