The myth of the good mother

Today’s women face a new form of oppression — the pressure to be a perfect mother — argues French feminist Elisabeth Badinter in The Conflict.  The good mother is a “myth,” Badinter tells The Globe and Mail. “A frustrated mother who is denied her own desires and ambitions is not good at all for her child.”

Ms. Badinter argues that yesterday’s patriarchy has been replaced by the tyranny of a suckling baby, and the pressures of “natural” parenting in the form of drug-free childbirth, co-sleeping, and cloth diapers. Moreover, women’s decision to step out of the workforce to devote themselves to their children is setting the cause of equality back to their grandmother’s generation.

When feminists fought to involve fathers in childrearing, bottle-feeding was “very practical,” Badinter says. Now breastfeeding and co-sleeping make fathers de trop.

The new model of super-parenting might work for some women, she concedes, but it’s not right for everyone. “And to those who don’t feel like adopting motherhood as a full-time job, don’t believe you are bad mothers.”

A retired professor, Badinter and her husband have three grown children.

About Joanne


  1. Oh, puh-LEEZE. I had to formula feed my oldest because she was physically unable to latch on and pumping alone wasn’t enough to keep my milk from drying up at 6 weeks post-partum. I found bottlefeeding to be a *HUGE* pain-in-the-rear. Wash the bottle, sterilize it, mix up the formula, heat the bottle to the proper temperature, and only THEN was I able to feed my screaming baby. Whereas BF my other two babies was super-easy- just unhook my nursing bra, pop the baby on, and we were good to go. The whole thing took about 30 seconds tops.

    Obviously, some good moms have to FF, while some lousy moms BF. But on average, good moms do tend to choose to BF if they are able to.

  2. What a nice sentiment to pass on to your grown children.

    If my aging mother spouted crap like that, I’d put her in a nursing home. Far, far away.

  3. I look at stories like this as though they came down from some alien planet somewhere. Many of my children are autistic, and what I usually deal with is the super-autism mommy standard. It isn’t good enough to be a regular/average parent if you have disabled children. Somehow, with special-needs kids, the expectation is that you somehow become great. You buy gluten-free foods or somehow triple-mortgage your house and purchase ABA therapy/ floortime/ whatever. You somehow rock on the IEP thing or hire lawyers.

    Good enough just isn’t good enough, yk?

    Or this. This. The reason your child is disabled is because you didn’t (pick one): breastfeed, cosleep, forgo all vaccinations, or worst? Some people say it’s because you were a crappy parent to begin with.


  4. Catherine says:

    I’m pretty sure the only way to get rid of all that oppressive pressure to be a good mother is to kill off all the mothers. Humanity wouldn’t have survived if a large proportion of mothers weren’t internally motivated to be good at promoting the welfare of their young offspring even at the cost of their own. We modern women are lucky enough to have a long life span so that after the children are grown we can pursue our own interests with fewer distractions.