My Just Post nominee for January is this post by Emmie from Better Make it a Double.
You remember that scary news release from Consumer Reports, claiming that all but the two most expensive carseats were pretty much guaranteed to kill your baby? Well, the report has since been discredited, but don’t let that stop you from reading Emmie’s perceptive take on the matter. She talks about how the rhetoric of safety and babyproofing functions as a screen discourse for all the things we don’t want to think about: the deteriorating environment, the crumbling public-school system – the problems affecting our children that can’t be solved with a $2 electric-plug cover or a $350 carseat.
Returning to her post this week, I’ve been struck at how the public dialogue about motherhood functions in much the same way – as a red herring, a distraction from the fears we don’t want to acknowledge. My newspaper is full of terrible stories this week: a toddler smothered by a 13-year-old foster child, a baby scalded by a desperate mother who used a kettle of boiling water as her cry for help. Children are terribly vulnerable in our society, and there are gaping holes in the patchwork of social services designed to protect them and support their parents. So how do we respond? With rules. Never drink on a play-date. Respond promptly to every cry. Spray down the change table with anti-bacterial spray once a week. Never leave your toddler unattended.
And we respond with laws to make spanking illegal, to require helmets on toboggans. If we always speak in absolutes, and raise the bar for mothers high enough, maybe the real problems will just go away. A law is much cheaper than a respite program or adequate parental leave; psychological pressure is easier and more convenient than real support.