POLL: Are Mothers in a Prison Built by Attachment Parenting & Green Living?

attachment parenting, Erica Jong, Erica Jong attachment parenting, Erica Jong's views on mothers, mother prison, green living prison, green guilt, mother guilt, forced parenting, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby wearing, green living with kids, parenting, jong on parenting

In just over a week, Erica Jong’s Wall Street Journal essay, Mother Madness, has become the stuff of Internet legend. Jong’s piece, which questions why modern mothers would put up with the prison created by motherhood and green living, notes:

Attachment parenting, especially when combined with environmental correctness, has encouraged female victimization. Women feel not only that they must be ever-present for their children but also that they must breast-feed, make their own baby food and eschew disposable diapers. It’s a prison for mothers, and it represents as much of a backlash against women’s freedom as the right-to-life movement.

While I can’t speak for the Inhabitots team in full, I do know that many of the mama writers here aren’t happy with Jong’s sentiments, self included. Jong’s essay includes many mistaken assumptions. Read on to discover Jong’s four biggest mistakes as I see them.

What do you think - do you agree with Jong?

  • 25 Votes Attachment parenting and green living is like a prison. Jong is right!
  • 238 Votes Jong has no idea what she's talking about.

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attachment parenting, Erica Jong, Erica Jong attachment parenting, Erica Jong's views on mothers, mother prison, green living prison, green guilt, mother guilt, forced parenting, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby wearing, green living with kids, parenting, jong on parenting

Mistake #1: Attachment parenting and green living is the norm.

After ranting on and on about how attachment parents are basically bumbling idiots who blindly follow whatever we’re told to do, Jong closes her piece with the following, “”We need to be released from guilt about our children, not further bound by it. We need someone to say: Do the best you can. There are no rules.

It’s ironic that Jong insists mothers be “released from guilt,” considering her piece attacks the choices of what, in reality, is an extremely small percentage of parents. Reading Jong’s essay you might assume that the entire planet is breastfeeding, co-sleeping and stock piling homemade baby food and that unsuspecting mothers see these practices and just fall in line like sheep.

Jong says, “green parenting—homemade baby food, cloth diapers, a cocoon of clockless, unscheduled time” is the new ideal. However, her assumptions about the new ideal are sorely off. For example, did you know that fewer than 10% of U.S. parents use cloth diapers? In the U.S. fewer than 40% of women are still breastfeeding at six months. A 2006 study showed that just 15% of children and parents co-sleep.

Where’s this massive attachment parenting and green living movement? I haven’t seen it. Parents making attachment parenting and green living choices aren’t the sheep in this scenario, but rather the exception.

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15 Responses to “POLL: Are Mothers in a Prison Built by Attachment Parenting & Green Living?”

  1. kokanary says:

    As a woman with a graduate degree and some experience in the working world I have been blessed with the opportunity to choose my path. I have chosen to be a mother and wife. In those roles I have found an empowering place for myself. I take the same dedication and hard work I put toward getting my degrees and channel it into my roles as wife and mother.
    My penchant for research served me well in law school and has served me just as well in motherhood. I research options for green and healthy living. I research the products I bring into my home and expose my family to; things like baby gear, toys, educational products, cleaning supplies, food options, etc. The choices I make build a happy and healthy home for my family, not a prison for an ambitious woman. Motherhood is my chosen profession at this point in my life, why wouldn’t I approach it with the same fervor as one of my counterparts approaches a legal career.
    That is not to say that mothers who work are approaching motherhood with any less fervor or dedication. Great mothers are found in the boardroom, the classroom, and the playroom. I have simply chosen to make it my job to care for my family full-time.
    As for our decision to practice some of the principles of attachment parenting, we have only done what works for our family. I am a very different parent than I imagined myself. I never pictured myself co-sleeping. I didn’t even know what babywearing was. I didn’t have a parenting philosophy in mind at all. I only knew I wanted to breastfeed. The rest evolved naturally as we went along. We didn’t jump on a green-living, attachment parenting bandwagon. We made choices that were not mainstream and have found (and continue to find) ourselves justifying our choices to others who do not agree.

  2. ishsurf says:

    Why are these two things even linked? The extra efforts that are part of green living can be split between parents–cooking, washing cloth diapers, *buying less*, being vegetarian, etc. Following all the tenants of attachment parenting requires the burden of care to rely on the mother.

  3. ishsurf says:

    Just to add to my previous comment, the real prison is the assumption that all of the activities should fall on the mother’s shoulders. Why would making baby food from scratch be considered a burden on women? Only because the assumption is that the mother should be the one to prep the food. Maybe if we invited or pushed fathers to take more responsibility and actually co-parent, we wouldn’t even be having this argument.

    Plus one of the main points of the Jong article was that it’s totally false that two parents can do all these things. It takes a village, ya know?

  4. Jennifer Chait says:

    @ishsurf I agree that green living and AP are linked up (oddly and incorrectly) by Jong, although I don’t agree that AP tactics absolutely requires the burden of care to fall on the mother. Three of my male friends were appalled by Jong’s essay because they’ve all, at some point been stay-at-home, hands on dads. Jong assumes that the burden falls on mothers, and in many cases sure it does, but like her irrational focus on a very small amount of parents (those who practice AP), she also irrationally left men out of her essay.

    The guys I know who were annoyed at this essay wondered why she failed to even comment on men because there is a smaller, but still there category, of SAHDs around, many who do stuff like make homemade baby food, wear their baby and so fourth. Nope they can’t breastfeed, but they do a lot of other stuff. In my own family we did AP stuff, although we didn’t, at the time think, “Let’s do AP” and my son’s dad spent almost as much time parenting our son as I did. Minus the breastfeeding of course.

  5. volcomfraggle says:

    I’m angered by the fact that this is one “kind” of mother belittling another “kind” of mother. If we as mothers, despite our different parenting choices, don’t stand up for each other why would anyone else? Mothers shouldn’t be attacking other mothers. We need to realize that at the end of the day, we are on the same team and we should allow each mother to play to her own strengths, specific to her children, her situation, her resources. WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?!

    And another thing: if Jong is trying to educate me, an attachment parent, on all the things I’m doing wrong and all the ways I’m reversing feminism, calling me an idiot, sheep, whatever, isn’t going to do the trick. There’s definitely no “ah, yes, i see it now…” coming from this mama.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am annoyed at Jong for making all these assumptions and a little sad that these things make her feel this way. I got pregnant at 20 and knew nothing about babies, breastfeeding, parenting styles or green living. I CHOSE to have my son and parent him. As time went on I started to learn about these things. I had little breastfeeding support and no knowledge of co-sleeping and forget about green living, there is probably a landfill out there with my family’s name on it! But I started reading and researching more and soon discovered that I felt these were the best choices to make for my family. With my second I co-slept, will continue to breastfeed until her and I decide it’s time to stop and I have made all her organic baby food. Do I feel judged by others? Yes, but it’s not for being not green enough it’s for doing these things. People are always telling me about how inconvenient all those things are. Every time I pull out my Beco or Ergo my mom sighs and tells me, “It’s too much hassle, you need to just put her in the stroller.” My sister gets uncomfortable when I breastfeed my 11 month old. It all seems so much easier for me to do these things. I LIKE making my daughters food. The only time I get frustrated is with cloth diapers, but I am still diapering a 3 year old autistic kid. I don’t feel pressure from anyone to do what I am doing, and I certainly try not to judge anyone for doing what they do. We all need to be supportive no matter what decisions people make.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Jen,
    Just have to comment on Attachment Parenting being easier. I soooo agree!!! The thought of $1500 + for a year of formula, combined with getting up to heat bottles in the middle of the night (some days I barely want to pour juice in a sippy cup for my toddler before I’ve had my coffee! LOL) really does make breastfeeding the easier choice, by a long shot. Ditto w/ co-sleeping. Not to say attached parents are lazy — but I definitely chose the easier path this way, I feel. And my daughter — and I — are benefiting from it, so it’s the right choice for us.

  8. Jong knows nothing about what she’s addressing – she clearly wrote a poorly researched, factually incorrect, inflammatory piece just to get attention. Probably she never got enough attention as a child and writing polarizing articles is her way of making up for that as an adult.

    The thing that i find most offensive about her piece is the assumption that AP falls solely on a mother’s shoulders and her argument that one cannot be a feminist, working mother and attachment parenting advocate at the same time. I strongly believe in the idea that it takes a village, and that ‘Attachment Parenting’ means a deep attachment to both parents (if you are fortunate enough to have two), as well as grandparents and other caregivers.

    It IS possible to be a career mom and practice attachment parenting, but it means the burden of childcare needs to be spread over several adults who are all on the same page, all committed to the ideas of attachment parenting and who are permanent fixtures in a child’s life.

    Jill (From Inhabitots / Inhabitat)

  9. rachel.ronan says:

    I think that it is interesting that Ericka Jong’s daughter is a stay home mom. She wrote a response article that I read in the Wall Street Journal.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703805704575594213125914630.html

    I think Molly Jong-Fast is more like me than Ericka Jong.

  10. lbmama says:

    I have personally been a victim of the AP bullies out there, the people who will accuse you of putting rat poison into your baby’s mouth because you formula feed, without having any idea of the reasoning behind it (not that it should matter whether I have a ‘valid enough’ reason or not). I agreed with her on some level about that.

    But she had a great opportunity to point out how easy it can be to cloth diaper nowadays, or how you can get some really great locally made organic baby food, or how there are now great options for baby wearing that don’t have to mean you look (or feel) like a hippie. By making all this stuff seem like it is dreamt up by people wanting to imprison us into mom slavery she has made it seem like we are all idiots for doing this stuff.

  11. emmalina says:

    Since when have opting out and laziness been virtues? More propaganda from the ‘because I’m worth it’ crowd. When I was growing up women made baby food, cloth diapered and kept children in bed because it was practical, affordable and warm. I did the same because it felt right for me. Why is a bit of hard work a bad thing? What should I be doing with my time, sipping a latte while my child is looked after by someone else?
    If attachment parenting makes a person feel guilty (such as this author) perhaps it is because she knows this is the best course of action for the child and recognises her own selfishness. This in turn triggers defensiveness and then offensiveness. By living a conscious and considered life filled with purposeful work we are aiming to create a world fit for our children to live in. If this is all a bit too much like hard work for this writer then I’m glad I’m never likely to run into her, she sounds exceptionally tedious.

  12. inkirbrown says:

    We have been doing a bit of AP with our 1-year old and 3-year old (and yes, I did say “we”, not “I” – my husband is a very involved parent). Most of this has come about due to our laziness – breastfeeding is a lot easier than heating up formula, our babies slept better in our bed, and midnight feedings didn’t involve getting out of bed or even waking up for more than a minute! And don’t get me started on what a hassle bringing a stroller onto a crowded bus is, babywearing is so much more liberating; just strap the baby on and go!

    Our choosing cloth diapers was due to wanting to keep diapers out of landfills, so that one is a green choice, but the rest of it mostly laziness :-)

  13. deborah h says:

    Perhaps Jong is trying to cash in on the controversy an article like this will spur, considering the attention similar articles have gotten in the past.

    Attachment parenting isn’t about creating an exceptional child. Where did she get that? Breastfeeding is what we are meant to do. We are mammals. It’s free, healthier and easier at 3am! Cultures around the world have been wearing babies for eons. It can calm a baby and help them to sleep. And co-sleeping is a no-brainer if you breast feed.

    There is much to distrust in big corporations today. Some parents want to get back to basics – like cloth diapers (no questionable chemicals) and better for the environment (which we want to be around when our kids grow up). Formula has been tainted, recalled and fossil fuels are necessary from the cow they got the milk from to getting the cans to your store. Breast milk is free and sustainable. Jong, get over yourself and stop blaming attachment parents for your own guilt.

  14. Aubade says:

    Jong is lashing out at the wrong enemy. I think her point about how difficult it is to do attachment parenting unless you are rich is valid. How are you supposed to care for your infant when you have to go back to work as early as six weeks, at best 3 months? I am dealing with this now as my newborn is about turn six weeks old. I just figured out my schedule for when I have to go back to work and even getting up at five am, it will only leave me three hours a day to spend with my child.

    The problem isn’t attachment parenting, it is the disgusting maternity leave policies of business and government in this country! The US is literally one of only five countries in the world that don’t provide paid maternity leave. And 6 weeks leave is a slap in the face as far as I am concerned.

    Rather than blaming attachment parenting (which, incidentally, is backed by ample research that Jong apparently is choosing to ignore) or green living, which is just trying to help the environment- Jong should be advocating that government make responsible policies that support women.

  15. marmotta says:

    I am an attachment parent, if I may say so. I often have problems with other moms, such as my own and my partners`, grandmoms and friends, also members of my family, who don`t have children, everyone knows better than me. Everybody seems to think, that as soon as you become a mother, you lose your brain. Because you wear your child or breastfeed him or don`t give him salt, you`re “one of them” Also my partner says, that it is my fault, that our son doesn`t sleep in a stroller or that I am raising a koala or that our son is going to be a mama`s boy, because he always wants to be carried. Other people don`t seem to realize, that co-sleeping, baby-carrying, breastfeeding and making baby food at home is so much more economic. :D for the portmonnay and mom also. Waking up at night and breastfeeding a baby, who sleeps next to you only makes the following day better for everybody, because mommy who`s slept well is a happy mommy :D

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