Fetishizing Traditional Roles Means Ignoring Their Realities

The Nation's Katha Pollitt is the latest person to weigh in on Nadya Suleman and her octuplets. In a piece in the Guardian, Pollitt makes an offhand remark that really made me think.

She says:

Suleman seems to have combined an extraordinary degree of planning for conception with no realistic planning for childraising.

That, truly seems to be the fairest criticism of Suleman: that as a single mother with few means to support herself or her 14 children (some of whom are special needs), Suleman seems to have wanted to have kids more than she really wanted to parent them.

And that, frankly, sounds like a few brides (and moms) to-be that I've known. It seems like there are certain people who get more than a little entranced by the idea of getting married or having kids, fetishizing it even, to the point that they don't pay quite as much attention to being a spouse or parenting a child. It's a fetishization of the trappings of traditional gender roles without terribly much thought given to what those roles could or will demand over the course of decades.

There's all these commercials and television shows and advertisements and movies in which Mom and Baby look adoringly at one another and are universally admired for their innocence and sweetness, and if the reality of parenting a newborn is shown (sleeplessness, crying, spitting up, crying, dirty diapers, more crying) it's more often played for laughs than horror. It's the same with getting married — few movies (particularly romantic comedies) start with the wedding and show the realities of a marriage — it's always meet-cute, fall in love, minor roadblocks and then happily-ever-after with all their loved ones smiling. But life — and marriage and parenting — doesn't exactly work that way.

Nadya Suleman: A Woman We Love To Hate [The Guardian]