With Liberty and Doulas for All
posted by Amy
After the recent New York Times story claiming, on the basis of some pretty thin evidence from four Yale undergraduates saying they plan to quit the jobs they don't have yet to stay home and raise the babies they also don't have yet, that the next generation of mothers is so totally going to be opting out of this, like, crazy work/life balancing thing they see older moms doing, I was ready to stop even skimming the headlines of the NYT updates.
Not because I felt a little shocked to be referred to as an "older mom" at 34, nor because I blame those young women for thinking they'd like to do things a bit differently than the previous generation did them, but because the Times seems oblivious to the idea that mothers can be anything but privileged Ivy-League grads—or that their decisions to stay home with kids are shaped by living in a culture where intensive mothering is celebrated, government support for families in the form of high-quality childcare and maternity leave is non-existent, and many employers simply don't provide the part-time or flexible work options that would make so many parents' lives a bit easier.
So today's article about a group that provides doulas to low-income mamas was a welcome surprise. In "'Mothering the Mother' During Childbirth, and After," Jodi Wilgoren reports on the documentary A Doula Story, which focuses on Loretha Weisinger. Weisinger is a doula who works for the Chicago Health Connection. Wilgoren writes, "But while doulas, who often charge $1,000 per birth, are typically an indulgence of upper-middle-class mothers-to-be, Ms. Weisinger is leading a newer trend of providing such services to low-income teenagers who usually face labor with far less support and knowledge about the process."
Weisinger, as described in the Times article, is a compassionate mentor, but not a condescending one. "The main thing that I think I'm doing is giving them their voice," said Ms. Weisinger, who earns about $20,000 a year. "It's a way of helping them to help their children. My thing is, if you don't speak up for yourself, it's hard for you to teach your children to speak up."
More information on A Doula Story here.
Read Katie Allison Granju's response to Lisa Belkin's "The Opt-Out Revolution."
Check out Judith Stadtman Tucker's response to Belkin: The Least Worst Choice: Why Mothers "Opt" Out of the Workforce.
Finally, another good essay from Judith Stadtman Tucker: Opt-out revolution redux: Once again, the New York Times stirs the pot of controversy over what women want