Both natural parenting and religious fundamentalism reflect fear of women’s emancipation

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Arguably the greatest civil rights achievement of the 20th Century was the emancipation of women. For all of human existence, women had been relegated to secondary, nearly subservient, status. For the first time ever, some women in some societies were able to take their place alongside men, finally achieving political, intellectual and legal equality.

I lived through the culmination of the emancipation wrought by the “women’s liberation” movement. Even though it was the tail end of more nearly 100 years of advances, it is difficult to exaggerate the profound changes that took place between the 1960’s, when as a child I was told that women could not be doctors, through the 1970’s when as a high school athlete I was told that women did not merit uniforms or equipment, to the 1980’s when I entered medical school. Don’t get me wrong, gender discrimination did not disappear, but it became widely acknowledged as a bad thing, not an inevitability.

Profound social change does not occur without opposition or fear. In my view, both the rise of natural parenting and the rise of religious fundamentalism are due in part to backlash against the emancipation of women. And both function, explicitly or implicitly, to keep women in the home.

The natural childbirth movement was created explicitly in response to women’s emancipation. As I have detailed many times, most recently a few days ago, Grantly Dick-Read was painfully honest that he created the philosophy of natural childbirth as a way to keep women at home; only there could they find true happiness by fulfilling their biologic destiny, and then they would stop agitating for political, legal and economic equality.

While doing research for my forthcoming book I learned, to my surprise, that La Leche League and the lactivist movement were founded for similar reasons. In the book La Leche League:At the Crossroads of Medicine, Feminism, and Religion, Jule DeJager Ward explains that the La Leche League was:

…founded in 1956 by a group of Catholic mothers who sought to mediate in a comprehensive way between the family and the world of modern technological medicine…

[A] central characteristic of La Leche League’s ideology is that it was born of Catholic moral discourse on family life … The League has very strong convictions about the needs of families. These convictions are the normative heart of its narrative… The League’s presentations and literature carry a strong suggestion that breast feeding is obligatory. Their message is simple: Nature intended mothers to nurse their babies; therefore, mothers ought to nurse…

The idealization of motherhood reflects the place of Mary in Catholic popular devotion…

The League’s answer to the question “What should mothers do” is grounded in … the original faith community of its founders.

For those women, the contents of their Catholic faith and the existential question of motherhood are interdependent…

Just as Grantly Dick-Read created natural childbirth in opposition to women’s demands for emancipation, LLL channeled the Catholic Church’s opposition to women’s emancipation, in particular women’s desire to work for their own economic freedom. Breastfeeding, therefore, came to be viewed as part of the Catholic mother’s obligation to remain at home with her children.

Indeed, the founders of LLL were aware of the complementarity of their views and those of natural childbirth. In one of their first major meetings, in 1957, Grantly Dick-Read himself was the featured speaker.

Attachment parenting is a product of similar beliefs about women and families. Dr. William Sears, a religious fundamentalist and father of eight, is widely credited with creating attachment parenting. He certainly popularized it, but attachment parenting had its inception with The La Leche League.

But according to Peggy O’Mara, Editor of the defunct Mothering Magazine (now a website and message board):

Sears published his book, The Fussy Baby, with La Leche League in 1985, at a time when he was the most well known of LLL’s physician supporters. He is widely credited with coining the term attachment parenting and wrote a book on the subject in 2001. But, Dr. Sears did not invent attachment parenting.

Two young La Leche Leaders, Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, were influenced by Dr. Sears and fascinated with attachment theory…

As Nicholson and Parker became increasingly steeped in research on the critical attachment period, they wanted to educate others, and, in 1995 they formed Attachment Parenting International.

So all three major components of natural parenting (natural childbirth, lactivism and attachment parenting) were created in direct response to women’s emancipation and their refusal to remain at home content with the traditional role of a mother.

It is not a coincidence, therefore, that natural parenting requires tremendous sacrifice on the part of the mother and only the mother. Indeed every element of natural parenting, extending to vaccine rejection and organic food, makes more work for mothers. Moreover, it is hardly a coincidence that the home is the heart of natural parenting. From homebirth to homeschooling, the natural mother never has to leave the house and certainly should never be employed outside the house when her children are small.

In my judgment, it is also not a coincidence that religious fundamentalism experienced a renaissance in the US in the wake of the “women’s liberation movement.” Religious fundamentalists root their opposition to women’s emancipation in their reading of the Bible. Many embrace the tenets of natural parenting. They cite religion as the reason why women must be subservient to their husbands and occupied entirely with their children, but the end result is that same: more work for mothers and no opportunity for women in the larger world.

That’s not to say that every woman who embraces the tenets of natural parenting is committed to perpetuating a patriarchal society, the type of society embraced by the founders of natural childbirth, lactivism and attachment parenting. Individual women make individual choices based on the needs of their families and their own desires. A woman can be a natural parenting advocate and a feminist, but it is important to understand that natural parenting was created, and is often promoted in direct opposition to feminism.

It’s not an accident that much of natural parenting, from home birth to home schooling, is centered on the home. Natural parenting, like religious fundamentalism, has at its heart the imperative to keep women at home and to promote the patriarchal status quo.

  • Ricardo

    Dr. Amy. One of the things I find most amusing about feminism is how little men are affected by it and instead how much women are in a fight about what’s right and what’s wrong in the behaviour of a women. I did not know, and definitely did not have any way to have an informed opinion on natural childbirth. I do know that few weeks ago a friend of mine who is also a SJW like you, posted that gynaecologists where scammers and that natural childbirth was better. In both cases men are to blame for “limiting the choices” of women, however I can asure you, MEN DON’T CARE. Men that are not gynaecologists don’t have to think much about cesareans and only want their wives and children to survive. Most of the frantic beliefs are women voicing their bullshit thinking that they are hurting us. Keep up the good work on fighting each other, it’s not like there are fundamental issues that women need to be united for.

  • N

    I just read about this post now, so, sorry I’m late. I’m a LLL Leader. I’m working outside house. A lot of my co-leaders work outside house. Some don’t vaccine, most do. Some give birth at home, most go to hospital. Some breastfeed for years, some stop around 1 year. NONE shows that she could possibly be a devote catholic. Some have adopted children they didn’t breastfeed at all. Some send their kids to private schools, most to normal public school. The only home schooling mother I know never heard about La Leche League. And so on, and so on… I really am happy that I don’t live in America, and don’t know anyone like this Crazy Lactivist!!! La Leche League was founded by 7 mothers in 1956. Back than wasn’t it normal, that everyone was religious. My parents are born in the 50s. My grandparents are devote catholics, that doesn’t mean I have to be now. They just didn’t have choice back than…

  • alexa

    In our current economy, choice is mostly an illusion. Most families need both incomes to provide for their families. I don’t know too many families with a stay at home parent that either don’t have a high wage earner in the working parent, or don’t rely on government assistance in one way or another (this comment is NOT meant to pass judgement). Sadly, the biggest issue families face is the inability to earn a living wage which would make it possible for more families to live on 1 income (of either spouse) if even for a short while. The middle class is being squeezed out of the economy. Why do women earn less than men? Families should be able to make choices that are best for their family, without having to worry about providing for their needs.

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  • Ellen Mary

    But I will give you this, Melissa Cheyney spoke at the last LLL conference I went to and probably the last one I will go to. I couldn’t bring myself to attend her talk . . .

    • fiftyfifty1

      LLL invited Melissa Cheyney? Why? What did she speak on?

      • Ellen Mary

        Her ‘study’ in terms of BF initiation. Like I said. Last conference ever.

  • Ellen Mary

    It is also a backlash against the idea that home is a shameful place to be, only for women who can’t cut it in the world of career . . . You were told women had no place in the world of career, I was told that the ONLY appropriate place for an intelligent woman was outside the home . . . And my Catholic mother was a BSN who ran a Hospice community . . . She was also told that girls don’t go to college, I was told that women had to go to college . . . Some women (and men) will inevitably be in the home and framing the home as a secondary realm, a place of bondage, actively endangers the other residents of the home, whether they be children or elders . . .

    CCLI (a Catholic organization) did explicitly state that one parent must be available to the child for the first 3 years, but never specified which. LLL, well I never was able to become a leader with them & was even kicked out once by a rouge leader, but I also never met a Catholic leader across many states, so although I know the organization has Catholic roots, it isn’t run that way now . . .

    And if IBCLCs are just pseudo medical professionals, and LLL is a religious fundamentalist organization, I am sorta confused about where mothers are actually supposed to solve lactation challenges. Should they just abandon ship at the first sign of trouble?

    • Cobalt

      “And if IBCLCs are just pseudo medical professionals, and LLL is a religious fundamentalist organization, I am sorta confused about where mothers are actually supposed to solve lactation challenges. Should they just abandon ship at the first sign of trouble?”

      This is why readers here keep advocating for taking the moralizing and judgement out of infant feeding, and adding respect and science based recommendations. LCs need to clean up their profession, because right now the options are of unreliable quality and dubious motive. Giving women access to unbiased and educated sources of help managing infant feeding needs is a priority that is not being met.

      • Gatita

        Also, we need real RESEARCH done on breastfeeding interventions and lactation problems so the advice that’s given out is evidence-based and not POOMA.

        –poster formerly known as Guesteleh

    • Cobalt

      The idea that “real women work” is as oppressive as “real women are housewives”. Culture at large should not determine any individual’s available roles within it.

      • Wren

        I can’t tell you the number of times I have been told being a stay at home mum automatically means I’m not a feminist.

        The best time was when it came from a working mum who has called on me to help by picking her kids up when she can’t get to the school on time and even asks for my help in figuring out the kids’ homework and other school issues. Because I chose not to work, I was there to help her out and I volunteer at the school and know what is going on there. She and her children have benefitted directly from me being home, but I’m terrible to do it. Ugh.

        Technically I guess I’m not a sahm any more though. Those 5 hours a week the school pays me for (as opposed to the other 6-20 hours I’m there each week) make the difference.

        • Amy

          And see, as a working mom, I am SUPER grateful to the parents who have time to volunteer at my kids’ schools.

          • Wren

            That’s great.

            Honestly, SAHPs (and that is often mums though we have one dad who has done it for at least 9 years now and another for a lot less time) do help things happen at schools. Working parents, whether full or part time, can obviously help too, but the school knows full well I’m one of the first people to call if they are short a chaperone for a trip last minute or they need an extra hand for just about anything. I enjoy helping out and would never expect every parent to be able to or even to want to, but it is nice when it is appreciated.

        • Amazed

          Yeah, automatically assuming that working you is entitled to non-working me’s very own time is the height of feminism, obviously.

          Wonder what will happen if working you has to do without non-working me’s help when it’s needed. Just because I need my time for something else.

          I daresay that small children dragged to school and offices, and wherever Mom works isn’t the best solution for everyone. Been this kid, have stayed silent for unnatural lenghts of time. Not that I blame my mom – she did what she could. But it’s so easy to be a feminist when you have someone to shoulder part of the burden. At the time women were obliged to go back to work, SAHM moms were very few. I wouldn’t call it the golden age of feminism.

        • Ennis Demeter

          I don’t think it makes a person nonfeminist, but I do think it makes a person vulnerable. I sputter in rage when men complain that an ex who bore and raised his children is greedy if she dares to think she’s entitled to his earnings in a divorce, especially if she initiated the divorce. That goes for lesser earning spouses, not just non-working ones. My advice to my daughter is to keep earning money or credentials when she has kids. The world is really unfair to non wage earners. That’s just reality, not anti-sahm. Women having to start all over as older workers while their exes move on with their way bigger salaries and benefits and secure retirements is a phenomenon that repeats itself over and over and over again.

          • Daleth

            That is why the correct advice for someone getting divorced is, GET THE BEST LAWYER YOU POSSIBLY CAN. You can get spousal and child support, you can get part of your ex’s retirement, etc. But not if you have a crappy lawyer or try to handle things yourself.

          • Amazed

            Isn’t that right about everything in life? A few years ago, I had a clash with the local tax agency. I made a mistake that got discovered and I immediately did my part to correct it. THEY had a worker who went on a leave without anyone to do her duty, so my documents were never processed. As a result, I got my bank account… what’s the word? The money was still there but I couldn’t use them.

            When I went there in person, they explained – profusely – how it was all my fault for making the mistake in the first place, how I should now file a mountain of new documents in about 700 different agencies and in a month, I’d have my money back under my control. No, there was no way to make it speedier. This and that act, this and that regulation and so on.

            What they hadn’t bargained on was that the man next to me wasn’t a burly bodyguard who would do my bidding if I told him to wring their scrawny pretentious necks. It was my brother – my lawyer brother. After 15 minutes there, I had my money back the very next morning.

            Someone willing to bet what happened to those who made the same mistake but went there alone?

            P.P. At the time, my brother was just graduating and looking for a job. After a nice exchange including something like, “You (me) know you’re responsible under this act?” (dramatic pounding over an impressive tome) and “You know I will sue you under the Act for Citizen Protection (I don’t knoow the equivalent in English), don’t you? And no, I cannot see what the economic codex you’re holding has to do with the case), at which point the woman started frothing at the mouth and screeching, we were leaving when he turned at the door and asked, “Do you happen to need another lawyer here?” One of the women nearby looked at him and asked, “Why would you want to? This isn’t a good job. The salary isn’t this great and we often have such unpleasant people coming here to argue…” He laughed and asked, “Like me, you mean?” As we were leaving, one of the women said, “Just imagine if he starts working for us. He’ll do such great arguing on our behalf.”

          • Daleth

            Seriously. We all know what would’ve happened to someone in your shoes without a lawyer beside them. That’s one of the reasons I became a lawyer. A woman I knew who was a lawyer strongly supported my idea of going to law school–she said, “Do it! As soon as you tell people you’re a lawyer, they look at you like you grew balls and got smart.”

          • Ennis Demeter

            You can, but he still gets his salary and earning power, and you only get some of it. And a lot of men feel like it’s unfair that their exes get any of it. Alimony typically lasts only a few years, as does child support. After that, you are on your own, with half of whatever assets were accrued during a marriage. For a high earning man, it’s a net gain- only a few years of sharing his income, and then he only has to support himself.

          • Wren

            Life is not without risks.

            I swore I would not get married until I was started in my career and would not have kids until I was well established after watching my mother go through first one divorce then a separation that ended with his passing away before the divorce proceedings were properly moving. The first time she was the lower earner, by a relatively small amount, but like most couples moving from one household to two it meant a serious cut in income and therefore lifestyle. My dad paid child support and we stayed in the same house and private school, but things got very tight for a while. The second time she was by far the higher earner, but he covered after school child care (he ran his own business from home) and even the loss of his lower income had an effect.

            I took a gamble after nearly a decade of marriage that staying home with the children, which I was happy to do, while allowing him to work the longer hours moving up required would pay off. He earns more than the pair of us would have otherwise (no high paying career lined up for me as I seem to be drawn to relatively low pay fields) and this far, nearly another decade, it has worked.

            Unless a woman is willing to live a lifestyle her income alone can support, even with a partner earning money, she will be financially vulnerable to some degree whether she takes time out of her career to stay at home or not. A man will as well.

          • Who?

            Sounds like a great arrangement for your family.

            The four ‘d’s that badly affect family life are death, divorce, disability, and ‘don’t care’. The first and third can be covered by insurance. The second and fourth are sometimes inter-related.

            Sharing is vulnerability. Creating lives for whom you are responsible is vulnerability. Both are also amazing experiences and enrich our lives.

        • Maya Markova

          A friend of mine spent 4 years at home after her first birth. She told me that one of the worst aspects of her being stay-at-home mum was that relations, in-laws, neighbors and all sorts of other people took advantage of her, making her do unpaid work for them (e.g. babysitting their children) “because you are at home anyway and you have a lot of time”.

    • Bugsy

      Ellen Mary, I’d love to learn more about your comment “I was never able to become a leader” of LLL. Crazy Lactivist was, and the rules she felt obligated to follow with respect to parenting were not short…and there was a lot of judgment against her not adhering to all of this impossible doctrine from the other leaders. Then again, they also criticized her when she eventually stepped down from leadership.

  • KarenJJ

    That’s really interesting about the LL League.

  • Trixie

    Fascinating, thank you.

  • Charybdis

    I have always found the AP movement baffling. Not to mention the fact that the mommy wars seem to start during pregnancy. Afterwards, a bizarre set of twins have been birthed: the sanctimommy and the baby. Suddenly, the mother’s ENTIRE identity as a person is overshadowed/eclipsed by the baby and her whole raison d’etre revolves around the baby and its care. “I Cut out all caffeine and only ate a raw food diet while I was pregnant! I had a natural birth, no medication and the baby roomed in with me the entire time. We came home to our 100% organic, no synthetic materials bedroom where we co-sleep in 100% organic cotton bedding. I don’t wear clothes because your baby thrives with skin-to-skin contact. Of course, I EBF and babywear, and my nipples double as all-natural pacifiers. We are enrolled in baby yoga, baby music appreciation and are going to check out baby Pilates. I’m going to make my own baby food from fresh, organic, non-GMO, antibiotic and hormone free, free range fruits, vegetables and meats. No artificial, processed ANYTHING for my baby. S/he will have swimming lessons, music lessons, dance lessons, play t-ball and soccer, go to as many enrichment activities as I can schedule, plus learn a foreign language, etc,etc,etc.” Not to mention the “positive statements only” mindset that is running rampant these days: ” Say ‘walking feet only when we’re inside’ instead of ‘don’t run in the house’ , ‘let’s use our listening ears’ instead of ‘shhh…be quiet ‘. And everything the baby/child does, no matter how mundane is immediately celebrated with a “Good job!!”. I heard a “Good job sneezing!!” the other day. We can’t say or do anything that *might* bruise their self esteem and negativity is not tolerated.

    I guess that if there is enough pressure (both internal and external) on a woman to be “the best”, she will feel as if the goal is unattainable and she has lost control. If you feel out of control, you will control what you can; what the baby eats, wears, where he sleeps, so you have a semblance of control. Then if you are praised for that, it reinforces that behavior. Add into that.into that the one-upsmanship of mommy culture and the rather surprising amount of loneliness that comes with being a new mom, it’s no wonder things can spin out of control. “good” mother and you are telling yourself that motherhood is your job now and that of course your baby’s needs/wants/desires are more important than yours you wind up brainwashing yourself.

    If you hear the same lines over and over about how to be a “good” mother and you are telling yourself that motherhood is your job now and that of course your baby’s needs/wants/desires are more important than yours, you wind up brainwashing yourself into believing it. You rebuild your self esteem and self image to fit into the narrow role of “AP, EBF, church going, God fearing, Jesus loving, submissive woman whose glary is her family and her martyrdom the same. I apologize for the long, rambling rant, but this really bothers me. “good” mother and you are telling yourself that motherhood is your job now and that of course your baby’s needs/wants/desires are more important than yours. You did not stop having your own life, needs, wants, dreams and desires just because you had a. Baby.

    • Mishimoo

      I agree with this, but feel the need to point out that my choice of ‘positive’ words is a direct reaction to my upbringing. It also makes my life easier because they’re doing their own things confidently and I don’t have to constantly soothe them or worry about them.

      They take a tumble/knock something over/track mud inside the house/puke all over their bed/get a nosebleed and smear blood into their hair – “Good job buddy!” and “Solid effort, kiddo!” are often enough to either get them back on their way or lighten the mood and make dealing with illness or mess or injury much easier.

    • Mattie

      I agree with you, for the most part, I do wonder though if the ‘mommy wars’ are a result of the increased pressure on children to get in to a good college…yep even as babies. I mean there’s a lot of truth in the idea that where you go to school influences where you go to college, and some schools are almost as competitive as colleges themselves, so your toddler needs a killer resume to get in to a good pre-school, to go to a good school, to go to a good college…what with the obscene cost of education, the falling standards in some public schools and the lack of funding to education means childhood is a constant battle, at least for parents.

      Hardly surprising that methods of parenting being touted as providing you with smarter, stronger, better adjusted children are as popular as they are, it’s all about ‘winning’ the childhood race, or at least being faster than the child next door.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        “Concerted cultivation” of children dovetails with keeping women at home if you view children as the mother’s “work product.” How better to demonstrate that staying home and/or helicopter parenting is necessary than to produce a “superior” child?

        • Mattie

          Totally. I should add that I don’t agree with this method of raising children, as I don’t think that kind of pressure does anyone any good. However it is becoming a rather cyclical process…the overall standard/level of education or ability increases so admission to schools becomes more competitive, so parents have to fight harder to get their child in, so the overall standard of ability increases…and when you are fighting for a small number of spaces at school, you are often fighting the other parents. Additionally, the cost of raising children increases and so parents begin to use their children to show their wealth (as you would brag about a nice car, or a expensive holiday) “look how well Jane is doing, wasn’t it such a good investment to spend all that money on her childhood”, and once a child has ‘maxed out’ the real benefits that money can buy (sufficient food, education, healthcare) then it’s obvious that to get the edge they need more, and that more is often what the NCB/natural parenting movement is selling…that tiny chance that you may end up with a ‘better’ kid.

  • Stacy48918

    Thank you for this post.

  • carr528

    I always thought that AP proponents believed that the only good moms were SAHMs. I belonged to an online moms group for a while where AP was the “approved” choice, and, as someone who followed the Babywise principles (loosely), I did NOT fit in. I went on Dr. Sears site once, and I was appalled by what I read. As a working mom, there’s almost no way you could follow the AP principles! First of all, I need my sleep at night, and there’s no way I was getting it while co-sleeping. The teacher across the hall from me co-sleeps with her toddler, and she hasn’t had a full night of sleep since the baby was born almost two years ago! How do people function like that?

    Sorry, if teaching my kids how to self-soothe so they can fall asleep on their own and sleep through the night is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      The teacher across the hall from me co-sleeps with her toddler, and she
      hasn’t had a full night of sleep since the baby was born almost two
      years ago! How do people function like that?

      Sometimes on weekends I go in and sleep in the kids’ room with them. They have been known to kick me out.

      “Daddy, go sleep in your own bed.”

      Apparently, whenever I am in the room, his brother snores a lot.

      • Amazed

        The Intruder started fighting the injustice of this world since before he could talk. He could see that there was a room that was supposedly for us but it was only I who slept there, so I got all the toys, the bears and Snow-Whites on the curtains, the illustrated books to sleep with… He was so happy and grown-up when he moved in with me (at about one). Sure, he liked crawling into Mom and Dad’s bed from time to time but he loved having his very own bed in our very own room.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Neither of our kids have ever slept in our bed with us at home. For a while, we tried to get the older one to come into bed with us in the morning when he was waking up pretty early to snooze, but he never did that, he just played around.

          When we are on the road, we split up and sleep with the kids, but that’s so they will be comfortable in the strange location. At home, they sleep in their room.

          • Amazed

            One of the most cherished memories of my childhood are my lenghty conversation with the Intruder before we fell asleep. When he was little, he reached up (our beds were on top of each other) and I held his hand and told him a second bedtime story. I wouldn’t trade that for being the 5 year old who’s getting bonded to her parents by sleeping in their bed.

          • Mattie

            Assuming ‘The Intruder’ is a little brother, or you get on very well with the monster under your bed =P

          • Amazed

            He intruded in my life when I was 4. I kept asking, “Can we have a baby kitten?” “No.” “Can we have a baby puppy?” “No.” When I was told that I had a new brother, I replied, with great disappointment, “Oh no! I wanted a kitten!”

          • Mattie

            haha we had a kitten and a puppy, I just wanted a baby brother or sister…the human problem of always wanting what you can’t/don’t have

          • Amazed

            Did you get one?

            For the record, I also wanted a baby brother or sister later. The Intruder was in. Alas, Dad wasn’t. After my mom almost died in her second, all-natural birth of a 10 pounder, the prospect of becoming a single dad didn’t appeal to him in the least.

          • Mattie

            oh my gosh 🙁 no I didn’t, still not over it and I’m 24, just gonna have my own big family (or try to) despite the fact that I have joint hypermobility syndrome and so pregnancy is likely to be horrible

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            *looks slightly shamefaced* DD is 14 months, and to be honest, I find her infinitely more interesting now that she’s interacting/giving hugs/responding to conversation (nonverbally, but definitely responding via gestures and smiles). I’m really looking forward to the 3-4-5 years when she’ll be able to talk and engage even further. I adored the little squashy newborn stage from the snuggles perspective, but personality-wise, I’ll take a toddler any day.

          • Amazed

            I also liked the Intruder as a baby better from the position of practicality. I loved it when he was small enough to fit into my doll pram. But it’s far more interesting to have someone interacting more actively, even if he squeals, “I wanna play, too!” (Just imagine the excitement it stirred in me and my friends!)

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I noticed that initially with the nieces and nephews. I realized that, as much as I liked them when they were babies, they kept getting more interesting as they got older.

            And now I say the same thing about our kids. I wouldn’t trade the current version for when they were younger for anything.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Our kids have each had their own room. However, they prefer to sleep in the same room, so one bedroom is basically turned into a play room. He still has his closet and dresser in there, but we have a set of bunk beds in one room where they sleep.

            They are 6 and 4 right now.

            They trade off on who sleeps in the top bunk.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      I’m a SAHM and *I* can’t function like that. Period. I need sleep. The closer I get to 8-9 hours per night, the better mom and person I am. Ergo, DD was sleep trained at 3 months in her own room, thankyouverymuch, never coslept, had a bed time and corresponding routine starting at about 2-3 weeks old. I cannot even imagine working outside the house and dealing with that level of sleep deprivation.

  • I always thought of it as a way for the patriarchy to do that whole patronizing faux-admiration for home and hearth thing, or for people genuinely believing in it to minimize the importance of fatherhood within heteronormative families.

  • Liz Leyden

    I have to wonder if Christian fundamentalist attachment parenting types are familiar with the second half of Proverbs 31, about the Virtuous Woman. She runs the household, manages the servants, trades in the marketplace, produces consumer goods, and even owns land. In other words, she works outside the home.

    http://www.bartleby.com/108/20/31.html

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      A poster on a Catholic board I frequent often brings up that passage in pointing out that when talking about some (non-existent, in the Catholic understanding) ideal of “biblical womanhood,” you’re talking about a successful businesswoman and manager. Housework as such is barely even mentioned in the Bible. Needless to say, this isn’t appreciated by some posters, and certainly not those of the more fundamentalist stripe. 😉

      • attitude devant

        The only mention I can remember of housework in the Bible is Jesus telling Martha that her sister Mary has a place with the disciples at his feet, and Martha should stop dragging her away to help with the chores.

        • Amy

          Actually, Paul in one of his letters (I think Ephesians) uses the phrase “keepers at home,” which, to a cherry-picking fundamentalist, is all the justification they need. I even saw a fundamentalist once say that Abraham’s response when someone asked him where Sarah was– “Behold, in the tent”– was a commandment that ALL wives, even those without children, were required to stay at home, since Abraham just KNEW that that’s where his wife was. And yet they accuse the non-fundamentalists of picking and choosing and twisting scripture to suit themselves.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Actually, Paul in one of his letters (I think Ephesians) uses the phrase
            “keepers at home,” which, to a cherry-picking fundamentalist, is all
            the justification they need.

            Um, you don’t need to cherry-pick Paul to justify sexism. It’s rife throughout everything he wrote.

      • anotheramy

        It’s interesting because the Catholic church *doesn’t* have an official stance on women working outside the home. Nor have I heard any priests preaching about it, but among certain conservative lay people, it’s this huge issue.
        The church simply says “parents have a duty to provide for the spiritual and temporal needs of their children”.

        • Inmara

          I found it very interesting that in one wedding forum people were discussing tradition of walking down the isle, and someone pointed out that Catholic church explicitly advises for bride and groom to walk down the isle together, because they together enter the sacred Catholic marriage as two adults, and there shouldn’t be any giving away of the bride. I haven’t been to any Catholic weddings myself, but at least in my country it’s civil ceremonies where bride and groom walks down the isle together (it’s like a default option), whereas in Lutheran ceremonies more often bride walks alone or with father. Anyway, I was really surprised because I would have thought that Catholic church would embrace the patriarchy ingrained in all this “giving away” thing. Apparently, I’m not that educated about specific denominational practices, though I have general idea about them.

          • Montserrat Blanco

            I can tell you about Spain and how we celebrate catholic weddings here. The groom waits inside the church with his mother and all the guests and the bride walks down with her father. There is no mention to “giving away the bride” by the priest during the ceremony, so it looks like more of a tradition than anything else. It is certainly not necessary for the wedding to take place and I am pretty sure you can decide how to enter. I got a civil ceremony so I am not an expert on catholic wedding planning.

            That being said we also had a very catholic dictature until 30-something years ago so it might have been influenced by that and be slightly different from other countries.

          • attitude devant

            Very OT, but Montserrat, you would know: I was in Toledo last week and was told that they still hold daily services in the cathedral using the Visigothic rites. Is that true? Can that be true?

          • Montserrat Blanco

            Yes, it is true. I have never attended but it is true. There is the time table on their webpage and it is daily. When Toledo was part of the Córdoba caliphate some catholic people continued to have mass and carried on with the visigothic rite while the rest of the catholics moved on to different ceremonies. When Toledo came to be part of Corona de Castilla the rite was maintained there because catholic families asked for it and it has been like that until now.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I’ve been to lots and lots (the over/under is probably 50) of catholic weddings, and even got married in one. I’ve never seen the bride and groom walk in together. It is not uncommon for the bride to come in with her parents (not just dad).

            The one thing the catholic church pushes against is things like the wedding party coming in one at a time and slow – they want the priest to come in with the wedding party because it is just supposed to be the regular entrance procession.

            However, most weddings fight hard against that and try to make it more traditional. I’ve only been to a couple where the entrance was more like a church entry procession with the priest.

            The priest at our wedding kept pushing it and was like, “We don’t want to put the bride on display, right? It’s a mass, and so it is about God, not her…”

            Yeah, right. No, she was escorted by her parents.

          • Inmara

            OK, then probably it was an interpretation by particular priest or church, but I remember there was some guidelines mentioned in which supposedly church representatives mentioned that B&G should enter together. Maybe it’s regional thing (as you see below, Montserrat Blanco references to Spain, where in general church wedding traditions are different from U.S.)

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Traditionally speaking, that’s how Catholic couples walked in. “Traditionally”=mostly pre-1960s. It was one option offered to us at our (traditional, Latin Mass, etc) church, but we opted for me walking by myself.

          • Mac Sherbert

            I’m pretty sure most brides see it as definitely being about her! At least that’s the impression I get watching wedding shows on TLC. 😉

          • Cobalt

            TLC is also responsible for the Duggar’s show and the one about the beauty queening toddlers.

          • Liz Leyden

            TLC needs to drop the pretense and change its name to The Freak Show Channel.

          • Mac Sherbert

            So many things to thank them for… (Not).

          • Jessica

            What is noticeably absent at Catholic weddings vs. Protestant weddings is the “Who gives this woman to this man?” line. Catholic teaching is that only the man and woman can consent to the marriage. While the Church does prefer the couple walk in together, there is not much resistance to the custom of the bride being escorted by her father. You’ll often notice that the groom greets her before the altar and they take the last few steps to the altar together.

          • Mac Sherbert

            Right…I think the today the woman walking down the isle is more like her time to shine! Plus, if you’v spent the money a fabulous dress you definitely want to show it off! 😉

          • demodocus’ spouse

            Reverend M. didn’t ask that at my protestant wedding. I walked down the aisle with my father, but everyone was well aware that he was the last to know, lol.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            The “giving away” is apparently a Protestant tradition, albeit one that the Church has widely adopted though not required.
            For the record, I walked down the aisle alone. I wanted the aisle walk, but, well, I practically raised myself, my father has never been a particularly supportive figure in my life, and I wanted the symbolism of walking down the aisle single and back up married. Plus, DH kind of wanted the aisle walk, too–I think he wanted to see his bride walking towards him. *melts* I also like the symbolism of walking in together, but that’s what worked for us.

          • Trixie

            I just had both my parents walk me down. Not because they were giving me away, but because they’re cool and I wanted them with me.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          Ohhh, that it is. That it is.

        • Medwife

          The Pope just recently made a statement against the injustice of the gender wage gap. I’m an ex-Catholic atheist (the worst kind of atheist!) but when it comes to his liberation theology bent, I like Francis in spite of myself.

          • Cobalt

            For a Pope, he’s a good one?

          • Medwife

            Exactly. He does the best he can to be decent in what I see as a very flawed institution.

    • JJ

      That part is usually seen by fundamentalists as 1. SAHM should have a home-based business 2. The second half is about a woman in a “season” of life where her kids are grown and Prov. 31 describes a lifetime of the woman’s activities.

      I just wish I had servants like in Verse 15, but fundamentalists say that we have household appliances now, so same thing.

      • demodocus’ spouse

        At least the appliances will have no children who resemble one’s husband.

        • demodocus’ spouse

          (Not to say all guys do cheat or take advantage of women who cannot say no, but some do)

          • Gatita

            Example: Arnold Schwarzenneger.

        • Hannah

          I am only slightly ashamed that I laughed stupidly hard at this…

      • Amy

        Yup, and hence the proliferation of Utah-based MLM companies promising SAHMs the world once they suck their friends into replacing conventional medicine with essential oils and Amway/Shaklee products, and make up for housekeeping deficiencies by melting Scentsy waxes and “cooking” with Tastefully Simple mixes.

    • Pamela

      Those verses of Proverbs were used in my experience to put even more pressure on women. Not only were they supposed to forgo birth control, breastfeed, homeschool, keep a spotless house, and sew matching clothing for the ever-expanding brood, they were *also* supposed to start a home based business- preferably one that could be scaled so dad could leave corporate America and take over the business operations. Oh, and this business was also supposed to support sons and their families, and provide jobs for daughters until they married. No pressure or anything. I know Prov 31 is supposed to be complimentary and all, but after growing up with that interpretation, I freaking *hate* it.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        You know, I hadn’t considered that aspect, but you’re right.
        I’m sorry. That really does suck.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Hmm…note that she’s supposed to have servants to help with the actual housework and childcare. She’s not expected to do it all herself, just supervise.

  • just me

    I still can’t comprehend why it’s mostly women who promote this crap.

    • MegaMechaMeg

      Because when it is your life you are justifying you are more motivated than anyone to convince yourself that it is worth it. I

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Yep, it’s self-justification.

    • Cobalt

      The shorter the chain, the more incessant the bark.

      • just me

        I thought that phrase referred to the dog’s unhappiness with its situation. Why are these women justifying being treated this way? I could understand this in some religious contexts, e.g. Orthodox Jews, where women have been brought up to believe they are inferior and feel they have no way out, but here women (who are mostly “normal”) are voluntarily accepting and promoting this nonsense. ???

        • FrequentFlyer

          Could a lack of self confidence be part of it? If a woman believes deep down that she won’t be successful in a career, she might try to make mothrrhood her all consuming life’s work. Then if she embraces a philosophy that glorifies what she is doing and labels other mothrrs as bad or failures, she gets to be the most successful (even if it’s only in her own mind.)

          • MegaMechaMeg

            I work in a male dominated field and it this point it feels like a comical inevitabilty that my male coworker will marry a woman with a challenging and involved career and then sometime after the first kid she will quit and the excuse will be almost comically contrived. These are the same men who regularly boast about the housework that they don’t have to do and the diapers that they don’t have to change and how much they love breastfeeding because feeding the kid will never be their problem and it is just a single data point but most of these women when I see them after the great job quitting are smaller and shrewish and so increadibly defensive about everything I can’t help but feel that these people are the reasons that we have a mommy war. Unhappy women leading lives that they wouldn’t have chosen for themselves with unsupportive husbands and nobody to lash out at. I have friends who stay home with small kids who are not like that at all so it isn’t that I think staying home is an invalid life path, it just feels like when staying home is not a freely made choice you end up with nothing but misery.

          • Gatita

            There are still huge institutional barriers for women in academia and the workplace. A PhD thesis will get higher marks if the author has a male name vs. a female name with no other changes to the text. Women stall at lower levels of the corporate ladder and they are paid less for the same work. After a while, a woman may simply decide that if she isn’t being allowed to excel in the work sphere she’s going to excel in the home sphere. It’s a way to gain some power and control within the confines of the patriarchy.

            –Poster formerly known as Guesteleh

          • Bugsy

            Yes, I definitely agree with it. To add to it, I think the effect of pregnancy & postpartum hormones can’t be overlooked; a lot of new moms are naturally pretty fragile w/ the hormonal shifts. Heck, I know I was.

          • Cobalt

            This I have seen myself. This woman I know basically infantilized herself because she was afraid to grow up and be a responsible adult, and she used the “wife and mother” trope to justify not having any responsibility other than the baby. She wouldn’t even get a driver’s license, and she didn’t live in an area where public transportation existed. That’s an extreme and rare case, though.

          • Stacy48918

            “Cultivated female dependency”

          • Mishimoo

            That’s something I’m working on – I wasn’t allowed to learn how to drive when I was a teen, and now I’m struggling to find the kid-free time and energy to do it. If we had decent public transport in our area, I don’t think I ever would get my license, but we don’t and so I must get past the anxiety.

          • fiftyfifty1

            The anxiety gets less and less the more you do it. You can do it.

          • Mishimoo

            Thank you! 🙂
            The rational part of me knows that, but the irrational ball of insecurities that I’m trying to temper or discard is all “Piloting a 1+ tonne death machine?! What about drunk/drug drivers and other people’s crappy driving. Other people’s lack of adequate vehicle maintenance?!” and so on. But, I will get there!

          • Who?

            Driving is definitely better mastered when you are invincible, though that is hard on the parents-we’ve done it twice.

            Find a nice teacher and take it slowly. The things you mention are all legitimate concerns, most of which you can do nothing about and which won’t be worse than they are now when you are the driver rather than the passenger/pedestrian.

            You will get there, and it is so handy esp if public transport isn’t great where you are.

          • Stacy48918

            I’m so thankful I had a normal life before I fell down that rabbit hole. It’s been a long difficult journey (and it’s not over yet) but it could have been so much harder. Keep at it Mishi. 🙂

          • Mishimoo

            I am so very glad that you left and have custody. I’ll say it again: it is awesome that your kids aren’t going to grow up believing that stuff and having to unlearn it. It’s also great that you don’t have to live with those ridiculous expectations any more. You keep at it too 🙂

          • Cobalt

            Get help if you need it, nothing wrong with getting an experienced teacher for learning something so different from what you know. It’s a valuable skill and an investment in yourself, intimidating at first but soon indispensable and the convenience is life-changing.

          • Amazed

            Mishimoo, my mom’s anxiety was such that she didn’t drive for 10 YEARS after she got her license. But finally, she could not afford not to. I remember how proud I was the first time she took us for a drive.

            Anxiety was still so strong that when she had to take someone in the car, she felt obliged to tell them just how anxious she was. A friend of hers asked, “Do you drive your kids here and there?” “Yes,” my mom replied. “Then what are we talking about? I won’t be anxious with you.”

            It can be achieved. Keep your goal in mind, and you’ll do it.

          • Monkey Professor for a Head

            This sounds very like my sister. She’s 27 years old but I find myself constantly thinking she’s younger because of how she acts. She’s never really worked, can’t drive, has no qualifications beyond secondary school. She has a 2 year old child with a second one on the way, and has very much thrown herself into the motherhood role, but I suspect that it’s at least partly used as an excuse to never grow up. I just get the impression that she’s “playing house”, and whilst her child is well cared for I worry that at some point shes going to have a nasty shock. At the very least at some point her children will go to school (if she doesn’t homeschool) or later on they’ll leave home and I think she’ll realise that she has nothing else in her life but motherhood.

            Maybe it’s easy for me to judge since I’m not a mother yet. But watching my sister has made me really hope that I can avoid losing myself when my little parasite arrives next month. Being a mother is important to me, but I don’t want it to be all I am.

          • Cobalt

            “Being a mother is important to me, but I don’t want it to be all I am.”

            That’s how I feel, and four kids in its true most of the time. No matter how focused I am elsewhere, I am never not a mother, but rarely am I just a mother. There are times when you really need to immerse yourself completely in it, but those are generally short (hours to days, not years). The fact of my children has changed a lot of my decisions, my priorities, and my habits, but not my value as an individual separate from them.

          • Who?

            Just that point is what baffles me. I spent years in professional jobs taking responsibility for big money, projects etc. All of that paled in comparison to taking responsibility for a whole human being I had conjured up-with a little help from husband, of course.

            If you really wanted to avoid responsibility my first thought would be don’t have kids.

          • Cobalt

            Babies/small children were one of the very few things that didn’t intimidate her. She also didn’t get mentally caught up in the “responsible for human life” part, her thoughts were more “I can change diapers and play at the park, that’s easy”. Paying bills, from earning the money to working out a budget to physically mailing the check became entirely the husband’s responsibility.

            I would have felt held hostage, oppressed, unrespected, and hated it. She loved it. Hers was not a freedom to act, but a freedom from the need to act.

          • Who?

            So interesting isn’t it. Having small children did feel very constricting, the world got very small. And my own first child was about the third baby I’d ever held, we led a very fluid life before him. Getting into gear for family life that worked took years, including a second baby.

            It’s hard on the kids too as they get older if they are the entire focus-they need to find their independence, sometimes they need a nudge, sometimes the parent does.

            Let’s hope her husband keeps his side of the bargain-too many women find themselves with no idea what their assets are and how to manage if husband moves on, or if he dies or is disabled and can’t keep taking those responsibilities.

          • Cobalt

            They split up, the husband exhausted himself being the only adult in the relationship and dealing with her avoidance of reality (like the debt from her spending habits), which got worse as time went on. They tried counseling and such for years, but it just didn’t work. That’s the life she wanted, he wanted a more equal division of responsibility, and neither was willing to change.

            After they split (with a spontaneously generous support agreement on his part), she did get a driver’s license, apartment and a job. It lasted until she married again less than a year later, at which point she resumed her old pattern. That’s when I walked away, she really didn’t want “help” and I just couldn’t watch anymore. The idea of being so beholden to someone makes me very uncomfortable. Hopefully this time she picked a partner that wants that kind of relationship, and nothing bad happens to him.

          • Inmara

            I think this is the mindset behind very many people who fall for fundamental religions – they just don’t want to be responsible adults (i.e. figure out moral and ethical issues, think what’s the best lifestyle for their individuality, deal with everyday choices, either trivial or with huge impact etc.), so they find an environment where some authority gives them clear instructions. And often they need to rationalize it for themselves, cue aggressive attempts to convert other people.

          • MegaMechaMeg

            But when I am having a bad day at work that option is so very, very attractive. Someone else pays your bills, you are surrounded with kids that you love, you can spend your day coloring and playing with playdoh and singing happy songs and baking cakes and cookies and snuggling and doing your creative pursuits…
            And then I remember that I would have to clean and I wouldn’t have the disposable income for shoes. I like needlework but I think I like shoes more.

          • KarenJJ

            I love looking at (some) of those blogs of mothers that have beautiful, organised, colour-co-ordinated homes. I imagine myself swanning around the house, being patient with the kids and baking tasty treats.

            The few times I’ve tried that though, my reality doesn’t quite live up to my imagination. I can’t stand needlework either and don’t really have any creative pursuits (unless learning how to solder surface mount components counts?).

          • Amy

            I think that’s absolutely it. If you don’t have any professional, artistic, or intellectual accomplishments (deliberately including all because I do NOT think that money/career is the only way to distinguish oneself), you have to convince yourself that your “achievements” in the home deserve some sort of external recognition. Since most people with children end up working out a career/home balance that suits them, the only way to gain that recognition is to denigrate people who don’t do it your way. Everyone puts their kids to bed; bed-sharing is what the BEST mothers do. Everyone feeds their kids; expensive organic food is what the BEST mothers serve. Everyone arranges some sort of education for their kids (in the US, it’s the law); the BEST mothers homeschool.

            Conversely, the professional and (in my case) artistic skills I’ve developed as a teacher and a musician have nothing to do with parenting. I can work to be the best I can possibly be at them without having to denigrate Dr. Amy’s medical skills, or CC prof’s work at the college level, or a painter’s artistic abilities. I may and do have strong opinions about teaching, and absolutely think that certain teaching practices are crap, but there’s a lot less at stake there than if I were claiming that someone’s parenting was going to ruin their children’s lives.

        • Amy M

          Also, I don’t think many of them are making the connections between pressure about how to behave from other moms they know, and the anti-female agency agenda promoted by LLL, Dr. Sears, etc.

          They usually seem to think they are being feminist, because the ability to choose to stay home or not something feminists fought for. What those feminists did NOT fight for, was that the stay-home choice should be so rigorous. My impression, from Betty Friedan and the like, is that even though women were more restricted to the home in post-WW2 era, they weren’t trying to make more work for themselves. It was then that so many time and labor saving machines became available to most people. And I think the current child-centric view (at least in America) is pretty recent. Back in the day, children were seen and not heard. Now, they drown out the adults.

          So the modern Natural Parenting movement doesn’t really resemble the supposed golden-era, where mom vacuumed with high heels and pearls on, and had 3.6 beautiful children and a white picket fence. It’s more stringent BECAUSE women have more choices now (or in many cases less choices,for financial reasons). Back when institutionalized sexism was rampant, that’s all it took to keep the women home, and the good jobs for the men.

          • Wren

            To be honest, most of the SAHMs I know do not follow all the AP/natural parenting stuff at all. In fact, in my real world life (as opposed to people I only know online) I can only think of one, and I first met her online.

            I think it seems more common because the rest of us aren’t blogging constantly about being mommies or on boards for it all the time or buying into any particular philosophy for long. The vast majority of SAHMS with kids over 4 (the age they start school here) are busy with loads of things during the day, help out at school and/or other worthwhile places and in many cases are slowly moving towards working part time or running a small business. Home schoolers really make up a small percentage of SAHMs. Most of those I’ve known have, like myself, given up on most of the natural parenting stuff before their first child is 3, or at least the parts they don’t enjoy for one reason or another. I liked breastfeeding and cloth diapers and I liked carrying my youngest in a sling or other carrier so those stuck. Most of the rest did not. I have no urge to homeschool, though I have used it as a threat to my kids before. They don’t want it either.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          There’s at least one line of thinking in Judaism that says that women should work and have profitable careers so that men can be free to contemplate g-d. Although the theory here is very male superiority, in practice money talks and leads to Jewish women having, at least in some cases, more freedom than non-Jewish women.

          Only semi-related, my partner is an astronomer–a most impractical field where he spends his time contemplating, if not god, at least the universe. I’m a doctor–a very practical and, in principle, profitable field. We joke about how traditional our relationship is.

        • Cobalt

          I don’t know if voluntary is really true though. The cultural pressure to conform is strong. Once you hit the critical mass of believers, it becomes a norm that’s hard to fight. And I really don’t think they’re happy, not if they are patrolling other people’s choices.

    • Stacy48918

      I fell for the fairytale. Then couldn’t see a way out even though I knew something was wrong…but you have to keep up appearances so you try harder and harder. You’re trained to think YOU are to blame – you’re just not doing enough. It’s an awful way to live.

  • Alex Tulchner

    Slightly OT, but I’ve seen repeated references to Dr. Amy’s forthcoming book – for those of us who are out of the loop, can someone please fill us in? Thanks!

  • JJ

    Yes. Until a few years ago, my conservative religion drove my natural parenting. If natural living was “the best/the way God made things to be” then I needed to sacrifice and not be selfish like religion taught and live that way. That is why I left both behind at the same time because they depended on each other and were both enslaving me.

    Now I am now progressive Christian and have fully vaccinated, public school-attending, normal life-living happy kids. I am so thankful to be free of ALL of it.

  • Amy M

    I think part of the “let’s make everything as time-intensive and difficult as possible” has two roles. One, like Dr. Amy says, to keep women in the home. The Natural Parenting community and any other organizations/people who fear women’s emancipation use it that way. But those women who choose to follow the NP tenets (not all, but definitely some) use it to justify their preferences for staying home instead of working

    Since those Natural Parenting practices are touted as best, in order to provide the best, the woman won’t have time to work outside the home. So instead of rejecting that as utter bs, women who are choosing to stay home (as opposed to those who have to due to financial or medical necessity) they embrace it, as proof that they are making the right choice. And then they HAVE to insist that their way is the only way, because they see other mothers getting the same outcomes (a happy, healthy baby), using much easier methods. Those other methods are then labeled as “short-cuts” so the non-Natural Parenting mom can be accused of laziness and selfishness, which are (in the Natural Parenting world, but also unfortunately in the mainstream) the markers of a BAD MOM.

    • JJ

      This is so right on.

    • guest

      This all just makes me want to give my children frozen french fries for dinner more often. Microwaved.

  • Amy

    Oh, absolutely! And homeschooling takes it one step further, because now instead of an imperative to be home when the children are nursing, the mother absolutely has to stay home until the youngest child has graduated (if you can call it that) from high school.

    In fact, if you look at some pro-homeschoolers’ “debunking” of common reasons people give for not homeschooling, ALL of them start with the assumption that the mother is home all day anyway.

    • Homeschooling is an interesting crowd. The liberal parents are outnumbered about 10 to 1 by religious conservatives. My family wants to homeschool. We are very much hoping for my husband to stay home for that. Its hard in a patriarchy but we are going to try.

      • attitude devant

        Call me jaded, or paranoid, or whatever, but I catch strong whiffs of “I don’t what my kids in school with that bad element” from homeschoolers. In the South, where I grew up, that ‘bad element’ was Black, and homeschooling was given a HUGE boost by desegregation (as were the ‘Christian’ schools, which are anything but). The ‘bad element’ around here is socioeconomically disadvantaged kids in public school AND kids from more liberal families who might ‘corrupt’ their precious spawn.

        • Ennis Demeter

          I live in a great school district and my neighbors homeschool and I think the same thing. Also, a lot of homeschooling is based on bad info. The proponents love to go on about their objections to standardized education and about how HS kids do really well, but the truth is no one knows how they are doing. A lot of states have no monitoring to speak of and non-compliance is rampant where there is monitoring. That means that there could be millions of sub-educated, functionally illiterate homeschooled kids out there, and I rather suspect that there are.

          • Roadstergal

            I teach the motorcycle safety course, and we once taught a homeschooled girl. She was really nice, did reasonably well in the class – and then when it came down to the evaluation (after two days, you do an evaluation that’s basically a reprise of some of the exercises from the weekend – it’s very easy (IMO, too easy)), she just fell apart. We’ve seen people who don’t test well, but we’ve never seen anyone just completely blow the evaluation so far below the skill level we’d observed. We found out in the debrief afterwards that she’d been homeschooled, and had never undergone a test/evaluation/etc in her life.

            My own personal experience with public education does rather remind me of the stereotype of hospital delivery vs the experiences some folk here have had. It wasn’t cold, impersonal, and all about standardized tests; it was fun, it was great to have the variety of teachers I had, it opened my mind. I got a good STEM background that prepared me for a STEM career, without art, literature, and music being neglected.

          • attitude devant

            I’m an old progressive. I think that our society does better if our kids have to learn to deal with kids who are different colors, different cultures, etc. My kids went to public school and they KNOW that not everyone has the advantages they had. They can relate to lots of different people in all kinds of environments because they went to school with lots of different people.

          • Amazed

            I view school as more than a way to acquire knowledge. I view it as a way to learn how to navigate through life – how to deal with nasty girls, teachers who simply dislike you for no reason at all (your future boss, perhaps?), getting a grade that WASN’T adequate to the knowledge you demonstrated.

            A mother’s love is something precious but, IMO, homeschooling parents should take care to show the other side of the coin because one day, the world won’t be as loving and supporting as Mom.

          • attitude devant

            I couldn’t teach my kids how to ride a bike, let along algebra or trig.

          • KarenJJ

            Same. I’ve done a bit of trying to teach my daughter when she’s been too unwell for school for an extended time but not too unwell to get bored and enjoy doing something a bit mentally challenging. We’re both very relieved when she’s well enough to go back to class. I’ve had to accept that I teach my kids is similar to how my Dad tried to teach me – good in very small doses, but definitely not for the long term. Dad trying to teach me how to drive a car was the stuff of family legend… Thank god for driving instructors…

          • Amazed

            Driving instructors save lives!

          • Who?

            And parents’ sanity. We dropped a lot of very well spent money on driving lessons for kids.

          • Bugsy

            I agree…and yet the philosophies I heard from Crazy Lactivist suggested that by sheltering children and providing them with the warmest, kindest, most supportive environment possible, you provide the child with an incredibly strong foundation to bounce off of. I’m not talking about the traditional loving home, but one that is sheltered and monitored to a “T.” In CL’s case, she wouldn’t even let her son listen to nursery rhymes before modifying them to ensure the most positive message possible…including the evli Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Yep.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Meanwhile, this is the version of nursery rhymes that our kids like

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNoXsV2X7bs

          • araikwao

            We like a bit of Caspar Babypants, too

          • Dinolindor

            I cannot imagine what there is to change in Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to make it more positive. It’s incredibly neutral as far as I can see it. What did she do to it??

          • Bugsy

            Yeah…

            I can’t remember it verbatim, but “How I wonder what you are” was changed into “What a wonderful baby you are,” and the next two lines focused on how he was such a perfect, happy child from his toes to his head, something like that.

            The other nursery rhymes she included in the homemade book she gave me were all of a similar vein. Don’t get me wrong – having a loving, caring upbringing is wildly important to our family as well. However, the singular focus on this child’s perfection at all times makes me wonder how he might ever escape the house without either an ego the size of Alaska or a constant need for validation of his awesomeness. Nothing against Alaska, of course…

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            OK, “Rock-a-bye Baby” is pretty morbid …

          • Bugsy

            I do agree with you on that one!

          • Amazed

            Bounce off?

            What drug do these people take? I want some. Their headspace seems to be a happy place…

            Oh wait, it’s also a very deluded one. Err, I don’t want that drug, thank you very much.

          • Kq

            Frankly, I view socialization as the primary reason to send kids to “normal” school. My husband and I were both TAG kids – I skated through high school and college without effort and made As and Bs, he dropped out as a sophomore. The schools failed us both, so we assume our TAG kid will need supplemental education – but we can’t provide the socialization, and that’s the thing we both needed most.

          • Amazed

            Some people expect that homeschooling can provide socialization. I don’t agree. Meeting with other homeschooled children that Mom has vetted is still a form of sheltering the kid in a Mom-shaped world.

            What happens when the kid has to have an unmonitored interaction one nice, sunny day?

          • Who?

            My kids went through a fad of wanting to be home schooled, but I told them they were far too good at distracting me and getting their own way for that to ever work.

            And yes learning to get along with others, take turns including last sometimes-or first, which can be just as bad in its own way-and the joy of getting to Friday in one piece.

          • attitude devant

            My daughter is close friends with a homeschooled girl who is obviously very bright, even gifted, but completely crippled by not having had the experience of managing tests, papers, etc. She is 19 and stuck in jobs at nursing homes, etc. I’m friends with her mom, but totally dismayed that her education was neglected this way.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Speaking as a formerly-homeschooled kid, I’m certain that there are.
            DH and I were both homeschooled; I usually say that his parents did it the right way, and mine the opposite. He and his siblings took standardized tests every year to see both how they compared to their peers and how they’d progressed over the previous year. They were held to rigorous standards. The last two years of high school were spent taking community college classes, a good idea for any homeschooler if only for lab sciences: though his mother had a master’s in a hard science field, setting up a chem lab in the kitchen wasn’t really an option. By the time DH graduated high school, he also had his first two years of college completed. He and his siblings also participated in sports and extracurriculars through the local school district, so they still had exposure to kids with far different backgrounds.
            I, on the other hand, got pulled out of school in first grade, started homeschooling the next year, and then had my education badly neglected after about 6th grade or so. The only reason I went to college was that I told my parents in my junior year that either they’d put me in public school for two years to get my diploma, or I’d contact CPS and accuse them of educational neglect. It was a god-awful two years, as I’d never spent much time with my peers and had no idea how to interact with them, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
            For the record, most homeschoolers I’ve known fall into my parents’ category (aside from the HS diploma, that is), rather than DH’s.

          • carr528

            When HS parents point to the tests that show HS kids out score their public schooled counterparts, I always want to know WHO was tested. Sure, lots of HS kids who come from upper middle class families where they’ve been read to since birth will probably out score my English Learners who come from high poverty and low literacy homes, but they probably won’t out score my own public schooled kids who do have lots of advantages. You have to compare apples to apples, and I don’t think those memes we see on FB by HS proponents do that.

            That being said, I’d put my English Learners from a Title 1 school up against a home schooling family like the Duggars any day of the week. My kids would knock their socks off. 🙂

          • Amy

            We get kids who transfer in from homeschooling and/or Christian schools. They’re pretty much always at least a year behind their peers.

          • Ennis Demeter

            People who are terrible homeschoolers have a huge incentive not to have their kids tested. Teachers can be fired, but parents can lose custody of their children. I am certain many, many people just don’t have their kids tested, even where it’s required.

          • Daleth

            I’ve never heard of homeschoolers losing custody of their kids just because the kids weren’t being taught adequately. Most likely they would just be ordered to put their kids in school.

        • just me

          Me too, and I have actual experience with this–my HS diploma-educated SIL home “schooled” and we know racism (omg! Mexicans!) was behind her & her tea party husband’s choice. Apparently California requires a college degree ? But this is easy to overcome–when I raised this issue my mil said “bil” has that–so maybe they listed him on the app?

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          I’ve seen plenty of that in my own experience with homeschooling, too. To be fair, sometimes it’s a perfectly legitimate concern: our local high school has knife fights in the cafeteria and female students getting sexually assaulted in the hallways. I don’t give a crap what color their fellow students are–DH and therefore DD are minorities anyway–but I do want our kids to be able to attend school without worrying about being stabbed/groped/etc. As for the academic standards (or lack thereof) of the local schools, the less said the better. Ergo, we’re homeschooling, while outsourcing to other instructors those subjects that DH and I aren’t qualified to teach. Obviously, we’re quite privileged to have that option: DH’s salary is such that I can stay home and manage a lot of that.
          DH, who was also homeschooled, waxes very sarcastic indeed about the only Christian school in his southern hometown. Said school was founded the year after desegregation took place. To this day, the only minority students are those who are stars on the football and basketball teams. *snort*

          • KarenJJ

            I went to one of those schools that had the occasional knife fight… I know it’s a tough choice and I don’t know if I’d have made it, but one of the things that helped a lot in retrospect was that the teachers were very supportive if you were a keen student plus my school was much more diverse and open minded than the schools some of my friends went to. Homosexual students that were ‘out’ was not uncommon, for example. Coming from a broke single-parent household was not uncommon and not a barrier to friendship groups. Wearing ‘labelled’ clothes was seen as ‘showy’.

        • Mishimoo

          Evolution and liberalism in schools were the main drivers behind my parents taking me out of school in the first grade, along with the belief that the End Times were near and all Christians would be persecuted. There was also a bit of Dunnings-Kruger involved as I was tested for Autism in pre-school. While I don’t have Autism, I do have a fairly high IQ and they thought they could do a better job of teaching than the ‘corrupt’ and ‘Satanic’ education system…by using the ACE system instead.

        • fiftyfifty1

          Other homeschooling motivations include anti-intellectualism, rebel without a clue-ism and desire to shock the in-laws (said from the point of view of a formerly homeschooled person).

        • I am honestly afraid of bullying. It has had a profound effect on my family of origin and my husband’s and no one has really solved the problem of bullying in schools. My sister and my husband were both bullied by the teachers on more than one occasion and have problems with their self-concept to this day because they were picked on so relentlessly. My son is a small boy. We have never forced him to act “like a boy” so he cries easily, wears pink things if he wants, etc. He is quiet and shy. He is going to get picked on, I can almost guarantee. Its not because there is anything wrong with him, either, its just how school is. It just doesn’t make sense to put him in school when he probably isn’t going to thrive.

          • Gatita

            I’m sure it depends on what school district your in but my experience with our school district is that they take bullying very seriously and they do intervene once you make them aware that it’s going on. They have social workers and psychologists from school district come in to work with the kids and the families. You should tour your local school and talk to the principal and some of the parents. You may be pleasantly surprised.

      • anotheramy

        That reminds me of a meme I saw on facebook ” you think that’s hard? try finding a secular homeschool science curriculum”.

        • Smoochagator

          Ha! Love it!

      • lisa

        The demographics of homeschoolers varies considerably by region. The first homeschooler I met was totally secular, the second was Jewish and the third was Jewish atheist. I have met some Christian homeschoolers since then but no fundamentalists. The diversity of public schools also varies considerably by region. I am former teacher and the homeschool community I am involved in is more diverse than some schools I’ve seen. Everyone really has to decide what works for their family and be willing to change course if necessary.

  • Ennis Demeter

    I agree and I have thought this many, many times. Especially homeschooling. As family’s got smaller, people had to invent a pretext for keeping mothers put of the workforce by making motherhood labor intensive past the early years.

    • Dr. Ann Dally, a British psychiatrist, has written about just this situation: that, following the First World War, when women went into the work force in really large numbers for the first time, it was imperative to get them out again so men could get their jobs back after demobilization. Freud et al were supposedly the very last word at the time, and so mothers were brainwashed that if they weren’t the child, or children’s, exclusive caregiver, 24/7, their children would develop all kinds of neuroses and other psychological problems. It worked very well, and in the Twenties and even right up to WWII, it was thought that a woman should give up any job she had once she married.

      I don’t know if Dr. Dally’s book is still in print. IIRC, the title was “Inventing Motherhood, The Consequences of an Ideal”.

      • Roadstergal

        I’ve heard a lot of the same things about post-WWII US – when ‘the boys’ came back home, Rosie the Riveter had to go back to the kitchen, hence the Domestic Goddess image of the ’50s in the US. This also coincided with the ‘refrigerator mother’ school of thought around autism.

        • Medwife

          “Refrigerator mothers” were also to blame for schizophrenia during that time. Read (or re-read; I read it first in HS and again as an adult) “I Never Promised You a Rosegarden” for a disturbing look at “treatment” for schizophrenia in the 50’s and 60’s.

  • Daleth

    Just for clarity and to avoid enabling NCB’ers to take your words out of context, it might be good to consider changing “Natural childbirth was created explicitly in response to women’s emancipation” to “The natural childbirth movement was created explicitly in response to women’s emancipation.”