In 2010, novelist Eric Jong wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal about parenting; specifically, her opposition to attachment parenting. Since the article is more than a year old, it’s not really “news” anymore, but since it was “new” to me, I wanted to share some of my favorite parts.
1. Erica wrote, “We also assume that ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are exclusive terms, though in other cultures, these terms are applied to a variety of aunts, uncles and other adults. Kinship is not exclusively biological, after all, and you need a brood to raise a brood. Cooperative child-rearing is obviously convenient, but some anthropologists believe that it also serves another more important function: Multiple caregivers enhance the cognitive skills of babies and young children. Any family in which there are parents, grandparents, nannies and other concerned adults understands how readily children adapt to different caregivers.”
Our family certainly relies on help from our extended family and friends, including grandparents, aunts, and uncles, as well as our kids’ schools and “latchkey” workers. Naturally, we are the most important adults in our children’s lives, but not the only ones. I like Erica’s acknowledgment that we don’t have to do it on our own, and it might even be beneficial for our kids to have multiple caregivers.
2. “Our obsession with parenting is an avoidance strategy. It allows us to substitute our own small world for the world as a whole. But the entire planet is a child’s home, and other adults are also mothers and fathers. We cannot separate our children from the ills that affect everyone, however hard we try. Aspiring to be perfect parents seems like a pathetic attempt to control what we can while ignoring problems that seem beyond our reach.”
I’ve always been a perfectionist and I love to control as much as possible. I like Erica’s reminder that “the world is our home” and that when we think we can control the world, we set ourselves up for failure.
3. “In the oscillations of feminism, theories of child-rearing have played a major part. As long as women remain the gender most responsible for children, we are the ones who have the most to lose by accepting the “noble savage” view of parenting, with its ideals of attachment and naturalness. 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.”
I’m so thankful to be living at this time, because I really believe there is no better time to be a woman. But, we still have so much further to go – Erica is right in that part of our problem is that women are still most responsible for child rearing. But, I also like that Erica points out “Do the best you can. There are no rules.”
What do you think about these points and about Erica’s article as a whole? I’d love to hear your thoughts.