I wonder if you came across the article Hyper Parenting by Katie Roiphe last weekend in the Weekend Australian Magazine (July 12-13). I did, and although there were some valid points in the article, it caused me to revisit the sad “feminism vs children’s needs” debate, the one that has thrown out the baby with the bathwater.
I say this because ever since the ‘70s, researchers who announce disturbing findings on children’s attachment needs or the detrimental behavioural effects of early (few weeks of age) and lengthy (11 hour days, 5 days per week) childcare have been howled down by extreme feminists claiming to speak for all women. The catch-cry message of these feminists has always been along the lines that women are not going to go backwards, that they have a right to use their brains and a right to work. Traditionally, it has predominantly been women who have nurtured and protected their children. But since the ‘70s no-one (except the researchers) have spoken up for the needs of children, which is what I mean about the baby and the bathwater. It doesn’t have to be like that, though. I consider myself a feminist, but my brand of feminism has never forced me to choose between my rights as a woman and the needs of my children. For me, feminism is large enough to include my legal right to work, fulfil my intellectual/academic needs, my biological, psychological and emotional need to have children and my desire as well as my ethical responsibility to nurture them age-appropriately. This is not Ms Roiphe’s idea. She sees stay-at-home women as child-indulgent and entrenched in the superficial. The author’s own current investment in parenthood includes a full-time nanny and an hour each morning before work “bathing dolls and all that”. In other words, she has passed on her parental responsibilities to a nanny – presumably, another woman. She also admits feeling ”unbelievably” bored watching her child cycle or ride her scooter. Although I admit that parenting can be repetitious, all jobs entail tasks we don’t enjoy. My own mother also worked, and I remember a day when I was 2 years old. I was very sad. I wanted something which I could not explain, and I could not be comforted. In frustration, my nanny finally offered me a glass of water. As I felt the cold liquid pass my lips I realised that what I was thirsting for was – my mother! This memory has stayed with me and informed my years as a feminist and a mother. At the end of the Hyper Parenting article, I was at a loss as to why Ms Roiphe chose to have a child. A counter argument to this article can be found at the following blog: http://blogs.smh.com.au/lifestyle/essentialbaby/archives/2008/06/mothering_the_most_difficult_j.html How do you feel about staying at home with young children?