Is Motherhood Oppressive?

Lisa Belkin’s column in the New York Times earlier this week, titled “Are Mothers Oppressed by Their Children?,” really got me thinking. The article, which you can read for yourself here examines an interview with a french philosopher named Elisabeth Badinter who believes that women have let their children “shackle and tyrannize” them. In the process, she claims, moms have given up “work, shopping, sex, and all the other things you loved” in order to breastfeed and care for the children.

Her ideal? That we could go back to the way things used to be in France: “We’ve always been mediocre mothers here, but we’ve tended to have happier lives.”

Her views are pretty extreme — I don’t think any of us really want to go back to the days in which women smoked during pregnancy without a second thought — but she raises an interesting point. At what point are we as moms sacrificing ourselves and our own happiness for the well being of our children?

At one time in my life I aspired to the “perfect mom” ideal and found myself, on most occasions, completely inadequate. Letting go of that ideal was incredibly liberating. I realized that sacrificing myself to be a perfect mom was not doing any of us any good: I am a better mom when I have my own life outside of raising my children. It took me about 13 years of being a mom to figure out where that line in the sand is for me, the balance point where my kids get all the love and attention they need and I get the time to myself that I need too.

What about you? Have you found your balance point? Do you feel “oppressed” by motherhood?

One thought on “Is Motherhood Oppressive?

  1. Well maybe I’m a “mediocre mom” too because to some extent I agree with her, after reading the article. I do choose to cloth diaper, though not for the “green movement” or anything. I do it to save money and because they are cute, not to mention way more absorbent than disposables. I attempted making baby food, but it was too inconvenient and I stopped doing it. As for breast feeding, I had many ask me that question, “Don’t you want what’s best for your child” and telling me I need to consider it. WIC even sent me all kinds of brochures about breastfeeding when I had my son. To me the idea of breastfeeding is repulsive and I did not want to even try it. Not to mention I had post partum depression and in the beginning until I got medication, did not even want to hold my son. I am a single mom, so of course I had to, but I did not want to even consider the idea of breastfeeding.

    I want to put my son in Mother’s Day out when he is about 2. I have had people tell me this is unnecessary considering I don’t work and is a waste of money and I should wait until the year before kindergarten to put him in preschool just to get him ready for school. But have these people ever thought about what it is like to be a single mom who never gets a babysitter to do fun things (I have twice in the 14 months since I had my son) and to be around her child 24/7? Mothers need a break and there is nothing wrong with putting them in Mothers Day Out at 2 years old. I would not go so far as full time daycare or a nanny or boarding school though as Badinter would.

    Then in the beginning when my son was a newborn I found some parent message boards, looking for support or a place to talk to other mothers, and my views were put down or ignored. It is ridiculous that mothers today think you should only let your baby cry for a minute before picking them up! I’m a firm believer in letting babies cry, up to a point. To get my son to sleep, I always allowed 30 minutes at the longest to let him cry. Generally he was asleep within 20 minutes. I nearly went crazy in the first 2 weeks when he was born holding him nonstop to keep him from crying! When he doesn’t get his way and cries, I let him sit there in the floor and cry. If I am busy doing chores and he wants my attention, I let him cry till I am done. Children today are so spoiled, it is ridiculous! I have found very few mothers who agree with me on letting the baby/child cry and on not holding them 24/7. Of course I do hold my son, my mom tells me I hold him too much actually. He knows he is loved, but he also knows he can’t always get his way. And I believe that is the way it should be, there has to be balance, not constant spoiling and giving the child what they want all the time which is what seems to be what the current ideal of motherhood is all about.

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