reading these days

1.  erica jong’s wall street journal article mother madness.  i could take jong to task on a point-by-point basis for her description of mothers today who happen to breastfeed and use a sling and perhaps cloth diaper.  mothers who, in jong’s opinion, are thus “treating children like expensive accessories [and] may be the ultimate bondage for women” (!).  but after even just the first paragraph (full of sad and offensive  remarks including referring to adoption as “collecting”), i realize this article is just another aimless screed by an angry woman who is simply that – angry.

2.  my life in france by julia child and alex prud’homme.  i enjoyed much of this book.  reading about how julia child loved eating and living and learning to cook in france made me a tad envious at times.  her descriptions of friends and food are great.  the book started to drag at about the halfway mark, though, and her random descriptions of her dad’s political views and their strained relationship got a bit old after awhile.

3.  disconnect: the truth about cell phone radiation, what the industry has done to hide it, and how to protect your family by devra davis.  how’s that for an uplifting title?  and the subtitle kind of explains it all.  i heard davis in an interview and i appreciated how she talked about such a serious issue without sounding alarmist or stating that she believes we should all go back to landlines and discard our computers.

4.  over the river and through the wood: a thanksgiving poem by lydia maria child.  i checked out a bunch of children’s thanksgiving books at the library the other day and this is my favorite.  i’m a sucker for any book illustrated with woodcuts.  it’s a simple poem and the pictures are beautiful and full of detail.

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24 thoughts on “reading these days

  1. Erica Jong is a moron. I like how she points to Angelina Jolie and Madonna before attacking attachment parenting and the Searses. Seriously narrow-minded. Thumbs down.

    I also am extremely paranoid about my using my cell phone and sometimes feel like it’s screwing up the left side of my head (where I normally hold it) while I’m using it. Thankfully, that’s not often. It will be one of many places I’ll probably develop tumors, though. What a bummer.

  2. i knew the article was extremely suspect because of the author. you describe her well.

    my tally is 29 thus far. totally not going to hit the 52 mark but i’m beyond ok with that 😉

  3. At the risk of being lynched, I have to say that I agree with Erica Jong’s article. I don’t believe she was attacking motherhood so much as she was protesting the pressure that mothers are put under by the green movement and other mothers. I experienced that pressure when my oldest was born 15 years ago and it hadn’t lessened any when my youngest was born (now 9 yrs old). If mom’s want to breastfeed, use slings, cloth diapers, etc because it is what THEY feel is best for them and their baby, great! But often what I see and hear is that the mom feels pressured to do those things by society and sometimes well-intentioned other moms, because if she doesn’t, she is not only a bad mom, but is also contributing to the demise of the environment. Just my 2 cents.

    1. no fear of lynching here!

      i believe there is an appropriate time and place to discuss if and how one is being judged as a mother/parent for decisions you make. but i don’t believe jong is an appropriate individual to lead that discussion. she’s made a career out of being shocking and pushing the envelope and now she’s just trying to shock in the world of parenting. the whole tone of her writing does not invite discussion or truly thoughtful interaction. she didn’t contribute anything of value to this topic.

      she believes women are imprisoning themselves but jong is simply trying to imprison women to her point of view. her tone is more along the lines of “if you don’t agree with me you’re wrong.” my issue is with who is addressing this issue and how it is being addressed. i am not an advocate for judging parenting choices in such broad brushstrokes. that is what jong is doing.

      it saddens me that you felt pressure and judgment and my intention is not to further those feelings.

  4. The discussion on the Jong article definitely makes me want to read it! “Mommy guilt”, as I refer to it, is a huge, huge thing. But is there really any sphere in life where comparisons and fads aren’t a problem? The mommy world is just another realm of life susceptible to peer pressure.

    By the way, you link to the absolute best things! I love checking your finds. I’ve already printed out the paper town for Karis. 🙂

    1. Great point, Alina. We seem to want to compare and judge and tell others the “best way” to do things, in every sphere.
      Parenting seems to be especially fraught with it, however; maybe because one can see it as such an extension of themselves (perhaps more so than a career or whatnot…but I guess that depends upon the person).

  5. Fortunately, other than recognizing her as an author, that is all I know about her, so I was just reading the article as I felt it was intended. Regarding the judging thing: I rarely allowed others viewpoints to influence my mothering and still don’t, so I was not offended or hurt by anyone’s comments posted here. However, that being said, nobody is better at heaping guilt on a mom than another mom. As an example, just look at the hornets nest that Giselle what’s her name stirred up. There is nothing worse than a mom who thinks she has it all together, knows all the answers and wants others to know that! (I have had the joy of running into a few of those. They also have the babies that sleep through the night by the end of their first week, speak in complete sentences by one and are completely potty trained by age 2! Not to mention their children obey the first time!) Basically, I guess the point I’m trying to make (and tried to make with my first posting) is that motherhood is difficult enough without us attacking each other or allowing society (or author) tell us that we don’t know how to be good moms unless we follow or don’t follow a certain formula.

  6. Interesting take, Kate. I read the Jong article and it really resonated with me, even though I also made food, wore my kid in an ergo, cd’ed and bf’ed. Too much guilt and ridiculously high expectations of mom to do it all AND go it alone at the same time. But didn’t think about the messenger and how that changed the actual message.

  7. This has become quite a lively discussion! When I hear Erica Jong, my mind immediately goes to the angry feminist shock value that she’s made a career out of, so I probably didn’t give her article a fair read. I don’t think she gives a fair and balanced look at any women’s issues, including mothering, and a lot of what she says is unfair. This is an important discussion and it’s important that we be mindful that the approaches we take in mothering don’t necessarily work for the next family. It’s not fair that we attack or judge each other based on our choices, and it’s really sad that women feel so much guilt and pressure to mother in one way or another. I like the idea of attachment parenting, but trying to implement it just about killed me. I had to find a balance for myself, and I think every mother has to do that too. And we all need to play nice (including Jong!). 🙂

  8. Dude! I heard the Disconnect author on NPR just the other day (it was a recording they have on line. I have no idea when the interview took place). I’ve also read other articles on this subject. It makes me sick to think what I’ve done to my brain all these years and now w/no landlines, how will the kids talk to their grandparents? For now we use Skype, but I’ll have to seriously consider getting a landline in the future if Skype, for some reason, doesn’t continue their service (or some other crazy unforseen phenomenon happens).

  9. I should read the article again, but once through, I agreed with more than I disagreed. I’m not sure it helps to call her a moron…… and had the article been written anonymously would these reactions been so strong??? I think there is a great deal of status and trendiness that goes along with certain mothering “movements” and I don’t believe there is enough honesty out there about how much parents sacrifice, how some parents cannot afford the luxury of certain parenting practices (either financially or with time), how there are big problems with helicopter parenting, over scheduling kids, placing such a high premium on the “right” schools, the “right” teaching methods, reaching milestones by certain ages, and how can we deny that too many of today’s parents feel inadequate, assume that the family next door has it all together (when they don’t), put all of their self worth into the successfulness of their own children….. I could go on. I agree that parenting has been glamorized in recent years, especially by the media, and that it has probably had a very negative effect on many parents today. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m no femenist, I breast fed most of my kids to embarrassing ages, I use disposable diapers, I used to buy jarred baby food…….. there is no cookie cutter mold for how to mom. Instead of always making a “statement” in our mothering practices, we should do what we feel convicted of, love those little buggers with everything we’ve got, base our self worth in Jesus, instead of what kind of mom we are. He loves our kids more than we do.

    My apologies if I sound snarky. To be honest, I’m feeling slightly snarky. 🙂

    Still recovering from 2 weeks on the road.

  10. Well, I will weigh in by adding that I had never heard of Erica Jong before, so I was reading the article with no preconceptions about her or her style, and I still thought it was very poorly-argued. It’s all over the place with no consistent argument. If her point is that there is too much judgment for how moms choose to parent, then why does she spend most of the article judging moms for how they choose to parent (attachment parenting, adoption)? To me, it read much more like “I feel like my parenting didn’t meet some standard that I am *assuming* other people hold me to, and it makes me defensive, so I am going to strike out and try to make those parents feel bad about themselves.” I found the entire tone of the article unhelpful, the characterizations unkind, and the argument severely unsupported.

  11. having read the article again, I feel pretty much the same way as my previous post. perhaps it is that I do not identify myself with any of the mentioned parenting practices, that I don’t see that moms who choose them are being attacked. instead i feel she is taking to task those who promote these methods as superior yet neglecting to reconcile some of the harsh realities of life that may make, say attatchment parenting, impossibly difficult for a mom. i also didn’t see that she was attacking adoption per se, but specific individuals for adopting multiple children, while still having children of their own, and making it look so effortless, financially breezy and easy to many moms out there struggling with their one or 2 children. why don’t we see the nannies and ANY hardship??? of course it’s ridiculous to think one who adopts shouldn’t have their own biological children…… and there was that inference by jong, but it’s hard to deny that adoption is “trendy” in a way now, b/c of all of the celebrities out there adopting and making it look simple. adoption is so important, and a beautiful thing, but do these perceptions that adoption is a breeze, that it requires no sacrifice, or that it is without possible heart ache, hurt or help the cause??

    i do feel that this article brings up some valuable points. children used to be raised by “a village” but no more…. is that better??? my definition of a village is probably different than jong’s, but family units are more isolated these days and that is not better in my opinion.

    mom’s are NOT made to feel guilty for breastfeeding….. they feel guilty when they don’t. she’s going to focus on the things that lay on the guilt, not the parenting practices that don’t. the parenting methods that jong took issue with were the ones that may make single parents, poor parents, just plain old struggling parents feel guilty for not being able to do more for their baby. now I do wonder, moms who make their own baby food, or cloth diaper or whatever….. you put on a guilt trip for your mothering…. perhaps even put on a pedestal, but be honest, b/c i really want to know….. do you get the vibe that people alienate you or think you are “one of THOSE” moms???? I’m sort of changing gears here…… what’s the equal yet opposite reaction that you feel?? Not guilt…. but what??

    Moms everywhere have some of the hardest and most rewarding jobs in the world. No mom who walks away from a high paying job (as jong suggests) should question for a second that her time isn’t more valuable now that she is a stay at home mom…… but, i think the over arching theme of the article is that moms perhaps give themselves too much credit for how their children turn out, and so put too much pressure on themselves for doing it the right way, if there is a right way. every mom’s situation is different, every child’s needs are different……and parenting probably one of the most sensitive areas of discussion. Some say that you should never discuss religion or politics…… I find parenting methods to be way more polarizing.

    nite

  12. my second to last paragraph seems to missing some words. 🙂 perhaps b/c it was late when I posted. The idea of my “now I wonder, moms who ….” insert mothering method that the article takes issue with….. from your perspective on things, do you feel that you are a) made to feel guilty for chosing to cloth diaper, make your own baby food, etc? or b) put on a pedestal for those things?, or c) looked at “differently” or are alienated in some way b/c you chose those things, or d) some sort of combination of the three?

    somehow I thought I’d asked that in the last post…. by leaving out a word or two, my meaning got severely jumbled. my apologies.

    1. I felt it was the opposite. You were wrong if you didn’t use cloth diapers, make your own food, etc. I wasn’t alienated, but there were definitely some moms who looked down on me: sort of like “poor thing; if she only knew all the dangers of jarred baby food and using disposable diapers”. (We live in an area that was “green” long before it hit the rest of the country.) As I posted earlier: nobody is better at heaping guilt on a mom than another mom. The trick is to trust your own instincts and not allow yourself to fall into the “If I don’t breastfeed, use cloth diapers, etc, I’m a bad mom” trap. No one knows what is best for you or your family than you.

    2. if it does come up that i use cloth diapers or make baby food or if people see me with a sling, people are usually curious and ask questions. i don’t think i feel judged or put on a pedestal simply because of these few choices. some people have been confused as to why i would do one of these things and that’s ok. i don’t feel anybody needs to make the same choices i did.

      i think you bring up some good points for discussion. i don’t think jong really does. (i realize that by saying that one could ask why in the world i posted this to begin with. it’s a fair question 😉 ) but if good discussion about mothering /parenting comes out of jong’s article (regardless of/despite how poorly i think it was written), then i’ll take that and perhaps even thank jong for spurring on the discussion.

  13. i think bethany said it well here:

    “To me, it read much more like ‘I feel like my parenting didn’t meet some standard that I am *assuming* other people hold me to, and it makes me defensive, so I am going to strike out and try to make those parents feel bad about themselves.'”

    much of my issue with this article boils down to assumptions. assumptions on the part of jong that because i use a sling or breastfeed or cloth diaper that i am part of some labeled club. i am not. i’m a fan of the dr. sears baby book because it is a good reference for sickness and it’s kept us out of the dr.’s office. i would never use the term “attachment parenting” to define my parenting. i don’t want or need a label. jong unfairly characterizes dr. sears. you can read and use much of what is in his books without feeling the need to subscribe to or identify with all of it. you can take any author in any field (parenting, health, religion) and make them your guru and tell yourself that you must follow every aspect of their teaching in order to succeed. but i suspect most people who read his books take some and leave some.

    jong also writes in a way that assumes all who use a sling, breastfeed, and cloth diaper are the same. there are indeed attachment parenting fanatics who come across judgmental and believe their way is the only way. i’ve met very few people who would fit in that category. like with so many choices, there is a broad spectrum with breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby food making. some only breastfeed, some supplement. some only cloth diaper, some use both, some change methods with each kid. and some believe you should only use natural materials in you diapers and others have no problem with cloth diapers made with synthetic materials. who exactly is jong targeting?

    jong is assuming those who choose alternate methods from her (or from what she is used to/comfortable with/agrees with, etc) are quick to judge. that because i choose to cloth diaper and use a sling and make food that i am poised and ready to judge those who do not. omar and i talked and thought through (and continue to) the decisions we made, but we didn’t ever consider a method for something in order to put ourselves in a position for judging others. cloth diapering proved to be budget friendly for us. making food was also cheaper for us. and wearing a baby was convenient and gave me use of both hands. there was no agenda.

    i have to add here that i find it sad that issues like diapering and feeding methods define a parent according to jong. i am sure for some it does but i find that unfortunate.

    1. I agree with you; I don’t think it’s so easy to tidily label and box up parents who do some of the things Jong mentions. I do know some parents who are huge Sears adherents and would define themselves as “attachment parenting” and are really intense about it on all levels. But they are the exception, not the norm. I know far, far more parents who just do what works for them and leave behind what doesn’t. Personally, we do what makes sense for our family. I would never describe us as attachment parenting, but I’m sure some people look at us and assume that. We cloth diaper for a host of reasons, but primarily because it saves money. But we use disposable wipes and often disposable diapers at night. I used to wear Adeline when she was littler because it was super convenient, but I rarely do anymore because she’d rather be on the move on her own. I made our own babyfood for awhile because it was cheap and I liked knowing what went into it, but then I switched to Gerber because we qualified for WIC and it was free, and free is cheaper than cheap. 🙂 We’ve never coslept, we vaccinate on the suggested schedule, I breastfeed, we own plastic toys…in short, I think we’re a pretty normal family who picks and chooses parenting methods that work for us. I would guess we’re much more typical than the uber-strict-judgmental attachment parents characterized in Jong’s article.

      And, while I’m blathering on, I’ll say as well that I disagree with the assertion that attachment parenting or other “green” practices are only feasible for the wealthy. My husband is a graduate student on a small stipend; I work part time outside the home. As mentioned before, we are on WIC, our daughter is on Medicaid, and we are not exactly rolling in the dough. But we do a lot of things that Jong points her finger at (breastfeeding, cloth diapering, babywearing, etc) and that are supposedly unachievable for the average, working class family. Heck, we can’t afford to do most of those things any other way! 🙂

      And lastly, I agree with Kate that it is unfortunate that these small, small aspects of parenting become what define us or even how we define ourselves. One thing I love about our church is that there are so many parents who make so many different choices about how to parent, but I feel like ultimately we’re all just parents trying to love our children and raise them to know and love Jesus. It looks different in each of our families, but that’s the core.

  14. Bethany, your list of things that you do in your home makes me smile, b/c it sounds very much like ours. You show honestly how we are all just a sort of hodge podge of things that work for us, through trial and error, seeing what works for each family, and within that family for each individual child.

    My husband and I laugh that some of our life style is very “green,” not b/c we chose to be green, but rather we cannot afford to live otherwise (hanging wash, having one car, etc)….. i can definitely see that perspective on cloth diapering. I’d be interested to rewind 10 years to see what decisions we would have made having some of the knowledge and options I would have had today.

    I think it helps break the stereotypes and “cookie cutter” conceptions parenting when moms share the crazy mix of what works for them. Transparency helps. Assumptions never do.

    Next week let’s all have a talk about how we school or plan to educate our children. 🙂 Politics anyone?

  15. Kate; Thanks for a great (and lively) discussion. I have been enjoying reading all the responses. S0! What else have you been reading that we can comment on?! 🙂

  16. As someone who has nursed two past a year, I’d could toddler nursing as a huge benefit to ME as a mother. One year olds can’t always communicate what they need, and can be hard to console, and nursing was like a magic reset button. Even when they were sick it was a lot less frequent than the first year (2-3 times a day.) And both of mine weaned within a few months of two (one before, one after) in a gentle – don’t remind, don’t refuse – process. When they stopped, I felt like I lost something valuable (rather than feeling relived or “free”.)

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