Dummy Mummies, Baby Crazies, and Reasons Not to Have Children: It’s Open Season on Mom....Again
A British parent looking for a relaxing read over a cup of tea this past Sunday morning was in for a bit of a jolt. What was being served up in the Life & Style section of The Guardian was a triple-header of parental condemnation, with the bulk of the blame being pinned on mom.
In The dummy mummy decade: boring, selfish smug: how a generation of women because obsessed with motherhood, Rachel Cooke makes the case that the child-obsessed “baby crazies” (a.k.a. the dummy mummies) have “reverted, 50s-style, to identifying themselves primarily, vociferously, and sometimes exclusively, as mothers.” She argues that a “loony excess of maternal feeling” is the result of women having their babies later in life. “[When they have children. they] feel grateful, a gratefulness that gives them the zeal of the convert. And it is this zeal, I am assuming, that prevents boredom from setting in as they ponder the pros and cons of the Bugaboo Bee.”
In Why I don’t want children, Polly Vernon argues that parenthood turns adults -- particularly women -- into self-absorbed, selfish bores (much the same point Cooke makes in her piece, which makes you wonder why The Guardian saw the need to run two we-hate-mothers diatribes on the same day). Anyway, here's Vernon:
“I really don't like what parenthood does to grown-ups....Spare me the one-track conversations. Spare me the self-righteousness, the sense of entitlement (you, with the toddler-on-wheels: astonishing news just in! You don't have pavement priority over the rest of the world!). Spare me the pretensions of martyrdom and selflessness....And please spare me the pitying glances (I promise I don't want what you have. Honestly, I find it mind-boggling that you don't want what I have. Are you quite sure you're not poleaxed with jealousy?). While I always offer pregnant women my seat on the Tube, on my darkest days I also find myself thinking: let's get something straight here. Your condition is self-inflicted, you made the choice to get knocked up, and you presumably knew it'd leave you incapacitated in this way. I don't know if you deserve my seat any more than you would if you were incapacitated by a banging hangover, say, or a great deal of shopping.”
And in 20 other reasons not to have a baby, John Hind offers a catch-all list of reasons for abstaining from parenthood, with those reasons ranging from the gynecological (“96% of women say they are "less pleased" with their vaginas a year after giving birth than before”) to the environmental (“British parents wishing to offset the C02 emissions resulting from bringing one child into the world would need to plant 1,073 trees”) to the financial (“The Optimum Population Forum judges the price of a condom to have had a nine million per cent "return on investment" when set against the cost to the planet of having a child.”) Go ahead and check out the other 17 reasons, if you dare.
Here’s a footnote which you may find interesting if, like me, you are interested in the way that the media influences the ideas we form about parenting. The Guardian’s down-with-parenthood triple-header ran just a few days after columnist Kira Cochrane accused the British press of pinning the blame for all of societies ills on moms. (She was referring to a barrage of media coverage in response to an important UK report about childhood: A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age. You can read The Star’s coverage of that same report here at ParentCentral.ca.) Here's what Cochrane had to say:
“A quick scan of the newspapers would have led to the assumption that the report is about one thing alone: how armies of working women are laying waste to family life.
"Working women 'fuel family splits'" said the Daily Telegraph's front page headline.
"Kids 'damaged' by mums who work" blared the Sun.
"Mum's cash 'leading to split home'" frothed the Mirror.
"Children 'suffering from lack of two-parent family'" pronounced the Mail.
“The people who really seem to be implying that women should get back to the kitchen are the newspapers themselves.”
It's not unusual for societies to adopt increasingly conservative attitudes when things go from bad to worse -- and the UK is being particularly hard-hit by the current economic hard times. But declaring it open season on mothers (at least via the newspaper headline or Sunday feature) isn't the way to deal with the need for change.
That's an important point to bear in mind, just in case the next British import happens to be a wave of just-blame-mom mania. We've got enough of our own bizarro attitudes about motherhood to sort through here in North America.
I just noticed tonight (Thurs. Feb. 12th) that Her Bad Mother -- a popular Toronto-area blogger -- has written a passionate response to Rachel Cooke's piece (mentioned above). The debate is raging in the comments section over Her Bad Mother's blog. Was Cooke serious when she put forth such outrageous arguments? Should women ever question other women's choices? Those are just a few of the issues that are being debated over at Her Bad Mother.