Tuesday, March 23, 2004

More from the mommy experts

I'm still digesting yesterday's interview with Daphne de Marneffe, author of Maternal Desire: On Children, Love, and the Inner Life, in Salon.

I also couldn't figure out Bookslut's vehement reaction to it. I was going to email her about it, but it seems others beat me to it. She clarifies, "those of us with no intention of having children . . . are tired of being told we're defective women."

Well, that explains that.

The Salon interview presents an author who seems pretty balanced, sensible, moderate. I admit, though, that myself now being a mother I neglected to consider the position of women without children. However, the glut of mommy books on the market — the latest, hottest publishing trend — appearing in the guise of feminist critique, are primarily targetted at and consumed by privileged mommies to make them feel better about themselves. (Do not deduce from this statement that I believe feminism and motherhood to be mutually exclusive.) So Bookslut's frustration may be a little misdirected.

A friend [of de Marneffe] told her that "every time she sees a new book about mothers, she feels mingled dread and hope as a question instantly pops into her mind: Is it for me or against me?"

I have not read this book, but according to the interview de Marneffe is telling women that it's OK to want to have children, and to want to stay home with them, just because you want to, not because the patriarchy tells you to. It's implied that it's also OK not to want those things. After all, the last couple decades of feminism have been telling me that motherhood is beneath us and career and conspicuous consumerism are far more important.

de Marneffe urges each woman to think hard about how much time she wants to spend caring for her children vs. working, about whether she's struck anything close to the right balance in her life.

There are some trouble spots in de Marneffe's attitude, however:

You don't have to feel guilty that you want to read while you're with your kids, for example. I feel lucky that I don't feel guilty. My attitude is, Hey, they're lucky I'm around.

Now, this resonates with me, cuz that's something I sometimes say. And I feel guilty for it, cuz I'm staying at home for baby's sake, not mine, right? Although, de Marneffe might say I am staying home for my own sake as well. At what point would baby be better off in daycare, where professionals know how to stimulate, educate, and entertain her? I haven't got a clue.

So once again, I post a mommy blog entry with no real conclusion.

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