Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Motherhood - The New Oppression (A Response)

I read this article today, and really feel the need to respond and address it.

Oh man, where do I begin? I agree with some things, like that mothers today ARE a little too over-protective, competitive, and constantly hounded from all angles about everything, constantly being judged. But I think the solution to all that is simply GET OVER IT. Sheesh. Who cares what everyone else thinks? Who are we trying to impress?

It seems like this writer isn't a mother herself (I just looked up some stuff about her, and didn't find any info about her having kids), and although I respect her observations, I'm not sure if I can take her all that seriously, because she hasn't been there herself.

Also, I totally disagree with this:

"Once upon a time, the conveniences of modern life (processed foods, Lysol spray, disposable diapers, clothes dryers, polyester sheets) liberated women like my mother from their chains. But now, their granddaughters are clamouring to clap the shackles on again. Someone’s got to mash the organic applesauce, hang the diapers out to dry, and breastfeed the kid. No matter how enlightened the parental units, that someone will generally be Mom.

"It seems to me that if you had deliberately devised a plot to oppress women, it couldn’t get more diabolical than this. Highly educated, progressive and enlightened mothers don’t need men to oppress them. They’re perfectly capable of oppressing themselves!"

So, what if it's actually ME that doesn't want the so-called conveniences of modern life? What if I choose to do these things for MYSELF and not because I feel like I'm "supposed to" for my kids? These things are NOT shackles to me! I don't see compromising my own health, my children's health, and the health of everything that lives in our environment, for the sake of convenience, as a good thing! I'm not a saint, I'm protecting my own butt here! I love my family, so naturally I want to do what's best for them too. What is wrong with this? My kids are not forcing me to do anything I don't want to do. And guess what, I actually enjoy hanging my diapers out and having a child attached to my boob, how unfathomable! I'm not going to let anyone else dictate what I like and don't like. THAT is oppression! I can't believe that the author starts out by saying that we shouldn't be forced to follow societal expectations and just relax already (which I agree with, I totally don't think I need to adhere to someone else's “demanding standards” of the “moral requirements of modern motherhood”), and then turn around and make this kind of statement! This kind of ludicrous assumption.

It's funny, because to me feminism and women's liberation means that we now have CHOICES. Not that we have gone from being forced into one thing (being a housewife), to being forced into another (having a career, which is, apparently, the only option for “enlightened women”). That is just as oppressive! I have made the CHOICE to stay home and be a mom to my children. That doesn't make me any better or worse than women who work and have children, or who don't have children. This is just what I have chosen to do! And guess what? I'm happy with my choice! This is what works for me and makes me HAPPY and SATISFIED. Get over it already people. I don't think motherhood is for all women, and that's great. If you don't want kids, don't have them, what's the big deal here? You aren't less of a woman because you don't have kids! If society makes you feel that way, screw them, who cares! Just like I don't care when people think it's awful that I'm a young stay-at-home mom with "so many" kids. Like it matters what they think. I love my life, and I hope they love theirs. Now lets just peacefully co-exist already.

Motherhood has done nothing but empower me. Sure, it's hard. Harder than anything else I will ever do. But that makes it all the more worthwhile, for me. I like to be challenged, because it makes me grow. Not because it makes me superior to others, it's just the best for me. I chose to give birth naturally, breastfeed, cloth diaper, avoid chemicals, eat organic and local etc, because I WANT to. No one is oppressing me or forcing me into this. Motherhood has helped me to grow up, make my own decisions, and STOP letting people push me around and tell me what to do. And I'm not going to go and force my ideals on other people either.

I think that's what bothers me the most about this article, and all the other ones like it. Why do we feel that we have the right to impose our ideas and preferences on other people? I think that mothers (and all women in general) are intelligent enough to make their own educated decisions, and I will respect those decisions. Society seems to think, and seems to want all of us to think, that people are stupid and therefore need to be told what to do and controlled. And that those who are educated and “enlightened” ought to be the ones in charge, for the greater good of course. I disagree. I do think that people are easily manipulated, and can be capable of atrocious things, but are also capable of being independent and responsible and kind if given the freedom to be so. But that's a WHOLE other topic.

Epidurals are not for losers, they are a valid pain relief option, with pros and cons, that every woman has the option to use, or refuse. Same with everything. And I wouldn't have these fabulous thighs if it weren't for all the ice cream I ate while I was pregnant! Why does there have to be so much guilt and emotional baggage with everything? Yes, these can be big and important things, with implications, but what someone else chooses is none of my business. I'm not going to judge a mom I see feeding her newborn formula on the street, or an acquaintance I hear talking about giving their baby every vaccine available, I don't know their story or their reasons.

All I can do is put the info out there that I find relevant and informative (I do A LOT of that, and I don't mind putting it right in people's faces, but it is not my responsibility to make them act), and allow parents to make their own decisions. If they ask my opinion, of course I will give it, but the decision is theirs, and they will deal with the consequences of that decision either way. It's different if they are doing something that directly affects me, or are outright abusing their children, then I might do something about it, but that generally isn't the case with parenting.

It scares me when people start trying to force other people into things, even if it's just through guilt and manipulation, coercion, or even marketing or pop culture. No one is benefitting from this (except the people gaining power and money when you comply). Of course everyone wants the best for their children, and they will get the info they are interested in. What is unfortunate, though, is that medical establishments often do not provide expectant and new mothers with accurate information, but we are slowly learning to do our own research and weigh the options for ourselves. Professionals are great resources, and need to be respected, but they are not gods. I think when we start forcibly imposing things on others, even with good intentions, we start treading on dangerous ground.

Obviously a lot of things have changed, simply because we know better. We know that smoking is bad for our health now, so we can change our actions accordingly. Same with breastfeeding, there is so much research documenting the benefits now that they didn't have before. That doesn't mean our grandparents (or parents) were awful people. And it doesn't mean they did a bad job. It's just different now, and that's ok. We can't change the past, even uninformed decisions we have made ourselves, and carrying that burden of guilt won't fix anything. All we can do is make better decisions next time if possible.

Yeah, there is a lot of stuff you can panic about as a parent, but you don't have to. You can choose to make informed decisions, and then reject all of the fear that society throws at you. The government, media, corporations and society all want us to live in fear and wait to be rescued, because it serves their purposes. But we don't have to live like that. We can stand up and take responsibility, and authority, over ourselves and our families. We are grown-ups and are fully capable of being in control of ourselves (and I also believe the only control people are entitled to is self-control). We are also capable of dealing with our own consequences, even if they suck.

At the same time, no one can control everything. Bad things happen sometimes, it's true. It may not fit in our utopian worldview, but it's there and we have to deal with it. Some things are preventable, and I'm sure everyone would agree that we should try and prevent tragedies whenever possible. But we also need to be able to accept reality when it happens.

Why do people care about silly things so much, and feel the need to get involved with everyone else's business? Their own insecurity, I think. If you made a decision about parenting, that's your decision! Don't be afraid to talk about it, and don't let people push you around about it. It's your decision and that's that, you don't have to feel guilty when you have made an informed decision. Whatever your reasons are, I'm sure they're valid. If you find new information that makes you change your mind, then CHANGE! Do what you need to do, that is nothing but applaudable. Move on.

We all have room for improvement. I AM NOT PERFECT. YOU ARE NOT PERFECT. And we never will be. Is that not liberating? Oh, you're scared that ceasing to strive for perfection will make you quit caring altogether? I disagree. I believe that in striving for perfection, which is unattainable, we are always met with perceived failure, and THAT is what causes people to stop caring. If we can throw out this idea of needing to be perfect, of “all or nothing”, then maybe we can actually just live. And maybe, we will even enjoy it. Then maybe we can put our differences aside, or even have healthy discussions, but still appreciate each other. Just because everything isn't perfect, doesn't mean it can't be great. We seem to be programmed to aspire for a utopia that will never exist. We have to be perfect or die. But that's a lie. All we can do is try our best with what we have. We will fail! Children are pretty resilient, as long as you don't intentionally hurt them, they will probably be ok. Guilt helps no one, except to prompt you to change. So change according to your conscience and the info you find, then let the guilt go and move on, it's ok.

Guilt and this feeling of failure only encourages us to give up, and I think that is the only wrong answer. To quit trying. I'm not saying kill yourself trying to be the best. Be reasonable. You can be a great parent, and enjoy it at the same time. Your lifestyle has to work for everyone, not just you, not just your kids. This isn't rocket science. Just live life, and deal with situations as they arise, make the decisions that are right for you (and that don't hurt anyone else), own up to your decisions, have confidence in yourself, and don't worry about what anyone else thinks. I find when I adopt this approach, motherhood comes easy to me, too.

This rant isn't just what I think about this article, but it's actually the lesson I have learned myself in the past year. I find it interesting that I am writing this on my birthday. A year ago I was still so insecure. But I have come a long way. This philosophy carries over into my spiritual and political beliefs as well. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I'd love to get a discussion going. I'm always open to discuss and engage with other ideas and opinions. I'm not afraid to stand up for myself anymore, and even change if need be. I feel like I've finally grown up.

1 comment:

Alisha said...

I totally agree Kelly. :) You should send this to the magazine, who knows they might publish it. <3