The Impossibility of “Natural Parenting” for Modern Mothers. On Social Structure And The Formation Of Habit.


I wrote “The Impossibility of “Natural Parenting” for Modern Mothers. On Social Structure And The. Formation Of Habit” for the Journal for the Association for Research on Mothering, vol. 3, no. 1, 2001. It was my first published piece and examines the difficulties inherent in mothering, especially attachment parenting, in the context of modern social structure with its sequestration of women to the private sphere and emphasis on individual fulfillment.  I wrote this from a complex place having been very involved in attachment parenting my first daughter, yet critical of the difficulties – nay impossibilities – this imposed. I remain both critical and respectful of attachment parenting (which may not be apparent from the article or its subsequent uses).

This article was selected for re-printing in Andrea O’Reilly (ed.) Mother Matters: Motherhood as Discourse and Practice (2004). In addition, it has been cited, written about and reviewed in many places.  See:

Joan B. Wolf, Is Breast Best? Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood, New York University Press, New York, 2011.

Ivana Brown, A Sociological Analysis of Maternal Ambivalence: Class and Race Differences Among New Mothers, PhD Thesis, Rutgers University, 2011.

Martha McCaughey, “Got Milk?: Breastfeeding as an ‘Incurably Informed’ Feminist STS Scholar“, Science as Culture,vol. 19, no. 1, 2010, pp. 79-100.

Ruth Cain, ” A View You Won’t Get Anywhere Else’’? Depressed Mothers, Public Regulation and ‘Private’ Narrative” Feminist Legal Studies, vol. 17, 2009, pp. 123-143.

“The Impossibility of ‘Natural Parenting’ for Modern Mothers, thread posted by ‘vaptek’ on 30/08/2008.
Shelley Kulperger, “Loss of Mother/Hood: Maternalising Postcolonial Cultural Memory” Hecate, vol.33, no.1, 2007, p.223.
Joan B Wolf, “Is Breast Really Best? Risk and Total Motherhood in the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign“, Journal of Health, Policy and Law, vol. 32, no.4, 2007, pp.  595-636
Andrea O’Reilly (ed.), From Motherhood to Mothering: The Legacy of Adrienne Rich’s “Of Woman Born“, SUNY Press, New York, 2004. See in particular the introduction, p. 6.
Chris Bobel, “When Good Enough Isn’t: Mother Blame in the Continuum Concept“, Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involevment, vol. 6, no. 2, 2004, pp. 68-78.
Alison Bartlett, “Breastfeeding Bodies and Choice in Late Capitalism“, Hecate, vol, 29, no. 2, 2003,  pp. 153-165.

Leave a comment


Email(will not be published)*


Your comment*

Submit Comment

Petra Bueskens | Mother, scholar, psychotherapist | Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Melbourne Daylesford