Sometime 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.