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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:29 am 
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Mihl wrote:
Consequences for every woman who drops out of the public, as we already discussed it above. In Germany we have a discussion about rising elderly poverty rates. Women who did spent their life raising children don't have the chance to save up money for their pensions. The ideal scenario is that you stay married and live together with your spouse and your income is his pension, which can support both of you. But this is no longer the case and I think it is important that women need to think about what happens when they get old. And of course that is a dilemma. Because what are you supposed to do if you just cannot find (Germany) or afford (USA) childcare?

pandacookie is talking about how private decisions have political consequences.

Yes indeed, which is part of the point of Valenti's book which is the topic of this thread. And why it has been so hard to have a discussion about the book. It becomes about my personal choices instead of looking at them in the larger political context which is what Valenti is trying to do. And in the age of so called choice feminism I find that a very important thing to focus on and remember. There is of course the overarching patriarchy but when we make our personal decisions within that and don't challenge that, how do we expect change? The idea that my wants trump what might be good for society, that the individual is the most important is such a big rooted US idea (I'd be interested about that in other countries) that it is hard to see any systemic change happen because everyone wants to do what they want to do.

And it should be noted that those choices are usually made by those who are well off. Classism plays deeply into critiques of child rearing as just about every article out there is focusing on wealthy women who have the ability to do what they want. No one wants to look at what single mothers or families below the poverty line are doing because they don't have access to the NYT or Time or the blogosphere. I laughed at the line in the article that mentions having a view of the (horror) parking lot. Ha! Think about that. You have a roof over your head and food on the table but somehow you're less because you have a view of asphalt.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:45 am 
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pandacookie wrote:
Mihl wrote:
Consequences for every woman who drops out of the public, as we already discussed it above. In Germany we have a discussion about rising elderly poverty rates. Women who did spent their life raising children don't have the chance to save up money for their pensions. The ideal scenario is that you stay married and live together with your spouse and your income is his pension, which can support both of you. But this is no longer the case and I think it is important that women need to think about what happens when they get old. And of course that is a dilemma. Because what are you supposed to do if you just cannot find (Germany) or afford (USA) childcare?

pandacookie is talking about how private decisions have political consequences.

Yes indeed, which is part of the point of Valenti's book which is the topic of this thread. And why it has been so hard to have a discussion about the book. It becomes about my personal choices instead of looking at them in the larger political context which is what Valenti is trying to do. And in the age of so called choice feminism I find that a very important thing to focus on and remember. There is of course the overarching patriarchy but when we make our personal decisions within that and don't challenge that, how do we expect change? The idea that my wants trump what might be good for society, that the individual is the most important is such a big rooted US idea (I'd be interested about that in other countries) that it is hard to see any systemic change happen because everyone wants to do what they want to do.

And it should be noted that those choices are usually made by those who are well off. Classism plays deeply into critiques of child rearing as just about every article out there is focusing on wealthy women who have the ability to do what they want. No one wants to look at what single mothers or families below the poverty line are doing because they don't have access to the NYT or Time or the blogosphere. I laughed at the line in the article that mentions having a view of the (horror) parking lot. Ha! Think about that. You have a roof over your head and food on the table but somehow you're less because you have a view of asphalt.


Not only that but she lives in a town home in Chevy Chase, MD which is one of the most expensive cities in the nation. I don't think you can buy a town home for under $500k in that area. It is also an area filled with parks, walking paths, nice restaurants, high end shopping, etc. a view of a parking lot or not. I feel sorry for no one that lives in that city.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 6:38 pm 
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pandacookie wrote:
Mihl wrote:
Consequences for every woman who drops out of the public, as we already discussed it above. In Germany we have a discussion about rising elderly poverty rates. Women who did spent their life raising children don't have the chance to save up money for their pensions. The ideal scenario is that you stay married and live together with your spouse and your income is his pension, which can support both of you. But this is no longer the case and I think it is important that women need to think about what happens when they get old. And of course that is a dilemma. Because what are you supposed to do if you just cannot find (Germany) or afford (USA) childcare?

pandacookie is talking about how private decisions have political consequences.

Yes indeed, which is part of the point of Valenti's book which is the topic of this thread. And why it has been so hard to have a discussion about the book. It becomes about my personal choices instead of looking at them in the larger political context which is what Valenti is trying to do. And in the age of so called choice feminism I find that a very important thing to focus on and remember. There is of course the overarching patriarchy but when we make our personal decisions within that and don't challenge that, how do we expect change? The idea that my wants trump what might be good for society, that the individual is the most important is such a big rooted US idea (I'd be interested about that in other countries) that it is hard to see any systemic change happen because everyone wants to do what they want to do.

And it should be noted that those choices are usually made by those who are well off. Classism plays deeply into critiques of child rearing as just about every article out there is focusing on wealthy women who have the ability to do what they want. No one wants to look at what single mothers or families below the poverty line are doing because they don't have access to the NYT or Time or the blogosphere. I laughed at the line in the article that mentions having a view of the (horror) parking lot. Ha! Think about that. You have a roof over your head and food on the table but somehow you're less because you have a view of asphalt.

Your last point is one that Valenti mentions. While everyone does not breastfeed or use attachment parenting and co-sleeping, those who do often have a lot of cultural capital and press their agenda into the mainstream. So a certain kind of parenting is presented as optimal when it just won't work for many people. Dr Sears suggests that women who work can do semi-attachment parenting. There is a not-so-subtle judgment of mothers here, not of fathers.

Here's a blog post by Valenti which sort of highlights the attitude I'm talking about. Her discussion of the La Leche League was fascinating. I hadn't heard a perspective like hers. (or the history she provides)

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:16 am 
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Thanks for posting that article! It underlines the points Valenti makes in her book and I think it is important to talk about them. She mentions what happened after she published it: "[...] I quoted an article on my blog tour about a hospital in the United Kingdom that was going to stop making free formula available for new mothers - I disagreed with the decision. Thanks to what followed, I got quite an education about the politics of online mothering and pro-breastfeeding blogs." (p. 42-43)

Valenti's blog article wrote:
Her tweets actually embody the main issues I have with those who shame formula-feeding mothers: the condescending attitude that women who formula feed are somehow stupid or have been duped, the assumption that anyone who formula feeds or supports women who do so isn’t educated on the issue, and, of course, the shaming inherent in suggesting that formula hurt women (and babies). The other issue, which I’ll get into in a bit, is the mind-boggling classism I’ve seen bandied about.


I think it's great that she talks about this. Because being belittled and not taken seriously, being shamed into breastfeeding can be so much pressure that you just suck it up and breastfeed even if you don't want to. I think it is horrifying that motherhood is presented as a sacrifice and that you have to give yourself up for your kid. I heard that many times before and for me that was always a strong argument against having children.

There are so many women who do sacrifice a lot so they can breastfeed their child. They don't sleep for months and get sick because of that, they worry horribly about their supply, etc and then when they have made it through all this, they are called "super mommys" for enduring all that. Why are all those sacrifices necessary? It just doesn't make sense to me. I heard the argument that "we give our kids the best start when we breastfeed". But that also just never made sense to me. (Sure, nutritionally breast milk is "perfect" and formula is not. But, you know, we also give our kids cookies later in life and they eat other stuff that is not "perfect" and "whole", too. But this is another topic.)
I always wondered where is the father in all this? And what does "best start" mean? And can you really apply that universally? And why does nobody talk about what is best for the mother? Is it really best for her, for example, not to get enough sleep and to have breast infection after breast infection, or to feel terribly uncomfortable during breastfeeding just to be called a super mom?

I think it's pretty funny that people talk about doing "what our bodies are designed to do" and about how it is "natural" to breastfeed. I remember that I talked to a doctor about epidurals and somehow the phrase "natural birth" came up. And the doctor (a woman with children) said: "Well, we also life under a roof. That's probably not natural, too." And I think she hit the nail on the head because we so often don't do those things that are natural and we ignore "what our bodies are designed for". And usually it doesn't matter.

A sidenote on classism: I remember that the midwife who worked with my gynecologist (She was also the one to look after us after birth. In Germany we are entitled to 10 free home visits by a midwife.) asked me about breastfeeding when I was pregnant. I told her that I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it. She then said something like: "Yeah, that's typical for women from the West. Breastffeding so much cheaper and Eastern German women have to or like to save money." So the assumption was that breastfeeding is cheaper than bottle feeding (assumed that you don't need an expensive pump and lots and lots of disposable pads - I spent a lot of money on those because the cloth ones just wouldn't cut it.) and that women from the West of Germany, who grew up with capitalism don't have to safe money and can afford bottle feeding.

I gave birth in such a unicef approved baby friendly hospital, that Valenti mentions. I went there for several reasons and it was a great decision overall. It was family friendly, I could do my thing during birth, etc. But I was disturbed by their breastfeeding policy. They offered a lot of help to learn how to breastfeed. That was great as long as everything went according to their plan. But I was uncomfortable because they treated my breasts like public property and I got a lot of pressure from them when my daughter didn't grow according to their statistics. Glucose and formula were out of the question, so they just told me to feed her more often, they pressured me, and they would pop in all the time to check on my breasts and their performance. On day three when we were supposed to leave, one nurse told me they had to check on my baby's weight first and we had to wait for my milk supply. They were seriously considering not to check me out because my kid had lost 7% of her birth weight (10% is normal) and because I had no milk supply established yet. (Which is completely normal, too.) So even though everything was fine, they gave me the impression I was failing my daughter. It was so crazy. And of course they told me not to use bottles and pacifiers because of "nipple confusion". And I remember that I really felt bad when we gave F. her first bottle of pumped milk after a month. Even though I knew that we had mostly been bombarded with ideology and not with evidence, it had gotten to me.

Since you mention the La Leche League, Vantine, there's also an interesting bit about them in Elisabeth Badinter's book "The Conflict". You can read about her views in this article.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2013 7:08 pm 
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Thank you for that link, Mihl. I've been meaning to read Badinter's book.

I found thisblog post by Valenti from last year. She makes some great points about the inherent sexism in the debate about staying at home.

Quote:
I’ve seen straight, partnered women explain their decision to stay-at-home by noting that childcare would have taken too much out of their paycheck—as if this cost was just theirs to bear! Or couples who call a woman’s decision to quit her job a “personal” issue, while in the same breath noting that it was because her salary was lower than her husband’s. (The last time I checked, the wage gap was a political issue.)

But even more dangerous than the “I choose my choice” brush-off that tends to surface when someone takes the politics of housewifery to task, is the contention that women want to be doing all this work. That we are naturally inclined towards things domestic—especially caring for our children. Perhaps for some women this is true; but the generalization hurts all of us. After all, how can we effectively fight for workplace policies if the presumption is that when push comes to shove, we don’t really want to be there?

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 11:45 pm 
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That's funny, there was an ad in Sports Illustrated today that made me think of this. A car company touted safer cars for kids with an ad line about "she'll grow up and get married, get a job she loves and have 3 kids she'll love so much more..." as part of it. We expect women from the earliest ages to 1) be hetero 2) want to get married 3) have kids and 4) make sure the kids are the top number one thing there is. No ad would have that copy for a male.

And all of that definitely feeds into the idea of women sacrificing, which Mihl brought up. I think that's one of the most important things about Valenti's argument. Women are always the ones who are supposed to sacrifice their lives, their time, their jobs, their identities for others. And if we don't, we're supposed to feel guilty about it. We never doing enough even though in reality most women are doing far more than enough and still feeling bad about it. And women have bought into it, so we put the blame on ourselves instead of giving a big ol' fork you to anyone who says don't enjoy your career, don't let your kid watch the teevee while you sit and take 20 minutes for yourself, don't demand equal pay for equal work.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 3:15 am 
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I found an interesting interview (in German): http://www.dradio.de/dlf/sendungen/stud ... s/2232953/

Two sociologists talked to German couples about carreers and children. When it comes to the question who'll stay at home it's usually the parent who earns less. And that is usually the woman. They call this a structural issue and not a private one. It's exactly what Valenti describes in that blog post you quoted, Vantine.

So many women here take it as set in stone that the man works full time and earns the most. It's just something you can't do anything about. We all know about the gender gap etc. The system is powerful and fighting against it is hard and often fruitless. So for many it's easier to accept this and move on. And that is why we call this a private choice. It's just easier to deal with these terrible iniquities that way, I think.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:32 am 
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Mihl,

I have several friends who make more (in some cases a lot more) than their husbands. More than a few of these husbands have serious issues with the fact they are not the breadwinner. It's not that they are sexist but they have been told since birth that they are to be the providers and having their wives make more causes serious relationship problems.

You and Panders are right that there is an assumption that the woman will make less, will stay home. It's even an attitude adapted by the "natural" parenting crowd. After all, the magazine is called "Mothering"...

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:18 am 
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My husband would cheer if I made more than him... well not really, he couldn't care less. He actually told me at one point that I had a higher income potential than him despite being in the same field, more or less. The nature of my job is different than his though.

I've known some stay at home dads or part time dads because their wives did make more. And despite seeing many women in my company in top level jobs, for the most part, I see men get promoted more readily and hired into higher paying jobs more readily. My friend who works for the same company told me she believes men are compensated for their potential while women are compensated for their current and past performance. It does seem true, at least in my company/field where women do have to prove themselves more and sacrifice more job wise than men to get even or ahead.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:35 am 
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linanil wrote:
My friend who works for the same company told me she believes men are compensated for their potential while women are compensated for their current and past performance. It does seem true, at least in my company/field where women do have to prove themselves more and sacrifice more job wise than men to get even or ahead.


I think that is so true and very well-put. And because men are compensated for their potential there is more leeway given to them needing to learn and emphasis on mentoring them into their positions. I see women being expected to hit the ground running without much mentoring or time to go up the learning curve, before they are judged as failing.

I've worked with several men who have made mistakes that would be career enders for a woman, and many of them are now in positions of power. One of my classmates bullied a legal assistant to fake a UCC filing, which is fraud, and she reported him. He is now a partner at another firm. The consensus was that he made a mistake but still had the potential to be a good lawyer. I've seen women blackballed for less. When I was at an investment bank, I wanted to help a female friend get hired, and one of her former employers just talked so much shiitake about her mistakes, that my boss told me no one on Wall Street would hire her. Her mistakes were so minor, and things that most associates do during their careers. She did eventually get another awesome job, but it was interesting to see the disparity. And just to put it in the context of this thread, my friend has no children nor any plans to have children.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:09 am 
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Panders makes a great point in that women are expected to sacrifice. When a man does it, it's often viewed as something great and magnanimous that he is doing. Of course, you will scale back your career or quit your job for your children and guilt is used to keep women in their place.

There is so much fear being pushed on women if they don't do the "right" things while pregnant, don't have the "right" childbirth, don't do the "right" things for their infants... There is also so little evidence that many of the things pushed are actually beneficial but damn they do a good job of keeping women tied to house and home.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:28 am 
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Right now there is a big political discussion here in Denmark, about whether something like 1/3 of the maternity leave should be reserved for the fathers, in order to deal with the structural issues that comes with the "mother as the default caretaker"-paradigm. We get around a year of maternity leave, and the idea was that mothers get 6 months, fathers get 3 months and then they have 3 months that they can share as they want to.
Right now the mother gets all 12 months as default, and it takes a lot of paperwork to change - but most importantly, most companies are not willing to accept that men want to take more than a few weeks of maternity leave. Which is highly problematic.
The whole issue means that 1) it's harder to get jobs in key positions in companies as a young woman and 2) fathers don't really get to take maternity (paternity?) leave as they want to, unless they happen to work for someone who is really understanding.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:42 am 
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Mihl wrote:
Thanks for posting that article! It underlines the points Valenti makes in her book and I think it is important to talk about them. She mentions what happened after she published it: "[...] I quoted an article on my blog tour about a hospital in the United Kingdom that was going to stop making free formula available for new mothers - I disagreed with the decision. Thanks to what followed, I got quite an education about the politics of online mothering and pro-breastfeeding blogs." (p. 42-43)

Valenti's blog article wrote:
Her tweets actually embody the main issues I have with those who shame formula-feeding mothers: the condescending attitude that women who formula feed are somehow stupid or have been duped, the assumption that anyone who formula feeds or supports women who do so isn’t educated on the issue, and, of course, the shaming inherent in suggesting that formula hurt women (and babies). The other issue, which I’ll get into in a bit, is the mind-boggling classism I’ve seen bandied about.


I think it's great that she talks about this. Because being belittled and not taken seriously, being shamed into breastfeeding can be so much pressure that you just suck it up and breastfeed even if you don't want to. I think it is horrifying that motherhood is presented as a sacrifice and that you have to give yourself up for your kid. I heard that many times before and for me that was always a strong argument against having children.

There are so many women who do sacrifice a lot so they can breastfeed their child. They don't sleep for months and get sick because of that, they worry horribly about their supply, etc and then when they have made it through all this, they are called "super mommys" for enduring all that. Why are all those sacrifices necessary? It just doesn't make sense to me. I heard the argument that "we give our kids the best start when we breastfeed". But that also just never made sense to me. (Sure, nutritionally breast milk is "perfect" and formula is not. But, you know, we also give our kids cookies later in life and they eat other stuff that is not "perfect" and "whole", too. But this is another topic.)
I always wondered where is the father in all this? And what does "best start" mean? And can you really apply that universally? And why does nobody talk about what is best for the mother? Is it really best for her, for example, not to get enough sleep and to have breast infection after breast infection, or to feel terribly uncomfortable during breastfeeding just to be called a super mom?

I think it's pretty funny that people talk about doing "what our bodies are designed to do" and about how it is "natural" to breastfeed. I remember that I talked to a doctor about epidurals and somehow the phrase "natural birth" came up. And the doctor (a woman with children) said: "Well, we also life under a roof. That's probably not natural, too." And I think she hit the nail on the head because we so often don't do those things that are natural and we ignore "what our bodies are designed for". And usually it doesn't matter.

A sidenote on classism: I remember that the midwife who worked with my gynecologist (She was also the one to look after us after birth. In Germany we are entitled to 10 free home visits by a midwife.) asked me about breastfeeding when I was pregnant. I told her that I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it. She then said something like: "Yeah, that's typical for women from the West. Breastffeding so much cheaper and Eastern German women have to or like to save money." So the assumption was that breastfeeding is cheaper than bottle feeding (assumed that you don't need an expensive pump and lots and lots of disposable pads - I spent a lot of money on those because the cloth ones just wouldn't cut it.) and that women from the West of Germany, who grew up with capitalism don't have to safe money and can afford bottle feeding.

I gave birth in such a unicef approved baby friendly hospital, that Valenti mentions. I went there for several reasons and it was a great decision overall. It was family friendly, I could do my thing during birth, etc. But I was disturbed by their breastfeeding policy. They offered a lot of help to learn how to breastfeed. That was great as long as everything went according to their plan. But I was uncomfortable because they treated my breasts like public property and I got a lot of pressure from them when my daughter didn't grow according to their statistics. Glucose and formula were out of the question, so they just told me to feed her more often, they pressured me, and they would pop in all the time to check on my breasts and their performance. On day three when we were supposed to leave, one nurse told me they had to check on my baby's weight first and we had to wait for my milk supply. They were seriously considering not to check me out because my kid had lost 7% of her birth weight (10% is normal) and because I had no milk supply established yet. (Which is completely normal, too.) So even though everything was fine, they gave me the impression I was failing my daughter. It was so crazy. And of course they told me not to use bottles and pacifiers because of "nipple confusion". And I remember that I really felt bad when we gave F. her first bottle of pumped milk after a month. Even though I knew that we had mostly been bombarded with ideology and not with evidence, it had gotten to me.

Since you mention the La Leche League, Vantine, there's also an interesting bit about them in Elisabeth Badinter's book "The Conflict". You can read about her views in this article.


I had a reaction to the morphine they had to give me when the epidural didn't take before my c-section. I was in the hospital far longer than normal in the US. If (a) I had not had constant visits from lactation consultants and (b) my son was not taking to any of the formulas, I don't know if I would have been able to do it. I just could not afford the fancy formula they wanted me to try. Even if most women formula feed, there is a cultural expectation that to be the best mother, you will breast feed.

Is Breast Best sort of tears apart a lot of the propaganda and ideology behind breastfeeding. I wish more women would just be comfortable saying that they did not want to breastfeed, full stop, without having to justify it by explaining it away as a lesser choice because they could not do the gold standard.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:48 am 
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Vantine wrote:
Panders makes a great point in that women are expected to sacrifice. When a man does it, it's often viewed as something great and magnanimous that he is doing. Of course, you will scale back your career or quit your job for your children and guilt is used to keep women in their place.

There is so much fear being pushed on women if they don't do the "right" things while pregnant, don't have the "right" childbirth, don't do the "right" things for their infants... There is also so little evidence that many of the things pushed are actually beneficial but damn they do a good job of keeping women tied to house and home.


I like what Mihl said above about problems being structural. I think that ties in well with the idea of sacrifice, as in these are things that, when looked at rationally, do not matter in the slightest. It doesn't matter who makes more in a relationship, it doesn't matter if you split feeding duties 50/50 for a child, it doesn't matter if a woman works full time, it doesn't matter if a father stays home and it doesn't matter if your kid is in day care. But so many of these ideas are so ingrained in our society that we never question them. The whole idea that women have an innate knowledge of taking care of kids is another one. (For me that was a big part of Valenti's book, and something I hadn't really thought of in those terms before.) It keeps the women in that job and keeps the men on the sidelines as the bumbling oaf.
And after the kid is delivered, there is no job that a man can't do for a baby. It's a great demonstration of how much hold tradition has on our actions, even though they have no meaning or were even once used for the purpose of keeping women as lower.

I think the new left parenting movement is part of a larger cultural trend in the US for thinking about the good ol' days. The paleo diet, the vintage craze, the faux urban outdoorsman with $4000 diamond encrusted tents. We've moved away from what is "natural" with all our technological jibber jabber, so we need to get back to momma nature. Of course, we ignore the sexism, racism, and classism that was prevalent. And the fact that we aren't cavemen living in caves. It's funny that there is such an all or nothing attitude (maybe that's also a US thing) surrounding so much of what we do. It's a grey world out there and we hold ourselves to such rigid guidelines.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:49 am 
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Mihl wrote:
I think it's pretty funny that people talk about doing "what our bodies are designed to do" and about how it is "natural" to breastfeed. I remember that I talked to a doctor about epidurals and somehow the phrase "natural birth" came up. And the doctor (a woman with children) said: "Well, we also life under a roof. That's probably not natural, too." And I think she hit the nail on the head because we so often don't do those things that are natural and we ignore "what our bodies are designed for". And usually it doesn't matter.


I really think people talk about "what our bodies are designed to do" in order to have a safe cover for gender essentialism. There is a vast difference between making an argument for evidence based medical care based on physiologically healthy things to do when going through pregnancy and childbirth (and some of those things are not natural at all, of course) and making an argument that there is an ideal "natural" way for women to birth because that's what their bodies "supposed to" do. Not what THEY are supposed to do, but what their BODIES are supposed to do. If you are making choices based on the medical evidence, you have lots of agency in the process, and the evidence generally points to having minimal medical intervention in birth - but whatever happens, it's about your own choices for what's best for you medically, and it's not about what just happens to you (whether that's a drug-free birth or a c-section). But if instead you are being held up to the standard of what your body is supposed to do, perfectly designed by nature, your agency is stripped from you, and the feeling you have at the end is either that something bad happened to you or you deserve a medal. It is rarely about your good choices, it is more about your ferocious awesome mothering which always feels super weird to me.

And the natural birthing thing leads very nicely to the sacrificial mother phenomenon. Why wouldn't you carry your child all the time, breastfeed them 24 hours a day, etc. That's what you were designed to do! Why would you deny your nature? Because to deny your nature is to be unhealthy, to do wrong by your child, to be non-responsive to your child's needs, to possibly even be abusing your child (the number of formula feeding = abuse ads I've seen make me want to stab myself in the eye).

I am actually totally on the attachment parenting bandwagon, when understood as a framework for creating healthy attachments and relationships between parents and children. To me that is a psychological process, that is supported by physical acts, but is not comprised of those physical acts. If you do none of the things the Drs. Sears recommend, you can still be an extremely well attached parents-children unit. Healthy and strong attachment *does not require* breastfeeding, co-sleeping, or constant carrying. There is absolutely no research indicating that it does, either. And the mindset that it does is not only supremely sexist/anti-feminist/essentialist, it's classist and ablist as well.

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Two sociologists talked to German couples about carreers and children. When it comes to the question who'll stay at home it's usually the parent who earns less. And that is usually the woman. They call this a structural issue and not a private one. It's exactly what Valenti describes in that blog post you quoted, Vantine.

So many women here take it as set in stone that the man works full time and earns the most. It's just something you can't do anything about. We all know about the gender gap etc. The system is powerful and fighting against it is hard and often fruitless. So for many it's easier to accept this and move on. And that is why we call this a private choice. It's just easier to deal with these terrible iniquities that way, I think.


I make less than my husband was making when he stopped working, by tens of thousands of dollars. It was never even an option that I would stay home because *my job is important to me* and I spent a million years in schooling to get this job - no one who knew me would ever have asked me if I was going to stay home. We were looking for childcare and then my husband said, yeah, I don't really want to work anyway, we'll figure it out. The end. I have been really lucky that he doesn't seem to care whose earnings he spends! He's now back to work a few days a week and we had sufficiently lowered our spending that we can afford a nanny for those days while he's working, so that's nice, because daycare options don't work at all for us and are nearly as expensive anyway.

But this is a good example of how even when individuals can make a choice against the grain, there is basically no support for that choice. He has no parenting support structure outside our family. If you search for parenting groups on meet-up you'll find that 99% of them are MOMS' groups, not parents' groups. And even though a couple of them might be cool with having a dad show up occasionally, the language is pretty off-putting. He spends hours trolling the parks trying to find a SAHD! And the moms' groups' conversations tend to emphasize over and over again their roles as sacrificial mothers, which is kind of tiresome.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 11:03 am 
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Vantine wrote:
You and Panders are right that there is an assumption that the woman will make less, will stay home. It's even an attitude adapted by the "natural" parenting crowd. After all, the magazine is called "Mothering"...


I think I don't exactly know what you mean. In my experience is not an assumption. At least not in Germany. Women here earn 23% less than men.
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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 11:06 am 
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Yeah and the gap even exists within the same fields and the same job types so...

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 11:30 am 
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pandacookie wrote:
Vantine wrote:
Panders makes a great point in that women are expected to sacrifice. When a man does it, it's often viewed as something great and magnanimous that he is doing. Of course, you will scale back your career or quit your job for your children and guilt is used to keep women in their place.

There is so much fear being pushed on women if they don't do the "right" things while pregnant, don't have the "right" childbirth, don't do the "right" things for their infants... There is also so little evidence that many of the things pushed are actually beneficial but damn they do a good job of keeping women tied to house and home.


I like what Mihl said above about problems being structural. I think that ties in well with the idea of sacrifice, as in these are things that, when looked at rationally, do not matter in the slightest. It doesn't matter who makes more in a relationship, it doesn't matter if you split feeding duties 50/50 for a child, it doesn't matter if a woman works full time, it doesn't matter if a father stays home and it doesn't matter if your kid is in day care. But so many of these ideas are so ingrained in our society that we never question them. The whole idea that women have an innate knowledge of taking care of kids is another one. (For me that was a big part of Valenti's book, and something I hadn't really thought of in those terms before.) It keeps the women in that job and keeps the men on the sidelines as the bumbling oaf.
And after the kid is delivered, there is no job that a man can't do for a baby. It's a great demonstration of how much hold tradition has on our actions, even though they have no meaning or were even once used for the purpose of keeping women as lower.

I think the new left parenting movement is part of a larger cultural trend in the US for thinking about the good ol' days. The paleo diet, the vintage craze, the faux urban outdoorsman with $4000 diamond encrusted tents. We've moved away from what is "natural" with all our technological jibber jabber, so we need to get back to momma nature. Of course, we ignore the sexism, racism, and classism that was prevalent. And the fact that we aren't cavemen living in caves. It's funny that there is such an all or nothing attitude (maybe that's also a US thing) surrounding so much of what we do. It's a grey world out there and we hold ourselves to such rigid guidelines.



For centuries it was "natural" to die in your 40's or earlier. People tend to forget that it's modern technology and medicine that makes it safe to play around with being "natural."

If women have a natural knowledge of child rearing, they must be the ones to carry the burden. I see a lot of women push their husbands away from any child rearing they want to do because their partners "don't do things right." Then there are complaints that they do all the work. The left parenting movement is even worse than the tradtionalists because they take the gender essentialism that Ariann noted and coat it in a natural/hippie/progressive veneer.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:49 pm 
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I like a lot what Ariann said and I agree with Pandacookie. It shouldn't matter at all who makes more or less in a relationship. But it is always asked and the decision who stays at home is based on this. Maybe it is that what you, Vantine, mean by assumption? Then I completely agree.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 1:28 pm 
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Vantine wrote:
For centuries it was "natural" to die in your 40's or earlier. People tend to forget that it's modern technology and medicine that makes it safe to play around with being "natural."

If women have a natural knowledge of child rearing, they must be the ones to carry the burden. I see a lot of women push their husbands away from any child rearing they want to do because their partners "don't do things right." Then there are complaints that they do all the work. The left parenting movement is even worse than the tradtionalists because they take the gender essentialism that Ariann noted and coat it in a natural/hippie/progressive veneer.


Yeah, it was both incredibly freeing and incredibly scary for me to be the less skilled child-rearer in my household simply because after my 6 weeks were up (and within that six weeks I was a basket case who was completely incompetent at everything, but especially the stuff that was supposed to come naturally like breastfeeding), I spent way less time with our child than my husband did. It was never automatically assumed between us in situations when we were out of the house that I would be the one running to deal with her needs or taking her out of a restaurant when she was loud or whatever (and it still isn't). But I also felt like, wow, I am such a super sucky mom because he knows better what she needs a lot of the time and because she is as happy to go to him as to me most of the time. It is interesting to watch the difference between us and the way other parents manage being out with their kids.

My BIL and his wife both worked when their kid was born and then the husband got laid off months and months and months ago, but they kept the kid in day care (in-laws paying for it) rather than have him do childcare. She is *always* the one who is in charge of childcare, including taking the kid back and forth from daycare even though her husband doesn't do really anything productive at all at this point. She is always the one prepped with toys to play with at the restaurant or who does discipline stuff or manages what he eats. Everything. And she jealously guards that role because I think it is supposed to be this area of extreme competence for women and you just kind of suck as a woman if you are not competent at that stuff.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 3:00 pm 
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Panders wrote:
And after the kid is delivered, there is no job that a man can't do for a baby.

Sing it! I think it shortchanges men as well to gender caregiving (make caregiving something primarily women do). And even if you are breastfeeding, there are so many other things a man can do, its definitely not an excuse to put all the caregiving into the mother's field of expertise.

Ariann wrote:
And the moms' groups' conversations tend to emphasize over and over again their roles as sacrificial mothers, which is kind of tiresome.


I don't see this in the groups I belong to (but I do agree that way too many of the groups are geared towards mothers and can see how it would be challenging for a SAHD). Instead I see people struggling with being the primary caregiver without much help, and feeling inadequate because they aren't getting any support themselves. The whole myth of the natural mother, who takes care of everything and asks nothing in return sets a lot of women up for burnout.

One of my friends wrote a really great post on how our American society has moved away from larger traditional families, where family would help out with children, and now a mother is often left doing all the caregiving that used to be shared by herself. (I disagree with the title - I think every culture has its own challenges and you can't generalize that one group has it "tougher" though) http://montessorionthedouble.com/2012/0 ... n-america/

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 4:45 pm 
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Vantine wrote:
pandacookie wrote:
Vantine wrote:
Panders makes a great point in that women are expected to sacrifice. When a man does it, it's often viewed as something great and magnanimous that he is doing. Of course, you will scale back your career or quit your job for your children and guilt is used to keep women in their place.

There is so much fear being pushed on women if they don't do the "right" things while pregnant, don't have the "right" childbirth, don't do the "right" things for their infants... There is also so little evidence that many of the things pushed are actually beneficial but damn they do a good job of keeping women tied to house and home.


I like what Mihl said above about problems being structural. I think that ties in well with the idea of sacrifice, as in these are things that, when looked at rationally, do not matter in the slightest. It doesn't matter who makes more in a relationship, it doesn't matter if you split feeding duties 50/50 for a child, it doesn't matter if a woman works full time, it doesn't matter if a father stays home and it doesn't matter if your kid is in day care. But so many of these ideas are so ingrained in our society that we never question them. The whole idea that women have an innate knowledge of taking care of kids is another one. (For me that was a big part of Valenti's book, and something I hadn't really thought of in those terms before.) It keeps the women in that job and keeps the men on the sidelines as the bumbling oaf.
And after the kid is delivered, there is no job that a man can't do for a baby. It's a great demonstration of how much hold tradition has on our actions, even though they have no meaning or were even once used for the purpose of keeping women as lower.

I think the new left parenting movement is part of a larger cultural trend in the US for thinking about the good ol' days. The paleo diet, the vintage craze, the faux urban outdoorsman with $4000 diamond encrusted tents. We've moved away from what is "natural" with all our technological jibber jabber, so we need to get back to momma nature. Of course, we ignore the sexism, racism, and classism that was prevalent. And the fact that we aren't cavemen living in caves. It's funny that there is such an all or nothing attitude (maybe that's also a US thing) surrounding so much of what we do. It's a grey world out there and we hold ourselves to such rigid guidelines.



For centuries it was "natural" to die in your 40's or earlier. People tend to forget that it's modern technology and medicine that makes it safe to play around with being "natural."

If women have a natural knowledge of child rearing, they must be the ones to carry the burden. I see a lot of women push their husbands away from any child rearing they want to do because their partners "don't do things right." Then there are complaints that they do all the work. The left parenting movement is even worse than the tradtionalists because they take the gender essentialism that Ariann noted and coat it in a natural/hippie/progressive veneer.


I agree with al of this.

At the same time, the biggest fear I have about potentially having a child is that there will be some kind of huge hormonal shift that will happen that will make me into a Mommy and not let me be ME anymore. That is, it's not that I think there's some kind of earth mother within me with an innate knowledge of how to powder little booties and clean spit up, but I am scared that there's some kind of biological (hormonal) thing in me that, if activated by having a child, potentially has the power to swallow the person I am now whole. I don't WANT this to happen. I don't WANT to sacrifice my interests, friends, life, etc. and become a Mommy, but I'm scared it will happen against my will. I can't tell if that's me being scared of a bullshiitake patriarchal construct or if that's me being a part of the bullshiitake patriarchal construct. I see mothers whose identities are so completely immersed in being Mommies, and I think it's terrifying. At the same time, I know lots of amazing mothers who aren't like that, so I don't know what to think about what causes it.

That doesn't really make sense, probably, but that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 5:24 pm 
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Mihl wrote:
I like a lot what Ariann said and I agree with Pandacookie. It shouldn't matter at all who makes more or less in a relationship. But it is always asked and the decision who stays at home is based on this. Maybe it is that what you, Vantine, mean by assumption? Then I completely agree.

You are right.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 5:26 pm 
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Everything about parenting is a choice. If you don't want to disappear down the rabbit hole of total motherhood, you don't have to. I think that much of that is fear driven because of propaganda and tradition.

To be frank, I would say that the biggest challenge is making certain that your partner is on board with co-parenting. Valenti notes that even the most progressive relationships become traditional once there are children.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 5:49 pm 
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Vantine wrote:
Everything about parenting is a choice. If you don't want to disappear down the rabbit hole of total motherhood, you don't have to. I think that much of that is fear driven because of propaganda and tradition.

To be frank, I would say that the biggest challenge is making certain that your partner is on board with co-parenting. Valenti notes that even the most progressive relationships become traditional once there are children.


Yes, I think so, on both these points. (As someone who is both a parent and also a person outside of parenthood.)

I think part of it is that almost anyone can easily get sucked into obsessing over (and sacrificing for) their kids. It kinda makes sense, I mean, you spend as much time with anyone as a stay at home parent spends with her kid, and you are going to think about that person a lot, talk about that person a lot, blah blah blah. But I think that what happens with women in particular is that women are told (by society, sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly) "it's okay to let this take over your life" or maybe not even it's just okay but it's natural and expected and you're weird if it doesn't. Men in general don't have that same cultural acceptance of being kid-centric, which might be why no one ever goes on about how forking crazy stay at home dads are or how men lose themselves in fatherhood. Because they don't, 'cuz no one expects them/allows them to.

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