PSST! The mommy 'n me paradigm is under attack. Finally. Maybe the most interesting thing about Elizabeth Badinter's new book Le Conflit, La Femme et La Mère (The Conflict, The Woman and The Mother) is the ruckus it's causing. In stating the obvious—that women have imposed a new tyranny on themselves through perfectionist childraising—she's drawn wide-ranging contempt. Everyone from conservative Christians to ecologists and pediatricians have found something to hate. Naturally, I'm a little bit in love.
According to reports I've read (the book is not yet out in English) Badinter thinks the best thing a woman can do for her child is be a woman first and a mother second. She urges women to do what it takes—hire help, use powdered milk, whatever—to keep their own lives on track during motherhood. As a grandma who still smokes cigarettes, she's speaking from experience.
She cites events since the 1980s that have contributed to this trend. One is the Green movement, with its insistence on hand-made baby food and reusable diapers. Another is the uncertainty of the workplace, which has made motherhood seem like a better bet to many. Then there are--you knew something else was coming, right?--Contemporary American Feminists.
Apparently we are to blame for playing up the differences between men and women, a dynamic that has shut women off with their children. Huh? Okay, so that part I don't think I love but I'm not sure since I don't quite get it either. I'll wait for the book before I go apeshit on that myself, especially since her counterpoint is that men and women are actually quite alike. That much I can buy. And on all other accounts, this lady rocks.