When I acted up as a child, my mother used to loudly—and publicly—threaten to drown me in the bathtub like she did all of my brothers and sisters. Then she'd say, "I need a goddamn lemon drop." Perhaps that is why I adore French feminist Elisabeth Badinter, whose latest best-selling book, Le Conflit, La Femme et La Mère (The Conflict, The Woman and The Mother), talks about how children are tyrants and feminists are better off salting their wombs than giving birth to their own personal oppressors.
How can mothers reclaim their identities (aside from bathtub drownings) according to Badinter? Reign in all the motherhood bullshit. Start by giving up on Mother Earth.
“Between the protection of trees and the liberty of women, my choice is clear,” she says. “It may seem derisory but powdered milk, jars of baby food and disposable nappies were all stages in the liberation of women.”
Then give up on breast feeding.
“If you don’t want to breastfeed, you are asked, ‘But Madame, don’t you want the best for your child?’. It makes you feel terribly guilty.” So most mothers breastfeed anyway, and many go on to do so for months or years. “This worries me, because we are creating another model of motherhood where the mother is with her baby 24 hours a day for at least six months. This is a model that eats the personal part of each woman as an individual,” she says.
Then, she says, give up on nurturing society and go get yourself a drink. And maybe a foot rub.
Critics say that Badinter isn't in touch with modern women and their aspirations, and that she's in denial about motherhood (she has three children and a bunch of grandkids). I think she makes a great point about how prioritizing your individuality as a woman doesn't make you a bad mother.
I mean, my mother never cooked and arguably only has room in her heart for one child at a time, but look how I turned out: Excellent in the kitchen and cautious around bathtubs, both of which have kept me alive these twenty-odd years. So thanks, mom. You did good.