Let me start by saying that I think she did her piece a major disservice by "going after" attachment parenting. While the point of the article was not to specifically knock the technique, I can see how some could feel that way. I would argue that her use of AP was merely a familiar example for the point of discussion, but all many people heard was "AP may not the most perfect choice ever to walk the earth"...and cue the wank. Sadly, Jong's real, and insightful, points about modern parenting have been lost in the epic windfall of butthurt from readers who are now demanding with indignation "just who does Jong think she is to question MY choices." (The irony here is palpable, but I do digress.)
Assuming you can see past the alleged insult to certain parenting techniques, Jong makes three really important points that I think we would all do well to remember:
- Parenting Lip Service- We live in a culture that says parenting is the most important job on earth, yet does nothing to support parents in meeting the generally agreed upon "requirements" of being a good parent. Society judges your parenting at every turn, but that same society doesn't want to hear it when you need time off from "real work" to parent. Many of us are glad to have jobs let alone feel secure enough in said jobs to demand flex time, PTO for school volunteerism, breaks for pumping, on site childcare and so on. The harsh reality is that most "real" jobs don't want to make room in the daily activities for kids, so if you work outside the home, meeting the high standards set for modern parenting can be tough. Even those of us who are home full-time can't really be expected to do it all, our culture rarely provides the needed support, at home or out and about, to do this job perfectly 100% of the time.
- Woman's Work- The hyper focus on parenting, and more specifically mothering since that seems to be more of an issue, is the last bastion of ant-feminist rhetoric. When all else fails women can always be put in their place by challenging their mothering, their plans to mother or their lack of desire to mother at all. I have said before that men do not come under the same scrutiny for their parenting choices, or lack thereof, as often as women. It is not mere coincidence that all of the hot button issue center around boobs and other tasks that are traditionally "girl stuff." Classical feminism says you can do it all, reality says you just have to find the middle ground that works best for your little part of the world and run with it. Modern feminism means you have the choice to do whatever combination works best for your family, but modern society wants you to produce perfect little people churned out in homes that meet your child's every physical, emotional and education need 24/7 while claiming that being home is not "real work." Of course you should be working as a "real" member of society showing everyone that women can do it all and do it better, but certainly not if it prevents you from washing cloth diapers and pureeing your own baby food. What is a gal to do?
- First-World Problems-Sitting around worrying about, and being judgmental about, parenting choices is merely the folly of affluent hipster parents who are lucky enough to even have a choice in the matter. (I could learn a lot here since really, I should be damn grateful that being pissed about people who don't vaccinate is my biggest life concern. Hot damn it could be so much worse.) Long story short, only those who can (by choice, chance or whatever) have someone home full time are worrying about these things. All this feel-good parenting-first discourse doesn't change the fact that someone has to pay the bills and that someone(s) will have to give up some level of idealized parenting to make that happen. Given the many ways in which people make up families in our society, we have to recognize that "perfect" won't be happening for many. Lets face it, even those of us who are technically in the perfect situation to meet these rigorous standards may choose not to do so because the standards don't meet the needs of that family. That is just real life vs. parenting books.