Advanced search

Patriarchy and the 'detached mother' article

(64 Posts)
Ineedacupofteadesperately Sat 27-May-17 10:51:26

Apologies if this has been posted before. As someone currently struggling with getting enough sleep with a newborn as well as what I want to teach both DDs about feminism, this feels quite relevant. I'm not sure entirely how I feel about it all & would be interested in the views of the many on Feminism chat who seem to think more clearly about these issues.

In general I feel a lot of the 'advice' I get from the system (HV, gps etc) is often quite guilt inducing and creates even more work for me. I do feel the natural state of babies doesn't fit well in our disconnected world, nor with the situation in this country where either you outsource baby care or only one parent does the bulk of it (and is responsible for it). On the other hand some babies (although I think not all) seem to adapt quite well to how things are. I do feel the "happy mum, happy baby" advice quite often really contradicts the rest of the messages we get about not letting the baby get into "bad" sleep habits etc and the fact that the work parents (mostly women) do overnight in regard to babycare does seem to be unrecognised and devalued.

Batteriesallgone Sat 27-May-17 11:08:12

Yup, I agree with that article! I've heard the expression before 'men in skirts' feminism, which I think is apt. Basically, as long as you can convince me you are as good as a man just look like a woman, you're an equal. As soon as you allow that pesky uterus or breasts to get in the way of economics - you are ripe for criticism.

I feel like it's a wider problem than just mothering or feminism though. In a way I feel like it's comparable to how the very basics of our existence - the food we eat, our underwear, etc etc - are more often than not produced in a third world country for a pittance by people in awful conditions. The basics of life are undervalued in their very ubiquitousness, and as we as a species are pretty successful at reproduction, that includes childbearing/upbringing.

Don't know what the solution is really.

Mixedupmummy Sat 27-May-17 12:58:32

I thought it was really intereting. I've been saying for a long time that the economy/ working system seems to deny the biology of women as mothers. The role should be valued more. However I also believe that women should be able to choose their path, full time work/motherhood or some hybrid, ie part time work, or time out of career and shouldn't be penalised for their decision in any sphere. Easier said than done though.
I also think it would be helpful if more people, men and women, identified as feminists. Ie someone who champions womens rights - not a one size fits all approach.

Ineedacupofteadesperately Sat 27-May-17 15:45:59

Batteries - yes 'men in skirts' feminism sums it up. You could argue that a lot of women in politics very much follow this model.

mixedup definitely. Not sure how to change things, though.

Interestingly, in this regard, even statutory maternity pay is only payable if you've been working outside the home before pregnancy, not if you are a sahm. This in itself shows that being a sahm isn't valued. If You farmed dc out to childcare and provided childcare for the same hours for 6 months (I think) before having a baby You WOULD get stat maternity pay. In capitalism it seems only money is valued not the service itself (child care only valued if you're paying / being paid for it even if it's just a case of your neighbour looking after your child, you looking after theirs and paying each other an equivalent amount..... ). Obviously this applies to caring for older / ill relatives too, something also done more often by women.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 27-May-17 17:46:29

No you would not get statutory maternity pay in the situation you describe as you would be self-employed, not an employee.

I am very uncomfortable with the tone of that article- particularly this

Traditionally – and I mean looking at human history, not the last few generations – the child’s biological need for touch was respected and mothering respected this. Children were physically attached to a mother (again, including male and female) and expected to be for an extended period of time yes let's go back to some golden age agrarian, tribal society wearing rose tinted glasses.

I suspect also the author of that mad article about mantilla wearing on the thread about religion would agree with most of this article.

7Days Sat 27-May-17 17:56:21

Whats wrong with that Lass? One aspect of our tribal past was beneficial. If babies need touch them thats what they need. We dont need to get rid of antibiotics and air travel to make adjustments for that

Batteriesallgone Sat 27-May-17 18:02:46

Suggest you read the politics of breastfeeding OP.

It's really eye opening in its discussion of the separation of mother and child being big business. There is a lot of money to be made if you introduce guilt and doubt into parenting - not just formula although that's a huge industry; also in baby gadgets, things that promise to soothe baby, entertain baby etc.

There's a good bit in that book where she talks about her time in Chile, spending time with families where the home is the unit of production, so a woman can be economically active and still breastfeed on demand, hold her baby as needed etc.

Of course the flip side of that is that you don't get a great meeting of minds when people are siloed in their own houses working. Also it makes it hard for skills to be standardised if you don't have a regular chance to compare.

I am also uncomfortable with the idea that looking after children can easily be done alongside working because my own experience as a SAHM makes me question that. In reality I suspect in communities where parents work from home there is less direct interaction between caregiver and child than is usual in our society. For example I'm currently reading about Tudor attitudes to childraising and by the age of 4 or 5 a child was expected not only to amuse themselves independently, but also babysit for younger siblings. That is the reality of all available adults being busy working. It's important as Lass said not to hark back to some golden age.

Mumchance Sat 27-May-17 18:14:40

As I seem to say wearyingly often on such threads, when I am at work, I am providing for my child, not strapping down my 36DDs and frolicking in the 'patriarchal playground' or the bewildered faux-masculine dupe of neoliberal feminism. And I'd be very interested to hear more from Helen Ball on evolutionary biology and children. Because we all know that that particular field has never been made to naturalise and dignify male aggression and promiscuity. hmm

And frankly, enough with the prissy references to 'unnecessary medicated births', all the playground metaphors, and get your 1950s pinny on as someone finds a new way of disparaging women's choices and removing their agency.

ChocChocPorridge Sat 27-May-17 18:50:42

by the age of 4 or 5 a child was expected not only to amuse themselves independently, but also babysit for younger siblings

This is certainly what you see in pictures from all around the world, including the UK only a few generations ago.

I'd also take issue with this:

Dr. Barry Hewlett has covered research on infant touch in his book Diverse Contexts of Human Infancy and whereas in traditional societies babies are held or touched approximately 98-99% of the time

Because I've also read this in an article on Mongolian Breastfeeding:

Then I moved away from Canada, to Mongolia, where my husband was conducting a wildlife study. There, babies are kept constantly swaddled in layers of thick blankets, tied up with string like packages you don't want to come apart in the mail. When a package murmurs, a nipple is popped in its mouth. Babies aren't changed very often, and never burped. There aren't even hands available to thrust a rattle into. Definitely no tummy time. Babies stay wrapped up for at least three months, and every time they make a sound, they're breastfed.

And given how easily I, who have no anthropology expertise can remember an exception, I can't help but think that that blanket statement is rubbish (at least in cold countries!)

I'm a computer programmer. Working around a baby is doable. Working around toddlers and kids means that you are definitely ignoring them to look after themselves for a lot of the time. I'm not saying that's bad, but it's not motherhood the way it's sold to us these days. And that's the case if your job is weaving, spinning, pottery or breadmaking too - the job requires some concentration and can't just be put down when your child wants something - just think of the babies strapped to women's backs in the fields - sure, they're attached to their mum, but their mum is hardly paying them attention, it's not some golden childhood experience.

Joffmognum Sat 27-May-17 18:53:35

I've just come back from my first postpartum shift (8 months). I pumped into a bottle and the baby's dad looked after him.

I don't see why I'm a better feminist than if he did a shift of Saturday overtime and I fed the baby with my breasts.

I can't stand capitalism-centred economics taking priority over what's best for your family/children. I'd rather be poor(er) than leave my baby in a nursery for 38 hours/week. (Assuming we had enough food etc)

BabyHamster Sat 27-May-17 19:05:53

I only made it half way through but to be honest it just seemed like another way to make mothers feel guilty to me. Or on the flip side, to make those mothers who already feel guilty feel less guilty.

Perhaps we should just stop making mothers feel guilty.

Why are these articles never directed at fathers?

Anatidae Sat 27-May-17 19:14:21

I'm uncomfortable with some bits of this article. Some I agree with totally but as a feminist and a geneticist I can guarantee any article citing our evolutionary past a reason we 'should' be doing something will make my hackles rise.

I don't 'farm out' my child to child care. I'm lucky enough to live in a country with great quality subsidised childcare where I have a legal right to work 80% time. Kiddo has thrived no end in his kindergarten. We are close and loving, and this works for us.

There's a whiff of noble savage fallacy about this article. I suggest you read the book 'cherubs, chattel and changelings' which details different child rearing practices around the globe. Very different practices, from the sort of thing that attachment devotees root to extremely offhand. All 'natural'. We don't evolve 'to do' anything. That's not how evolution works.

What's the solution? I don't know. A more Scandinavian model for childcare and parental leave would be a start, but you will need to pay shitloads more tax for that. Better options and more legal protection for parents to work reduced hours (actually for everyone to) and better childcare. Fundamentally society has to change to value both parenting and work. Raising kids is valuable. Going out to work is valuable. It shouldn't be one side sniping at another.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 27-May-17 19:52:55

I can guarantee any article citing our evolutionary past a reason we 'should' be doing something will make my hackles rise

Agreed. Mine too.

Anatidae Sat 27-May-17 20:03:19

You know I read it and felt guilty. When she got to the slings vs stroller thing I just mentally eye rolled. Slings are ace, if your kid likes them and if your back isn't utterly fucked after pregnancy. And strollers are ace too, because you can chat to your kid, not worry about slipping on ice and squishing them, and you can bung a shit ton of shopping under them. The idea that by using a pushchair you are somehow damaging your child - just fucking stop with that.

The nonsense spouted about slings drives me nuts. Yes, they're great, in many circumstances. But to say that we should (ahhh the tyranny of shoulds!) literally carry the weight of our children constantly or we are bad mothers is laughable. It's like how much more can you use to beat us up with?? Breast/bottle, sahm/work , sling/pushchair etc etc etc. You literally cannot fucking win. Back to that book I was talking about - some communities do carry kids constantly- there's usually a good reason behind it. The book cites one example of a group living a forest particularly awash with poisonous floor dwelling beasties. Other groups do not child carry. There is NO one 'natural' way of child rearing. If you're going to start spouting evolutionary bollocks at least read some anthropology.

Slings are great. Pushchairs are great. Slings are dangerous when you've got poor footing on ice. Pushchairs are fucking brilliant when you can barely walk because your pelvis is held together with gaffa tape.
Each mother/child/family has a particular set of circumstances that makes them unique. Their choices work for them. Full stop.

Ineedacupofteadesperately Sat 27-May-17 22:49:22

Definitely yes, a good start would be to stop making mothers feel guilty and the polarising nature of the parenting debates too, which seem to mostly be aimed at women. Middle ground seems to be hard to come by in any articles on the subject although I suspect in real life things are a bit different.......

anatidae my DD hates the sling now, and my back is really quite grateful smile

Puffpaw Sun 28-May-17 12:00:57

Better options and more legal protection for parents to work reduced hours (actually for everyone to) and better childcare. Fundamentally society has to change to value both parenting and work. Raising kids is valuable. Going out to work is valuable. It shouldn't be one side sniping at another.
This, could not have said it better.

SittingAround1 Sun 28-May-17 12:49:23

I agree with the basic premise of the article which is to value the work mothers do more. However I think the word 'mothering' should be replaced with 'parenting'. Until fathers are as involved we'll never have true equality (yes I know men can't get pregnant, give birth or breastfeed but they can do everything else and there is a lot of everything else!).

I think many families would love to have both parents working flexibly without it affecting job security. At the moment it's quite often too risky or unaffordable for the man to take more time off or reduce working hours during the early years.

Yes being on maternity leave can be very isolating. I also don't believe it is healthy for the mother to have sole charge of a baby without support or regular breaks.

The article gets a bit extreme in some places. What's wrong with giving a baby toys? They need to explore the world around them which includes objects as well as people.

SittingAround1 Sun 28-May-17 12:56:56

Also the sling/ pram issue is ridiculous - babies are heavy to carry around all the time. Mine loves going for walks in the pushchair. I don't feel detached at all (and if they fall asleep by the time i get home it means I can have a cup of tea in peace. I don't feel in the slightest bit guilty about this)

whoputthecatout Sun 28-May-17 13:02:10

I am an old gimmer. Consequently I have seen decades of 'mothering fashion' come and go e.g. sleep babies on their backs, no, on their tummies, no, on their sides, no, on their backs (again).

Potty train, don't potty train, let it happen naturally, potty train (again)

Let baby sleep in your bed, no, don't to that you will suffocate the baby, no, of course you won't etc. etc.

Breast feed, no, bottle feed, no breast feed (again)

Be a SAHM, no, nurseries produce a more independent child, no, be with your child at home etc. etc.

All intended to induce guilt no matter what you do, written in blogs and books by people who probably don't know any better than you do.

FFS All we need to know is that you love your child, do your best for its health and happiness, understand your child, treat your child with kindness, compassion and consistency, allow your child space to grow and achieve.

The rest is crap.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sun 28-May-17 14:12:25

I am an old gimmer. Consequently I have seen decades of 'mothering fashion' come and go e.g. sleep babies on their backs, no, on their tummies, no, on their sides, no, on their backs (again)

There is stuff I was told to do in 1990 which would make new parents in 2017 recoil in horror. (And I must say, stuff that seems to be taken as gospel truth now that I'm awfully glad I didn't have to put up with)

geekaMaxima Sun 28-May-17 15:34:59

whoputhecatout Quite.

I think that's actually one of the core points of the article - fashions of what's "in" in childrearing have changed rapidly, back and forth, in the last 100+ years, whereas they weren't subject to such rapid fluctuations in the prior centuries or millennia. And the cumulative effect of a lot of these changes and inventions has been to physically isolate babies from mothers, fathers, and anyone else they're attached to, which is an unusual arrangement for babies in historical terms. The pp who pointed out that Mongolian babies are wrapped up and stuck on a boob every time they make a noise - that's not an exception as they're still being closely attended to and in contact with caregivers. Ditto for 4-5 year olds in Tudor and other times caring for younger siblings - that still involves babies being in contact with someone they're attached to. These situations are still pretty traditional childrearing practices and are quite different from relatively recent norms of babies spending hours across the day in prams, car seats, bouncers, etc. and then sleeping in their own room at night. Cumulatively, it means babies spending more time physically detached from attachment figures.

I agree with that much: modern western culture does encourage parents to leave babies physically detached more than was previously the case. Whether or how harmful this practice might be is a different issue (and the subject of current research).

I was previously aware of this blog; it's not about misty-eyed views of a paleo past dressed up as evolutionary biology. The author's agenda is to normalise infant sleep and other behaviours - night wakings are normal, tiny babies can't self-soothe, babies aren't spoiled by being held and cuddled when distressed, etc. - in the face of myths (and claims from HCPs) to the contrary. This article suggests she views such myths (babies should sleep through the night by X months, babies must be taught to self-soothe asap, it doesn't do babies any harm to be left to cry, etc.) as part of a bigger picture of devaluing motherhood and parenting in favour of economic activity: the patriarchy/libfem alliance.

She might be right, at least in part, but I don't think it hangs together in this article as well as it might. Her evidence-based critiques of research concerning infant sleep, etc. are much better.

Elendon Sun 28-May-17 15:35:45

Agree Lass

I gave birth 1993 and 1995 and then in 2001 and the difference between the first two and the third was astonishing! It was okay to feed the babies at three months (though I didn't do this until they were about 4 and a half months anyway) and then it was not okay and it's six months because it could damage their internal organs. And I said but I was advised differently for my first two but took no notice. To which the answer was but these are now current guidelines.

Thankfully I could eat blue cheese during the first two and ignored the advise on this for the third. As for alcohol, tea and coffee? They were all a no no when pregnant because I just felt ill at the thought of them.

geekaMaxima Sun 28-May-17 16:29:14

I wonder if the blog author's hostility to daycare is specific to the way it's run in the US?

Things like childcare ratios vary by state and some states have none at all. I remember coming across a study that found awful ratios in some daycare centres, with 8-9 infants (under 12 or 15 months, I forget which) being looked after by a single caregiver. Many states don't require any childcare qualifications either, and the key worker concept isn't even part of voluntary guidelines I've seen. Combine that with the US norm of minimal maternity leave (so many babies enter daycare at 6-8 weeks), minimal annual leave (so babies might be in daycare up to 52 weeks per year), and a culture of long working days (so many babies are in daycare for over 12 hours/day), and it does look a bit grim.

It's poles apart from the UK model, which isn't perfect but does regulate ratios, qualifications, etc. so a bad nursery or childminder will lose their accreditation if they breach regulations. And babies tend to be 6-12 months when entering childcare, and have the same childminder or key worker who they can attach to, and spend less time there across the day and year. Not so shabby smile

Batteriesallgone Sun 28-May-17 19:25:57

If you're going to talk about 'fashions' in childcare, you'd do well to avoid mentioning SIDs advice. I don't think there's any dispute that the advice to put babies to sleep on their backs has reduced baby deaths. It's really quite awful to refer to such important research and the advice coming from it as 'mothering fashion'.

We will never get anywhere with knowledge about child development if all research on it is dismissed as fashion. Surely we all want caregivers to be as well informed as possible which includes having debates, and research into, things like how often is optimal for a baby to be carried / held.

slightlyglitterbrained Sun 28-May-17 19:50:39

I started muttering "wank" a short while in, and gradually escalated to "fucking wanky shite" "guiltmongering fucking hypocritical wankmonger" etc.

So I didn't really have a particularly neutral response to this grin

I think she's mixing in hard to disagree with statements like the mother-child bond being important, touch being important, with extremely partisan headfuckery like the use of terms like "farming out" applied to use of daycare.

There are many interesting and valuable conversations to be had about how motherhood, women, and children are ill-served by the patriarchy, but they cannot be had with manipulative disrespectful fuckers who seek to dismiss any disagreement as due to patriarchy induced psychological deficits in empathy. No you manipulative wankface, maybe I just disagree?

As an example - this thread is a good one of how it's entirely possible to disagree without being abusive about the parenting of the person you're disagreeing with.

Join the discussion

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

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: