the ideal society / culture in which to be a mother?(115 Posts)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
No, but I am not talking about innate ability, I am talking about how you get to there.
Then I don't understand. Why do male carers mean dirty tea towels if it isn't innate?
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.
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?
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
The Bayaka are proving that men can do it too (without all the evo/psyche bullshit)
Sweden. Denmark those kind of countries, apparently there is less child poverty there too.
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.
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. Think of all the chemicals we use and all the energy we use in the quest of snow white pants. Think of the planet!
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!
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
To continue the schema - I am totally opposing the need for any tier Z bullshit, which is not only pointless but actively undesirable, like:
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.
Wow, the blog lady has such a nice charmed-looking organized life!
No one to teach the men this stuff - well, we start now. Change things in a generation or two.
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.
Women believe the men won't listen - not a good reason to give up.
I get that not having things done properly bugs you. 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. << 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 ... >>
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