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Is ‘modern motherhood’ an oppressive nightmare?

Are modern women being put under increasing pressure to be “perfect” mothers? And is this pressure to the detriment not only of women’s individual mental health, but also to the detriment of the second sex’s relatively recent strides for equality?

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Masterfile

Are modern women being put under increasing pressure to be “perfect” mothers? And is this pressure to the detriment not only of women’s individual mental health, but also to the detriment of the second sex’s relatively recent strides for equality?

In her book, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, French intellectual Elisabeth Badinter (via The Globe & Mail) makes the case that the ‘myth of motherhood’ as it’s defined now represents a form of oppression that’s taking us backwards culturally.

Badinter recently spoke to the Globe and Mail’s Ingrid Peretz. You can read the full interview, here, but here are a few tidbits to consider, discuss, or mull—whatever synonym for “consider” you prefer, gals.

Badinter’s biggest bugbear is the current notion that motherhood is a full-time job. She tells Peretz that she objects to the idea that “as soon as you become a mother, you owe your child absolutely everything.”

When motherhood looks like a form of biological conscription, Badinter argues, the entire axis of a family shifts: “the child becomes the centre of the life of the mother, and even the couple.”

Propelled by a sense of guilt that they’re not living up to the “job”, women wind up doing more and more. Badinter tells Peretz: “… mothers’ duties have become considerably heavier in the past 10, 15 years, to the point where women believe they have to start over like it was in the old days, with things like breastfeeding on demand, 24 hours a day.”

Badinter takes aim at recent consumer trends related to childbirth and child rearing that serve this 24-hour mother approach, including cloth diapers, co-sleeping, ‘natural’ childbirth and breast-feeding.

“These movements are robbing women of their time and freedom. If you have to wash diapers – can you imagine how much time it takes, how disgusting it is? We’re returning to ancestral practices. In some maternity wards, women are told it’s better not to ask for epidurals during labor. We’re putting pain back at the centre of motherhood. We’re treating the notion of the divine curse of painful childbirth as wonderful.”

Are women being sold a misery-making bill of goods when it comes to motherhood? Have oppressive patriarchal notions about what it means to be an ideal woman only been replaced by ideas about what it means to be a good mother? And are babies representatives of the old order, albeit in diapered, onesie form?

Ultimately, each woman must answer the questions for herself—an approach to sorting nonsense marketing from personal conviction that Badinter would no doubt approve of. 

What do you think, readers, are modern women being put under increasing pressure to be “perfect” mothers?