The Maman Wars: French Feminists Concerned About "The Ideal Mother"

American moms apparently aren't the only ones locked in an epic battle between organic-juice perfectionists and bad-mother ne'er-do-wells. To hear feminist Elisabeth Badinter tell it, the mommy wars have spread to France.

According to the Guardian's Lizzy Davies, French moms have been seen as "the wonder women of Europe" for their ability to juggle jobs with a fertility rate higher than Britain's or Germany's. But Badinter (not pictured — that's Carla Bruni and her stepson Louis Sarkozy) is worried they can only juggle for so long. She says,

The majority of French women [now] reconcile maternity with professional life. Many of them work full-time when they have a child. They are resisting the model of the perfect mother, but for how long? I get the impression that we may now be at a turning point.

Evidence for said turning point includes, according to Davies, "the new image of the 'ideal mother' – one who breastfeeds for six months, does not rush to return to full-time work, avoids painkillers in childbirth, rejects disposable nappies and occasionally lets her baby sleep in her bed" and a possible trend of more French schoolgirls wanting to be stay-at-home moms. Cecilé Duflot, mom of four and leader of the French Green Party, says Badinter "is completely wrong … The examples she uses totally miss the point." But it's interesting to see issues of women's work-life balance — which in America so often seem related to our long hours, employment insecurity, and lack of a social safety net — still playing out in a more socialist country.

Of course, France is no utopia — like the US, it has serious problems with race and class. Still, it's sad that in a nation with reasonable workdays, paid maternity leave, and subsidized childcare, motherhood is still fraught with unreasonable expectations and infighting. Next thing they'll be telling us French women get fat.

French Philosopher Says Feminism Under Threat From 'Good Motherhood' [Guardian]