The problem? Feminism was supposed to give us choices. But in reality all it gave us was guilt. Instead of offering us a path to choose freely among good options, it’s given us an obligation to do it all. And it’s not working. In the attempt to balance work and family, we’ve kept the wage gap, increased our stress, and driven quality women out of the workforce. This is not working. Let’s try something else.
Like what, you ask? Here’s my proposal: a feminist manifesto for attachment parents. For those of us who want to eat our cake and have it, too. These are the goals I’d like to set for the feminist movement of my generation.
1. Guaranteeing paid parental leave for every family. I won’t even say a year of leave, although that would be awesome, because a year is a long time to stop working. Some industries change a lot in a year. But in an ideal world, mothers would have ample time to recover from giving birth, and babies would be able to stay home until their immune systems are a bit more mature. So let’s say twelve weeks of guaranteed leave, paid for by the government, which parents can split between them as they see fit. Heck, even six weeks would be nice. And yes, you can raise my taxes for that. Please.
2. Creating workplaces that welcome babies. Here’s where attachment parenting comes in. Sling babies are extremely portable. There is no reason why a baby under six months — maybe even up to a year — cannot come to work with you. Most babies will be happy just hanging out in a sling most of the time. You do not need to pay attention to them or entertain them. They’re perfectly entertained just looking at your face, and they don’t make any more noise than your annoying coworker who’s constantly telling unfunny jokes. Oh, and yes, I have done this. I taught writing classes for middle and high school kids when my daughter was six months old. My classes loved her. Was she sometimes disruptive? Sure. There were times when she distracted my students. But never for long. And she also provided lots of inspiration for their creative writing assignments.
3. Normalizing breastfeeding. This would make #2 a lot easier. A society that truly normalized breastfeeding would have no problem with a baby in a sling breastfeeding through a board meeting, or a meeting with a client, or a discussion with a coworker. It would be no big deal. And it shouldn’t be. We as a society need to just get over our discomfort with it. And also? Plenty of women think it’s fine to go to to work dressed like this:
4. Offering flexible work and childcare. Like working from home — which usually makes most people more productive, and is better for the environment since it eliminates your commute — and part-time options for those who don’t want to work full-time. Or what about sharing a single job between two parents, so they each work 20 hours a week and have complementary schedules so one of them is always available for the kids? And onsite childcare for toddlers who are too old to be quiet in the sling but too young for school. And giving parents time to visit their kids during the day. Even just being able to spend lunch break with your child would make a huge difference in work-life balance and satisfaction for a lot of working parents. An hour with your kid that isn’t stressed by evening exhaustion and bedtime prep? Wouldn’t that be nice?
5. Building tribes. Parenting has become such a solo job. And usually a solo woman’s job. It shouldn’t be. In the majority of human cultures throughout history, babies have been raised by tribes. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, and siblings have all taken turns caring for babies. Mothers weren’t expected to be “tied down” with their babies every minute of every day, but they had the option to be available to their babies while also doing other things. In an ideal world, lots of adults would be willing to take turns caring for each other’s children. Because you know what? For most people, a few minutes or an hour taking care of a baby can be a fun break from work. But doing it all the time, alone, 24/7 is exhausting. Heck, why couldn’t onsite childcare be shared among parents who all work in the same office? Eight parents each take one hour to watch each other’s kids. With kids of different ages, it wouldn’t be that hard — the older ones would help with the younger. If I had a work arrangement like that, I’d gladly work an extra hour — on weekends if necessary! — to make up the time. Wouldn’t you?
Is all this possible? I don’t know. But I think that if aimed for these goals, then maybe we could create a world where our daughters wouldn’t have to choose between work and children, between money and happiness, between love and power. I realize I’m creating a false dichotomy, and that for many families, this choice is an easy one. Some women don’t want to work, and some women don’t want to be with kids all day. But a lot of us would like to have both. Is it unreasonable for me to hope that my daughter will be able to have it all? Probably. But isn’t that what every parent wants for their child?