Book says modern motherhood a disgrace

A French author proclaims stay-at-home mothers to be equivalent to animals and a danger to the modern woman. Has she lost her mind, or is she on to something?

Elisabeth Badinter, author of The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women (recently translated from its original French and on American bookshelves now) revealed her extreme thoughts in a recent interview in Marie Claire. Her thoughts on birthing, diapering, breastfeeding and staying at home are certainly contrary to how many modern women view parenting, and she insists that women who stay at home with their children are detrimental to the recent progress women have made.

Staying at home... is infantile?

The interview has plenty to chew on for moms who have embraced any tenet of attachment parenting or who are stay-at-home mothers. "These women don't see beyond the next three years," she told Marie Claire. "It's this absence of vision in the middle of their lives that I find infantile. I'll say it: infantile. It doesn't give me any pleasure to say that. And this intellectual dowry is all in the name of 'I want to be a good mother.'"

Badinter also has plenty to say about breastfeeding. She said, "If 24 hours a day the woman is reduced to her role as a nursing animal... there are obvious consequences for a couple." While she says nursing is a personal decision, her tone comes across very negatively about a nursing relationship between a mother and her child. She also maintains that women should keep their jobs and be financially independent so they can survive without the help of a man.

Not true feminism

The French perspective

We were able to speak with Claire, a mom of one living in France, who was horrified at what Badinter had to say. "France is clearly in a crisis situation where breastfeeding is concerned – and has been for a long time," she explained. "For example, many, many women here choose to formula-feed from birth, out of convenience. The issue is complex enough without people like Mrs. Badinter attacking breastfeeding. Bashing mothers who choose to formula feed is just as bad as calling those who breastfeed 'nursing animals,' as Elisabeth Badinter did."

Do the French make better parents? >>

We spoke with moms who had plenty to say about her ideas. "I don't get the whole 'feminism = working outside of the home' thing," explained Brittney, mom of one. "Feminism = choosing what you want to do with your life. Another feminist telling me what to do is no better than my husband telling me what to do."

Brooke, from California, agreed. "I love how she is touting feminism and not being 'enslaved' by your baby, but only once does she mention the father's role," she shared. "It seems like she herself is being sexist and all her opinions are based on child rearing being only a mother's duty."

Lisa, mother of three, was really turned off at the "animal" reference. "She appears to be more concerned about life without a man and how a mother will survive financially than actually raising children," she told us. "I think most women who choose to have children don't worry about, 'What if my partner leaves me?' because in the end, most mothers would sacrifice everything to help the children and family."

Questionable motives

Badinter is independently wealthy and personally holds controlling interest in Publicis, a PR firm whose clients include Nestlé, a controversial company who has been flagged for continual violations of the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. It's unclear if this has anything to do with her views, but it does cast a cloud over what seems to be a very anti-breastfeeding viewpoint.

All in all, the interview was incendiary at best, and downright insulting as well. Making the best choice for your own family and your own children is what we as mothers should concentrate on, rather than the ideals of one person.

Tell us

Do you agree with Badinter's thoughts on stay-at-home moms? Is staying at home with kids short-sighted?

More on staying at home

Financial tips for stay-at-home moms
Are you a bored stay-at-home mom?
Interview tips for the stay-at-home mom

Tags: stay-at-home moms

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Comments on "Stay-at-home moms are dragging women backwards"

Darnetta May 20, 2012 | 6:43 PM

I am so pleased to see this forum. I read the article in Marie Claire, and I actually thought it was a prank. Would you seriously use the month of May, the time when most forms of media are honoring motherhood, to interview an author that clearly has serious issues with being a mom. I was so insulted. I am a stay at home mother of 4 and I think I should be able to decide to do what I think is best for my family. My only agenda is to raise my children...not shape an entire nations view of women and mothers. We live in a country where freedom of speech is allowed and that's great. However, I have a problem when people use their "cause" to get all of their personal hangups out in the open and this is what it seems like to me. If you have a problem with Modern Motherhood you have the choice to not do it at all or to adjust it to where you feel comfortable. I should not have to conform what a person or group of women think motherhood is all about.

Chrystal B mother of 2 May 14, 2012 | 7:28 PM

haha! says the mother who blames 1st the daycare for her child not being potty trained. 2nd the teacher for her child not knowing abc 123 colors. 3rd the Judicial system for her child being a menace to society due to lack of fundamentals and manners. HA! Having children is a choice, its a decision where u have to put your life 2nd to your every action. i agree that having ur child 24/7 isnt healthy for the child/parent/marriage, everybody needs adult time and the kids need play time. The idea that sahm are missing and being left behind can be true but doesnt have to be. college courses online are available to anyone with a computer.

GermanMom May 01, 2012 | 2:49 PM

Wow, this is harsh! I was a stay at home Mom, cloth diapers, breastfeeding, the whole nine yards for three children and am now back at work. I don't regret for a moment all the time I have spent with my children, because I wanted to be the main influence in their life, not some stranger taking care of them! otherwise why bother having children? Next thing you know this author will discourage women from having babies-period?!? I agree with the few others that are saying the most feminist thing is to have a choice what to do. And finally I would like to add (in light of Nestle shares of the author), that breast are being put on a woman by nature to feed babies (not only to be oggled at and fondled by men...), so while it is the most natural way to feed your baby and the most environmentally sound (!) it neither makes us animals, nor should those facts discriminate against those who chose not to breastfeed. "Love begins by taking care of the closest ones- the ones at home" (Mother Teresa)who also said to leave the judging to God. Amen!

Sponges April 30, 2012 | 4:37 PM

Raising my kids at home and teaching them to read n being good citizen is need more creativity,thinking,and work then writing a she can stop barking

The Mommy Psychologist April 30, 2012 | 1:53 PM

Am I the only one who thinks that Badinter’s age might make her a bit out of touch with this generation of parents? No one seems to be mentioning this fact or the fact that she has a huge stake in formula given her millionaire status with Nestle. I answer the question, “Who is Elisabeth Badinter” here: http://www.themommypsychologist/2012/04/27/who-is-elisabeth-badinter/

tiff April 30, 2012 | 1:25 PM

That is the funniest thing I have ever heard! I would much rather stay at home with my children than to have some stranger take care of them why I work! Being a Stay at Home Mom is one of the hardest but most rewarding jobs a woman could have!

Christine April 30, 2012 | 12:46 PM

@Sandra - well said! I too believe feminism is having a choice to do whatever job we choose (and being a stay-at-home parent is also a job!) I choose to do home daycare for a toddler with special needs as a way of bringing in income, while also being at home full-time with my daughter - and I'm not just feeding & diapering and doing the dirty work, I'm educating the children. My jobs, paid and unpaid, are fun and fulfilling, and I'm happy and confident in my choice to stay at home.

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