The debate between feminist mothering and attachment parenting becomes fuzzy, when the word motherhood comes into play
Women may have been living comfortably with their men for a decade, but when they become mothers, the gender inequality becomes more noticeable to them. It’s as if the introduction of the child is a chance for the man to retreat. At some point women need to ask themselves a feminist question “why am I the one doing most of the childcare and household work?”
As human beings like men, mothers need to put their men at equal level by making them do the thinking, such as “What is your child’s shoe size? When was their last immunization? What food won’t they eat? When is their next dentist appointment?” and so on and so forth. Apart from the negative connotation feminists have gathered as anti-family, anti-baby or men-haters, it is justified to voice the actual purpose behind feminism who in simple terms are supporters of women's rights and gender equality.
For me, being a woman, a mother and a wife means being a feminist—I expect and deserve to be treated with equality, respect and dignity for the well being of myself, my relationship and my baby. However there is a difference which needs to be addressed to clarify the standpoint of feminist mothering and that is ‘attachment mothering’ is largely about time-intensive parenting style involving long-term breast-feeding, co-sleeping, frequent carrying of the baby and following the child's schedule instead of setting strict times for sleep and feeding. Whereas, feminist mothering recognizes that mothers and children benefit when the mother lives her life in peace without being judged for her state of mind, physical conditions and the choices she make in the process of mothering. For instance, if she choose to put her baby in the crib to get a good night sleep, or if she avoids frequent carrying of the baby to heal her stitches or any other pain or use bottle to give her sore breasts some rest, instead of being judged for her choices, she should be supported to fight through her pains.
Yet, the debate between feminist mothering and attachment parenting becomes fuzzy, when the word motherhood comes into play. At this stage, the sentiments around the word ‘motherhood’ are based on a patriarchal (male-dominated) institution emphasized through religions of the world and practiced in almost every society where it is universally believed that once the woman has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish of childbirth, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. From a humanistic viewpoint, it is an attempt to push women to forget her pain and disturbed emotions for her social acceptance as a ‘good mother’. Some women are able to prove themselves as ‘good mothers’; and some feel guilty for not being able to prove themselves. It is then the idea of feminist mothering becomes justified which aims to voice for those who are unable to adjust within the boundaries of ‘all-sacrificing mother’. Keeping in mind that it does support that new mothers should be informed about the benefits of breastfeeding so that they are able to breastfeed (simultaneously, feminist mothering support those women as well, who choose not to or are not physically able to breastfeed and make sure they are not made to feel like they are lesser mothers).
At the same time, it is important to educate young women and those who are new mothers or already mothers and grappling with issues of ‘their role as nurturer of a society’. For them it becomes an issue when responsibility of raising a capable child is forced on mother’s shoulders, and the same society would disregard the status of a mother, if she dares to bring her maternal or women issues along with her children. Associate Professor in the School of Women’s Studies at York University and the founder of The Journal of the Motherhood Initiative, and Demeter Press, Dr. Andrea O’Reilly distinguishes between the term motherhood which is male-defined and often emotionally oppressive to women, while the word “mothering” refers to women’s experiences of mothering which are female-defined and potentially empowering to women. Thus mothering, freed mothers from motherhood that could be experienced as a site of empowerment and as a location of social change. This literally means breaking down the institution of motherhood and not the experience of mothering. Regrettably, many societies, popular culture, and media have failed to understand and portray the distinction between the institution and the experience and have argued feminist critiques of motherhood as personal attacks on the status of mothers and their families.
However, it would not be fair to say that all feminists view mothering in a positive light, there are a group of feminists who feel that being a mother means a loss of opportunity, power, freedom and the ability to define one’s life. This is due to the oppressive nature of the word motherhood accepted as self-sacrificing at the cost of mother’s emotional and physical well-being. But if we take a moment to realize, that it’s all about listening to your child’s desires and responding either with joy as we help them to fulfill those desires or through wisdom implementing through our gestures, actions and words, why that desire is not in their best interests; and lastly, yet most importantly listening to our own needs and heart so that we never get lost in the process, because being true and honoring to ourselves mean we teach our children to be honest to themselves, ask for help when in need and learn to say ‘no’ when being taken for granted. It does teach them to respect themselves and their individuality and, in turn, respecting others and their individuality. At its core, feminist parenting is about celebrating our own uniqueness and that of others, celebrating both the things that we share as people and the ways in which we differ; reflections from the readings of Maternal Musings with a Feminist Flavour.
|Tasneem Z. Faridi is a social activist for gender equity and an intercultural communications professional. She is M.A. in Corporate and Public Communication from Monmouth University in New Jersey, USA, and is currently a freelance social issues writer and volunteer developmental writing adviser for students in Pakistan. She is a strong advocate of women's reproductive rights and frequently addresses the need of women to be in control of their minds and bodies in her community She aspires to teach Gender and Cultural Studies in Pakistan.|