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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:13 pm 
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torque wrote:
i put my kid in daycare, and she turned into kudzu, true story.


Torque wins the day!

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:21 pm 
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Another reminder that this thread is for discussing this book and it's topics. We can always start more playground threads to encompass off topic subject matter.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:26 pm 
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I will lighten the mood by mentioning that Valenti quotes a study of lesbian parents that found zero percent of children raised by lesbian parents reported physical or sexual abuse. In the general population, 26 percent of children report physical abuse and 8.3 percent report sexual abuse.

Sooooo... <fascist regime took my cute wee smileys>

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:06 pm 
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On breastfeeding:

Quote:
Obviously, I support breastfeeding. We need mandated paid maternity leave, insurance that pays for lactation consultants and breast pumps, employers who are required to have a space and breaks for pumping moms, hospital and state-funded breastfeeding support groups, and more. But formula feeding your child is just as valid and healthy a choice as breastfeeding - and sometimes, as in my and Robin's case, it's the best choice there is.


Just to highlight some of the dogma that Valenti is fighting against here's a comment from one of the celebrity doctors on The Doctors:

Quote:
Toward the end of her [Joan Wolf's] segment, after each and every doctor scoffed at the idea that breastfeeding isn't the best, Dr. Wendy Walsh said "Breastfeeding mothers are different mothers; women who are breastfeeding actually relate to their children more empathetically and compassionately." (And those who don't nurse don't emotionally relate to their children?) Dr. Walsh ended Wolf's interview by saying, " I just want to remind you that when a woman has a baby, that is her. That is her happiness. Giving to your baby is giving to yourself." Total motherhood, indeed.


A baby is not "her happiness" or even "her." There are two separate people involved and two separate lives. Can you imagine this Dr. Walsh saying this sentence to a man? "I want to remind you that when a man becomes a father, that is him. That is his happiness."

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:52 pm 
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i have not read this book, but i am reading this thread with interest, as a feminist and a mother :) i just had to point out this
Quote:
Toward the end of her [Joan Wolf's] segment, after each and every doctor scoffed at the idea that breastfeeding isn't the best, Dr. Wendy Walsh said "Breastfeeding mothers are different mothers; women who are breastfeeding actually relate to their children more empathetically and compassionately." (And those who don't nurse don't emotionally relate to their children?)

the doctor was probably referring to the fact that when a woman breastfeeds, her body releases oxytocin and prolactin, hormones which (among other things) relax the mother and make her feel more nurturing towards the child. physically, the breastfeeding parent and child actually bond more because they are directly receiving feel-good/lovey-dovey hormones. it's not a predjudice concocted to enslave women, it's a physical reality.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:00 am 
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I am going to read this book just so that I can argue about it in this thread. OR I am going to lie and say I've read it.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 5:42 am 
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Oh Isa, you tyrant of the New Domesticity! :) Encouraging people to embrace the laborious tasks of their foremothers, like cooking from scratch, baking and even gardening. As J-dub says on the first page, there are blogs that show pictures of beautiful cookies, with no illustration of the laborious process that goes into it. Though you don't encourage knitting, canning, crafting or making your own clothes, like some purveyors of the New Domesticity, like Martha Stewart. :)

I liked Valenti's observation that the New Domesticity is a reaction against problematic institutions. It seems a lot like veganism in that. If you are worried about pesticides in your food, GMO crops etc, it makes sense to garden. If you are worried about HFCs and transfats and preservatives, it makes sense to cook and bake from scratch. If you are worried about hormones in your dairy, antibiotics in meat and cruelty, it makes sense to be a vegan.

ETA: I miss smilies too Vantine :)

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 12:16 pm 
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IsaChandra wrote:
I am going to read this book just so that I can argue about it in this thread. OR I am going to lie and say I've read it.

I'm wise to your shenanigans, Isa. I'm reporting you to the... Oh, wait.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:00 am 
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I'd like to dig up this thread now that I have read the book. I would like to bounce some of its ideas with you guys. I now live in a country which does provide universal healthcare, and long, paid parental leaves, and universal daycare (at least in law, even if it's not applied everywhere). And yet I find the culture quite child-negative and mother-negative. I notice in particular people being quite annoyed when children and mothers are visible in the public sphere - tutting when they hear a kid in a coffee shop or in public transports, not helping / accomodating pregnant women or mothers with strollers, etc.

I'm still reading on the German situation and I don't have it all figured out, but my feeling is that since birth rates are low, and staying child free is a relatively acceptable alternative for working women, the general sentiment is "You chose maternity, now you deal with the consequence - on your own. And don't let that brat bother me." And total motherhood is absolutely a thing here among the women who do choose to have children, much more so than in France despite (?) the fact that France is much more natalist. In France you are pretty much expected to have kids and to have lots of them, but it's accepted to raise them not to bother you too much, to put them in daycare by choice, etc.

So it looks to me that even though providing some structural / institutional support is good, it's not enough if the cultural shift doesn't come first.

I read Valenti's book once, but I want to do a second reading while taking notes.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:14 am 
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I read the book a while ago and found many parallels but also many diferences between Germany and the USA. I need to look the book again so I can come up with some examples.

aelle wrote:
I'd like to dig up this thread now that I have read the book. I would like to bounce some of its ideas with you guys. I now live in a country which does provide universal healthcare, and long, paid parental leaves, and universal daycare (at least in law, even if it's not applied everywhere). And yet I find the culture quite child-negative and mother-negative. I notice in particular people being quite annoyed when children and mothers are visible in the public sphere - tutting when they hear a kid in a coffee shop or in public transports, not helping / accomodating pregnant women or mothers with strollers, etc.


I made the experience that it really depends on where in Germany you are. In my town kids took over the whole city. Seriously. Dresden has the highest birth rate in Germany and most people here are super kid friendly and I never get dirty looks. When I am in Berlin I find that people are much more helpful than in Dresden though. Here I have to ask. In Berlin there's always someone to help me before I can even ask.

My experience was that once you have a kid, everyone needs to tell you what to do though. I have other mothers giving me advice on the street. Mothers I never saw before. (Once someone told me to give my kid a homeopathic cough remedy because she was coughing. On our way to the playground.) I think this has to do with what you call total motherhood. In some parts of the German society (Western german socialisation, middle class, university background, etc.) there is a very strong view about how a woman should be a mother: "natural" birth, breast feeding on demand, staying at home at least one year, etc. For most people there is no other way. They never consider alternatives and if you do, they will shame you. During my pregnancy I felt pretty alone when it came to tabooed topics like formula feeding and epidurals. It was hard to come by information. People just assumed I wanted a "natural" birth and breastfeeding. (Breastfeeding is encouraged but don't dare to feed your kid in public though! Then everyone will indeed give you dirty looks.)

For example: When I was pregnant and after I gave birth everyone gave me advice on breastfeeding. Nobody ever mentioned alternatives. I knew that I probably didn't want to breastfeed or only do it very briefly for several reasons. (One of them being that I wanted to share the feeding equally with my partner.) And nobody ever wanted to hear that or talk to me about formula. (German formula boxes have a warning on them that says that breastffeding is best for you baby and that you always should consider a doctor or a midwife before considering formula for you kid. God forbid you make your own informed decision!) - People told me I was being silly for even thinking about equality. It was me who gave birth, it was me who was the mother, it would be "natural" for me to be the main caretaker. - I also was pretty sure I wanted an epidural and several other mothers tried to talk me out of it just because they thought that women should and could take that pain and that a birth with an epidural wasn't the same.

aelle wrote:
I'm still reading on the German situation and I don't have it all figured out, but my feeling is that since birth rates are low, and staying child free is a relatively acceptable alternative for working women, the general sentiment is "You chose maternity, now you deal with the consequence - on your own. And don't let that brat bother me." And total motherhood is absolutely a thing here among the women who do choose to have children, much more so than in France despite (?) the fact that France is much more natalist. In France you are pretty much expected to have kids and to have lots of them, but it's accepted to raise them not to bother you too much, to put them in daycare by choice, etc.


Did you read Elisabeth Badinter's work? The German translation is very interesting as it compares the situation in Germany and France, which is indeed very different. Even the situation in Eastern and Western Germany is not the same. Western German mothers used to be stay at home mothers, Eastern German mothers usually worked full time. (After the unification unemployment rates in Eastern Germany skyrocketed and then the same thing happened that happened after World War II: women left their jobs or were fired and became stay at home moms again.) If you are interested in the development of total motherhood in Germany and a comparison between east and west I can recommend "Die deutsche Mutter" by Barbara Vinken. It is a really interesting read about the roots of how or society perceives motherhood. (I don't think there is a translation available.)

aelle wrote:
So it looks to me that even though providing some structural / institutional support is good, it's not enough if the cultural shift doesn't come first.


I think there is a lot of cultural shifting going on right now and the institutions are only slowly picking up. Our conservative government has always propagated the classic family model with a working father and a stay at home mother. Or if she has to work, let her work part time. We just never had any institutional support for working mothers until a few years back. You always have to keep in mind that the German welfare regime very different from the US regime but also from the French or the Scandinavian regime. In the US there is a private sector where you can buy these commodities. In France and in Scandinavia institutions take care of this. In Germany we have a different tradition that goes back to Bismarck: Taking care of children and other family members was always the women's job since there simply were no institutions and no private sector to do it.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 5:19 am 
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Thanks for the contribution Mihl, your reflexions on the topic are so interesting.

Mihl wrote:
In some parts of the German society (Western german socialisation, middle class, university background, etc.) there is a very strong view about how a woman should be a mother: "natural" birth, breast feeding on demand, staying at home at least one year, etc. For most people there is no other way. They never consider alternatives and if you do, they will shame you. During my pregnancy I felt pretty alone when it came to tabooed topics like formula feeding and epidurals. It was hard to come by information. People just assumed I wanted a "natural" birth and breastfeeding. (Breastfeeding is encouraged but don't dare to feed your kid in public though! Then everyone will indeed give you dirty looks.)


Yeah, that's part of what I mean by total motherhood, the idea that you need to make sacrifices and forget about your own interests to be a worthy mother. This strikes me as rather different from France, where mothers / parents put their own comfort on a more equal footing with their kids'. Most women get epidurals, formula-feed at least partially, including supplementing with cereal flours quite early on so that the baby sleeps longer at night, then when kids are older teaching them not to interrupt adult conversations, to entertain themselves, and so on. But for sure mothers become a part of the public sphere too, with everyone having strong opinions on what they should eat or feed their kids, what school systems they should put their children in, etc.

[quote=Mihl]Did you read Elisabeth Badinter's work? The German translation is very interesting as it compares the situation in Germany and France, which is indeed very different. Even the situation in Eastern and Western Germany is not the same. Western German mothers used to be stay at home mothers, Eastern German mothers usually worked full time. (After the unification unemployment rates in Eastern Germany skyrocketed and then the same thing happened that happened after World War II: women left their jobs or were fired and became stay at home moms again.) If you are interested in the development of total motherhood in Germany and a comparison between east and west I can recommend "Die deutsche Mutter" by Barbara Vinken. It is a really interesting read about the roots of how or society perceives motherhood. (I don't think there is a translation available.)
[/quote]

Super interesting, thank you! I'm not sure my German comprehension is high enough yet for these kinds of essays, but I will put them on a list for later!


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:09 pm 
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Thank you for providing a different cultural perspective, Aelle and Mihl. It would seem that the German culture that Aelle is experiencing is similar to the idea of natural, all-compassing motherhood that some people and groups push here. All of the examples that Mihl gave are all things that a woman is expected to do.

The use of moralizing to bully women into activities that are time intensive and as Valenti points out, keep women out of the public sphere, is fascinating to me.

Is Breast Best? by Joan B. Wolf is a great book if you want to examine the breastfeeding movement.
Valenti quotes from this book in her chapter on breastfeeding.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:59 pm 
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Thank you for sharing your stories aelle and Mihl.

I have always been interested in Germany, because it seems from the outside like it is the ideal for women - so many highly educated women with a strong network of legal protections for women and mothers. It was interesting to see how far the reality diverged from that ideal in practice though. I dated my German partner from the time I was 22 until I was 28 (1994 to 2000 - so a long time ago to caveat that things may have changed), and worked in Germany for a few years.

Like aelle, I noticed that although there were so many women at the universities, they started to become less common as you rose through the ranks. The last years of our relationship, I worked at a law firm in Frankfurt, and I was the only woman, and was given really crappy assignments, and treated very differently from my male colleagues. During my time working in Germany, I saw that women were often excised from the protections of the legislation - most female lawyers that I knew were "freie Mitarbeiter" so they didn't fall under the statutes and a lot of other women were promoted to management shortly before they had children, because management was exempted from the requirement of keeping your position free for three years. So it seemed like there were a lot of work-arounds that kept women from freely entering and exiting the workplace. It is interesting to hear about the other side (that I never experienced - having not had children in Germany) the lack of good daycare, the push to have women take the role of primary caregiver etc that Mihl mentions, and see how that really worked with the other forces to limit choices for women. In some ways, it doesn't feel like that far from Kinder, Kuche, Kirche at all.

And with my partner, we were superhappy and really got along very well generally, but he wouldn't change any of his career goals so as to make it easy for me to work as well. And when I was 28 he finally came out and said that "At 30 all women want to be mothers, so I am going to find myself working to support you and our kids, so I might as well make sure I am doing something I love." So we ended up breaking up, and he married someone who was a judge at the Family Court, and was able to take 6 years off to raise their children before going back to work. They are very happy, but her career has stalled and his has skyrocketed.

It was just so interesting to see how strongly that myth that all women must become mothers played out for him, that it wasn't even possible for him to think that I could want something different, even though we had had that conversation from the minute we met (we both interned at the UN together). He is an amazing person, and very liberal, compassionate and kind, and it threw me for a loop when it turned out that he was actually quite conservative on that point.

Thank you so much for sharing your insights - its so easy to think things are better somewhere else, and so useful for us to keep looking at how to best protect the individual's rights to chose whatever career or family path is best for them and examining the subtle and not so subtle ways that the patriarchy keeps limiting choices for all of us.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:24 pm 
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Mihl wrote:
- People told me I was being silly for even thinking about equality. It was me who gave birth, it was me who was the mother, it would be "natural" for me to be the main caretaker.

I think this applies in the US as well. I think there's a lot of equality talk, but when you get down to it, a woman is expected to be the one who is a "natural" caretaker and is the one who "knows" the right way to deal with baby.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 1:57 am 
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Vantine wrote:
Thank you for providing a different cultural perspective, Aelle and Mihl. It would seem that the German culture that Aelle is experiencing is similar to the idea of natural, all-compassing motherhood that some people and groups push here. All of the examples that Mihl gave are all things that a woman is expected to do.

The use of moralizing to bully women into activities that are time intensive and as Valenti points out, keep women out of the public sphere, is fascinating to me.

Is Breast Best? by Joan B. Wolf is a great book if you want to examine the breastfeeding movement.
Valenti quotes from this book in her chapter on breastfeeding.


Absolutely! The breast is best chapter could have been written by a German author describing the German situation. A very interesting aspect is that to be able to breastfeed, you have to be priviledged. A long paternity leave, for example.
"Women who have jobs where employers let them disappear every couple of hours to pump have more money and better health insurance than mothers who work in jobs where there is no break, let alone a break room to pump in. Mothers who stay at home or have long maternity leaves are similarily priviledged." (p. 41-42)
I know many women, who would not be able to breastfeed at work, even if they have the legal right. And even if, would they all want to? Me not. I wouldn't want to sit in a room at work and pump. Pumping is awful. And doing it at work? No, thanks! (Please keep in mind that this is just my personal opinion, I don't want to judge anyone. I am just saying that I wouldn't want to.)

Valenti also talks about how women who choose not to breastfeed are often treated. We are called uninformed, victims of the bottle feeding industry, we are hurting our children: "One woman likened formula feeding to smoking, another one wrote that giving your child formula was akin to giving them McDonald's" (p. 43) We are bombarded with "scientific evidence" about the advantages of breast feeding when in fact this is much more about ideology than science. (It is "natural". It's part of being an all-compassing mother, as Vantine put it.) If you do not breastfeed, you are a bad mother. Something must be wrong with you. Why did you have that kid if you don't breastfeed?

I did breastfeed for a bit then stopped. I chose to do so. And I have to say, it did empower me. And everyone who tells me that I am egoistic, that I am a bad mother, that I am hurting my child is wrong. I am not against breastfeeding. I made the experience that if you don't want to breastfeed, people will not take you seriously. They will not believe you. They don't want to hear your reasons. And even if, those reasons are never good enough. (And I didn't have a "good" reason. I just didn't want to breastfeed any longer. I didn't want to pump either. And I wanted my partner to be able to feed our daughter. Which he wanted, too.)


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 2:02 am 
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pandacookie wrote:
Mihl wrote:
- People told me I was being silly for even thinking about equality. It was me who gave birth, it was me who was the mother, it would be "natural" for me to be the main caretaker.

I think this applies in the US as well. I think there's a lot of equality talk, but when you get down to it, a woman is expected to be the one who is a "natural" caretaker and is the one who "knows" the right way to deal with baby.


This is a really important point. I think this was mentioned in the thread about women who don't want kids, too. It puts so much pressure onto many women that everyone expects you to change your whole life, give up your goals, and just be there for your kid. When my partner took one year of parental leave, everyone patted him on the shoulder. People asked him if his career was in danger. They asked him what course he would take during the leave, what goals he had. When I took that year off, too, everyone was like "Sure! You don't want to go back to work with that tiny helpless creature at home, do you?"


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 2:17 am 
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aelle, I just wanted to add, that you're definitely shamed if you don't want children. It depends on where you are and what kind of surrounding you have but it's definitely very strong.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:29 pm 
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Mihl wrote:
pandacookie wrote:
Mihl wrote:
- People told me I was being silly for even thinking about equality. It was me who gave birth, it was me who was the mother, it would be "natural" for me to be the main caretaker.

I think this applies in the US as well. I think there's a lot of equality talk, but when you get down to it, a woman is expected to be the one who is a "natural" caretaker and is the one who "knows" the right way to deal with baby.


This is a really important point. I think this was mentioned in the thread about women who don't want kids, too. It puts so much pressure onto many women that everyone expects you to change your whole life, give up your goals, and just be there for your kid. When my partner took one year of parental leave, everyone patted him on the shoulder. People asked him if his career was in danger. They asked him what course he would take during the leave, what goals he had. When I took that year off, too, everyone was like "Sure! You don't want to go back to work with that tiny helpless creature at home, do you?"

I often wonder if fathers hear "You want to let a stranger raise your child?"


Are there class issues in how motherhood is presented in Germany or France? We didn't really unpack the class issues that Valenti raises. So much of what is presented as "ideal mothering" is limited to those with access to the conditions and so forth to make that happen.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:03 am 
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Well, there are strong prejudices against poor mothers and poor families in Germany. If you are on welfare most people think you are not capable raising your kids properly. Many single women with children are on welfare. Parents with average or higher income get way more state support than those with low incomes. (For example the parental leave is stied to your income. You get 65% of that, or at least 300 €. If you are on welfare, you get nothing.) Over and over politicians underline that childdren from low income families or from those families who live on welfare should be sent to daycare so that they get proper education. They claim that their parents don't look after them. If you don't have a job, people think you are lying on the couch and park your kids in front of the TV all day. They are accused of making their kids fat, don't brush their teeth, smoke during pregnancy, yada, yada as this (German only) article claims. So people accuse you of not taking care of your kids properly, not breastfeeding them, etc. and being responsible for their future failure.

I think what Valenti writes about these families, these mothers is true for Germany as well. You don't surf the internet and "kvetch on online forums over whether or not you should wear your baby" (p. 28), if you have to worry about how to get a proper dinner for your children. Poor families have to get their food from soup kitches because welfare just isn't enough. They spend their time worrying about how to get a stroller, clothes, school stuff for their children, etc. So the there are similar class issues in Germany.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:10 am 
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The chapter "The hardest job" made me think of a comment I heard recently that floored me. A coworker was talking about Ursula von der Leyen, who served as minister of Social affairs as well as minister of Family, and has a large family herself. My coworker's comment was, roughly: "This woman is such a joke. She goes on and on about how family is important, but if she believes that, why isn't she home with her own kids?" I had no idea what to respond to that. The idea that a woman in a real position of power as a national policy maker would serve children better, including her own, by simply dropping out of the public sphere is just... what?

Mihl wrote:
Over and over politicians underline that childdren from low income families or from those families who live on welfare should be sent to daycare so that they get proper education. They claim that their parents don't look after them. If you don't have a job, people think you are lying on the couch and park your kids in front of the TV all day. They are accused of making their kids fat, don't brush their teeth, smoke during pregnancy, yada, yada as this (German only) article claims. So people accuse you of not taking care of your kids properly, not breastfeeding them, etc. and being responsible for their future failure.


In France virtually all children attend public school from the age of 2 or 3, regardless of social class, and it's actually something that most French people are proud of and think of as a great republican social equalizer (although of course when you look at actual numbers, it doesn't equalize that much). That's a real difference with what I can see of the American and German mindset, where early education and forming good citizens is much more the mother's responsibility.

From my intuitive perception, AP in France has significant problems with casual racism, which Valenti talks about briefly (here about EC: "EC also represents the white middle class phenomenon of fetishizing a largely imaginary 'third world' motherhood that's supposedly more pure and natural than Western parenting practices", p.20). I think there are historical roots to that racism in French philosophical thoughts, eg Rousseau's 'noble savage'.
When it comes to babywearing, for example, I have read French mommybloggers fetishize the way African women and African migrants in France practice it, and how it leads to bonded, happy families with energetic children. In real life, racialized women are typically discriminated against when they wear traditional babywearing clothing and enforce other means of bonding with their children (the Sarkozy govermnent published a report a few years back stating that there is a clear correlation between bilingualism in toddlers and criminality later in life, so children of migrant families should be forced to speak French only.)

In general, I feel AP in France is not quite practiced by the same social groups as in the US. It's not so much the upper class (who in France tend to be practicing Catholic and quite traditional in child rearing habits), but rather educated but middle class, Social-Democrat or Communist affiliated families. As such it goes hand in hand with anticapitalist, degrowth ideals and a weird fetishization of poverty, of "the simple life". Valenti touches on that notion in "The hardest job in the world" (the story about the progressive book-club members agreeing that public policies on maternity leave should be completely reworked ... so that their wives could stay at home) : the fact that the patriarchal status quo (women dropping out of the public sphere to care after children) is being repackaged as revolutionary.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:30 am 
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Out of curiosity, do the french catholics tend to have multiple children? It is interesting that in the US at least, there definitely seems to be a limit at which you will be publicly scrutinized for having multiple kids. Usually immigrants and poorer families have lots of kids but my cousin (who has 6) said that after 4, they could not find a place that would allow them to rent even if enough bedrooms were available (2 kids per bedroom). Also in the US, which I don't understand, I've heard multiple times that each kid should have their own bedroom. I can't even imagine such a standard being set unless you decide to have max 2 kids.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:40 am 
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aelle wrote:
The chapter "The hardest job" made me think of a comment I heard recently that floored me. A coworker was talking about Ursula von der Leyen, who served as minister of Social affairs as well as minister of Family, and has a large family herself. My coworker's comment was, roughly: "This woman is such a joke. She goes on and on about how family is important, but if she believes that, why isn't she home with her own kids?" I had no idea what to respond to that. The idea that a woman in a real position of power as a national policy maker would serve children better, including her own, by simply dropping out of the public sphere is just... what?


I cannot tell you how many times I heard that. And it says so much about our society. To so many people it must seem impossible that a women who has 7 children (I think she has?) is a successful politician. She must have done it by abandoning them.


aelle wrote:
When it comes to babywearing, for example, I have read French mommybloggers fetishize the way African women and African migrants in France practice it, and how it leads to bonded, happy families with energetic children. In real life, racialized women are typically discriminated against when they wear traditional babywearing clothing and enforce other means of bonding with their children (the Sarkozy govermnent published a report a few years back stating that there is a clear correlation between bilingualism in toddlers and criminality later in life, so children of migrant families should be forced to speak French only.)


In Germany people also argue with this kind of stuff, when they talk about "natural" parenting. And migrant families are also discriminated against.

aelle wrote:
In general, I feel AP in France is not quite practiced by the same social groups as in the US. It's not so much the upper class (who in France tend to be practicing Catholic and quite traditional in child rearing habits), but rather educated but middle class, Social-Democrat or Communist affiliated families.


This is interesting. I should have clarified that I was talking about educated and middle class, too. (The upper class is somehow completely invisible in Germany.)


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:46 am 
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Linanil: yes. French people have large families overall compared to economically similar countries (for many people you're not really a family until you have 3 kids), and in Catholic circles 4 or 5 is not at all exceptional. My family doctor when I was a kid was a mother of 8 (no multiples). The overwhelming majority of French Catholics plan their families and use birth control; they just really believe in "let the little children come to me".

The French car Renault Espace (a popular minivan that fits a family of 7 plus a Golden Retriever) has been nicknamed the "Cathomobile".


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:59 am 
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That is interesting, aelle, definitely in the US, 1-2 is normal for most people, sometimes in catholics and certain other groups (mormons too), you'll see higher numbers but it is rare.

My great grandmother had 12 (well 12 survived the age of 1, a few died as babies) but they also owned farmland and children were considered critical component. My grandmother's people (a tribe of native americans) had also dwindled greatly so I think she felt some responsibility to have more children. Then my grandmother had 7 and my mom had 1 (just me).

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:28 am 
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Mihl wrote:
(The upper class is somehow completely invisible in Germany.)


This is something I've found so fascinating. I didn't think that titles and "upper class" mattered much in Germany (and heard that a lot from my German friends). But then I worked at a firm where the managing partner's wife was a von Bismarck and she got us a table for 30 at "Zum goldenen Hirschen" during the Salzburger Festspiele without any reservation or advance notice.

I also found the treatment of Turkish and other immigrant women (including myself!) to be really marginalizing. Part of the reason why my partner and I ended up breaking up is that even though I speak German and love Germany so much, I felt like as a woman of color who doesn't "look German" I would have a hard time making a community for myself there outside his community (which was very established - he had his same friends from the time he was born and his family was very well known and loved in the area they lived). By the time we broke up, I had lived in Austria for 10 years and off and on in Germany for 4 and I never felt like I made stable friendships outside the ex-pat cycles or that I had any "German cred."

Mihl wrote:
It puts so much pressure onto many women that everyone expects you to change your whole life, give up your goals, and just be there for your kid. When my partner took one year of parental leave, everyone patted him on the shoulder. People asked him if his career was in danger. They asked him what course he would take during the leave, what goals he had. When I took that year off, too, everyone was like "Sure! You don't want to go back to work with that tiny helpless creature at home, do you?"


The disproportionate bar for expectations on fathers is so reinforcing of the pressure you talk about. A friend of mine is a stay at home Dad and he jokes that people praise him to the heavens for just holding his daughter up the right way. Whereas for women, no matter what you are doing, it feels like someone is telling you that you're not doing enough. Even if you are home, baby-wear, breastfeed, co-sleep, cloth-diaper etc. There isn't an escape for any of us from the mythology of motherhood.

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