Some of the men advising mothers on how to care for their children promote gentler styles than others, when it comes to the children. However, none of it is particularly gentle to the mothers. Dr. Angela Davis at the university of Warwick examined 55 years of parenting books in England from 1945 to 2000. She found that although the parenting advice changed over the years, the tone of its delivery did not.
“Despite all the differences and advice advocated by these childcare ‘bibles’ over the years, it is interesting that they all have striking similarities in terms of how the experts presented their advice. Whatever the message, the advice was given in the form of an order and the authors highlighted extreme consequences if mothers did not follow the methods of child rearing that they advocated.”
What’s more, Davis found that the advice given was often very demanding, leaving little room for parental (maternal) human frailty of needs for things like “sleep” and “three consecutive seconds without a tiny needy human physically attached to their bodies”. The advice is written by men, and women are judged by how well they follow it. “Levels of behavior these childcare manuals set for mothers and babies are often unattainably high, meaning women could be left feeling like failures when these targets were not achieved.”
I think it’s time we questioned the qualifications of parenting “experts” and asked ourselves how much pediatric care really lends itself to the daily rearing of children at home. In particular, caution is necessary before embracing the views of a man who has not himself stayed home with the children he takes credit for raising. The sexism of these men, coupled with the authoritarian parenting styles they so often promote, passes on to the next generation, along with their fear and their need for hierarchy. It’s all the stuff we really don’t want in the next generation.
Maybe it’s time to listen to mothers.