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Say What? Katie Roiphe on Feminism and Maternity Leave

"Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a 'vocation.' The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done."

Writer Katie Roiphe on the conflicted pleasures of having a baby and maternity leave. At the same time she talks about the pleasures of taking care of a new baby, she says that "part of the allure of maternity leave is you give up everything you are and care about."

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MissSushi MissSushi 7 years
Not having read any of her work, I don't have an opinion on her... but leaving your very young child behind and then counting the minutes until you are back with it is pretty normal. It's instinctual to worry about your children when they aren't with you, especially barely a month after you have them. I think leaving your infant behind and NOT caring or worrying or being anxious to be with it again is more worrying and strange.
Pistil Pistil 7 years
If she's nutty, I'm psycho. I don't have children, but sometimes I wonder if I should. I can only imagine the anxiety one might feel raising a child, and I think it would kill me. But it's rewarding, I guess.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
Well, I think she's nutty. :) But then again, I'm child-free by choice, so I'm speaking from non-experience. :) The fact that she described caring for a baby as "narcotic" is very telling, in my opinion. She reminds me of a couple of women I knew who loved caring for babies. And they kept having them. They "wanted more" babies, they "couldn't stop." The gratification they received reminded me of drug junkies. :)
Ac2366 Ac2366 7 years
I don't think she's nuts at all based on the first posters quote. I haven't even had children yet and that sounds totally sane to me. Totally unexpected but somehow normal. I think having a baby is giving up everything that you are and cared about for something that is amazingly more important than everything in your entire existance. It's unavoidable if you decide to have a baby and I don't see anything abnormal about it.
isabelle315 isabelle315 7 years
I haven't read her essay, so maybe she is nuts... but runningesq, if you think she's nuts just based on the passage you quoted, then I guess I'm nuts too!! My daughter is 14 months old, and I still feel guilty leaving her, and I do find myself caring less about some things, wanting to get home to my little one. I have the desire to get out and be more than just a mommy, but the tugging on my heart to get back to her never stops. This was totally amplified in the first few weeks of motherhood - I didn't leave her for the first four weeks, and for several months I was so worried about her whenever I left that I could hardly enjoy getting out. It fades with time, but I think it's pretty normal for new mothers (and especially first-time mothers) to have extreme feelings like that.
runningesq runningesq 7 years
I read her essay on DoubleX (on slate) ... she's nuts: When the baby was four weeks old, I had to do a reading at Barnes and Noble. I had written the introduction to Gay Talese's Thy Neighbor's Wife, and I was scheduled to do a reading with Talese. On the night of the reading, I left the baby with someone I trust completely and absolutely. I managed to put on a dress and look something like the person who gave readings who I used to be. But when I walked out onto the street, I felt like I was missing a limb. Even though Talese was riveting by any objective standard, my concentration faltered. During the reading I thought about the baby. As people asked questions, I calculated how long the taxi ride home would take. Afterward, there were people who wanted to buy one of my books. The manager of the bookstore held out a pen, and I apologized and told him that I couldn’t sign books, that I had to run home. The manager looked a little bewildered. This was, after all, a book signing at which the authors traditionally sign books. On the escalator I panicked slightly because the person in front of me wasn’t moving, and I couldn’t pass her to get out of the store quickly enough. During the taxi ride down the FDR highway, I looked out at the water and cried. It was insane, sentimental, out of proportion, and I was aware that it was insane, sentimental, and out of proportion. But only when the baby was back in my arms did I feel OK again.
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