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:
lovetaza.com/

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.

Thoughts?

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

curryeater

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?

No.

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?

OK.

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.

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