In an interview, Caitlin Flanagan talks about her Atlantic article, “How Serfdom Saved the Women’s Movement”. It’s about the relationship between professional women and immigrant nannies.
Raising a small child is so intimate, and the care itself produces a bond of tremendous intensity. Again, that’s what’s so morally vexing about this: professional-class women are buying this love when they need it, as though it were a commodity, and then firing the nanny when they don’t need her service, her love, any more — how can that be right?
Flanagan urges “maternal feminists” to learn from Christian fundamentalists.
The crux of their argument is that mothering — as opposed to fathering, or parenting, or care giving — is something unique, and of inestimable value. That the bond between a mother and her children is different from any other kind of human bond, and that it should be revered and respected. You won’t get an argument from me about that. But the second that one implies that — in part owing to this unique and sacred bond — the hard work of raising children belongs more to women than to men, these same women start squealing like stuck pigs. They can’t have it both ways: either mothers are uniquely designed for the care and protection of children, or they aren’t. End of story.
Ironically, the people in this country who most revere that mother-and-child bond are fundamentalist Christians, who make huge sacrifices so that moms can stay home with their children. Many of them home-school their children, because they’re convinced that mothers are the best teachers of children and that the public school system in America immerses kids in cultures and values antithetical to the kind of reverence for family life — and especially for motherhood — that so many Christians have. The maternal feminists might like to learn more about the fundamentalist Christian life style; it is one with the highest possible regard for motherhood, and it might be appealing to them.
Flanagan, who writes from home, hired a nanny to help care for her twin sons. But she felt guilty about it. I think the essence of motherhood is guilt.