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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:00 am 
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The WHO recommends that women BF for the first year, but the CDC reports that only 25% of women do so. The remainder (75%) formula feed, and many report that their reason for doing so is that it is hard to continue breastfeeding without adequate maternity leave and support at work.

No one should demonize another person's choice, and it would be great if we could support all women in whichever option they choose, with no guilt.

I just think attacking mothers who attachment parent for the systemic structures around motherhood isn't helpful.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:07 am 
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Tofulish wrote:

No one should demonize another person's choice, and it would be great if we could support all women in whichever option they choose, with no guilt.


I agree, but to say that no one "in our society demonizes formula feeding" is just plain wrong. So many women who can't breastfeed, or choose not to, are shamed to such profoundly hurtful ends, especially now with new anti-formula legislation brought on by people who think breastfeeding is the only, and best, option. Again, this is the kind of thinking Valenti is discussing, and it's important, and supports your point that we should all support all women.

http://jessicavalenti.tumblr.com/post/1 ... y-left-one

This citation from the above link is an example:

"Earlier, 30NLactating wrote (over several tweets) that “#breastfeeding has been the most challenging, and at times the most grueling, thing I have ever done in my life! But the same way I chose to become a mother. I am choosing to make that sacrifice. Anything less is not option. Being a mother is all about sacrifice and if you aren’t willing to make those sacrifices for the health and well being of your child then maybe you should think twice about becoming a mother.”

And there it is - at least 30NLactating is upfront about her bigotry instead of hiding behind pro-woman rhetoric. Motherhood is all about sacrifices, and if you don’t want to breastfeed then you simply shouldn’t have children."

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:21 am 
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Valenti is absolutely calling out systemic practices that don't work for women. But that does not exempt mothers from criticism and when mothers benefit from and don't want to critique the parts of the system that happen to work for them I don't see any real change taking place. If we don't look at the broader cultural aspects of our personal choices then how will any change ever be made?

From the original post:
"She also really changed my mind around ideas of “choice feminism” – or the idea that we shouldn’t judge what a woman does because feminism is all about choices. But feminism is absolutely not about supporting a woman no matter what she does – it’s about analyzing and changing structural inequities. So it’s important that we talk about the cultural impact of some women staying at home instead of working – it means that our choices matter."

We can't say that we need to change how we view capital M Motherhood but then refuse to look at it critically. A lot of the new domesticity sets itself up to benefit from things as they are now while simultaneously decrying how Motherhood is not respected. But it's still Motherhood and the Most Important Thing. If you're sustaining your own myths I don't see how any change is gonna come. And it makes discussing it quite difficult because it's "attacking women" to question the choices we make and putting our choices into a larger picture to see what the cultural and social implications are and how people play into the systemic problems instead of fighting against them.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:25 am 
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There are hateful individuals out there, and just as there are those individuals out there who demonize breastfeeding (there are plenty of people who think it is gross and breasts are for sexytimes!) there are individuals who demonize formula. But we as a society do not. 75% of mothers formula feed, formula is widely available and encouraged by advertisements, pediatricians etc.

Yes choice matters for us as a society, but just because we need more women in science doesn't mean that I'm going to tell women that they need to start choosing science curricula over what they are interested in doing. I would rather we work as a society to make the choice to study sciences more interesting to women and make more opportunities available for women who choose to do so.

And I apologize for using the word "attack".a better choice would be to have said that it is problematic to focus on those who choose attachment parenting rather than to focus on structural inequalities in the society as a whole. I really liked Friday's link to the NYT article, which sets out many of the issues that need to be addressed.

Either way, I might be offtopic from the OP and I do not wish to give offense.

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Last edited by Tofulish on Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:32 am 
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Tofulish wrote:
There are hateful individuals out there, and just as there are those individuals out there who demonize breastfeeding (there are plenty of people who think it is gross and breasts are for sexytimes!) there are individuals who demonize formula. But we as a society do not. 75% of mothers formula feed, formula is widely available and encouraged by advertisements, pediatricians etc.


Legislation that tracks and restricts access to formula is demonizing it. Worse is the bullying that many mothers face.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:33 am 
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I was at Costco yesterday and they had giant aisles of formula. I had no idea it was restricted and tracked.
Bullying is terrible, whichever way it goes. For sure, we should all be as compassionate as we can to one another and to the animals and other beings that share our planet.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:35 am 
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pandacookie wrote:
Valenti is absolutely calling out systemic practices that don't work for women. But that does not exempt mothers from criticism and when mothers benefit from and don't want to critique the parts of the system that happen to work for them I don't see any real change taking place. If we don't look at the broader cultural aspects of our personal choices then how will any change ever be made?

From the original post:
"She also really changed my mind around ideas of “choice feminism” – or the idea that we shouldn’t judge what a woman does because feminism is all about choices. But feminism is absolutely not about supporting a woman no matter what she does – it’s about analyzing and changing structural inequities. So it’s important that we talk about the cultural impact of some women staying at home instead of working – it means that our choices matter."

We can't say that we need to change how we view capital M Motherhood but then refuse to look at it critically. A lot of the new domesticity sets itself up to benefit from things as they are now while simultaneously decrying how Motherhood is not respected. But it's still Motherhood and the Most Important Thing. If you're sustaining your own myths I don't see how any change is gonna come. And it makes discussing it quite difficult because it's "attacking women" to question the choices we make and putting our choices into a larger picture to see what the cultural and social implications are and how people play into the systemic problems instead of fighting against them.


This is so well said and I agree with all of it. I feel like anytime here, and in the forum thread, Motherhood is coming under a lens of inquiry, it is being turned into an attack on all women and all choices, and that is simply not true or respectful to the people engaging in the discussion.

I'd love to keep discussing Valenti. I think this is exactly what she is talking about.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:36 am 
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Tofulish wrote:
I was at Costco yesterday and they had giant aisles of formula. I had no idea it was restricted and tracked.
Bullying is terrible, whichever way it goes. For sure, we should all be as compassionate as we can to one another and to the animals and other beings that share our planet.


Read the above linked article about the legislation and tracking of formula in some hospitals.

Have you read it, or the Valenti book that is the subject of this thread?

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:53 am 
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Nmind, no time to finish my thought.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:59 am 
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Edited to add: I was responding to Coldandsleepy's post, which has since disappeared!

Re: Valenti (Coldandsleepy asked who here has read it):

I have and I'm interested in discussing her ideas, especially about motherhood and identity. I think it's behind a lot of the feelings expressed in the women w/o children thread in the foyer, and clearly in the discussion here--how women/motherhood has gotten so intwined in society. I'm equally interested in what she identifies as the relatively recent phenomena of parental anxiety--why there is so much anxiety now about parenting and motherhood and how media has contributed to it, and how it influences both parents and kids. I'm interested in her take in the can-women-have-it-all mentality we've seen so much of in pop culture media recently. Again, this ties into one of her major points, about the anxiety culture around motherhood. I'm interested in her putting out in the open a lot of things that some new moms experience, and that those who question whether they should have children consider, but don't feel like they can say aloud.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 6:14 am 
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I've read it as have Pandacookie and J-Dub. I put the thread in the Living Room specifically because I wanted to discuss the book as a feminist analysis of motherhood. It's not in the Playground because I don't think this sort of conversation can take place there without people becoming defensive.

Yes, Valenti does talk about her own experience but that's really a jumping off point for discussing the implications of becoming a mother or not. This thread is not meant to be an attack on any individual PPKer but instead a way to intellectually wrestle with some challenging ideas.

Again, to echo what Pandacookie quoted:
Quote:
"She also really changed my mind around ideas of “choice feminism” – or the idea that we shouldn’t judge what a woman does because feminism is all about choices. But feminism is absolutely not about supporting a woman no matter what she does – it’s about analyzing and changing structural inequities. So it’s important that we talk about the cultural impact of some women staying at home instead of working – it means that our choices matter."

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:43 am 
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Let's keep this thread to discussion for those who have read the book please.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:32 pm 
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molasses jane wrote:
"Earlier, 30NLactating wrote (over several tweets) that “#breastfeeding has been the most challenging, and at times the most grueling, thing I have ever done in my life! But the same way I chose to become a mother. I am choosing to make that sacrifice. Anything less is not option. Being a mother is all about sacrifice and if you aren’t willing to make those sacrifices for the health and well being of your child then maybe you should think twice about becoming a mother.”

And there it is - at least 30NLactating is upfront about her bigotry instead of hiding behind pro-woman rhetoric. Motherhood is all about sacrifices, and if you don’t want to breastfeed then you simply shouldn’t have children."

This and Valenti's story of screaming out in pain while she pumped hour after hour made me so very, very sad.

And I think it's interesting (and important) to talk about how a lot of New Domesticity is exactly what Betty Friedan was arguing against some forty years ago but with a leftist (often feminist!) sheen.

I also don't think it's fair to dismiss the cultural power of a "minority" that does AP when that minority is amongst the wealthiest and most educated women. We need to talk about why women with the most power are taking themselves out of public life for 2-10 years and the impacts that has on their own lives as well as the lives of women who don't have the same luxury.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:34 pm 
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j-dub wrote:
molasses jane wrote:
"Earlier, 30NLactating wrote (over several tweets) that “#breastfeeding has been the most challenging, and at times the most grueling, thing I have ever done in my life! But the same way I chose to become a mother. I am choosing to make that sacrifice. Anything less is not option. Being a mother is all about sacrifice and if you aren’t willing to make those sacrifices for the health and well being of your child then maybe you should think twice about becoming a mother.”

And there it is - at least 30NLactating is upfront about her bigotry instead of hiding behind pro-woman rhetoric. Motherhood is all about sacrifices, and if you don’t want to breastfeed then you simply shouldn’t have children."

This and Valenti's story of screaming out in pain while she pumped hour after hour made me so very, very sad.

And I think it's interesting (and important) to talk about how a lot of New Domesticity is exactly what Betty Friedan was arguing against some forty years ago but with a leftist (often feminist!) sheen.

I also don't think it's fair to dismiss the cultural power of a "minority" that does AP when that minority is amongst the wealthiest and most educated women. We need to talk about why women with the most power are taking themselves out of public life for 2-10 years and the impacts that has on their own lives as well as the lives of women who don't have the same luxury.


I've requested the book that Valenti quotes, Is Breast Best? Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood by Joan Wolf. Valenti quotes Wolf as suggesting that many of the studies that support breastfeeding do not take the demographics of the people who are able to breastfeed exclusively into account.

For those unfamilar with Wolf, here's a review of her book that makes an interesting point: http://www.thefword.org.uk/reviews/2011/05/isbreastbest

Quote:
So assuming you accept Wolf's definition of our risk culture, where does that leave mothers? Mothers, more than fathers, are often also placed below their children in the social hierarchy. Of course good parenting does require sacrifices and the placing of children's needs before parents' on many, even most, occasions. But breastfeeding, argues Wolf, is one area where women are routinely expected to completely ignore their own needs because not breastfeeding is presented as an active risk to their children. In addition, the impact of paternal influence on health and development is ignored almost entirely.

Wolf discusses the concept of 'total motherhood', whereby women are held almost entirely responsible for raising perfect, healthy children; and breastfeeding is considered a key component of that. "As mothers," she writes, "they seem to lose their status as women, or as individuals, and therefore they are not stakeholders in risk assessment." The risks and trade-offs to women are secondary to the apparent risks to babies, without any consideration of how that in turn could impact on the parent-child relationship (or indeed any other relationships within the family).



The parts I highlighted are some of the more important feminist issues that I think Valenti's book touches on.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 6:44 pm 
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I see myself being called hateful elsewhere and I'll address that here. I am not interested in a discussion about breastfeeding, per se. My point in bringing that up was to focus on the language that is used when talking about women, identity and motherhood and the "breast is best" is such a glaring example of that and one that has been around for years and one that I happen to know. How the fork is it anti-feminist to say that language like that helps no one? It isn't about the act of breastfeeding. If we're going to be open to women feeding their kids however they choose, then the language on both sides needs to actually support that and it doesn't (from either). And use of the word best in that context is punishing to parents and kids because when you end up being human and doing what you can instead of BEST it just makes people feel like failures and not good enough. And it damn well peas me off to see people I care about who feel like failures because they weren't "good enough" as a mom when in reality they are doing just fine.
In an ideal world it wouldn't matter much if someone went on about "formula is finest" (I'm trademarking that) but when women in society as a whole are constantly bombarded as not being good enough shiitake like that will sting for some people, on both sides.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 6:55 pm 
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molasses jane wrote:
how women/motherhood has gotten so intwined in society.

And I'll pick up this thought because I dig this. It really is awfully intertwined and it's really ridiculous no matter where you fall on the spectrum. If you don't have kids, you are expected to. If you do have kids, you're a mom first despite whatever else you do. Motherhood is this odd institution that has been built up to be too big to fail when in reality letting go of those weird perceptions would hurt no one.

You mentioned how media plays into this and I'd be interested in your thoughts there.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:02 pm 
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pandacookie wrote:
molasses jane wrote:
how women/motherhood has gotten so intwined in society.

And I'll pick up this thought because I dig this. It really is awfully intertwined and it's really ridiculous no matter where you fall on the spectrum. If you don't have kids, you are expected to. If you do have kids, you're a mom first despite whatever else you do. Motherhood is this odd institution that has been built up to be too big to fail when in reality letting go of those weird perceptions would hurt no one.

You mentioned how media plays into this and I'd be interested in your thoughts there.


Panda, I've seen some hateful comments about this and the Foyer thread too, and I'm befuddled. I sincerely don't understand why discussing the choice to not have children, or society's dominant mother/woman mix, is so distressing to people in this community. Especially from people who preach that we should all respect one another. I'm not feeling that. And I'm confused. There is a whole room here for people to talk about the very important issues that come with being a parent. Why isn't it okay for some to talk about *not* being a parent? It's not about excluding anyone from any conversation (except, well, here, where we are framing the conversation around a book some people have read, which is in the spirit of this room), but if people w/o kids were going into Playground threads extolling the virtues of not having kids, that just wouldn't be okay. And we all seem to accept that, so why is this different and so hurtful?

As for the media, I remember Valenti writing specifically about the neverending deluge of parenting books of the last thirty years (I borrowed her book from a friend, so don't have it to reference) and the anxiety/pressure for perfection that causes, as well as how the "do this or your child will suffer" school of thought provokes judgement between people who subscribe to different philosophies of parenting. Now that's spilled over onto blogs in a very personal and often venomous way, as Valenti points out in the breastfeeding article posted on the previous page. One dear friend noted that if she followed every piece of advice and warning that she read, she'd not be able to do, go, or eat anything. It seems that this tremendous amount of media around parenting is leading to competition, i.e. "breast is best" that you cited. Lots of women feel left out of that equation. What concerns me is 1. the pressure from certain groups on certain others (especially under the auspices of tolerance); J-Dub's connection of AP to a particular class/education power privilege is interesting., and 2. when it starts to influence policy (like the formula tracking/limiting.) This is not about bashing AP or mothers or anything, but looking at what Valenti's project is: unpacking a great contemporary anxiety that some people feel about the role of motherhood in our society. And, further, an attempt to start to dismantle the very unfortunate and damning woman = mother equation.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 9:30 pm 
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molasses jane wrote:
unpacking a great contemporary anxiety that some people feel about the role of motherhood in our society. And, further, an attempt to start to dismantle the very unfortunate and damning woman = mother equation.

That's a damn good way to phrase it. And the whole boom of parenting books is interesting. On one hand you have the mothering instinct women supposedly possess in spades but on the other women apparently really need to be told what to do when it comes to kids. And I don't know where men fall in that equation but I suspect they don't get it much better.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:34 pm 
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pandacookie wrote:
molasses jane wrote:
unpacking a great contemporary anxiety that some people feel about the role of motherhood in our society. And, further, an attempt to start to dismantle the very unfortunate and damning woman = mother equation.

That's a damn good way to phrase it. And the whole boom of parenting books is interesting. On one hand you have the mothering instinct women supposedly possess in spades but on the other women apparently really need to be told what to do when it comes to kids. And I don't know where men fall in that equation but I suspect they don't get it much better.

I checked out the book again. Tomorrow, when I'm not half asleep, I will pull some quotes about this. She talks about "instinct" and how it's a relatively recent idea.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:34 am 
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i wish i had access to the original texts here (in more than just blurb or review form) since this discussion is so interesting.
Quote:
One dear friend noted that if she followed every piece of advice and warning that she read, she'd not be able to do, go, or eat anything. It seems that this tremendous amount of media around parenting is leading to competition, i.e. "breast is best" that you cited. Lots of women feel left out of that equation. What concerns me is 1. the pressure from certain groups on certain others (especially under the auspices of tolerance); J-Dub's connection of AP to a particular class/education power privilege is interesting., and 2. when it starts to influence policy (like the formula tracking/limiting.)

I can't help but think that people's soapboxing about the "right way" to parent/BF/etc [backed up by either science or pseudoscience] is partially the product of more and more women getting better education, but yet still ultimately [partially because of government policy on leaves, and therefore social expectations/norms] being the ones who are expected to take up the majority of child-related responsibilities....
women are going to school longer and getting higher degrees and told from young ages that they can be anything. higher education teaches them their opinion matters, and how to engage in debate, to research, to theorize, to participate in citizenship by writing to representatives and demanding X Y and Z. Women are trained for one thing in college and then suddenly oh, shiitake, it's time to reproduce. Career often on hold, but way of thinking prepared for more intellectual activity. Is it any wonder that women feel the need to share their information, to try to educate others, to try to convince others [maybe not in the best or most tolerant of ways] about the situation they're in at that time? Why NOT apply what they've been taught to this new sphere they find themselves in?

[so ultimately, i guess what i'm trying to say, is i wonder if in countries where women get very good maternal leave, do women feel less obliged to try to convert people to their opinions. i don't mean to say parenting doesn't involve intelligence or any other extrapolation here, and certainly not implying that this is all women's fault, it's just something i've observed.]

also
<< I sincerely don't understand why discussing the choice to not have children, or society's dominant mother/woman mix, is so distressing to people in this community.>>
me neither. i have to say, the more i think about it, the more interesting i think the question is.

Quote:
...And it damn well peas me off to see people I care about who feel like failures because they weren't "good enough" as a mom when in reality they are doing just fine.
i'd put in a clapping smiley right here but i think that makes me get kicked off the PPK, so hear hear.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:38 am 
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torque wrote:
[so ultimately, i guess what i'm trying to say, is i wonder if in countries where women get very good maternal leave, do women feel less obliged to try to convert people to their opinions. i don't mean to say parenting doesn't involve intelligence or any other extrapolation here, and certainly not implying that this is all women's fault, it's just something i've observed.]


Coming from a country where being a mother is not usually considered the end-all of a woman's life, I would like to chime in on this point: I personally don't think it's a question of education or of maternal leave. I found that it's a cultural thing. Some cultures tend to be more vocal about converting people to their opinions, and getting involved into other people's business and making comments and create drama.
I've seen it in many topics beside motherhood, from veganism to relationship styles, from GLBT rights to abortion rights. So many things that are a personal choice get scrutinized and commented upon by people who have their opinion (and perfect right to have it) and want to let you know that whatever you're doing is wrong because it doesn't match their opinion.

It might be going off-topic though, sorry.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:43 am 
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Anek wrote:
It might be going off-topic though, sorry.

thanks for indulging my curiosity!!

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 7:15 pm 
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i read this book a little while ago, and i really liked it. i'm going to have to take a peek back at my highlights and notes to see if i have anything worthwhile to contribute. my brain is full of other books at the moment!

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 7:26 pm 
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I know that someone in the childfree thread talked about parenting as the hardest job. Valenti notes that

Quote:
It's not just the guilt that dangerous- because then you're telling women that their natural role is only that of a mother, it's that much easier to convince them that they don't need to be doctors, scientists, and politicians.
And, of course, it parenting is so rewarding and so important, why aren't more men staying home to do it? After all, men like important jobs, don't they? But this is just an easy excuse - framed as the ultimate complement- for men who want women to continue to do the lion's share of child rearing.


Quote:
The truth is, we can simultaneously love parenting, find it fulfilling and valuable, while also recognizing that the minutiae of our mothering isn't as critical and society would have us believe. We can love our children without believing the world revolves around them. We can derive pleasure from caretaking without thinking it's the most important thing we'll ever do or the biggest contribution we'll make to society. And we can be exhausted, overworked moms while still recognizing that there are plenty of other jobs that are harder, and yes, even more important. Because when we see parenting for what it is - a relationship, not a job- we can free ourselves from the expectations and the stifling standards that motherhood-as-employment demands.


I find it fascinating that while there is male agreement that full-time mothering is a challenging and important job, there is little male participation in stay at home parenting without work for wages. Valenti quotes Oprah as saying that "moms have the toughest job in the world if you're doing it right." Does that mean you are not doing it right if you don't agree? Why is there not a cultural ideal that fatherhood is the most important job a man will ever have?

Placing motherhood on such a pedestal also takes attention from the lack of women in so much of public life. Many of the in-vogue parenting techniques are labor-intensive; that is energy and work that could be spent, in part, in the public sphere. US history is filled with instances of society making motherhood a sacred task that involves so much energy is as a way of keeping women out of the public sphere.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 7:36 pm 
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I really like the second quote from Valenti in Vantine's post just above. Someone mentioned in the "women who choose" thread that the "mothering is the hardest job" thing is so much lip service and I agree deeply. People say that, but no one really buys it. Recast it slightly as "caring for children is the most important job" and you see instantly that this is not something society agrees with in practice: childcare workers are paid next to nothing, and teachers are grossly underpaid as well.

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