Thursday, April 7, 2011

Conflict: The Woman and the Mother

This summer will come the English translation of Elisabeth Badlinter's Conflict: The Woman and the Mother, a bestseller in France since its publication last year. The book is described this way:

Elisabeth Badinter has for decades been in the vanguard of the European fight for women's equality. Now, in an explosive new book, she points her finger at a most unlikely force undermining the status of women: liberal motherhood, in thrall to all that is "natural." Attachment parenting, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and especially breast-feeding—these hallmarks of contemporary motherhood have succeeded in tethering women to the home and family to an extent not seen since the 1950s. Badinter argues that the taboos now surrounding epidurals, formula, disposable diapers, cribs—and anything that distracts a mother's attention from her offspring—have turned childrearing into a singularly regressive force.

A bestseller in Europe, The Conflict is a scathing indictment of a stealthy zealotry that cheats women of their full potential. 

I will agree that having a baby tethered me to my family. That's kind of what having a baby does, no? It's true I can no longer comfortably work 11-hour days six days a week. Nor can I jet to New York, meet friends for frequent cocktails, or take all the night classes I want to take without hiring someone to see my kid more than I do. And that was my choice. I chose to give birth and restructure my life and my priorities to care for the offspring I chose to create. Is that regressive? I don't think so. Did it rob me of my full potential? No - I offered that willingly. Life is about choices and compromise. And while I'd be lying if I said I always like it, I can at least acknowledge that it happened of my own volition and that the benefits, for me, outweigh the frustrations. Should that change, I might change how I choose to parent. For now it works. For me.

I support any woman's right to choose whatever works for her and I'm not at all keen to jump into the fray. But as for "taboos" surrounding epidurals, Ms. Badinter ought to check out the excellent, evidence-based work of Michel Odent (on whom I admit I have a bit of a crush).

Incidentally, a NYT review of Badinter's book quoted one one mother who says much more succinctly what I tried to about feminism and capitalism in my last post:

Amandine Panhard, 29. . . thinks the Badinter thesis is a false one. “It’s not about disposable diapers or plastic baby bottles but each woman’s personal development, financial independence and the relations between husband and wife,” she said. “The real conflict is not between the woman and the mother, but between the woman and the company.”


  1. Thanks for the heads-up about this book. As a woman that has freely chosen not to have children, I don't know if I'm buying the argument that this book is making, but I am interested to read it. Like you pointed out, this is a choice that you made and thusly, this is a life-changing event that you saw not as a prison sentence, but as a way to enrich your life. To specifically name liberal parents is really only looking at one-side of modern parenting and it's not fair to say that a liberal mother or father is not able to balance their parenting duties with their life outside of parenting. Those kinds of sweeping accusations undermine any argument.

  2. Agreed, though I am only judging the book by the press information surrounding it. The English translation hasn't come out yet and my Tarzan French isn't enough to read the likes of the original.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...