Erica Jong is My Heroine

November 11th, 2010 by alisonkolesar

Fear of FlyingSometime in the late 80s, I discovered Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying in my mother’s bookcase.  The enticing paperback cover showed a zipper splitting to reveal a naked female belly.  I was 15 and obsessed with sex, and I knew I’d found a gem of a dirty book– not just erotic, but smart, funny, feminist, and liberating.

More than two decades later, Erica Jong speaks to me again.  I woke up at 5:30 this morning and crept downstairs to steal some private time at my desk while the house was asleep.  There I discovered a new email from my cousin– a brilliant attorney about to have her first baby– with a link to Jong’s piece “Mother Madness” in the Wall Street Journal. In it, Jong shrewdly deconstructs the “orgy of motherphilia” we’ve been experiencing in our culture for the last two decades, taking down celebrity moms, Dr. Sears, and prenatal psychology in her wake.

Mothers, you must read this article.  Erica, where were you five years ago when I was first pregnant and loading up on baby slings, cloth diapers, Dr. Sears books, and painfully high expectations of everything I was supposed to be and do for my babies?

Dr. Sears, you can go back to the family bed in your attachment-parenting utopia.  I’ll take the modern village over the all-consuming, mother-nurtures-child-24-7 ideal. Even now, I struggle with maternal guilt when I leave my children to go to work or take care of my own needs.

Let me pin Erica’s sexy photo up on my wall, take a deep breath, and focus on my family’s larger community– the village, the connections with friends, relatives, caregivers– not just on my bond with own individual children, sacred as it may be.

A and C visit Baby E in Cambridge, while Mommy stays in VT for yoga teacher training.  No Guilt!

A and C visit Baby E in Cambridge, while Mommy stays in VT for yoga teacher training. No Guilt!

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2 responses so far ↓

  • Great post, Diana. I read Jong’s piece with considerable interest as well. I also have been following some of the backlash and discussion on the NYT’s Motherlode blog. You should check it out.
    I’m really interested in this overall cultural discussion because it speaks to a lot of the things I’m struggling with at this time in my life. I like Dr. Sears for info on illnesses, but that’s about it. His chapters on working mothers and bottle feeding really pissed me off and I wished I had never read them because all they did was make me feel awful about my (agonizing) decision to stop breastfeeding and the reality that I have to work (not to mention the fact that I like my job and value my career – working hard and well has always been the cornerstone of my self-esteem). And, while I don’t begrudge the attachment parents their decisions, I also think that there is something about that philosophy and those who follow it religiously that is especially prone to righteousness and judgment. I love my baby and feel very attached to him but I (mostly happily) work full time, he has never liked being “worn,” neither he nor I sleep well when we share a bed, and breastfeeding was a nightmare that had to stop, after which I discovered that he’s totally fine and formula has not been the poison that Dr. Sears makes it out to be.
    Anyways, I wanted to share the links with you because I thought you might be interested in the broader discussion that’s been happening over Jong’s piece (both in the posts themselves and the comments). Here they are:

    Much love and NO GUILT!!

    – Lara

  • Guilt be gone! Although I fall victim to it at times and feel panicky if I’ve left the baby to have lunch with a friend. That usually has less to do with the baby than with myself and the feeling that his babyhood is flying by and I’m one step closer to empty nest….won’t we have a lot to blog about then? God help us.
    xoxo Daisy