In Western culture, and many others, mothers are often expected to drop everything for their husband and children. I think that this is a very unfair and toll-taking emotional responsibility to place on women, and it is in fact what deters many people from even having kids. Mothers often carry an emotional guilt as a result of the media messaging that conditions society to believe that mothers must take care of everyone else first, before taking care of themselves. This is a social problem of gender inequity because fathers are not held to the same standard, nor should they be. In order to be in the position to care for others, one must first take care of themselves.
American actress, singer-songwriter, businesswoman, daughter, wife, and mother of two, Jada Pinkett Smith, shares some invaluable insight with her daughter Willow on the importance of cultivating your own happiness. She makes a brilliant point about how when someone isn’t balanced in life, they look to others to make them happy which leads to chronic unhappiness. So true and I hope people carry this message forward to help reshape how mothers, women and all people live, treat each other, and treat themselves.
How many times have you seen in popular magazines, television, and media, countless celebrities claiming to have “gotten their body back” after having a baby? This idea of being the “perfect mother” sets unattainable expectations for everyday mothers- shifting priorities of being pleasing towards society and your significant other rather than soft and nurturing to your newborn child.
After problems with recovering from her own pregnancy, photographer Ashlee Wells Jackson created the “Fourth Trimester Project”– a series of photographs that show the true beauty of mothers after their pregnancies. The plump, skinny, wrinkled and smooth mothers of all nationalities and origins embrace their body’s changes which are suited best for their families, not for society.
“We live in a society obsessed with perfection. The goal of this project is to shift that focus to the beauty of who we really are.” – Ashlee Wells Jackson
In 2013, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo was the subject of much controversy after ordering all telecommuting workers to start working out of a Yahoo office.
Many decried how this affected working parents, especially working mothers. Here’s an interesting opinion piece about Mayer’s decision and Mayer’s misguided criticism of feminism.
There has been a great deal of talk about how men are losing their jobs in the recent recession, but little about how mothers who work outside the home are affected by it. This article describes how the cultural assumptions many employers hold about women in the workplace affects mothers looking for jobs especially. Recent research showed that married women with children who had lost their jobs had a 31% lower chance of finding a new job than a father with children.
Interesting blog from a stay-at-home Mom in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. She speaks powerfully of the joys of mothering, its importance in her life, and her conflicted feelings about leaving her career behind for a while. While I can’t say that I agree that, as she states, “socializaton and forced gender roles have nothing” (emphasis mine) to do with the joy she experiencing in her children, this doesn’t take away from the depth or the authenticity of the feelings. Just because we’re socialized in a particular way doesn’t make our joys and sorrows associated with that socialization less authentic.
I think this also points to the need to value choices to parent, work, or a combination of these equally, regardless of the sex of the parent. All three roles are vitally important personally and at a societal level.
Here is a link to an article about the young boy who decided to dress as Daphne for Halloween one year. The blog the mother wrote about it is also very interesting – both the blog and the comments responding to her give insight into how closely many people believe gendered norms should be followed, as well as the assumptions people make about sexuality and decisions to act outside of gendered norms.
Click here for some of the studies referenced in the online lecture about outcomes for children raised by parents who are lesbians.