In reflecting on The Conflict (which I found very difficult to read) I was not really sure what point the author was trying to make. I understand that she believes that having children undermines the equality of men and women, but at the end of the book I didn’t feel like she had made any suggestions about how to work to counteract this issue. If her solution is to stop having children, I don’t think that’s very realistic since without children, we would cease to exist. She acknowledges that countries are trying to sustain and increase their population by encouraging families to have more children, but again doesn’t make any real suggestions about how to balance these needs with those of sexual equality. I thought that some of the factual information that was provided in the book, especially the historical aspects, was interesting, but I didn’t think there was enough current information to make some of her points relevant. For example, I understand that using a wet nurse used to be common, but I’m not sure how that means that today women shouldn’t breastfeed. I think that this book would have been better received, at least by me, if she would have identified the issues, provided evidence to support those issues, and then concluded with some recommendations for improvement. I just reviewed the end of the book again and she does seem to make one very broad recommendation that the image of the mother must change so that women continue to choose to become mothers, however, she doesn’t add any steps that could be taken to improve this. It’s like this book is more of a ‘warning’ of what will happen if things don’t change.
Although I did not enjoy this book, I did find that she made some valid points, particularly about the challenges faced by working mothers and the internal struggle that comes with deciding to become a stay at home mom. This may have resonated with me more because I was facing this personal struggle while reading the book. I do wonder if others will think that I am less intelligent and qualified because I have chosen to be a stay at home mom. When I reread that to myself, I realize how ridiculous it sounds, since I know that nothing is more important to me than creating the best life for my son!
One of the points that Badinter focuses on early in the book are the reasons that women choose to be a mother. She seems to think that most women become a mother simply because it’s part of the natural course of life. When I read this, I instantly thought that this did not apply to anyone who dealt with IF. I do agree that a lot of people choose to have children because it’s a natural next step after getting married, but after facing IF, I am sure that is not the case for me. No one would go through treatments and heartbreak like those who deal with IF do if they didn’t desperately want to have a child. When J and I were struggling to get pregnant, I did evaluate why I wanted to be a mother and always came back to one thing – I could not picture my life without children in it. I didn’t picture J and I growing old together without children to share our love with. Now that I am a mother, I can’t imagine my life any other way. I know that choosing to be a mother was right for me.
Another topic that Badinter focuses on throughout the book is breastfeeding. I have been breastfeeding N since he was born. He was exclusively breastfed until 6 months and since then we’ve gradually added solids to his diet. I absolutely love breastfeeding. Sure it was challenging at first to make sure that you were always with the baby when they needed to eat, but I’m not sure that I would have wanted to be away from him anyway even if I wasn’t breastfeeding him. I thought many of the points she made about breastfeeding were ridiculous. I don’t know anyone who is disgusted by a breast pump. I’ve pumped multiple times a day since returning to work. I don’t enjoy pumping, but I’m sure not disgusted by it. It’s a great way for me to provide for N when I’m not with him. She also talked about how breastfeeding makes it more difficult for dad to be involved with the baby. I hear lots of people making that point and I think that J has found lots of other ways to be involved with N. He always gives him a bath, plays with him all the time, changes his diapers, etc. I think they have bonded great and I don’t think J not being able to feed him has prevented them from bonding in any way. I honestly think that a way to promote feminism and motherhood would be to make breastfeeding more socially acceptable. I’m amazed at how many places I’ve visited that do not have an acceptable place to nurse. I think that some women feel like they will be stuck in their house all the time if they choose to nurse because they won’t be comfortable going out with the baby. If more places had nursing facilities it might help this.
Overall, I was not a fan of this book. I agree that motherhood probably does set women back (unequal pay, workloads, etc.) but I don’t think that it’s the fault of women who choose motherhood. I think that our society needs to be more accommodating to mothers (and fathers) and understand that parenthood is a very important part of life.