Historically, did women ever devote themselves entirely to their children?

(56 Posts)
wanderingalbatross Mon 08-Oct-12 11:01:35

I was just reading this article on the Guardian about work-life balance of female Silicon Valley execs. I found it interesting as I have quite a flexible tech job. The flexible working pattern really suits me and I really hope it'll work around my kids in the future.

Then there are the usual comments, including the standard "why did you have kids if you don't want to look after them?" Which got me wondering, has there ever really been a time when women sacrificed work for their kids? I'd like to say people, but I suppose that men didn't do all that much of the child raising.

I admit that my historical knowledge is poor and mostly gained from fiction(!) but I get the impression that this 'golden age' when kids were looked after by a dedicated parent is a figment of our collective imagination. Sure, in the 50s plenty of women were SAHMs, but I imagine they spent a lot more time on housework than we do, and were't dedicating their days to broadening the minds of their little ones. And before then, I have heard said that most women just had to get on with work alongside raising their kids as they couldn't afford not to.

So where does this idea come from?

PostBellumBugsy Wed 10-Oct-12 09:41:38

Agree with AMumInScotland, however I think that this "career" motherhood is very limited to those who have the choice because of their partner's earning potential.
In our parents & grand-parents time (outside of wartime), women didn't really have so much of a choice. Women were supposed to stay at home & rear children while the men went out to work. If you were very poor or your husband was dead or very sick, then women often had no choice, they had to work but for large swathes of first world women, societal pressure meant they stayed at home.
With womens lib & the fight for equality, women gained more choice & could stay at work if they wanted. But now, there is alot less choice again. There are more single parent families & more famililes where both incomes are really needed - so the "choice" to be a "career mum" if such a thing exists is really only for a very small proportion of the population.

exoticfruits Wed 10-Oct-12 09:57:25

I think the recent trend has got much worse over the last 5-10 years. Certainly when I had DS (almost 19) having children and raising them was just something you did, and you went back to work or didn't depending on the practicalities for your family (income, family around for childcare, etc). Nobody that I knew thought of it as a career - it was a break in your career, or a chance to stop work, or just one more thing to juggle with your working life.

I agree. If people take time off from a career they have to justify it by proving that their choices are best therefore you get all the new terms for age old things e.g. BLW and 'babywearing' where it doesn't really matter how you get your baby to eat a balanced diet or whether you carry your baby around-as long as it suits you and your baby.
Probably a similar thing after WW1 Bonsoir-women back in domesticity justifying it by getting their DS a good job and their DD a good marriage. I was talking more about later, when women didn't need to get married and there were plenty of jobs and birth control.

wanderingalbatross Wed 10-Oct-12 11:25:16

I do realise that the 'choice' to stay at home or not is largely an illusion for many people. But what is interesting is the idea that women have always looked after the kids even if it's not historically accurate, and the attitude from some that we shouldn't be having them if we're not prepared to look after them ourselves. Strangely, you don't hear these sorts of attitudes about fathers! And I imagine that these attitudes don't really exist when women have to work to keep their families afloat.

Thanks for the book recommendation LRD, I'll see if I can get round to reading it sometime. Hard to find the time as I have a both a toddler whose mind needs broadening and a job ;)

Oh, it's a really nice book, do look it out, it's really easy to dip in and out of IMO.

But I get your point about time/toddlers/jobs!

I suppose 'why have them if you don't want to stay home' is possibly a post-contraceptive kind of sniping, as well. Though there's that bit in TS Eliot about why would you get married if you don't want sex, so possibly people always said that sort of thing.

summerflower Wed 10-Oct-12 12:12:39

>>I think the recent trend has got much worse over the last 5-10 years. Certainly when I had DS (almost 19) having children and raising them was just something you did, and you went back to work or didn't depending on the practicalities for your family (income, family around for childcare, etc). Nobody that I knew thought of it as a career - it was a break in your career, or a chance to stop work, or just one more thing to juggle with your working life.<<

I do wonder how much the internet and (whisper) parenting forums have to do with it, though. SAHPs on-line for large chunks of the day bigging up their choices must have something to do with it. (or maybe that is just my experience from a noxious, now defunct forum I used to be on)

On the other hand, I think that is a lazy explanation, because I can across the attitude from my ex-MIL when I was pregnant with DD (what is the point of having children if you are just going out to work, I mean never mind that her son buggered off when dd was a baby ) and at my first and last mother and baby group (9 years ago).

So, I wonder whether it is the case that women have access to education and until the point they have children, we fall for the idea that we have equality and can do everything a man can - only to discover that we have been sold a lie, and really, our careers come second to our primary biological purpose, so the pressure is there to turn that into a career replacement.

plus, motherhood is so much more commericalised. I mean, nine years ago, who cared what kind of pram you had etc.

exoticfruits Wed 10-Oct-12 19:09:17

* I mean, nine years ago, who cared what kind of pram you had etc.*

I can't see why anyone would care now! I'm glad that I was before you had to bother-mine came from my neighbour -free.

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