Advanced search

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.


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!).

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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 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?"

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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).

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.

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

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.

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!

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

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now