Recently there were two articles* in the ‘Volkskrant’ that have been stuck in mind for the past few weeks. At the start of this year Hidde Broersma wrote an article about how highly educated women are rejecting modernization by choosing a natural lifestyle and how this has negative consequences on emancipation. In June Loes Reijmer added to this with a column in which she criticized mothers that ‘glorify intensive mothering’, in which she took a swipe at Romy Boomsma. I felt like this was in part also about me, since I consider myself part of group that ‘glorifies intensive mothering’, which got me thinking. Is the desire for attachment parenting detrimental to the emancipation and everything that our mothers have fought for? And is my criticism of modernization in the sense of ‘wanting to monitor’ unjust?
Let’s focus on the article by Broersma from Februari. Aside from the fact that I find the supporting column of Reijmer in June too simplistic, I get the heebie-jeebies from the tone of her sentences.
Mean is the right word for her criticism on Boomsma.
Back to Broersma: He explains why the desire for attachment parenting would be in the way for the continuation of emancipation. In modern society women are freer and more independent because of inventions like the birth control pill. This trend of attachment parenting would be in the way of this modern development. Broersma posits that when women (especially lowly educated women) have to spend more time parenting this has to come at the cost of their independence. He quotes the feminist Élisabeth Badinter: “attachment parenting is a trend that chains women to the home in a way that hasn’t been seen since the 50’s” and Amy Tuteur: “For centuries the only thing women had was breastfeeding and parenting. If you want to take power away from them, you have to convince them they want to go back to that”.
What bothers me a lot is the word ‘intensive mothering’. Is the choice of (ergonomic) babywearing, sleeping together and as much skin-to-skin contact as possible not a choice in the ‘parenting’?
What bothers me a lot is the word ‘intensive mothering’. Is the choice of (ergonomic) babywearing, sleeping together and as much skin-to-skin contact as possible not a choice in the ‘parenting’? Meaning something for both parents, for mothers and for fathers. When I look at my own situation we deliberately chose a ‘babysitter-friendly’ sling. Also, dad sleeps in the same bed with the children when choosing for co-sleeping. When you label these things as ‘intensive mothering’ you are also labelling the mother as the sole educator. Something that in my eyes is not correct in a relationship between equals (something independent of parenting style).
When it comes to breastfeeding, this is a different story of course. Unfortunately, men can’t breastfeed yet and they can’t carry the baby prior to it being born. Fortunately, in 2018 there are goof breast pumps, great bottle warmers, microwaves, and freezers. Just because a man physically can’t do certain things, does not mean he cannot contribute either.
Where the journalists of the Volkskrant think that equality between men and women is being reversed because of the desire for ‘attachment parenting’, I think we should provide young families with the opportunity to build up their own rhythm. Emancipation now lies more in the choices made within the couple about parenting and the division of tasks, than in the type of parenting. I would plead for parenting together, raising together, and with that bring equality between men and women.