The Feminist Pub is Open - Chat, Rant, or pull up a chair here!

(1003 Posts)

This thread started when we all decided to imagine what the perfect local for feminists would be like. So far, it has taps with plenty of good real ale, and some decent non-alcoholic alternatives too. There are comfy chairs and there's a feminist film night, as well as lots of nice feminist-friendly books on the shelves and space to curl up and read. The open-mic nights are attracting feminist singers and comedians, and we're just sorting out the feminist creche.

Please come along, draw up a stool, and have a good chat about whatever you fancy - as serious or as trivial as you like.

For starters, I have a half-pint of lemonade. What can I get anyone?

TheGhostofAmandaClarke Wed 30-Oct-13 12:47:20

It's all relative IMO.
Sometimes I feel I'm on my knees (that should please the MRAs thlwink)
Low mood (from the sleep deprivation), guilt, isolation, guilt, knackered body, identity crisis, guilt....lack of family support......and that all needs to be recognised for me/ any mother to feel anywhere near happy. It helps me to be nice to everyone else if I feel "heard"
But then I realise how incredibly fortunate I am. Two healthy DCs (touch wood), a decent DH, a home, clean water for my children to drink and bathe in, no war in my country, enough food and clothing......
And I am grateful. But thinking about all that hardship that so many people suffer sometimes makes me feel too sad/ anxious, rather than happy to appreciate what I have. <waffle blush>
I never felt that it would be glorious or fulfilling though (parenthood). My expectations were never very high. I just reached a time (probably later than ideal) when I thought i wanted to have a child and was lucky it worked out.
We don't see a lot of what goes on for mothers until we're doing it. So the good old days might well not have been as easy as they looked from our position of being children IYSWIM. Like how all the "shop floor" staff think the manager does fuck all, and then one of them is promoted and has a reality shock.

SinisterSal Wed 30-Oct-13 12:26:55

It still all rested on unpaid female labour though, didn't it?

The unmarried daughter, the teenage niece or younger sister, the spinster aunt - they all kept the show on the road.

Women may have had more help, but it wasn't from men.

Not that men were automatically lazing about either

youretoastmildred Wed 30-Oct-13 12:22:21

Great posts. Really interesting point by Tunip about mothering guilt taking the place of general sin. Plus we have eating guilt too.

I have a gut feeling that what makes mothering seem so hard now, as well as the relative isolation as has already been pointed out, is that in the past the differences in hardship were much more between classes but not between sexes. So you had middle class women with domestic staff and nannies, whose husbands had nice clean jobs at the bank or the shipping company with mahogany desks and good lunches. At the same time you had working class women with 5 children, one on the breast, and no staff or domestic appliances, whose husbands went down mines at 6 am, didn't see daylight, lunched on meagre bits of grubby bread underground and were lucky if they lived past 40. I think what makes this seem so hard for women like me is that we have lived bits of the life of a middle class man - the desk job, the autonomy, the spending money, the sleeping all night, the comfortable lunches and nice social networks - and then it seems snatched away, while your partner keeps it

True.

In fact childhood extends hugely, these days. Especially in the US, I think. Financial dependency has different implications than it used to.

Grennie Wed 30-Oct-13 12:16:21

Remember as well that childhood used to be much shorter. Many children would be out and working all day, at an age now when they would still be being actively parented now.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 30-Oct-13 12:13:59

The one by Christina Hardyment? It starts with Locke, so late 17th c.
It is an excellent book. I used to have it but lent it to someone and never got it back....

Crosspost - ah, ok. I'll shut up then! grin (Re. Goodman)

That's interesting.

Yes, I think that's true. And I think possibly there were other times when women beat themselves up for not being good enough wives, at times when women felt guilty about the conflict between what their husbands wanted and what their children needed. There are some horribly sad stories about women forcing themselves to follow husbands doing utterly stupid, selfish things while their children's health was in danger - Mary Livingstone, that sort of thing.

Grennie Wed 30-Oct-13 12:11:49

I don't have children either.

But even when I was young, all the kids from about 5 or 6 years of age played outside all together. You would play outside and come back for your meals. And you would walk to and from school yourself. You were also expected to entertain yourself much more than kids today.

So I think the active parenting stuff was easier, at least once kids got to school age. Maybe just as hard before then.

I also remember as a child that it was common for girls of 8,9 and 10 years of age to knock on doors and take under fives out for a walk or to play with them for a bit. I remember doing this with toddlers. Although I also remember getting told off a bit when myself and a friend knocked on a door and got a tiny baby to take out for the afternoon. We were about 8 or 9 years of age and my mum thought we were far too young to look after a tiny baby - she was right.

But all of this meant mothering maybe wasn't as intensive. And there were only a few afterschool activities you could do that you walked to e.g. uniform groups. So there wasn't all the ferrying about that there is now.

MooncupGoddess Wed 30-Oct-13 12:11:43

How interesting, Tunip. There's a recentish book about child-rearing advice through the ages, isn't there- would be interesting to see when it opens.

I still remember my mother declaring melodramatically 'I have failed as a mother!' when I left home without having passed my driving test(despite/because of her pressure to do so). My father couldn't have cared less.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 30-Oct-13 12:11:16

The Goodman of Paris is for women. It's framed as being written by a man who was about to marry a younger wife so it's named after him, but it's all about what she should do.
I did wonder - because of the age gap - if they were assuming she wouldn't have kids, but it implies they will have sex and as men stay fertile late it would seem like a strange assumption.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 30-Oct-13 12:08:11

I was thinking recently about what we beat ourselves up over, and wondering if we beat ourselves up over our inadequacy as parents in the way that medieval people beat themselves up over being inadequate Christians. We are always resolving not to shout at our kids today, to bake more with them or arrange them more playdates (that's my particular shortcoming) and confessing our parenting sins on Mumsnet, but we don't do it about our general sins any more, the way people did once.

Yes, but won't there be a female equivalent? (Which is telling in itself).

In Middle English there's 'What the good wife taught her daughter', which is for women, and 'How the good man taught his son'.

I wonder if there's a Goodwife of Paris out there, even if the Goodman version talks about being a good wife?

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 30-Oct-13 12:05:44

I've just been looking in The Goodman of Paris (medieval guide to running a household) and there's nothing about bringing up kids. Stuff on choosing servants, and a lot about being a good wife, but nothing on how to be a good mother.

BerstieSpotts Wed 30-Oct-13 12:05:12

Yes, I have never seen a man say he has failed his children either, even if he feels sorrow that he doesn't see them enough.

Fair point, tunip, yes.

mooncup - yeah, not sure how much a baby can change! grin

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 30-Oct-13 12:01:11

It's a bit of a myth that women didn't used to have children when they were old - they just didn't have first children old, but they kept on having them when they might have chosen to stop if they had the choice.

MooncupGoddess Wed 30-Oct-13 12:00:20

That's really interesting, Berstie. Especially this:

'perhaps we should try to see it that way, as more of a relationship than some kind of test you can pass or fail.'

I do occasionally feel I have been an inadequate sister/niece/friend (in fact, you have just reminded me I owe my uncle an email) but it's more of a passing pang than the enormous weight that mothers seem to feel. (Thinking about it, I have never heard a father agonise that he is failing his children. Do they?)

Fab quote, LRB. Cultures may change but small children stay the same!

Ooh, that sounds fascinating. I want to read that book, I'll see if I can get it from the library.

We have children older, too, don't we, on the whole? My parents look after my baby niece, and they're only in their 60s so not 'old' old, but they find her pretty exhausting. I'm guessing in the 1920s you might more likely have a grandmother who was in her late 30s or 40s, who'd be that much more able to pitch in.

Treen44444 Wed 30-Oct-13 11:54:35

Do you think that children's expected behaviour has changed? Also the status of children within the family.

BerstieSpotts Wed 30-Oct-13 11:49:45

I think it is the isolation and the fact that you are expected, in a way, to give over your entire identity over to being a mother.

I did a bit of social history on my degree and there was a really interesting and famous study done in the East End in the 1900s or 1920s or thereabouts about mothers and daughters. Adult women had to work just as men did (usually taking in laundry or working in factories) in poor families and the childcare was taken up by grandmothers. In fact there was a whole female structure and society which was almost private or a mystery to the men - it would be more that adult daughters would be closer to their mothers and sisters than to their own husbands. There was a whole support network there which we don't have as much nowadays. Plus, remember, housing was cramped and often dirty in these areas so you'd want the kids out playing rather than inside in that atmosphere. It seems that the children would all play together and the mothers would work, talk, look out for each others' children and generally support each other. Now you wouldn't dream of sending a 3 year old out to play with the neighbourhood children and we have nice, roomy, clean homes to stay in so there is less reason to get out (and it may be further to meet other mothers, too)

Because there was no easy access to contraception everybody had children and it wasn't something that defined your entire being. Now we see it more as a choice so we have to justify that choice by making it something wonderful when perhaps it is just ordinary and should be considered as such. I remember saying to a friend that nobody ever worried about whether they had failed as a sister, or a niece, or a friend. We don't let these relationships take over our identity in a way that we allow our relationship with our children to and perhaps we should try to see it that way, as more of a relationship than some kind of test you can pass or fail.

Aha - the book is called "Family and Kinship in East London" and the chapter we covered was called "Mothers and Daughters". It is available as an ebook but it's not complete, but might be interesting reading. I found it fascinating and very readable.

I dunno, good question mooncup.

Bartholomeus Anglicus (medieval) says: “Children ... live without thought or care. … They love talking to other children and avoid the company of old men. They keep no secrets but repeat all that they see and hear. Suddenly they laugh, suddenly they weep, and are continuously yelling, chattering, and laughing. They are scarcely silent when they are asleep. When they have been washed, they dirty themselves again. While they are being bathed or combed by their mothers they kick and sprawl and move their feet and hands and resist with all their might. They think only about their stomachs, always wanting to eat and drink. Scarcely have they risen from bed than they desire food.”

That sounds like hard work! Though I notice he's not volunteering to pitch in.

MooncupGoddess Wed 30-Oct-13 11:28:46

Has bringing up children always been really hard, or is there something specific in our culture (isolation/high standards/unfair expectations of women vis a vis men, etc) that makes it so?

From what I can remember, women start talking about child-rearing in terms we would recognise today (hard, tiring, lonely, children always fighting/being demanding etc) between the wars... but before that most women who wrote had lots of domestic help, and so our perception is skewed because we don't hear from women who were doing it all themselves.

(I have no children; I like other people's but the effort involved in having one's own makes me feel a bit pale.)

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