the madness of modern parenting

Zoe Williams in The Guardian:

BabyI initially interpreted the new atmosphere around mothering especially as just a new kind of patriarchy: even if a topic were far from the point of consensus, we should all pretend to agree, in order not to make the ladies anxious. And while I remain assured that there is a lot of casual sexism underpinning all this, I have concluded that the driving impetus is political: adverse conditions that are related to poverty are recast as parenting failures. For instance, mothers in the bottom quintile go back to work soonest, presumably because they cannot afford to take their full entitlement of maternity leave. This makes breastfeeding for the “recommended” amount of time impossible: it also renders unrealistic the ideal childcare for the pre-toddler – one-to-one, round-the-clock care from the primary care-giver.

The modern conversation about parenting turns the healthy baby, and healthy child, into the proof of the parents’ excellent life choices. By turning it into a matter of the self, predominantly the maternal self, to create the successful or unsuccessful child, we let society completely off the hook. There is no broad responsibility to create a healthy environment for children (because mothers who were concerned would live in some other environment), and no social imperative to look after children who were born in ill-health or some other misfortune (because mothers who behaved responsibly would have prevented this outcome). We all know that is ridiculous: we all know that the business is riven with good and bad fortune. I’ve never encountered any parent who seriously thinks they can prevent every negative event with extra vigilance, nor any parent who isn’t moved to empathise with another’s misfortune, rather than judge what he or she may have done or eaten. The top-down, ersatz scientification isn’t really fooling anyone.

More here.