Andrea O’Reilly: For me the challenge is to validate the important work of mothering while at the same time show that maternal work, as it is currently defined under intensive mothering, is not necessary or required. Yes, children need to have their self esteem nurtured but that does not mean they need to take piano on Tuesday, French immersion on Wednesday, or are never told to go out to the back yard and play…
Sara Ruddick: Your critique of intensive mothering reminds me that maternal ideals can serve unwanted ends. The ideology of “good mothering”, or our desire to do mothering really well, may intensify inequalities and provoke or excuse status hunger and domineering competition. There will be occasions when we – mothers and our advocates – should stop celebrating ourselves or our children and instead begin to hold each other accountable for our contribution to the spoiling of lives.
I follow you into that conversation but I want to maintain a sense of proportion. I do not doubt that the driven competition and consumer display that you describe has serious costs. But strolling to the park with your infant in his designer stroller is not the same as counting out your bonus in your private jet. Status hunger and envy may unravel the mind, but the fiercest competition for college places rarely kills.
From Maternal Thinking: Philosophy, Politics, Practice. Maintaining a sense of proportion in ‘mother blaming’ – Andrea O’Reilly and Sara Ruddick remain some of the very best voices in maternal feminism.