Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A new definition of "good enough" mothering

There is a tendency in real life, which seems magnified in the blogosphere, for mothers to judge other mothers' parenting. I know, I know, it's shocking and you would never do it. Nor would I, I don't care how screwed up a kid becomes because his parents let him watch Pulp Fiction at age 6, I would never criticize a parent who is trying his or her best to raise a happy, healthy child. (Actually, in the interest of honesty, I will admit that yes, not only will I criticize that parent, I will do it frequently and for years afterwards, noting especially that it is strange to allow your child to see all of the violent parts of the movie, but cover his eyes during the love scene between two consenting adults.)

Here's the thing, though. Apparently even the human mothers waaaaay on one side of the parenting bell curve are doing well, when you look at what passes for mothering in other species. There is a fascinating article in the NY Times today which exposes the seamy underbelly of kangaroo moms, rabbit moms, nurse shark moms and even, yes, penguin moms. It's a measure of just how much I anthropomorphize most animals that I found the details unsettling and hard to read.

A quote from the article, about chimpanzees who take excellent care of their own young but view the neighbors' as expendable:

...because female chimpanzees live in troops with other nonrelated females, a ravenous, lactating mother feels little compunction about killing and eating the child of a group mate. "It's a good way to get lipids," Dr. Hrdy said.
Next time you feel judged as a mother, comfort yourself with the fact that at least you don't suck your child's blood (often), like ants of the genus Adetomyrma. And next time you feel like judging another mother, watch out, for that mother might decide that your child is a good source of lipids.

Happy early Mother's Day.


Allison said...

Thanks, Ruth. I feel much better leaving Noggin on all freakin' day now because at least I resisted the impulse to eat my child. I'm all about this new definition of "good enough" parenting.

Ruth said...

I'm proud of you for resisting the impulse, Allison. We all have it every now and then - give yourself a pat on the back.