It probably goes without saying that I believe feminism and motherhood are not mutually exclusive. But feminism continues to be targeted as the cause of parenting woes rather than the solution to them.
I am impressed, however, by the balance and sound arguments in the New York Times‘s latest Room for Debate round table, “Feminism vs. Motherhood.” There’s an attachment parenting advocate who defends being feminist while breastfeeding and co-sleeping; an unapologetic workaholic mom who believes being the best that she can be is the best thing she can do for her children; a grandma who reminds us we need stop judging each other—a mom of a special-needs child echoes that sentiment; that lady who thinks French moms are the creme de la creme; and a mothering traditionalist (think: 1950s housewifery) who blames feminism for pretty much everything wrong with society and its children.
The latter argument is a given in this debate, and though hers is not alone in attacking feminism for causing women to devalue marriage and family, in this debate it’s hardly the loudest. Mostly because for perhaps the first time I’ve clicked on an article with a headline like “femimism vs. motherhood,” (and there seems to be a new one every day), I see a wealth of perspectives. Though each essay was written and published independently, the series reads like a conversation. It gives me hope that we can have civil, educated, open-minded debates with other women on this topic. Because the one thing we all have in common—whether we sling our babies with us everywhere or formula-feed while working 60 hours a week—is that we all struggle with balancing the demands and importance of raising our children while maintaining our identities as individuals.
Doing both is perhaps the hardest thing about parenting and I believe the most important.