Women, Depression and Mothering

What has depression in women and the recent article about feminisim and mothering by the writer Erica Jong got to do with each other? We all know that the depression rate for women is higher than in men. The complex dynamics of this situation is a mixture of social, psychological and biological factors. Socially, dominant society nullifies the feminine aspect in public life in many ways. In comparison to other industrialized nations, the USA has a high Cesarean-section rate, low family leave options, no public childcare network to speak of, and no public health care system. Spiritually, the country remains influenced by the long-ago decisions at the Council of Nicene, where God was developed as a masculine deity. Psychologically, teenage girls are urged to be independent. But gender consolidation is a powerful socialization process that kicks into high gear in adolescence. As they are socialized into their roles, girls struggle with the feeling that the future plans they make will inevitably be modified when they start a family. This psychological duality which girls and women struggle with as a matter-of-course needs to be surfaced.

In her WSJ article, Jong criticized the Attachment Parenting movement as a new way to tie women to a certain way of being, a way of life. The article touched off a lot of emotions and conversation around the web. I remember reading her first novel, Fear of Flying, when it came out in 1973. I was in high school. The book was considered shocking. Isadora Wing, the heroine, was shown as a woman outside of traditional mothering and wife roles. She just wasn’t your usual suburban person. She was off on her traveling and sexual adventures. Maybe in the year 2010 that’s not so ground-breaking. But back in the seventies, women were in the thick of fighting for a voice in society, and FOF was an unusual saga. Remember, the seventies were only twenty years after the fifties. Many of us were the first women in our families to go to college.) And many of our generation were told that it was a waste to send a girl to school, as she was just going to get married and stay home with the kids. (Of course, this attitude is still with us.)

Fast forward to 2010. Thirty years later, there are generations of girls who never question they should or could go to college Today, women are commonly in the work force in many roles, although salaries are not yet equal. One recent poll has said that girls outnumber boys in college attendance.

But the USA still does not offer enough options and ways to continue working without sacrificing your attachment to one’s family. There is still a disconnect about how society really feels about women and families. In the popular culture, music vids depict women as extreme sex objects, at younger ages and thinner than in previous generations. And on the other hand, the attachment parenting movement offers women extreme motherin