Motherhood: A ‘Prison’ for Women?

100sq_MTN100Erica Jong certainly thinks so. In her controversial  ”Mother Madness” essay that appeared in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal,  the novelist and poet argues strenuously against “attachment parenting”—a method that calls for an almost constant mental and physical connection between mother and child.

Jong makes the case that in today’s hectic world of busy working mothers such a style is completely impractical when the daily demands of these women are taken into account. “You wear your baby, sleep with her and attune yourself totally to her needs. How you do this and also earn the money to keep her is rarely discussed. You are just assumed to be rich enough,” she writes.

Jong says that while attachment parenting calls for the mother and father to be available to their baby almost constantly, creating a support group of multiple caregivers is not only helpful to stressed out parents but is also essential to raising a well-socialized, independent child. “Kinship is not exclusively biological, after all, and you need a brood to raise a brood,” she writes.

Similarly, she continues, simply because a woman chooses not to breastfeed, make her own baby food, or use cloth diapers does not by any means make her a less-loving or less capable mother. “We need to be released from guilt about our children, not further bound by it,” she explains. ”We need someone to say: Do the best you can. There are no rules.”

Needless to say, many commentors and bloggers have pounced on Jong and come to the defense of attachment parenting. Share your take with us!

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  1. by Sol

    On November 9, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Jong clearly doesn’t understand what Attachment Parenting is. If she did she would realize that it isn’t a set of rules that must be followed.

    With my first I was a working mother with 2 jobs and I still would consider myself a parent who followed the AP philosophy. It is a state of mind, not a set of rules. I didn’t even know what AP was with my first child. I did what came naturally and what worked best for my family.

    It made more sense for us to room share/bed share because we were exclusively breastfeeding. We were breastfeeding because not only was is the best for our child but it was also cheaper than formula. I made my own baby food because it was less expensive and healthier for my baby. It was also convenient. No one told me this is how I should do things. It just happened that way. Made sense for me to mash up a banana for my baby as I was making myself by morning bowl of cereal. I wore my child because I traveled on mass transit every day and this was an easier way of doing things than lugging around a stroller all day. In doing so I realized how much closer a bond I had with my child.

    It wasn’t until my oldest was 2 that I was introduced to Attachment Parenting. I didn’t feel the need to label my parenting style but I did find a certain amount of comfort in knowing that I was not alone.

    In the end what matters is that each mother, each father do what they feel is best for their child.

    Women like Jong should not be attacking mothers like myself, accusing us of really living in prisons with walls built by Attachment Parenting or Dr. Sears. Most of us fell into this lifestyle naturally. I never knew who Dr. Sears was when I had my first child.

    Jong and women like her fought hard so women could have the choices they have today.

    It is sad to see that instead of helping build one another up women like Jong feel better tearing us down.

  2. by Tori

    On November 9, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I agree that Jong has little concept of what Attachment Parenting (AP) means. It’s more of a philosophy than a set of rules. Has she never visited the Attachment Parenting International site? They have some good information there.

    I work full time outside of the house, but I work hard to provide a nurturing life to my children. My mother is their caregiver while my husband and I work and she follows the same principles in caring for them that I do at my home. AP doesn’t mean that you never separate yourself from your child or that the village can’t help you raising your child because I certainly accept help when I can get it.

    The thing is that when you have children, you are stepping up to the plate to raise another human being and make them a responsible person in society. That requires quite a bit of time and devotion. If that interferes with your lifestyle, well, that’s one of the major reasons we have so many apathetic children in this society. They’ve been raised by self-centered parents who spouted, “Me! Me! ME!” all the time. But that’s just my theory and my opinion.

  3. by Crystal

    On November 10, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    I just had my 3rd child and before this had never heard of Attachment Parenting. I really don’t think anyone should be putting down any style of parenting, just do what is natural to you and generally that is what will work. I choose not to co sleep, because I don’t sleep well with my son next to me. I breastfeed because it is cheapest and natural. I choose to make baby food because its cheaper and easy. I cloth diaper because it is CHEAPER, and because it causes less trash. I get the luzury of staying home (at some cost) and i figure why couldn’t i do all this. What makes me angriest about this passage is that she just assumes since a mother stays home they are rich. Wrong, we are middle class because I stay home, run a daycare, clean houses on the side, I budget, and find ways to save us money. Plus my husbands income and extra jobs.
    I feel that parents need to be the ones to decide what is best for their child, not some columist who is making uneducated assumptions.

  4. by Amy

    On November 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Ok I have not really been introdused to Attachment Parenting but I do believe no parent should just fallow what some one tells them to do completly when it come to parenting a child. So all I have to say about it is she should let other parents know if a populer stile is not for you and you are keeping your family helthy you don’t have to do it. I’m not holding, playing or talking with my child 24/7 ha that would be reduluse puts a mothers health at risk to but I did brest feed and was sole care giver other then my husband. I don’t work but I am not over welmed by bing with my child and she is verry independent!!!!

  5. by Christina

    On November 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I would like to see Jong truly educate herself before writing such an article. I am a proud Attachment Parent and wouldn’t have it any other way. It is not characterized by a specific set of rules but by the bond and relationship between parent and child. I beleive in positive parenting and close contact. Yes, I co-sleep and exclusively breastfeed but I do not cloth diaper or always make my own baby food. Attachment Parenting is accepting that not everyone will fit like a puzzle piece into the slot of the “rules”. The most important thing is meeting your baby’s needs whether it be hunger, warmth, or just to be held. The trust that is built is what lasts beyond babyhood into childhood and adulthood. And knowing they have a ready support system allows for very happy and confident self-assured children who know that if they happen to stumble in life they are not alone. And all of this can be accomplished whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mother.

  6. by Tabitha

    On November 10, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I agree that Jong may have little concept of what Attachment Parenting is but neither do I. I agree in a perfect world a mother and father would be on call for their child day and night but lets face it, it does not always work that way. I have two children and am going to college and I really do the best I can. That does not mean that I love my children any less than a mother that is never without her children. In four years myself and my partner have only been out on one “date”. Our time is spent with the kids in tow, but just because people have the kind of families to where they can have alone time or they work or whatever the case may be, that does not mean they do not love their children more than anything. Its not about being self-centered if you do not agree with Attachment Parenting its about knowing that if you do not take care of yourself then at some point you can not take care of anyone and then your children will suffer.
    As parents we need to realize that people have been raising children in all different ways for years and so far most people have done okay. So before you worry about what anyone else has to say, kiss your kids and the head and be thankful to be a parent. Then smile at the world and remember you are mom/dad and no matter what that never changes even if you dont have the world by the coat tail.

  7. by ashley

    On November 10, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    After reading this and Jongs article there is no reason at all to ‘pounce’ on her. She is 100% making a correct point. Yes I am an ‘attachment’ parent. No one has ever baby sat her. But if I were not married to my husband I could no support her on my own and thus could not be an attachment parent. She is telling people to shut the hell up, leave moms alone, and let us raise our child the way we want. Leave her alone. She is right. On average most parents do not have the opportunity to be there 24/7. I can bring my daughter to work because I am a privet tutor and go to their homes, other wise she couldn’t come. No one will hire me if I say I need to bring my daughter. I would have to chose for her to stay with someone if I had to work somewhere where she couldn’t be. She is right. Good points and good job. She said nothing that was wrong or unrealistic.

  8. by Carrie

    On November 10, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    I personally have not read into detail about AP, and personally I don’t follow it, but to each his own! The one part I do agree with in the article is that nobody should be “pushed” into a certain lifestyle, or should be made to feel guilty about parenting choices they do or do not make. Aside from that, it’s your own decision how you raise your children.

  9. by Karen

    On November 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    As an adoptive parent of a orphanage child, I have first hand seen the damage done by children not being attached to a parent. I do not think that she understands what attachment parenting is. It is simply providing for the needs of the child in the best way that you can. Children left in orphanages often suffer from fear of attaching or loving an adult. They fear being hurt, again. For many children this disrupts their ability to love in all relationships throughout their lives.

  10. by Amy

    On November 10, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    This Jong character simply wants release from the guilt she feels. Parenting is about being attached to your children…if you do not want to parent them do not have them….very simple!

  11. by Laura

    On November 10, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    I think the most important thing about this article is you SHOULD NOT criticize other parents for doing what they think is best. Unless it truly interferes with the safety of the child, parents do what they think is best. I did not follow any of the “attachment parenting” concepts, although I did breastfeed for a full year. We never slept together, and I went back to work at 3.5 months. My daughter is still a sweet, loving child who is attached to me, her father, and our community. It’s the love you give your child when you are available that matters, not that you are available 24/7.

  12. by Brent

    On November 10, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    This article appears to have been written by someone who has no business being a parent in the first place. She is trying to absolve herself of the responsibility of being there for her child. It seems that she has adopted the “can’t someone else do this for me” attitude that is too prevalent in our society today. If parenting is not for you, that is all well and good. But if you decide to bring another life into this world, it should be your priority and is not someone who should be watched over by your friends or peers so it will not interfere with your own life.

  13. by Julia

    On November 10, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Until today, I had never heard of attachment parenting. And after today, I am choosing NOT to use it as my lifestyle! My three year old son was not breastfed (he had latching issues), carried around all the time (who can do that?), didn’t have “homemade” baby food, and sure as heck didn’t sleep with me (very dangerous by the way)….AND, I’m a stay at home mom!! My son is completely normal and healthy, and is very active! He goes to pre-school, and Sunday school at church. He is well socialized, and well mannered! He says please and thank you, and knows what it means to be good! People saying that attachment parenting is the only way a child can grow to be a successful part of society are wrong! And, just in case you’re wondering, my parents and grandparents weren’t attachment parents either, and for the most part, we are all successful, contributing parts of society! It seems to me that the “attachment parents” I’ve been reading about are pretty judgemental people! I don’t want my child growing up like that!

  14. by Mother of 4

    On November 10, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I also never heard of “Attachment Parenting” But All I know is. Once you make the decision to be a mother. That is what you are. There is no “how can I have a life and children?” Your children is your life, you made the choice you became a parent. Being a mother is one of the most wonderful things in the world, it shouldn’t be the worst. You are your kids mother and they look up to you more than anyone else. You and the Father should be the only ones they look up too. Not a daycare or Nanny. Imagine what you are missing out on and much less them. I breastfed all my children. I guess you can say I am old fashioned (or more becoming more old fashioned) making their baby food, with what I KNOW what will be in there, nothing processed. My own milk (not processed powdered milk)
    People seem to forget what MOTHER means. We are not babysitters we are the providers of a miracle and we are to guide these children (GOD’s Children) and to bring them back safely to God. Patience is also a key part in parenting. Though it can be tested, we need to learn it!
    I also hear so many mothers saying, “well I need to go back to work/find a job” Cause what the husband is making is not enough?? for what? for more toys,? for more trips to wherever? CHILDREN are to be your priority not money. Things always eventually work out if you truly work at it. Now if the Husband/Father didn’t have a Job or COULD not work, thats a different story. But at least 1 parent should be at home with child.

  15. by Salimah

    On November 10, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Personally, it is not for me. I’ve witnessed AP and seen the children as they grow up turn out to be clingy, whiney and exhibit uncommonly high levels of sepration anxiety (both the parent and the child). On the other hand, I’m not the type of mom who will let my child cry and cry without picking them up because I want them to learn to self-soothe. So, I think there needs to be a balance. While AP, in theory, is great…it’s just not what every parent would want or choose and they shouldn’t be seen as less than because they have chosen a different parenting style. I think parents should be vigilant about not losing their sense of self, and AP can lead you down that road of not knowing where you end and your child begins. This can be very psychologically damaging in the long run. Too mcuh of a good thing, can quickly turn bad. Remember, you’re a parent for a lifetime, so you’re chosen parenting style will impact the full life and devlopment of the child/adolescnet/teen/young adult/adult. Seek balance.

  16. by Steve

    On November 10, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    I’m sure glad some of the commenters here aren’t my parents.

    People generally do the best they can with their kids. Not being able to spend 24/7 with your baby doesn’t make you a bad parent. Accepting the help of family or friends in raising your baby doesn’t make you a bad parent.

    Being a parent is one of the most important things in my life, and when push comes to shove, everything else gives way for it — but it’s not the ONLY thing in my life. Some of the other things in my life are there by my choice, others by matter of practicality — the things my child needs don’t pay for themselves. That’s not something that’s wrong with parents like me — it’s something that’s wrong with those who would presume to judge me.

    To be a good parent, you need to be a whole, healthy person. Someone whose *entire* life is raising a child isn’t.

  17. by Nikki

    On November 11, 2010 at 1:22 am

    I have never heard of attachment parenting until now and I am a single mom with two boys. I have always co-slept with my boys while I was breastfeeding because it was easier. I did buy baby food because I didn’t know how to make it myself. My kids have always gone to daycare while I work because I don’t have any family close by.

    I think that each child needs seperate parenting styles because they are different. With one you might need to hold them more while the other is perfectly happy at entertaining themself. Both my boys have turned out healthy and happy. My oldest is now 7 and my youngest is 3. I think that we shouldn’t judge other parents parenting styles unless it is harming their kids.

  18. by Mary

    On November 11, 2010 at 8:50 am

    I agree that Jong should not be attacked for this article. I do think that too many parents today are “overly attached” to the children. Someone else said we need to remember we choose to be parents and have a responsibility to raise a responsible human. I don’t see enough of this. People treat their kids like some rare item or the last prince/princess. Children need to be shaped into considerate, compassionate, honest, unselfish adult. When you mold your entire life around what a child wants, they are not learning the right thing. I have 5 grown children whom I love dearly and we get together frequently. They were allowed to voice their opinion but if they just didn’t like what we had to do; they just had to learn to live with. I prepared nutrious meals and they ate them. They wore the clothes we could afford to buy. I just worry about the little ones of today as they grow into adulthood. Life is difficult and unfair but they are so coddled and protected that they are not seeing that.

  19. by Single Mom

    On November 11, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Most of the parents who have posted regarding how great attachment parenting is and how ashamed a parent should be if they are not doing attachment parenting should really just be ashamed of yourselves. You sound judgmental, critical, and highly defensive just because someone gave their opinion.

    I am a single mom. If I didn’t work, my son wouldn’t eat. His father lives in another state. Would I have wanted to stay home? Of course. But the fact of the matter was that I couldn’t. So my son had to go to the daycares and babysitters, that I just read several people scorn. He doesn’t have any attachment issues, is well-adjusted, and is a very kind, polite, and intelligent boy.

    But to say a mother that chooses not to spend every waking moment with their child is selfish is a ridiculous assumption. All of you need to wash your brains out with soap and then go out on a date or two. Maybe, that will get you to think more clearly. By the way, this is ONLY for those parents that were attacking people who felt adjustment parenting wasn’t for them.

    If you are tolerant of everyone else’s beliefs, then by all means, let’s have a playdate together. :D