|Musings on mothering
||[Feb. 14th, 2007|10:19 am]
This might be your mother's feminism
More musings on some of the issues facing mothers in this society.
On other lists I am on, there seems to be a lot of discussion about the line between caring for your kids vs caring for yourself. Most everything seems to be taken as a conflict between mom and kid, especially in the work world.
This bugs me because it doesn't have to be this way. It is only this way because we in the US (and other parts of the world too - Japan is supposedly like this too) have this artificial dividing line between adult world and child world. While most of the time children are not out and out banned from adult world, they are expected to act like adults while in adult world. But this takes a TREMENDOUS amount of energy on the part of the parents to enforce this behavior - if it is even possible. God forbid you have a child with developmental disability or multiples.
And who pays? Well, everyone. We are so isolated from children that we forget what they are like and we miss the insights we can gain from being around young people. Children are isolated from the rest of the world (often justified to "protect them") so they lose vital learning opportunities. Mothers are the worst affected - combining childcare and adult world is very hard, stressful and frankly unpopular. So mothers either leave their children to go into adult world or they are stuck in child world, alone save for other mothers or the professionals who cater exclusively to child world.
The NIP debates, in my mind, are the perfect example of this. Those offended by NIP generally will agree that "breast is best" - mainly because they often just don't care about feeding choices but they have heard the PSAs. But they DO care that something they see as personal, private - i.e. child care - is invading adult world. These are often the same types of people who complain about toddlers at restaurants or school kids coming with mom to the office during school holidays. "Not appropriate", "disruptive", or "unprofessional" are used to basically say that children and their care should be kept in child world, away from the "real" world.
These two spheres can also be called "public" and "private" or "outside" and "home". This mirrors many of the victorian ideas about division of labor/influence in the family - father was responsible for the outside interactions, and mother for inside the home. Children are part of "home". Interestingly, this is also the case in many arabic cultures that I have been exposed to.
So much of this has to do with our own expectations of what is normal. I have lived in places where children are just part of every day life - there is no physical separation, though there is very real role and responsibility separation.
It is funny, a few years back, a colleague with a 4 month old nursed her baby in front of a male client from Benin, West Africa - a senior guy in ECOWAS (i.e. highly educated professional). Another colleague at the meeting was appalled and complained loudly after the fact to anyone who would listen about how unprofessional it was to breastfeed a baby in front of a client, etc etc. I actually asked our client casually what he thought about S nursing in front of him. He said "What is the problem? Nursing is how you keep a baby quiet. What else was she meant to do? Anyway, I like babies. S seems like such a great mother. "
I thought it fascinating that his expectations were so completely different from ours about the professionalism of nursing a baby at a business meeting (well, especially since the meeting was about supporting nutrition based child survival programs - which includes extended breastfeeding - in West africa). It was also remarkable that he was able to expand his view of S - a woman he had worked with for many years - into the role of mother without even questioning her ability to do her work.
Just some musings.