the ideal society / culture in which to be a mother?

(115 Posts)
curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 10:59:32

I follow a few Mormon Mommy blogs like this:

I also woh full time and argue passionately that women need and deserve full material status in society with equivalent freedoms to men.

I am confused about the tension between two theoretical positions and would like to work out if there could ever be a practical - real life - synthesis of them, in a form that would be a society that is perfect for mothers.

Position a: motherhood is glorious and should be supported for what it is, rather than demanding that mothers do other things at the same time, like earn money, as if motherhood were some kind of "not really a job" type thing. It is best done by intelligent, supported, healthy, creative women who are honoured for what they do. And that means we don't have to ask them to do anything else. Society should channel its resources into them. Breastfeeding is exhausting, home made food and beautiful homes are very demanding of those who make them, and they are enormous gifts to children, families, and wider society. [downsides in practice, if not in theory: women who don't become mothers are scorned; women who want to do other things are not allowed to, or are only accorded second class status; women do not have independent access to money and are basically stuck with a man like a possession, no matter what, which is an abusers' charter]

Position b: women, including mothers, are full complete rounded human beings with the same faculties and rights as men. they can and should take full part in all of human life including varied, interesting, and financially rewarding work. Having children is just one of the things they might do and does not define them. [downsides in practice if not in theory: exhaustion, because mothering is actually a full time job even with help; down playing maternal achievements and lowering status of mothers relative to male indexes of external success; a sense of individual isolation, that if it is not working it is your fault, and it should all be possible; short cuts like formula and ready meals become necessities instead of options, because maternal resources are scarce]

I suppose I like blogs like Taza because I like that she makes mothering look glamorous and aspirational, as opposed to the use of "mumsy" in a fasion sense as being second class and ugly (which I loathe). But it is all firmly grounded within a conservative Mormon ethos in which the woman's place is in the home, and it makes my teeth itch.

So what would an ideal society for mothers look like? Because you can't have position a unless supported by society; which then becomes compulsion. but position b is so lonely and hard sometimes. And I worry that I am honestly not doing mothering as well as I could if I had nothing else to to.


stargirl1701 Tue 25-Jun-13 11:03:49


PromQueenWithin Tue 25-Jun-13 11:19:59

What about rather than 'motherhood' and 'mothers' we support / value / idolise equal parenting?

Work becomes less all encompassing in terms of time expected to be spend doing it, leaving everyone with more free time to pursue parenting, caring, volunteering, creativity etc.

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 11:34:00

stargirl, can you tell us more about Sweden?

Promqueen - that sounds great for older children - but I think babies need to be mothered. Also how to you get to a place where fathers are as good as mothers at parenting? I love dp and I respect him but he just isn't as attuned as me, or the mothers I know, even when he is a sahp the detail is missing, it just is. I often read on here that child stuff or domestic stuff "are not rocket science" and men must be pretending if they can't do them right. Well maybe they are pretending, or maybe they aren't, but I have spent 41 years - my whole life - learning about how to do things at home and I am good at it and it does take concentration if you are going to do it right. I am not doing it right. We throw away too much salad, the white pants have gone grey, dds could be eating better. etc etc etc. dd1 wants to learn to write and she is trying to teach herself and I want to help her. I can't do more than I am doing and I am damn sure no one else is going to do it.

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 11:38:28

I suppose that is what is bothering me about the "parenting" ideal - I think it elides all the hard work that goes into traditional mothering, which actually, I'm afraid, does make people's lives better. It matters. and half arsed bish bash bosh jobs aren't as good. It's fine - I don't judge anyone for bishing boshing - lord knows I do it - but in talking about the ideal I am acknowledging that I yearn for circumstances under which things could be done well.

PromQueenWithin Tue 25-Jun-13 11:46:40

DH made just as good a 'mother' as I when dc were small. He comforted them, fed them, cleaned them and played with them. I genuinely don't see why a penis (rather than social expectation and conditioning) would prevent men from doing this. The only thing they can't do is breastfeed.

It's my view that the idea that mothers (and only mothers) can manage to do the full on job of childrearing well and that anyone else is essentially just a bumbling assistant is the largest barrier in the way of your better society smile

stargirl1701 Tue 25-Jun-13 11:52:43

Well, I'll start by saying I've never actually been to Sweden! But, it is lauded in education circles for it's child/parent laws/policies.

I believe parents are entitled to 18 months parental leave after the birth if their child. There is high quality state funded nursery provision for the early years. The school system is of high quality and the pedagogy at each stage is related to development.

Their society seems more equal than ours.

But, they still have a way to go on inclusion (professional experience of this). From what I've read in the newspapers, Immigration has yet to be accepted by mainstream society. I believe it's also quite conformist.

I disagree that fathers cannot be primary caregivers. I think you are extrapolating from your own family dynamic. I think it is better for a baby to be cared for by a parent until 3 years - but that means either parent. I think grandparents can also offer care after the early stages.

I am going back to work pt at the end of my year's mat leave. It would probably be better for DD if she was cared for by me or DH. But, being a SAHM is not going to be good for my mental Wellbeing. I miss my job, I want career progression, I want a decent pension... My DH does not wish to care for DD for the 2 days I will be working. The GPs live too far away. So, DD will be with a childminder. It's the best compromise we can engineer. I would end up with PND if I didn't go back to teaching. It is part of my core identity - as much as being a mum!

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 11:59:16

PromQueen - as an ideal, sure - but how do you get there?
I feel like the standards I have (and don't keep to) were learnt by observing things done well. The standards you get (by and large) when you leave a man to do it aren't as high. So you have sloppy practices as the teaching methods of the next generation. And - I keep making this point and I don't think anyone feels this way but me, because I never get a flash of recognition back on this - it is not true that housekeeping and childrearing are instinctive and effortless. Or that it doesn't really matter if you keep losing and breaking and replacing things, rather than minding and mending things, or that no one notices nicely done things, or that it doesn't matter how you shop and manage your food stock. There are methods and there are things to be learnt and practised and it is part of my feminism to respect this and respect the professionalism. And I grieve for the shit way I am doing things.

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 12:03:17

stargirl, of course fathers can be primary care givers. but there is, in my experience, stuff that always goes astray.

I know lots of part time sahds at the moment, (through a quirk of fate) - well not lots but a good few, a high proportion of the people I know. Their partners do a lot more than the partners of sahms. Two of the 4 year olds I know have health problems that weren't picked up by the fathers and the mothers took time off work to get the appointments and try to sort it.

I am talking about an ideal society. I can see how we can get to a society where men notionally parent and housekeep as much as women but the attempts at it that I have seen still have disproportionate amounts of work done by women and grubby tea towels.

stargirl1701 Tue 25-Jun-13 12:08:11

I disagree. My Dad is far more fastidious about housekeeping than my Mum ever was. He would no more have a grubby tea towel than fly to the moon. His Dad, my Grandfather, was the same.

PromQueenWithin Tue 25-Jun-13 12:10:45

I agree with you that childrearing and housekeeping aren't natural and instinctive. I also think that these are jobs from which one can gain great satisfaction from doing well. I also agree that there are skills that can be passed down. My grandmother (who cared for me while dm worked ft) taught me loads of stuff, and I try and teach dd and ds in turn.

I just don't think that only women can do them well. I think saying that is the other side of the coin from saying women can't be as effective engineers, CEOs or whatever, as men can. Do you believe that?

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 12:16:58

No, but I am not talking about innate ability, I am talking about how you get to there.

PromQueenWithin Tue 25-Jun-13 12:33:35

Then I don't understand. Why do male carers mean dirty tea towels if it isn't innate?

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 12:38:19

Because certain things need to be taught, and taken on board, and they aren't being.

Women can of course be engineers and CEOs but you don't just pull them out of Mormon kitchens and put them in charge of building railways with no training and say "well we'll just live with a few wonky bridges, after all we have to accept that if we want them involved they will have their own style of doing things and if we suggest they aren't as good we will just alienate them". It seems that this is the approach we are expected to take with getting men to do domestic stuff.

And I know some of them do get it. I know because stargirl is telling me and I believe her. But I don't know any of them. And I don't believe they are in the majority or even a large minority.

PromQueenWithin Tue 25-Jun-13 12:42:53

Ah, OK, I see. It's about a combination of recognising that these are skills that can be (and need to be) learnt and valuing them so that the learning of these skills is thought to be worthwhile?

scallopsrgreat Tue 25-Jun-13 12:43:53

This blog post is quite interesting. The Bayaka sound really interesting as do the Mosuo. Especially that DV is almost non-existant. None of the western cultures can claim anything like that sad

scallopsrgreat Tue 25-Jun-13 12:45:32

The Bayaka are proving that men can do it too (without all the evo/psyche bullshit)

OctopusPete8 Tue 25-Jun-13 12:46:45

Sweden. Denmark those kind of countries, apparently there is less child poverty there too.

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 12:57:32

Exactly. I feel like there is this don't-scare-the-horses orthodoxy which is all gung ho and positive about male involvement at home, because let's face it we certainly couldn't have any less, but what goes with that is this very unthreatening comic sans acceptance of domestic-lite, to make sure that they aren't challenged too much.

Let me be clear, my standards are not about frilly Kath Kidston dreams of over-iced cakes etc. I just mean well managed meals, waste free food shopping, home made food, clean kitchens and bathrooms, toys and drawing things sorted into sets and stored accessibly so that they can be easily and independently played with by small children who are too small to sort them themselves, nice clean smooth beds, properly washed dishes that aren't put into the cupboards scummy, clothes and swimming kit etc nicely organised for spontaneous fun events, (because you don't know if the sun will ever come out again and the one day it is you don't want the cozzies to be in a mouldy unusable heap), availability for and interest in small children's education (even if not formal education), family admin done nicely and filed, even family archiving (photos, drawings etc), recycling done properly, breastfeeding, basic gardening...

Only one of those things can't be done by men but the rest are usually done by women.

This stuff is what I would call first tier.
Second tier would be things like making bread and growing own vegetables.
Third tier would be making bespoken curtains, joinery, sophisticated home-done couture.

I can't even dream of tiers 2 and 3. A properly done tier 1 is out of my grasp right now. I mean properly done. And I want to know how that can be done, even if only in theory, without having women barefoot pregnant bored and abused.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 25-Jun-13 13:02:36

On domestic stuff:

1) A lot of women are "good" at the details because they've spent almost all their lives learning and doing it. Therefore a lot of men can be "good" at it too if they are taught and they do them. Nothing to do with penis or vagina. (This is the same argument for women being CEOs or engineers or physicists. Really. Nobody operates machinery, be it a washing machine or some particle accelerator, with genitals.)

2) We need to question "standards". Nowt wrong with grey pants. smile Think of all the chemicals we use and all the energy we use in the quest of snow white pants. Think of the planet!

stargirl1701 Tue 25-Jun-13 13:12:40

I think it is about upbringing. I grew up in a house where everyone chipped in, regardless of gender, so that was my 'normal'. My Dad grew up in the same environment. His chores as a boy were polishing shoes and all the ironing for the house. As a child, my chores were drying dishes and cleaning bathrooms, my brother's were laundry and hoovering and my parents split the rest. As teenagers we just pitched in.

My DH grew up in a house where Mum did everything. I made it abundantly clear, in the early days of our relationship, that that was a deal breaker for me. I was not prepared to be with, or have a family with, someone who didn't do an equal share of housekeeping.

The only thing he's not good at is remembering the programme details for the nappy wash - he asks every time!

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 13:17:04

Thanks for that really interesting link, scallops. Agree that eve/psych bullshit is bullshit.


1 - I know, but there is no one to teach the men this stuff because the women (on the whole) know it and the women are not teaching it to men because they won't listen, or because they believe they won't listen, or because we are all pretending these skills don't exist as things that need to be learnt - I see it again and again on here "it's not rocket science". ARGH!

2 - These grey pants went grey because washed with the wrong stuff, not because it was any cheaper or more eco. Actually doing things right can be better, not worse, for conservation and is one of the things that really bugs me about Comic Sans Domestic Lite -that it is wasteful as well as inelegant. But even still - the inelegance itself bugs me.

Classic Examples Of Comic Sans Domestic Lite:

Buying food at random, shoving it at the front of the fridge, allowing food at back to go off, never really knowing what is in there

Cooking the same few meals again and again, including beige things from the freezer

Not dealing with clean laundry quickly and snappily so it sits getting more and more crumpled and will need to be ironed.

but never actually ironing it.

Then re-washing it perhaps

replacing things instead of mending them (or even finding them!)

Throwing toys into boxes at random so that they are effectively useless to the children and so all they play with is the piece of plastic tat that was attached to the comic, which they successfully whinged the Domestic Lite Practitioner into buying, because

- feeble response in the face of whinging

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 13:25:59

To continue the schema - I am totally opposing the need for any tier Z bullshit, which is not only pointless but actively undesirable, like:

Air fresheners
Fabric softener
twiddly ceramic ornaments
Bizarre and complicated puddings
Violently clean, palely upholstered houses which give you the fear

But these are the kinds of houses in which you are least likely to get a home made dinner or biscuit.

BettyCrockerLover Tue 25-Jun-13 13:28:42

Wow, the blog lady has such a nice charmed-looking organized life!

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 25-Jun-13 13:29:10

No one to teach the men this stuff - well, we start now. Change things in a generation or two. wink

They won't listen - well, the men that are worth the effort will. They ones who won't will breed themselves out of the gene pool. Hopefully. grin

Women believe the men won't listen - not a good reason to give up.

I get that not having things done properly bugs you. smile I see in my own domestic life that certain things bug me enough for me to do something about, certain things bug me but I can live with them, and certain things just don't bug me at all. I think these things are by no means standard across the board. You may be horrified to know that I don't iron anything and that my whites are not as white as my MIL's castoffs. grin << Racking my brain to think of domestic things that really bug me that I haven't addressed yet ... and those I have addressed I have forgotten about , which is the reason for addressing them ... >>

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 25-Jun-13 13:30:29

Is there a definitive Domestic Lite list? Looks interesting. Will comment later.

kim147 Tue 25-Jun-13 13:31:54

I think your comments are just a little bit sexist TBH - obviously you've not had good experience with men.

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 13:36:02

I would like to run a finishing school for men. It would be called CLEAN UP YOUR ACT, DIPSHITS or WOMAN UP! I would stride around with a cane banging surfaces scarily. I would open the session like this:

"You have been fed the line that house keeping and childrearing is easy. [THWACK!] I am here to disabuse you of that pathetic notion. [THWACK!] It is a rumour put about by certain women who are addicted to humility, appeasement, and self-deprecation. It is BULLSHIT. [THWACK!] These jobs are hard. I know how to do them. [THWACK!] You do not. If you want to know - if you want to learn - if you want to be a real man - then you need to LISTEN [THWACK!] LEARN [THWACK!] and PRACTISE [THWACK!].

"Today we start with lesson one: Laundry. And we are starting right at the beginning, when the clothes come off. CHECK THE POCKETS NOW. [THWACK!] Why can't you check them later? Because it's easier now? WRONG! [THWACK!] You WILL check them later. You check them NOW [THWACK!] AND you check them LATER."

etc etc

Do you think it will be popular?

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 13:40:46

kim147, I don't accept "sexist" as meaning "unfairly discriminating against men" (if that is what you mean) because the asymmetry between men's and women's positions under patriarchy means that it is not useful or helpful to apply the word symmetrically.
I also don't accept that my experiences are anomalous and there are lots of men who are as good at all these as women. A few, or some, of course; not lots or most. I just don't see that around me. Among my trendy lefty feminist-talking friends, the men don't walk the walk.

LordCopper, of course there is some stuff you just can't do, as things are - I accept this - I am interested in a theoretical basis for society in which things could be done properly.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 25-Jun-13 13:53:10

I'm also interested in the "ideal" society for motherhood. Don't have time now, but a few random points to make:

- Motherhood is not housekeeping. Two extremely different things.

- Housekeeping is not the job of the mother or the father. It is the job of all who live in the house. When DS1 says "I'll just fix this last piece of Lego and I'm come and help you dry the dishes" (yes he does say that grin) I say "You are not helping me dry the dishes. Drying the dishes is not my job. We all muck in because we live in this house."

kim147 Tue 25-Jun-13 14:00:16


I work in lots of people's houses and you'd be surprised how messy they are. Kitchens, toilets and ironing left out. No doubt a few dirty tea towels as well and toys spread all over the place.

Not all people are as tidy and house proud as you may think - men and women.

Exhaustipated Tue 25-Jun-13 14:21:38

Agree with Uptoapoint

Actually, when you have very small children mothering them can be rather incompatible with housekeeping.

I am very interested in your initial queston (now somewhat sidetracked by male parenting discussion).

There are many women who want to be at home full time when the children are young but then return to the world of work when they are older.

An ideal set up might include:

-more respect given to importance of early mothering in society. More communal networks for mothers to support each other abd/or extended family structures
-state subsidies for study/training whilst women are mothering, designed around mothers free time (evenings)
- fathers not working such long hours that they can't take on a good share of the housework abd/or state provided home help for those with very young children (well you did say ideal!)
-open door policy for returning to work

I think in these circumstances those women who wanted to be at home could do, whilst still retaining sense of a work/career self. Also it would make it a much more attractive proposition for men, if both parties were happy to share or swap roles.

I accept this is mostly quite unrealistic but fun to sketch it out/think about which bits could become real...

I am particularly interested in the idea that motherhood in our society is a much too isolated experience.

Sorry for typos, writing on my phone whilst BFing!

Exhaustipated Tue 25-Jun-13 14:22:40

Agree with Uptoapoint

Actually, when you have very small children mothering them can be rather incompatible with housekeeping.

I am very interested in your initial queston (now somewhat sidetracked by male parenting discussion).

There are many women who want to be at home full time when the children are young but then return to the world of work when they are older.

An ideal set up might include:

-more respect given to importance of early mothering in society. More communal networks for mothers to support each other abd/or extended family structures
-state subsidies for study/training whilst women are mothering, designed around mothers free time (evenings)
- fathers not working such long hours that they can't take on a good share of the housework abd/or state provided home help for those with very young children (well you did say ideal!)
-open door policy for returning to work

I think in these circumstances those women who wanted to be at home could do, whilst still retaining sense of a work/career self. Also it would make it a much more attractive proposition for men, if both parties were happy to share or swap roles.

I accept this is mostly quite unrealistic but fun to sketch it out/think about which bits could become real...

I am particularly interested in the idea that motherhood in our society is a much too isolated experience.

Sorry for typos, writing on my phone whilst BFing!

Exhaustipated Tue 25-Jun-13 14:23:20

Aaagh sorry for double post.

badguider Tue 25-Jun-13 14:32:53

I don't think there is one ideal society for motherhood because we're all so different... your posts make me smile because I couldn't care less about clean smooth beds or making sure the pants don't go grey (I buy all black so they can't)... I never make beds, we throw it off when we get up and that lets the sheet/matress air, we're then rarely in the bedroom again till bedtime when we straighten it all out to get into it again smile

So... because our personal ideas of 'mothering' 'parenting' and 'housekeeping' are so varied I don't think any society can be 'ideal' because no matter how liberal a society it still always idealises one model of being above others.

For me, i'd go with the equal parenting society after the post-natal / exclusive bf period. Where we each work about 20 hours a week out of the home doing whatever brings in money and gives us professional satisfaction and we each parent when we're at home... parenting looks slightly different for us - i'm more into nature walks and could live simple snacks - bit of bread and cheese and an apple, my husband is more into cooking great meals, but that variety adds up to more than the sum of the parts in terms of parenting imo.

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 14:34:26

uptoapointlordcopper, I agree that everyone who lives in a house should do stuff towards keeping it nice, but small children can't do that much, and there are things that have to be actively done that do take time, and one of the things I am resisting is the idea that it will sort of do itself, because that I think "disappears" a lot of important and skilled work.

exhaustipated, interesting points. True that "when you have very small children mothering them can be rather incompatible with housekeeping. " - and wouldn't it be lovely for every new mother to have a home help!

Exhaustipated Tue 25-Jun-13 14:55:23

Yes curryeater- I think in France this is actually the case! The state sends round a helpful post natal mothers help smile

kim147 Tue 25-Jun-13 15:03:59

"I agree that everyone who lives in a house should do stuff towards keeping it nice"

Define "nice".

One person's nice is different to another persons. Some people can be obsessed with tidiness to the point of cleaning the floor at 11pm whilst others are a whole lot more relaxed.

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 15:11:26

well I should be working but I will have another go at definitions.

Nice = tier one = things in the ball park of:

no weird smells
no crunchy floors
can find all normal things in the right places
washing up might be draining, but not loads of it standing about waiting to be washed
no more than one load of laundry waiting to be put away; no more than two loads waiting to be washed
all crockery and cutlery that has been put away is genuinely properly clean
no broken crap lying about
all recycling properly sorted
food in fridge and cupboards for a couple of days' meals, nothing going off
Toy boxes contain sorted and unbroken toys. card games, jigsaws, duplo etc, all compiled together
bins emptied
no weird gunk in the bottom of the mug for toothbrushes
clean towels and tea towels out (changed every few days)
no worn out pencils or useless biros in pencil pots

stargirl1701 Tue 25-Jun-13 15:12:10

None of the things on your Comic Sans list would really bug me (they would bug my Dad and my MIL).

House priorities:
Dishwasher stacked, run & emptied daily
Laundry washed & folded when the basket gets full
Enough food in the fridge for a day's meals
Toys tidied up before leaving a room
Beds made daily
Floors swept daily (have crawling toddler - wasn't so bothered before)
Nappy wrap & sleeping bag aired outside daily
Formula bottles sterilised daily
All people fed
Toilets left in a clean state for others

We have a cleaner who comes in once a week. We don't iron - waste of energy & time.

ThirdTimesABrokenFanjo Tue 25-Jun-13 15:13:43

Exhaustipated makes good points

My ideal society would be a bit more hippish well rounded.

I think a maximum number of actual hours worked should be enforced. None of these city types working 60 hours a week.

I (oddly enough) quite often read the if you give up work for maternity leave you may as well not bother going back most in feminist areas. Which winds me up no end. Give some respect to a woman who is doing a hard job and respect her when she goes back to work. This will lead to several things

1. More women back in the work place.

2 More men realizing "women's work" is actually a respectable job in society and choosing these roles for themselves.

3. A "baby-centric" society that assumes breast feeding is normal and allows for a woman to breast feed and have a year off for maternity leave to do so. Not a year off from when they first get ill in pregnancy etc, but an actual year off. A full salary to keep her and her family going. A guaranteed job at the end of the year, no getting made redundant on ML etc.

4. Expressing rooms and extra breaks for women who are pumping so that bf can become part of normal society again and improve things like infant mortality and health for society in general.

5. I think a sahp is actually very good to society at large they can do the unpaid voluntary work that people need they do local care for people in their community.. so making it socially acceptable for either sex to stay at home is very important

In my ideal society mothers would stay at home for the first year and after that it would be a 50/50 split of men and women staying home. Although excellent child care provided by the state if parents do want to work or are single parents should also be available

And also a month of mandatory paternity leave in the first year.

I also think that society seeing the inherent value of the sahp means that they would all be in a position of getting jobs again after their children are back at school.

I think taking the extreme xena approach to women working as actually kept far more women out of the work place than got them back in. Deep down I don't think most parents want to be back at work after 2 weeks.

No doubt there would be some parents irritated by my "perfect society" but not as many as are unhappy without current situation.

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 15:45:33

ThirdTimes, that all looks good.

I agree with the principle that if we honestly want mothers to be able to woh it has to be within the framework that they can have time out of woh too. I know Xenia thinks the opposite - that forcing them back to work enables them to work - but I don't think this is a mainstream position - I think enabling them to have time out enables them to work.

I agree that woh need not be so all-consuming.

I feel that there is an undercurrent on here that I should drop my standards. Seriously if you could see my house you would see high standards are not the problem!
I don't think anyone should have to do all the things I would like to do, but I do feel that a pragmatic spit & polish approach that we all have, that we all have to have, isn't the only way either. And it is missing the point to say "Oh I don't mind x y z". Well you might not mind it, but if you went to a house where it was nicer, you would appreciate it. There is a difference between staying in a house where things have been done nicely and things have barely been done at all. And maybe the children are all happy and fed etc and that's all that matters - well yes that's all that matters in a sense, but on that basis let's all just live in onesies from Asda and never try to wear anything that suits us, etc etc

PromQueenWithin Tue 25-Jun-13 16:19:38

All the things on your level one list are currently, mostly, true of my house <pumps fist> except for the dining room which contains the items normally in the loft while the roof is replaced

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 16:35:40

hurray! Well done Prom Queen!

kim147 Tue 25-Jun-13 16:39:26

Looks at ironing pile.

grumpyinthemorning Tue 25-Jun-13 17:12:58

There is no ideal, but if there was, it would be equal parenting. And parenting is different to housekeeping. The amount of times I've had it out with DP about housework...many men don't understand how much work goes into raising a child or running a home, but they will never understand if we never teach them. Some are just hardheaded and will never get it, but the vast majority just need to see how hard it is for themselves.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 25-Jun-13 18:01:44

What sort of important skill will be "disappeared"?

I can think of one: I have no clue how you "starch" something. grin

thecatfromjapan Tue 25-Jun-13 18:23:41

Just going back a little bit, to where the thread started on the: "We will educate (our) men to be different" thing.

I just want to point out that this is a trope, and it needs to die. Right here; right now.

We women do not have to take on the added burden of educating men to be different - not our husbands, fathers, partners, brothers, sons, etc. i know you mean sons, but ... no. We don't.

Why not?

A. It implicitly means saying that the mess we're in is down to the generation above not educating their sons. I suggest that that is nonsense.

Do we really think that it simply didn't occur to these women to try for non-sexist sons?


That makes no sense.

B. And this is part of (A) actually, when you think about it. To say we are going to educate our sons is actually to take on a whole load of responsibility that is (1) hard work and (2) we can't follow through on.

For a start, is parenting really as easy as brainwashing your child into following the desired pattern of behaviour - be that becoming an accountant; attending Cambridge; going into the army; or growing up to be Non-Sexist Sid? Is that possible? The many threads in "Teenagers" suggests that children can be alarmingly free-thinking and self-determining. And would we want to programme them - supposing we could? Would we feel wholly comfortable? And if we did ... fuck me ... we would be so rich, because we would be setting up consultancies the world over to teach various dictatorships how to produce the model, docile, citizen. The CIA would be taking lessons from us.

No-one, anywhere, has learned how to do this.

I do think that the best we can hope for is to set a good example, give a good argument in favour of, and hope for the best. But be aware that our children will hear many voices, and ours will compete alongside those.

If my child, tomorrow, turns out to be a femicidal sociopath, I will know I did my best to put forward arguments in favour of women's equality and humanity - but I refuse absolutely to be held responsible should he not take that path.

Basically, I think men's lesser contribution in the post-child home is learned. It is acquired. It is learned from the wider culture, and is acquired by boundary testing. It won't stop until society as a whole sends a clear message that it is as unacceptable as drink driving.

We are light years from that.

As to all those who tell curryeater that she is just unlucky, hasn't met a lot of men, and that, actually, loads of other chaps - other than the ones she is basing this anecdotal evidence on - are pulling their weight equally ... that's not true, really, is it?

Pardon me if I'm wrong, but isn;t there masses and masses and masses of research that shows that home labour post-children is, in the majority of cases, falling unequally on the female partners?


That was off-piste but ... I do get really bored with the whole "We will educate our sons differently" thing. We really, really need to lose that one. It is not at all helpful.

thecatfromjapan Tue 25-Jun-13 18:27:21

Back to the subject, curryeater, I'm awed by your bravery in writing:

"I suppose that is what is bothering me about the "parenting" ideal - I think it elides all the hard work that goes into traditional mothering, which actually, I'm afraid, does make people's lives better. It matters. and half arsed bish bash bosh jobs aren't as good. It's fine - I don't judge anyone for bishing boshing - lord knows I do it - but in talking about the ideal I am acknowledging that I yearn for circumstances under which things could be done well."

I am just lurking on this thread, really, and just assimilating the implications of it.

badguider Tue 25-Jun-13 18:31:57

some people's 'home' and 'homemaking' just means so much more to them than others.

DH and I have just spent the last three weekends away in our campervan and will probably be away again this weekend. Yes, we're beginning to suffer on the home front from rushed laundry, messy house, big jobs needing done (trip to tip, clearing of nursery for impending arrival, preparation for some diy).... but on the whole we prefer to 'parent' by taking long bike rides, going away in the van, exploring nature etc... neither of us care very much about the niceties of homemaking even in an 'ideal' world - we're happy if the whole family is fed, clean, healthy and happy.

thecatfromjapan Tue 25-Jun-13 18:34:20

curryeater - Juliet Mitchell was interviewed in "The Guardian" a while back, discussing feminism an her life. she was reflecting on feminist politics in the years after her first feminist book was published.

The line that stuck out for me was where she said something along the lines of: "Of course, we completely overlooked the issue of the labour of childcare. And how much work it is."

There is something so incredibly profound about that. In ways, I think, that Juliet Mitchell herself was oblivious to as she wrote it.

That first book was about the intersection, and occasional clash between, socialism/Marxism and feminism - thus a book, you would think, which would have a discussion of theories/conceptualisations of gendered labour, gendered reproduction at its heart - that, after all, is where the theories will come into contact ...

so how the hell do you overlook the gendered labour of parenting?????

It is a lacuna, I would say, the effects of which we are still dealing with.

peteypiranha Tue 25-Jun-13 18:34:44

Dh does all of your list but breastfeed, and I am not in the slightest impressed. Surely thats just normal behaviour? My dad was the same.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 25-Jun-13 18:51:08

cat Interesting post. Will think about it more. It does say, in Delusion of Gender, that however much of an effort you make, the child will see what is "natural" around. If the child sees that no other man (eg all his/her friends' fathers) does the washing up then however much the child's father washes up he/she will think that "proper" dads don't do the washing up. So yes, I see myself as living as I believe I should live, and hope for the best. It is a bit depressing, isn't it?

peteypiranha Tue 25-Jun-13 18:55:28

Thats not true I dont think cat if your dad does it then your dh will do it, regardless of whatever anyone else does. Well it is in my case I think most people marry men with charcateristics similar to their dads, be that good or bad.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 25-Jun-13 19:16:03

cat Following from last post, so society has a very significance influence on a child growing up. Hence there are people who are completely puzzled by, eg, pink "girly" daughter, when they themselves are quite the opposite. However, I think it is our role to educate our children not to be complete arses - not the mother's job, but everyone's. That's how we change society, is it not?

And you are right, I think, about the research showing that women tend to do more in the house, whether they have high-flying jobs or not. At least it says so in Delusion of Gender.

And I see what you mean about the burden being ours to sort out the rubbish chucked all over the place by the patriarchy. What should we do?

Dervel Tue 25-Jun-13 20:12:35

I'm a new Dad, and looking at bieng the sahp. Having a child is the most important thing I will ever do, and my son will have the best of me. I'm not posting this for brownie points, because to be frank my attitude should be baseline normal for all human beings. Problem is that this attitude is the default assumed for women, but not for us men. Until that changes things will continue as they are.

I actually get a little annoyed when friends react with surprise at my aspiration (male and female). I also get a bit cheesed off with the assumption that we men are somehow incapable, I mean Christ I know 100% some things will get on top of me, but any failure or mistake will be met in some circles with a knowing nod as some preconception is confirmed. No parent gets everything right.

I do believe we are as a society making a bit of a pigs ear of parenting atm. The focus of discussion are on the rights of men and women, the rights to work, to financial independence etc etc. The crucial question to me is the rights of children to decent parenting. I don't give a particular fig which parent makes sure that happens as long as somebody does. I don't like the basic assumption it should be the woman. I don't like the outmoded notion that the person who brings home the bread or bacon has some sort of primacy over the household, and greater standing in society.

To me the situation appears out of whack. At some point in human evolution we took what was supposed to be a complete human being. Split them in half, called one half feminine, and one half masculine, assigned one to men, and one to women. Then later we compounded the sin by denigrating and belittling the feminine and subjugating it to the masculine. We've progressed an inch by allowing women into the mascularchy if they play by the rules, and surprise surprise many excelled as they started being complete human beings, but I think many still feel a dissonance targeted at the half of them still being denigrated.

As for me I just want to be a good Father, the single most significant thing a man will ever be. I do believe a lot of the unfairness and nonsense in society if more men tried to be whole.

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 20:31:15

thecatfromjapan's post of 1823 is very, very important.

I am quite despairing actually as we don't have the wherewithal or will to withdraw labour or revolt violently

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 21:23:49

Dervel, when you say "my attitude should be baseline normal for all human beings" - but you say this is not the case for men - do your male friends explain to you why they are different and why this does not apply?

not cool, btw, to say that we're making a pigs ear of it, or to complain that "the focus of discussion are on the rights of men and women [...] to work, to financial independence...." You are conflating two things.

1 - women have a a duty and a right to protect their independence, well being and material survival

2 - they also happen to do a lot of work as parents. Discussing the best ways to parent are not the same as discussing whether women are allowed to be full autonomous human beings or not, and by sweeping that conversation aside in favour of this one I am sure you think you are being very chivalrous on behalf of the little babies but you are crashingly missing the point

Of course our awareness of the tension between the two (which is entirely a posteriori rather than a priori, by the way, but none the less apparently immovable) is exactly why we are fucked, so thanks for rubbing that in

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 21:28:31

Do all those like PeteyPirhana who are all, like, "but men do all this" really sure that this is what most of the world is like? and think that I am tragically unlucky?

stargirl1701 Tue 25-Jun-13 21:35:03

I wasn't really aware that 'men' didn't pitch in until I joined MN. I've been really shocked with some threads. I guess I extrapolated from my experiences. You go with what you know.

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 21:39:27

stargirl, do you think you are exceptional in this, or not?

I wasn't really aware that 'men' didn't pitch in until I joined MN.

Have you never been to family gatherings where the men sit around drinking beer and chatting while the women gather in the kitchen helping prepare the food/lay the table/wash up?

scottishmummy Tue 25-Jun-13 22:22:45

God your post are depressing op,pigenhole women into mothering as if its heroic,saintly
Look sooner we escape the tyranny of mothering and associated sentimental tasks the better
Parenting is act of adult being a responsible parent lose the saintly mothers routine.its cliched

NiceTabard Tue 25-Jun-13 22:25:41

Surely the aim is that all people and families are in a position where they can play to their strengths and allocate work - whether in the home / out of the home / child care - as fits best.

The two positions in your OP are ones I don't recognise.

What is the "beautiful home" stuff?
Why is it called "mothering" when actually it's parenting? In our household DH is much better at that stuff than me.
Conversely, I love going out to work and am better at earning money than him.

We are both not shit-hot on housework and stuff kind of gets done as a joint effort as and when it starts to get out of hand.

I don't think we are that unusual at all. Surely we need to all live as we feel comfortable without fear of being judged in matters such as how many loads of washing there are or the state of the toothbrush mug (I mean, seriously?) and dole out the work each according to ability and after that just so it gets done.

So DH is better at "mothering" and I'm better at Engineering. So what? We've got all the bases covered smile

scottishmummy Tue 25-Jun-13 22:27:35

I not defined by being a mother,it's not the completeness or making of me
I do many things,that include being a parent.all these things shape me
This thread is a knit your own lentils wish not want a year off work,and certainly not to bf

stargirl1701 Tue 25-Jun-13 22:29:13

Hi NotGood. I haven't been to family gatherings where that happened, no. I would find it odd if all the women disappeared into the kitchen. I do find family gatherings break into age groupings but not gender groupings.

My PILs are very traditional - but I assumed it was a farmer thing/age thing. My DH (now) can't get over how his Dad just sits and is waited on. My MIL can't believe DH can cook, clean, do laundry, change a nappy, etc. She'll often comment to others, 'DH made X - and it tasted good!' like it is a revelation grin

My eyes have been truly opened on MN - to redoubling the feminist cause and eliminating DV.

stargirl1701 Tue 25-Jun-13 22:30:41

Curry eater, I didn't used to think my experience was unusual but, increasingly, I am questioning my world view.

scottishmummy Tue 25-Jun-13 22:31:00

My ideal culture/society wouldn't define me by mothering.
mothering is limiting me to those schmaltzy culturally created tasks
So if I pursue career,ovation,don't take long mat leave us that incompatible with mothering

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 22:36:51

NiceTabard, "we've got all the bases covered" sounds perfect, so well done.
"beautiful home" - I never said that, did I? I was talking about a practical, well running, economically managed home. I can't bear all that bunting and "crafty" nonsense.

Scottishmummy, sorry you are depressed but actually I do think mothers are heroic. Not necessarily martyrs or saintly (I wish never martyrs) but yes I think mothers are heroic. I don't see that as depressing at all. i think it is brilliant. And I don't think only the lentil knitting ones are heroic. Far from it.

MiniTheMinx Tue 25-Jun-13 22:41:29

Mothering is a verb, mother is a noun. So I guess you can be a mother Scottish but that doesn't have to infer that you are mothering.

curryeater Tue 25-Jun-13 22:41:54

x-posted with scottish mummy - no, it is not incompatible with mothering to pursue a career at all, and in fact I woh full time in a very demanding job. But I am still a mother - and perversely, it is a part of my sense of myself as a mother that I present myself to my children in that way
I think, tbh, you are misunderstanding what I am getting at as something else, something a bit more magaziney and oppressive and in fact another version of consumerism -> capitalism. I'm not about that tousle-haired over exposed magazine shoot with macaroons, this is about something else

Interesting, stargirl, that you are questioning your world view. I didn't realise that, because you seemed to be telling me that I had got it wrong, in my sense of how things tend to work.

NiceTabard Tue 25-Jun-13 22:50:45

Your original "theoretical" position:

"It is best done by intelligent, supported, healthy, creative women who are honoured for what they do. And that means we don't have to ask them to do anything else. Society should channel its resources into them. Breastfeeding is exhausting, home made food and beautiful homes are very demanding of those who make them, and they are enormous gifts to children, families, and wider society."

I get that this is a 50s / victorian vision but equally you wrote it from your own interpretation so I think there is something there. Mainly because you later wrote a long list of what was / wasn't considered acceptable in a house and included some bizarrely specific things, which kind of indicates that you do think that way.

Personally I couldn't give a monkeys at the state of someone's toothmug, and am a bit surprised that is a "thing".

My list of essentials includes things like:
No-one smells, nails cut, teeth brushed
Clean clothes
Homework done
Organisation like paying lunch money, correct lunch for school trips in hand etc under control
That sort of stuff.
State of pencils/ toothmug not even on the cards, frankly. If that is something you care about, then great, keep it under control. Many of the things on your list though I would consider "nice to have" rather than essential.

Maybe that's why I don't feel I have so much work to do.

I think you are making the mistake of thinking your standards are the norm, and then saying it is lots of work, and the men you know won't do it / don't get it. But TBH I think your standards are high and lots of women wouldn't do / get those things off their own bat either.

MiniTheMinx Tue 25-Jun-13 22:52:00

The blog post is interesting. Apart from being nominally "matriarchal" what other characteristics do the three tribes share? Intrigued now, so shall have to do some reading. What I suspect is that none of these tribes have been touched by capitalism or state control & greed or share a preponderance for Kath Kidson interiors!

scottishmummy Wed 26-Jun-13 06:45:17

Ahh,I see a lame attempt at word play to deflect from your posts op.
I said your posts are depressing ,in that they mythologise and sentimentalise mothering
This is limiting and of no benefit to define women so narrowly.what about women who aren't mothers?are they lesser in your schema

scottishmummy Wed 26-Jun-13 06:49:47

Schmaltzy sentimentality has clouded your reasoning.mothers are not heroic
Like all activities,there is range of ability,variance.there is no global heroic mother
Applying your logic if woman not mother is she un- heroic?is that a lesser state than hero?

thecatfromjapan Wed 26-Jun-13 07:44:16

I disagree with those suggesting what OP is saying is retrogressive, schmaltzy, etc.

I think it's actually a discussion that is absolutely imperative at this stage of capitalism. Just my opinion but I think we are balking at having this discussion and deferring it: from fear; from desire to avoid rupture (of self and female political subject); from difficulty.

I further suggest that we need to have it, or we are going to find that laws and social practices are imposed on us, and children, that really do not make us happy.

I find it absurd that we will talk a lot about women's (paid) work but we are terrified about having an adult discussion about the labour of parenting because of fear.

I say all that as a woman who has been a WOHM.

I think we pull back from a discussion of what is the real and necessary work of being a mother (and I've discussed elsewhere why I politically and strategically use that term) out of fear that we will hand political ammunition to those who do not wish us well - either seeking to return us to the home without choice; seeking to reduce our "selves" to the identity "mother", and so on. We stop the conversation short because we don't want to inflict pain on women who are working out of the home. We stop because we don't want to cause hurt to ourselves.

I don't think it's helpful. We end up with a conservative, right wing discourse, that is padded out with a dollop of liberalism: well, let's all just be nice, and accept one another's choices.

That works to a point. But it leaves us with no way of discussing why it is that women end up foreshortening their careers in order to put in the mothering hours that men by and large aren't doing.

And then implicitly getting told that they did that for "nothing" because the work they sacrificed paid, visible, work to do ... doesn't exist - conceptually.

And we end up in a situation where Gove can argue that the school day should be lengthened so that women and children can make the wheels of capitalism go faster.

There really should be a highly evolved political discourse - a gendered, feminist one, that takes account of the value of mothering - that can tell him to go fuck himself there.

And I say all that as a woman who really does not want to do full time mothering. I just don't. It's physically gruelling and psychically exhausting - if it's done well.

And it is is possible to do it badly. Various degrees of badly and well. I love Winnicott for giving me the phrase "good -enough mothering" but ... I think we need to be grown-up and acknowledge that it can be done along a continuum of bad to good, and different things have different outcomes and different values.

I don't think we should be childish about this. If you are employing a nanny, you will interview, and assess, and make a cost-benefit analysis as to the skills they offer.

Ooops have to go....

curryeater Wed 26-Jun-13 09:06:33

Scottishmummy, you are misunderstanding me if you think I want to go back to some horrible iconised-mother-ideal thing. The problem I have is that we seem to have two polarised positions available: one that discounts and is sceptical and disrespectful of mothering; and one that is as you describe and is disrespectful of mothers who aren't mothers, and also is used as window dressing to throw flowers to those who are carefully kept away from proper material rewards for their work. I thought I had made my dissatisfaction with that position clear in the OP. I note your anger towards it and I see where it is coming from but I think if we allow that anger to push us into throwing an idea of honoured motherhood away, we lose a lot, for ourselves.

I do not believe that the resolution of this polarity is some sort of middle ground because that is just a weakened position of both, a worst of both worlds, all the work and none of the glory, the privilege of doing everything while fixedly smiling in apparent delight at your "joint parenthood" as people congratulate your partner on doing the odd hands turn and we must pretend it is is equal equal equal, as desperate as Dorothy clicking her heels together, and we must not admit the truth.

More a radical synthesis. I am trying to think what that might look like.

I note the conflation of motherhood with homemaking is a leap of logic - good point - a few notes on that:

mothering of small takes place in the home, and it is part of the self respect of the craftsman to keep the tools of the trade and the workshop in good nick. .

It is acceptable apparently to take pleasure in, and note, all these skills exercised for money - a beautiful hotel, stylish and with friendly intuitive service; a restaurant with wonderful food and a lovely environment. This is what we dream of when we imagine going on holiday, if money was no object. Places where we can eat well and feel calm; where our children are safe and are treated in a friendly way; where we sleep well in nice sheets; where there is always something interesting to do. So we can dream of that, if we are saying we will pay for it? So why do we not respect that as an aspiration for making a place where our children will live their lives? I do aspire to creating that space, as a place where my children will feel comfortable and free, and no one is going to pay me for it, why should they, but goddammit surely we can admit that trying to do that is doing something good? Again, in case anyone is missing it, I do not imply that someone who nurtures their children in other ways instead is not as good. I am saying, I want to do this, and I think it is ok to be proud if it if I can

mignonette Wed 26-Jun-13 09:16:33

The concept of Ideal is a significant part of the problem for many Women I feel.

I also dislike how people who choose not to have children are seen as a deviation from the norm. As far as my own adult children are concerned I have emphasised that the decision to have a child should only be made if they cannot bear to be without children. It needs to be more of an opt in decision as opposed to opt out. This almost certainly has its roots in the Judaic-Christian-Muslim view of marriage as for the procreation of children as opposed to procreation of family life which may or may not include having your own children.

A rich contribution to society is not synonymous with child rearing and until this is recognised (by parents especially), we'll remain a long way off any kind of equality for the sexes because it enshrines parenthood and specifically Motherhood with a vocational air. And whenever we talk vocation, inequality and lack of recognition tends to result.

PromQueenWithin Wed 26-Jun-13 09:55:58

I am not well today so will not be articulate. Curry I agree with you. I think that the dismissal of your ideas as schmaltzy is influenced to some degree by the way that anything traditionally associated with the feminine as having less value. This has been raising alarm bells in my mind for a while but I have struggled to articulate why.

Clearly I won't do a good job today! I will try again when my head and neck doesn't feel Luke its stuffed with acid soaked cotto. Wool

peteypiranha Wed 26-Jun-13 10:54:08

Curry- Until I came on here I assumed most men did this yes. Obviously its not true but I would say a man not doing his fair share is not the norm.

peteypiranha Wed 26-Jun-13 11:02:15

I will add most threads on here are from where one parent stays at home if you were brought up with both parents working then both doing fair share is the norm ime.

badguider Wed 26-Jun-13 12:34:04

Curry - I sort of get what you're saying after your last post where you say: "I do not imply that someone who nurtures their children in other ways instead is not as good. I am saying, I want to do this, and I think it is ok to be proud if it if I can"

But the problem is by asking about 'ideals' in society and culture you WERE implying that your version of nurturing/mothering is 'ideal'...

I see now you might mean how would an ideal society/culture give YOU the choice to be the mother YOU want to be, while also letting people like me be the very different 'mother' I want to be in my family where parenting is shared and housekeeping is a low priority... ???

LandaMc Wed 26-Jun-13 12:40:07

Just want to chip in... I think that the idea that men and women can be equally good at parenting a newborn is sexist. Bear with me. After childbirth a mother is physically and mentally attuned to her baby in a way that the father simply is not. For example, studies have shown that (if breastfeeding and cosleeping) the mother's sleep cycle adapts to match the baby, and the baby often imitate its mother's breathing, using her as a breathing 'pacemaker'. Videos of cosleeping mothers show that Mothers also look after the baby while the mother is sleeping, eg adjust the baby's position / blankets. The research shows that fathers simply don't have those instincts or that close link to a newborn. This is biological fact. More generally I found caring for a newborn completely natural and instinctive, while my husband was lovely and enthusiastic but nowhere near as competent - not noticing baby's temperature, accidentally scaring baby, etc etc.

Mothering is called mothering for a reason. We're evolved to do it well. The idea that to say women make better mothers than men is like saying men make better engineers is bizarre. Engineering is a learned profession. Mothering is founded in the close biological link between the baby and the body it came from. Fathering is an important but very different role and becomes more important when the child is around 6-7.

In our culture we're still adjusting to the feminist revolution (yay) that explained to the world that women are as good as men. But to use equality as a reason to diminish and ignore a mother's unique parenting role is in my opinion anti-women and sexist. Whether men are any good at cleaning is a totally different issue!

Of course as the baby grows older the father can learn to be (nearly!) as good as mum at childcare, and of course there are exceptions with some mums not being very in tune with their instincts and some dads being particularly sensitive, but in general it's bizarre to suggest that parenting should be exactly equal. This diminishes the mother's unique contribution early on.

Going back to Curryeater's question - perhaps an ideal society for mums would see life as having a series of chapters and being a mum would be a noble and tough, but optional, life chapter during which she would totally focus on the child for say 5 years. Some UK companies offer a 5 year career break for family and I thought that a good approach.

What makes me really sad at the moment is the fact that instead of women having achieved more freedom by having the option to return to work, every woman I know wanted to spend at least 3 years being a full time mum, but (with 1 exception) felt forced by circumstance and culture to go back to work within the first year. So a nasty side effect of efforts toward equality has ended up separating a lot of mothers from babies... So sad.

badguider Wed 26-Jun-13 12:44:37

LandaMc - you go from talking about mothering 'newborns' to talking about fathering children age 6 or 7... there's a LOT of time between those two...

I agree that a mother has a unique role with a 'newborn' but I would class a 'newborn' to be under 3months old... and I believe a father can be playing an equal parenting role by 6months (IF both parents choose that).

peteypiranha Wed 26-Jun-13 12:51:25

I obviously have a weird dh then he was just as competent from the off with both ours.

peteypiranha Wed 26-Jun-13 12:59:39

Notgoodnotbad- I have never been to anything where the women are running around after the men washing up, cooking, cleaning or drinking beer. What kind of doormat would stand for that?

curryeater Wed 26-Jun-13 13:00:05

badguider - spot on, I am not talking about the ideal mother, but the ideal supportive matrix for all mothers

Peteypiranha, I don't get the impression that most people on here are in wohp / sahp relationships. On the contrary, I think there are a lot of wohms on here who talk just like sahps when they are talking about mothering, because they do so much of it relative to their partners (as well as the o.h. job). Someone on a thread about teething or cooking for fussy eaters doesn't put their bit in starting with "As an accountant, I find...." and perhaps they are assumed to be sahps if that is what you expect to see.

I bet if you interview the wohp partners of the sahms, and ask them what they think about their lives, I bet you will hear a lot of dissatisfaction. They will say: a lot of pressure; it's hard work; my boss controls my destiny; I can never work to my own rhythm; an awareness of constant competition makes me feel insecure and stressed; I work hard and don't seem to make all that much money; etc etc. I don't think that life holds all the answers, for men or women, any more than simpering over cupcakes. I aspire to more.

Interesting post, LandaMc

peteypiranha Wed 26-Jun-13 13:04:37

I was brought up by a mum and dad that both worked. My dad cooks, cleans, can look after any amount of babies, children on his own and take them out places as he does all the time with babies and children in the family. He taught me to read, write, ride a bike, swim etc. Hes attuned to all my problems and interests even now Im an adult. I then went out and met a dh who is just like him.

PromQueenWithin Wed 26-Jun-13 13:14:07

LandaMc I apologise for the likelihood I will seem abrupt. I am unwell today.

My experience with a newborn was anything but instinctive and natural. I had a hard labour, EMCS, was treated badly in hospital (not given food, bullied by staff etc) and ended up being diagnosed a year later with PTSD. SPent the early months in a daze, and DH did all that nurturing stuff.

I am glad you had a positive experience smile, but it is dangerous to extrapolate that to all women and then base decisions about how we want to organise society on it

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 26-Jun-13 13:21:39

LandaMc Can you link to the research please? I have never found myself to be "attuned" to my babies, whatever that means. I do remember, though, at a baby massage group, the leader told us a story about a father who cared for the newborn baby while the mother went back to work fairly early. He woke up just before the baby started to cry in the night. Even in my hey day grin I didn't manage to be quite so attuned. (Faulty maternal instinct. Somebody forgot to install it.)

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 26-Jun-13 14:40:04

Just a quick unscientific poll:

Those who felt quite attuned to their newborn babies - have you had any experience before with other people's babies?

I'm only asking because when DS1 was born that was quite literally the first time ever I held a baby. I took the everything-is-written-down-somewhere approach which I use for almost everything and just read up on it and learned as I go along. grin

NiceTabard Wed 26-Jun-13 16:55:02

I had not had much in the way of experience with other people's babies.

I did not feel "naturally attuned" to mine, and am not sure what that means. I did suffer peri-natal anxiety and depression with both of mine. So clearly my "naturally evolved" response was to go off my rocker the moment the pg hormones kicked in.

DH has from day 1 been more instinctively good with the babies, more patient, much more "maternal". These days they are a bit bigger and he bakes with them and so on. I don't know how much prior experience he had had with babies.

Your point that "mothering" may be a learnt skill is a good one I think. Girls are encouraged to learn and practice this skill from the get-go in a way that boys are not.

Of course I was the only one who could BF, and did so, but when feeding was done I happily handed the baby for DH to hold and coo over while I went off and did something else!

NiceTabard Wed 26-Jun-13 16:58:48

"perhaps an ideal society for mums would see life as having a series of chapters and being a mum would be a noble and tough, but optional, life chapter during which she would totally focus on the child for say 5 years."

But for many female parents that is their idea of hell, and for many male parents that is their idea of heaven.

Around here there is not this huge gender division with WOH / SAH roles. There are loads of men on the school run, loads of male grandparents, and at nurseries and preschools too. My boss at work has just taken a 6 month sabbatical to be with his new baby during it's formative early months, and after that is going part time for another 6 months. Great that he is able to do this, I think. And not surprising that he wants to.

scottishmummy Wed 26-Jun-13 19:37:09

I used nursery from 6mth wasnt sad,it wasnt was safe and adequate
It's neither sad nor separating that I had the choice and wanted to return is enriching and positive
Essentually this seems it boil down to woman know your place eg mothering/childcare

MiniTheMinx Wed 26-Jun-13 23:33:55

Is there something wrong with mothering and childcare? from what I see, the "something wrong" is very much the way in which these roles have been undermined and de-valued.

If the greatest economic reward were made available to mothering, then the greatest social value would be attached to it.

LeBFG Thu 27-Jun-13 14:06:19

I agree with Landa. It is sexist to not fully appreciate the special place of women in early years. Of course, saying that women are more in tune with their babies on here will only engender a lot of 'not in my experience' replies but that's only to be expected. For example, I live in France where childcare is heavily subsidised. Great. Except that every SINGLE new mother I know has gone back to work less than 4 months after giving birth and a great many after 2 months. Talking to some of my friends, there is a notion that if the mother is fit to work, she should do a social contribution, except I believe this is at the expense of the family.

Having siad that, I don't believe it is contradictory to say I would love to see much more male contribution in childcare. I firmly believe men are not as useless as some like to make out - I sometimes see this as agressive women forcing men off their patch (does this make sense?). Was is Sinead O'Conner that employs male-only nannies? I think this is a good idea. Perhaps we need positive employment measures to get more men into traditional female care roles? (just an idea, for me though I hate +ve discrimination full-stop).

LurcioLovesFrankie Thu 27-Jun-13 14:28:37

Tabard - are you and I the same person? I love DS, but found early motherhood overwhelming and, if truth be know, very dull. I find being out at work more interesting than childcare. And I was always in awe of my Dad's baby-nurturing ability and patience (obviously, with children already, I don't know if it came naturally to him or was due to years of practice). I realise that's not so for all mothers; I have friends who loved/love being full time with their children. But I'm not one of them. Doesn't make me a lesser person (or them, for that matter), just different.

What I'd like is more acceptance that actually work doesn't need to involve 60 hour weeks (I'm v. lucky in that respect), and furthermore that 60 hour weeks aren't even about productivity (plenty of evidence to suggest that after 40 hours you're spending more time correcting mistakes made due to tiredness rather than getting more done), they're about a patriarchal pissing-up-the-wall contest designed to marginalise women and men who want a sensible life-work balance. And more support for part timers, and more encouragement for men to go part time. And respect for whoever does the childcare. I agree that this is more likely statistically speaking to be women than men, and completely agree that this is likely to explain its low status. But it's important not to draw the wrong message from this - that there's some sort of normative ideal where women should have a 5 year space for child nurturing, but that's ok so long as we value it, even though that's not what some women want, or (at the other extreme) that every family should be forced to have the man and woman take 50-50 responsibility for childcare, even if that doesn't suit their particular set up.

scottishmummy Thu 27-Jun-13 18:55:02

Attach greatest economic reward to mothering?what does that mean-remuneration?
I actually despise phrase mothering,its clintons cards sentimentality,and as construct flawed
Mothering presumes attitude/behaviour different from parenting.i don't associate myself with mothering

It's that sentimentality that both stereotypes and excludes women
Excludes from certain roles by assumption mothering is all encompassing.and by default there assumption if mothering is attitude and behaviour those skills best suited to certain jobs eg caring,child,teacher. Mothering attitude/behaviour isn't associated with finance,science so potentially excluding women as we are presumed to be good at mothering

Dervel Fri 28-Jun-13 02:58:11

Just to chime in with a little science, men who are exposed to infants will experience elevated levels of prolactin (a hormone that in avian and mammal populations encourages parental behaviour). Fathers with higher prolactin levels are more responsive to babies which creates a positive reinforcement loop. Dads who live closely and are involved with their children become more biologically prepared, and more willing to care for them.

I do not raise this to wade in on the apparent "sexism" of believing men and women can make equally good parents, because quite frankly I don't think what I raised above supports either side of that debate. When looked at objectively. I DO however believe that children will always benefit from both Mums and Dads being as involved as possible in their nurturing/care/protection, because in an ideal situation both parents are involved = child benefits.

I do feel it is dangerous to rely on the view (even should it prove correct). That Mum's are more important, and thus Fathers roles should be viewed as secondary, as you then end up with a whopping case of observation bias. Fewer males will be involved in early stage care, prolactin levels do not elevate, and the desire to nurture and be involved diminishes leading to confirmation of the view men are bad at it, and so the cycle continues. Gender roles remain firmly entrenched and nothing changes.

However please don't read this to assume an agenda on my part to diminish women in any way. It is my belief we should act complimentary with one another not in an adversarial fashion. My conclusion which I admit is very much biased with what is merely hypothesis on my part (at this stage), is that we're not supposed to chain up one human being to be the exclusive caregiver to a family's children. Child rearing is a group activity which we as social animals are supposed to support and assist one another in doing. The mere fact that at least 10-15% of women suffer PND tells me that we as a society are failing to support them.

It beggars belief to me that although parenting is probably the single most significant role one will have in life, it is viewed as undesirable grunt work. Seen as applying the brakes to an individuals life rather than a significant addition (which granted when viewed exclusively from a career perspective it often is, but that is not the only yardstick with which to measure human success). When people find themselves in the regrettable single parent bracket they are viewed as a drain, rather than people getting on with the vital task of raising the next generation of doctors, soldiers, taxpayers etc.

My proposal is to encourage men to be as involved as early as possible in their children's lives. Not in opposition or to marginalize motherhood in any way, but in support of and in partnership with mothers. Maybe if more men made their decisions with thought of their children front and center in their minds we would see this ideal culture/society within which to be a mother flourish.

betterthanever Fri 28-Jun-13 10:29:23

The OP's original question focussed on an ideal society in which to be a Mother. Surley what one `mother' may see as idea,l another may not and so I guess a flexible and tolerant society would be the one for me. The government policies that are needed would be ones that allowed flexibility, the costs involved are a whole other issue.
I agree with all those who have said that the role of a parent should be given more credence and not seen as a sideline activity. Being a good parent is hard and how children are brought up has a big impact on society.The conversation has brought in the different roles of parenting which I agree was not what the original post was about but is a natural progression as where there is a mother there is also usually a father unless they are deceeced.
I agree that if the father has not been involved from the beginning whatever the science, it would make it more difficult to have the same `role' moving on. Not every couple want to share the role of parenting but some do. The ideal society for a mother who shares the parenting role and the ideal society for a mother who does not would I think be very different.
Tollerance and an attempt to understand the different challenges, likes and dislike of others I feel should be prominent in the ideal society.

The bottom line for me I guess is, that if it is possible to have an ideal society for a mother it would be one that understands the role of one mother differs from role of another and I feel the most important thing for any mother is to be happy with her life and that transfers to her DC. Concentrating only on the DC's happiness and neglecting her own for example would not be the ideal and vice versa.

The OP was just talking about Mothers but I see think that also applies to the role of fathers. I guess the problems come in relationships/parenting if both are aspiring to achieve thier own happiness and that of thier DC but there are clashes as the happiness of one brings upset to others.

scottishmummy Fri 28-Jun-13 19:25:51

Yes new fathers do get elevated prolactin,lowered testosterone immediate after birth
These hormonal changes return to Normal level@ 6 month after birth
The male hormones don't remain changed

Dervel Sat 29-Jun-13 11:23:23

Absolutely! Therefore it's essential that bonding and care is established as early as possible.

78bunion Sun 30-Jun-13 09:49:06

It is only in sexist homes and cultures that men are regarded as incompetent at home. That is not the experience of most women.

curryeater Sun 30-Jun-13 11:35:25

Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat. Its original metaphorical meaning, within the Yiddish culture and language in which it is at home, is a lucky person - to fall into the schmalz pot is to luck out. Only within American English language and culture did it come to mean corny.

Scottishmummy, I am picking up on your repeated use of Schmaltzy to mean tasteless and sentimental because I think it is interesting that what in some contexts is regarded as rich, joyful and fortunate is regarded as overdone and tasteless in others.

Don't forget we need fat. It has been fashionable to regard low-fat as healthy - a rational diet - but it has caused a lot of health problems. Bring on the schmaltz, I say. Bring on the mother -love.

I also find it confusing that you are so angry when the status quo suits you so well. No one is actually threatening it, by the way. And the conventional haughty false dichotomy between reason and feelings is misguided and shallow.

Also (everyone), why go on about fathers? In a thread about mothers? No one is discrediting them or the work they do by thinking about mothers for 5 minutes. Every time you see someone collecting for the life boats, do you go up to them and shout "WHAT ABOUT THE FIREFIGHTERS, THEY DO A BLOODY MARVELLOUS JOB?"

scottishmummy Sun 30-Jun-13 18:22:37

You're a one woman clintons cards experience with all your quips
I think you understand exactly what I mean by schmaltz,and you exhibit it in buckets
Mother love?yes I believe you can get treatment for that affliction.if one were to bring it one,as you say

curryeater Sun 30-Jun-13 19:39:07

scottishmummy, of course I understand what you mean. I completely understand it. The thing is, you don't understand what I mean. It's ironic that you are talking about rationality, etc, but being very irrational in your intensely emotional attachment to a very limited and unnuanced schema: intensely emotional, in which the primary emotions seem to be anger and bitterness, which tell a different story from your expression of deep satisfaction with a collection of 80s cliches.

I am happy if the modus operandi that was available to you did actually work for you as perfectly as you say. But I am confused that you are so annoyed that others might be interested in asking questions about how the lots of other mothers might be improved.

It is something I have often seen on here and it confuses me. People ask: what can we do about x? And a poster insists, frothily, angrily, that x is fine, so completely fine, that anyone who wants to change it is somehow mentally deficient. But don't you see the illogic of that? you can say: x is fine for me. you haven't offered any reasonable argument as to why that means it cannot possibly be anything but fine for anyone else. It's like saying to someone who is trying to invent cling film that there is something wrong with them because you have always been happy with aluminium foil. And getting very angry about it.

78bunion Sun 30-Jun-13 19:43:04

The lot of mothers is improved when they insist on lack of sexism at home and only marry non sexist men. It's very simple. Many women share child care 50/50 with men and work full time and that is the best option for many.

scottishmummy Sun 30-Jun-13 19:51:51

Oh dear,you're précis is well flawed invent a summary to suit yourself
In 9posts I say schmaltz twice.that is hardly repeated use or emphasis
I see you did same purposefully misconstrue posts trick further back too.its lame and obvious

scottishmummy Sun 30-Jun-13 20:01:42

You've constructed a summary of my posts to suit yourself
You assert I'm angry,I'm not. But well that doesn't fit in with your posts
By all means don't let fact get in way of your interpretation of my posts

lilystem Sun 30-Jun-13 20:19:03

Really interesting discussion.

I'm a new mum and feel I have a great life - therefore I would say that the best culture/society to mother in would be just like mine. Of course I would, I'm happy, it suits me and my family. But it's very different to what some other mums might see as ideal - and there lies the rub, one mans heaven is another mans hell.

Fwiw the good things that I think are;
- family business' run from home or close by. Then the whole family can be involved in working or raising kids e.g my parents have picked up the slack again after a few years of semi retirement and will do so until the kids are at school. Equally, I still have a valued role in the business that suits me and my skills.

- I have a lot of family support nearby. I think parents who raise kids without family support deserve a medal - I'd find it so hard.

I guess my overall point is that I believe in the saying it takes a village to raise a child and I think the extended family and community are really important in supporting mums.

curryeater Mon 01-Jul-13 12:03:33

Right, lilystem - it kind of feels like whether you have that unpaid support around comes down to a lottery (can you make a living near your family? I can't) or popularity contest (do people flock round you, or not like you much?) It is the latter that bothers me most - I am uneasy with unpaid, informal structures of help in general - as with charities, some are considered sexy, some are not. And I am uneasy with the traditional glorification of motherhood being tied up with an idea of celebrating virtue, and the pretty, glamorous, well liked benefiting from their attractiveness translating into a willingness to help, while the depressive or just introverted and uncommunicative being left to their own devices.

78bunion Mon 01-Jul-13 15:33:21

However, surely you reap what you sow? Be a nice person everyone wants to be around and you tend to get help. Be Mrs Misery Guts and no one will want to help you. It's just human nature.

scottishmummy Mon 01-Jul-13 18:50:45

Unpaid informal help occurs in friendship/family groups and sometimes faith groups
In the way we gravitate to,and help out those whom we like or have something in common with
Theres huge paid for childcare industry self-employed cm,nursery,nanny.paid for is highly regulated

betterthanever Mon 01-Jul-13 23:36:58

78 I really wish some people well just one really I know would reap what they sow but somehow they manage to sow very little and keep reaping... I am keeping the faith that this will change.
curry I feel similar, in that to have that as an ideal for me would fail so many who can't have it for many reasons and who should not feel any less of a person/mother or friend as a result. In fact it tends to be those who don't have that support and strive on with love that I admire the most.

qumquat Tue 09-Jul-13 19:17:48

Only read the first page, but wanted to say (VERY LOUDLY) that my dad was equally good at 'mothering' and better at housekeeping than my mum, and my DP is MUCH better at housekeeping than me (will let you know on the mothering in a few months time, but we are sharing m/paternity leave equally so that will be a good start!).

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