I ran across this article by Erica Jong on the madness of modern motherhood through another favorite author: Elizabeth Wurtzel.
The article made me sit back in my chair and I have been thinking of it randomly for weeks. Perhaps because I am raising two children across two very different decades, or perhaps because I am a working, single mother who is responsible (most of the time) for daily life or perhaps just because there is a small feminist (Charlotte Perkins Gilman are you listening?) ember somewhere inside of me, I find relief in Jong’s words.
(Admittedly, I have read every book that Jong ever wrote and have always adored her humor. Fanny, one of my favorite Jong books, was written in response to John Cleland’s Fanny Hill.)
Although I made the conscious decision this last year to take more time for family life, I am still the breadwinner AND the bread baker. And I stand by my decision and will tell anyone who asks that it was the best decision I ever made.
When my son was young, 29 years ago, I didn’t have that option (which is a luxury). Yet, I have shed many a tear and endured many moments of guilt and self-loathing in thinking about decisions I made. The last line of Jong’s article feels like an absolution to me: “Do the best you can. There are no rules.”
Read the Wall Street Journal article and tell me what you think: Mother Madness
And don’t miss the additional piece by Molly Jong-Fast: Growing Up With Ma Jong
*Raphael. The Niccolini-Cowper Madonna. 1500. Oil on wood. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Thank you for sharing this article. As a mother of three daughters (15, 12, & 8), I often feel like I am living in a prison. Prison. That’s a tough word to apply to life and motherhood. Have I built the bars and put myself in the cell? Jong’s article showed me society’s expectations have contributed to my perfection parenting. My husband and I are making major changes to our style of parenting. All the girls have chores and responsibilities, but we see a need to let go, let them get bruised by life a little. “Tough love” and “good enough” are going to be my parenting mottos for 2011.
I’ve never read any Erica Jong (but will now). With a son in college I can say that SHE IS RIGHT in her article about parenting! I was a working single mom until my son was 12. Those years produced a young man that is resilient, open to change, and caring. When I remarried and spent more time as a stay at home mom it just resulted in a more dependent and sometimes demanding son. I believe that what will carry him through life will be those early years where he wasn’t the focus of my attention, when sometimes I was late in picking him up, and when he participated more in the responsibility of our small two person family.
I have to say that I parented my children using Sears’ book. I had carefully read a lot of books about how children were parented in years past before the Victorian era. Children were carried and slept in their parents bed. I know that a lot of people find that invasive but when I was breast feeding I barely woke to feed my children and was right back to sleep. For a few weeks I had to use formula for health reasons and I found it really difficult getting out of bed, dealing with a crying hungry baby that was desperate by the time I got the formula heated and fed. By then I was wide awake and had a hard time getting back to sleep. I was lucky and could stay home with my children. I have been home for 10 years, whereas before they came I was a full time professor at a university. I found carrying my children and having them sleep in our bed led to children that are confident and ready to make their own decisions. My son has always been shy and had a hard time adjusting to school, but my husband and I raised in the 60’s when everyone used formula and had help raising us were both shy and had a hard transition into school. My daughter was happy to go to school and has never looked back. Now my son 9, and my daughter 7 are independent children who are happy to go to school do their own activities and are not clingy and afraid. My husband and I are not helicopter parents. I want my children to be independent and make their own age appropriate decisions. We live on a farm and my son now has to help feed and care for animals and is often called on by neighbors to help care for their animals. Now that both my children are settled into school and independent well adjusted kids, I am looking around to try and get back into the work force, maybe not teaching full time at a university again, but working 30+ hours a week. I am happy that I spent this time with my kids. I have to say that I didn’t feel pressured to be a perfect mother creating special meals for mychildren but rather I have felt slighted by both men and woment for staying home with them. I have often been treated as a person without much intellect who had no other options than to stay home with my children. I think all women should give each other a break. Many women don’t have a choice, some must work, others it makes monetary sense for them to stay home, and others must somehow combine work and children part time. We are all trying to raise our children the best we can and we need to support other parents and not criticize someone just because they raise their kids differently than we do ourselves.
you go Natalie, When did we all stop thinking for ourselves? thanks for you blog!
I worked my tail end off for half my life as a photographer for a publishing company… that was prison for me.
Different life situations and parenting strategies make a world full of unique individuals. My husband and I were raised by very independent single Moms. However we have chosen for me to stay home with our son. We have chosen to have a family car that many buy for their teenage driver for a first car. We rent a small house that in it’s entirety is smaller than others kitchens that they never use. At the same time I feed our family homemade meals with food from local farms, (including the babies food) and happily cloth diaper and still have time for reading and relationships. These few choices line up with my convictions before I had a family and were easy decisions for me when I had a child. These choices have nothing to do with guilt or some celebrity making me feel I must do this to be “that” mom, resulting in me lowering my child’s identity to his mother’s accessory.
If you don’t like the messages that society is feeding you about motherhood of the rich and famous, shut off the T.V. and stop looking at magazines. It is amazing how much baby food and diapers you can get done in the time that most of America is wasting away an hour in front of some mass market fueled show.
maybe someday women will feel at ease with their decisions and not have to defend their choices and pit themselves against other women…..