HBM begins the conversation like this:
Here's something that I feel strongly about: the right of parents to take their children pretty much anywhere in the public sphere that they see fit. I also feel strongly that this is a right that carries with it considerable responsibility - as do most rights - but there it is: I believe that if a parent needs or wants to take their children to the theater, to nice hotels, to restaurants that don't use vinyl tablecloths or distribute crayons with their menus, that's their right. Any perceived right by other members of the public to move about in public without exposure to children is just that: perceived. There can be no such right in a liberal human society, because children are members of such societies.You can read the entire post plus all the comments, mine included, here. The gist of it is that HBM had several unpleasant and/or unhappy experiences when she was with her daughter recently. One was on an airplane when another traveler refused to respond to the toddler and shot her some nasty looks. The other was at breakfast in a fancy restaurant when the hostess evinced some panic, albeit unspoken, at the sight of the small child toddling in. These events, and the feelings they evoked in HBM, led to her post.
Okay? Okay. First of all--my disclaimers: I have spent much time in all sorts of restaurants with all sorts of small children of all ages. These kids were all related to me; I loved them and I loved the fact that they were with me in said restaurant.
However, I feel equally strongly to HBM that parents do NOT have the right to take their children anywhere in the public sphere that they wish. That does not mean I don't like children. It does not mean I don't agree that they profit, as does ultimately our society, by being included in a wide range of activities. What it means is that I don't think they are appropriately included in any and every activity.
Case in point: This past weekend, I was involved in an organization honoring a group of womenat a country club luncheon . One member of the organization wanted to bring her 3 year old. Her mother was coming and this member like the idea of three generations being present. We said no. "That's a terrific idea in a couple of years, when she's five and can sit through an hour of speeches. But right now, she's too young. It would not be fair to the several hundred women who paid quite a bit of money to attend an adult luncheon."
The idea that babies and small children have full and equal access to the public sphere because they are human is--I dunno--based on some social philosophy that doesn't resonate with me. The idea that full grown citizens have no right to enjoy child-free arenas is--I dunno--nuts. What have we come to when the desires of one group, the parents, supersedes that of all others. It's smacks of the Mommy Gestapo.
Okay, that's extremely harsh, but really, Moms: get a grip. The world at large does not begin and end with your child, even if yours does. We can all love children (or not) without wanting to have them around 24/7.
Perhaps this debate and others like it that roil the feminist movement occur when groups of women get polarized around their individual philosophies about children. It's a spectrum of beliefs we have, from the woman who is totally and completely invested in her maternity and her children to the woman who has made the decision not to have children. Getting stuck into one end of a debate, whichever it is, helps neither individuals nor society, and those in the middle get lost in the totalizing shrieks of each end. Not only is reason abandoned in the need to be right, quite frankly, it's not very sisterly.