Today in Mom News: French Writer Says Motherhood Is Oppressive

This one is sure to provoke some interesting conversation: The Times of London has an interview with French author Elisabeth Badinter, who argues in a new book that “women have thrown off the shackles of male domination only to impose a far more pernicious tyranny on themselves—that of their own children.” Intense! Badinter believes that women put their children first, to the detriment of their own lives. She also says that mothers feel too much guilt about everything, and should “Give the baby a bottle and have a drink and a smoke, too, if it takes your fancy.” What do you all think about Badinter’s philosophy?

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    • 1.  Pam

      I agree to some extent. You see this a LOT with single mothers (I am one)– because there is guilt about going to earn a living and guilt about not being able to be there after school to help with homework or make snacks, there is more of tendancy to give up “mom time” for “family time”. For instance, when I have my kids (I have a joint custody so they live 50% with me, 50% with their father) I am actively involved in all aspects of their lives — I cook their meals, clean their rooms, take them to activities, volunteer for their activities, and avoid leaving them with sitters at night because I feel that my “job” of mother is overreigning from spending time (or money) on being ME.

      I do notice that the same is not true for single fathers. My ex regularly leaves our children with his mother to go to classes, events, movies out, and dates. He doesn’t feel the need to be present at every school event or extracurricular activity, much less get involved in activities with the kids. While I spend most of my time being a MOTHER, my ex spends most of his time being HIMSELF.

      I think that the culture that allows fathers to coast while putting the onus of parenthood ONLY on the mothers is creating that feeling that we OWE things to our children (or in my ex MIL’s case, her GRANDCHILDREN!)…

      March 23, 2010 at 2:44 pm

      • 1.1  jess

        Pam, what an interesting point about single fathers! You’re right–mothers get all of the pressure to be perfect and Dads get praise just for showing up.

        March 23, 2010 at 6:39 pm

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    • 2.  julez

      i ditto what Pam says!

      March 23, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    • 3.  Lynnkins

      I agree with the author 100%!

      I see it over and over again, mothers who are turning their lives completely over to their children. Much to the detriment of themselves, their spouses, and their children. What kind of a message are mothers giving to their children when they martyr themselves in this way? The kids grow up with a sense of entitlement that the world owes them everything (after all Mom is doing everything for them). How can girls have respect for themselves when they don’t see their primary role-model – their own mother – taking the time to care and nurture herself? And boys grow up thinking that all women are good for is tending to their every whim.

      It’s time for mothers (and many fathers) to put children back in their place in the family – as a vital part, but not the center.

      March 23, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    • 4.  Sarah

      I’ll have to read the article and the title you used for the post is a bit incindiary but, from the rest of your blurb, I wouldn’t say she’s wrong! We’ve turned into a child-centric society where the little angels can do no wrong and butter wouldn’t melt in their little mouths and look where that’s getting us! Spoiled children that don’t learn how to deal with rejection or dissapointment and mothers that are stressed out pushovers. I agree with Lynnkins, children are important parts of the family but not the center. Families are teams and everyone has to play by the rules! I’m excited to read the article!

      March 24, 2010 at 12:09 am

    • 5.  Saz

      I will admit that my mama gave up everything for us (and I don’t thank her enough for it). She put herself last time and time again. Things may have been different if my father had been present, but knowing the woman as I do, I’d say probably not. Her mother was nothing like that; she was selfish to the point of neglect and abuse, and I know who I’d rather be like.

      However, devoted mother does not necessarily equal spoiled child. The three of us are fairly well balanced, independent adults now. I have just started uni after a year of supporting myself and mama is paying my rent. I hate it and I feel guilty about having to rely on her as an adult after all she did for me as a kid/teenager (technically I’m still a teenager, but that’s not the point).

      So, yes, I think mothers should take more time for themselves, but I don’t think they should be condemned if they don’t any more than they should be if they do.
      And I think saying that spending all your free time on your kids makes them brats is far too sweeping a statement.

      When I have kids, I hope I am as selfless as my mother.

      March 24, 2010 at 6:20 am

      • 5.1  Suzanne

        I am like your mom where I had a selfish mom who is the same as a grandma, just doesn’t want kids. I don’t and didn’t try and change her but I have 5 wonderful kids who are all now happy, well adjusted adults but when they were growing up I did put my needs last and because of my childhood many times too much sometimes. Not one of my kids is unappreciative or spoiled because being selfless doesn’t mean you don’t teach your children how blessed they are plus they had enough exposure to what my childhood was like by my sisters’ children. they are both the same kind of mom as we had unfortunately. We know mothering is short term and believe it or not 20 yrs is so short so we give while you need us but we let go when you are ready. The difference between selfless mom is you do what is best for your child including letting go when they are an adult while a selfish parent it is all about themselves and they don’t let go but hold childbirth and every mistake against the child for their entire life so the child always owes.

        March 25, 2010 at 10:14 pm

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    • 6.  Terry

      Saz – I know many children of single parents who are independent, sharp, resourceful and terrific to be around. Sounds like your mom did a great job rearing you and your siblings. Give her a hug from me!

      It’s all about balance, don’t you think?

      March 24, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    • 7.  amanda

      I agree with the basic premise (wholeheartedly agree!) but there is little that pisses me off more than mothers who smoke around their children!

      March 24, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    • 8.  Meesh

      I am not a mother, but I see this mommy martyrdom in some of my friends. I am a feminist, and I believe that the only escape from this trap is truly equal partnership with your spouse–that way no one person bears the brunt of it. Barring that option, the woman should do whatever it takes to care for her child while still putting her needs first. Just my opinion.

      March 24, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    • 9.  astar

      I think also kids need to just be left alone. Kids need time to figure things out on their own. And to play and imagine alone.

      March 24, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    • 10.  kissmymango

      hell yeah, she’s right – about kids anyway. Time after time I see women with kids who focus so much on the them that their lives become totally about the kids. I have none. I’m not really interested. And I’d like to talk to my friends with kids about something other than the consistency of little johnny’s bowel movements. But kidskidskids -that’s all they think about, talk about, all they do. I’m not surprised kids ruin so many marriages if this is what raising them takes. No thanks!!

      March 29, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    • 11.  Katie

      Haven’t read the article yet, but I plan to after this. I would have to agree. I’m 25, and although everyone says I’ll change my mind, I don’t want kids for specifically this reason — I want to live my own life. Some people may think that’s selfish, but it is mine to live and we have a lot of kids in the world already, so I don’t feel the need to add to that population. And while I’d argue that neither my sister nor I were spoiled by our parents — didn’t get everything we wanted, were not allowed to throw tantrums, were grounded for bad marks, etc. — it’s only in the last 10 years or so that I realized my parents had lives outside of me. I think children are inherently selfish — not as a knock against them. Coming out of that is part of growing up. But it’s not something I want to put myself through, despite being grateful to my parents for sacrificing so much for my sister and I.

      March 29, 2010 at 7:37 pm

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