Read and enjoy this essay on the passion of the mother-baby relationship. Excerpt:
Here, sitting in the garden, looking at the eyelashes, would you trade the baby for the possibility of writing The House of Mirth? You would not.I don't know if it's all that minor. What feminism does is distort the role of the mother and diminish the importance of the relationship between her and her baby. The mother is reduced to "caregiver" and easily replaced by other caregivers.
People often compare having a new baby to the early days of a love affair, which is true as far as it goes, but one’s physical fixation on, and craving for, a newborn is much stronger and more intense that that. How often in a love affair can you literally find yourself in tears because you were away from a man for three hours?
I imagine a better metaphor would be addiction. There is an opium-den quality to maternity leave. The high of a love that obliterates everything. A need so consuming that it is threatening to everything you are and care about. Where did your day go? Did you stare blankly at the baby for hours? And was that staring blankly more fiercely pleasurable, more compelling than nearly anything you have ever done?
One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment. Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a "vocation." The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.
It's sad that Roiphe can only experience the intoxicating newborn period as a feature of a limited maternity leave, or "vacation to end all vacations," instead of life, which is what it is. I wonder what she'd find if she decided that being with her baby was her highest priority; if she stayed home with him and let the two of them naturally move on to the next phase in their relationship; if she concluded that that powerful urge to be physically close to her child is a message not to be ignored; and if she entertained the notion that her baby needs her presence even more than she needs his.
Read a few of the comments. Enjoyed this one:
It's a prolactin and oxytocin cycle. That's it. There're your magic narcotics. Feminists have them in their body too, in with all the rock salt and motor oil.Salon's Broadsheet provides more responses. And comments.
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