The other day, I discussed the treatment of homeschooling in the book I recently finished called The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined Women by Professors Susan Douglas of the University of Michigan and Meredith Michaels of Smith. I talked about the misconceptions the authors have about home educators and how what they would have me do instead of homeschooling (trying to reform the government-run schools in addition to full-time employment outside the home) sounded way more stressful.
Today I want to critique The Mommy Myth further. The authors do make some valid criticisms of the excesses of the Type A mothering expectations modern women face. Their chapter on those gushing profiles of celebrity moms that ignore the army of paid helpers those women have at their disposal (nannies, maids, gofers, personal chefs, personal trainers, stylists, hair & makeup artists, plastic surgeons, etc.) is dead-on. Unfortunately, their obnoxiously smarmy tone completely overshadows these. One of the reviewers on Amazon.com compared them to Michael Moore and that's a perfect analogy. Like Moore, Drs. Douglas and Michaels come off as completely arrogant and even when I might agree with the point they're trying to make, the mocking sarcasm just turns me off.
Throughout the book, the authors bash women who do not agree 100% with their rigid idea of what all moms should be like. How is this any better than the bad old days of patriarchy? Feminism was supposed to be about empowering individual women to decide for what's best for *themselves* rather than having external forces dictate what all women should do.
In their attempt to free women from the demands of "intensive mothering", the authors time after time imply that there is something inherently wrong with: full-time homemaking, career sequencing, part-time employment, organic food, babywearing, extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, large families, educational toys, homemade Halloween costumes, singing to and playing with one's kids- even wearing moisturizer, having blonde hair, and wearing a size 2. Excuse me?
Doing those things doesn't automatically make a mom a saint, and not doing those things doesn't automatically make one a sinner. It all depends on the reasons why those choices are being made. Most of us are just trying to do what we think is best for our own families given our own personal circumstances. It is so NOT helpful for overly judgmental "feminists" like Professors Douglas and Michaels to bash those moms who've made different choices than they themselves would make.
If having a high-powered career, sending your kids to daycare and then a traditional school, bottlefeeding, using a crib, etc. works for you- that's your prerogative and I agree with the authors of The Mommy Myth that you could still be a good mom. Just don't go around bashing those of us who really do find a home-centered lifestyle to be more fulfilling as reactionary, anti-feminist, self-righteous, "domestic slaves" the way Drs. Douglas and Michaels do.