Mother’s Day, 2015

I was on Radio NZ Nights a week or two ago, talking feminism and motherhood. You can listen to the podcast here: RNZ Nights – Feminism and Motherhood.

Often mothers feel that there isn’t a place for them in feminism. I think that’s a mistaken view, although it’s an understandable one. If feminism is about making choices, then motherhood does tend to run you slap bang into traditional gender roles, and suddenly there are no possible choices for you to make. So “choice” feminism simply has nothing to say to you.

But there is so much feminist stuff to say about motherhood.

For starters, we have a weird conversation about motherhood in our culture. On the one hand, all the rhetoric tells us that mothers are valued and that their role is the most important role a woman can have, but on the other, there is often very little support for mothers (oh for flexible work, and readily available childcare, and financial support, and easy access to healthcare, and employers who understand that schools are on holiday for 10 weeks of the year, and support for breastfeeding, and…).

On top of that, mothers are constantly judged. Then judged some more. Damned if you do go back to work (you’re selfish) and damned if you don’t (you’re a bludger and every bit of support for you and your children is taken out of the hides of hardworking taxpayers). But of course, you “chose” to be a mother, or you “chose” to work, so best you just live with your choices!

Then there’s all the issues around childcare and housework. Women still seem to end up doing far more of these everyday tasks, even when both parents are working. And if fathers do take on some of the childcare, then they’re praised for it. Or praised for “babysitting” their kids.

On the other hand, I’ve heard fathers being criticised for staying at home with the kids, and I know that fathers who take on the primary caregiving role often feel isolated and very much unwanted at playgroups and schools. As ever, patriarchy harms men too… Oh for a world in gender roles didn’t constrain us so much.

So when it comes to Mother’s Day, well, it’s lovely to have a cup of coffee in bed, and to spend some time with my beautiful daughters, and talking to my wonderful mum. But that’s very much an individual thing, something that happens between me and my mum, and me and my daughters. But when we look at our wider society, we see that there’s so much work still to do around motherhood and parenting and valuing women’s work, and valuing women. And the nominal respect we show for mothers on Mother’s Day makes me feel angry. It’s all buy mum this, and make her feel nice for just one day, and let’s pretend that we really do care about mothers and mothering, but we’re not actually going to do anything about it.

Marama Davidson puts it well.

When all mothers are truly valued as integral and essential parts of our economy, our politics, our workforce, our families and our society. …….until then the people pushing the mother damning agendas that we see today should all step down from any delight they take on Mother’s Day. Have you no shame?!

Finally, on Mother’s Day, remember that there are women who long to be mothers but for one reason and another, do not have children, and there are women who have lost children, and people who have lost their mothers. For so many of us, this can be a lovely family day, but for others, it can be very sad.

As for me today, it was a busy start to the day with eight or so extra teenagers in the house this morning, sleeping over after the after-ball party. I got up early to unstack the dishwasher and get breakfast set up, only to find that my lovely youngest daughter had gotten up already and organised everything already, and made a large pot of coffee to boot. And now that the extra teenagers have all departed, and the house is quiet, my three girls are making dinner for me.

The really nice thing is that my girls often do this sort of thing. They look after me all the time, not just on Mother’s Day. I am so very blessed to have these beautiful children.

To finish off – my favourite feminist parenting blog is Blue Milk, written by Andie Fox. I recommend it. I’m also enjoying Boganette’s Mama said. If you are one of the three people in the world who haven’t read her opening post yet, then I suggest you pop on over there now to read it: I am grateful, now f*#k off. Be warned: Boganette’s post is full of swearing. If you prefer to avoid the swearing, then here’s a version that she put up with the swearing removed: I am grateful and….

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