Community, Caring, and Education [CLICK]

Next_GenerationThe Museum of Motherhood (M.O.M.) is an exhibition and education center dedicated to the exploration of family – past, present, and future. We highlight the many roles of women throughout history and in contemporary culture.

In our museum space we provide mothers, fathers, youth, caregivers, and mothers-to-be insights into what they will experience as parents and how to handle it. We educate them about the emotional and physical aspects of child rearing, exposing them to different global traditions, and giving them insights into the context of mothering in the social sphere in which mothering is done.

Institutions can create a positive sense of community and an increased sense of connectedness. We share library books, films, collaborative art projects, and conferences, often at little or no cost to make cultural literacy available to those who might not otherwise have access to these types of resources.

The need for M.O.M. is highlighted by the work of the feminist movement, the gender agenda, and global women’s health initiatives.

Precedence for M.O.M. has been established through the initiatives of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the International Museum Of Women and the First Ladies’ Library. They are all positive contributors to expanding education about women in history. But our intense focus on the motherhood, fatherhood and caregiving roles opens the conversation to unlimited opportunities for exploration and documentation within the sphere of procreation and sustainability, not to mention how humanity hopes to evolve.

The development of a “Motherhood Movement” during the last twenty years as well as other mother-related literature and the explosion of “Mom Blogs” and awareness of the “Mommy Wars”, have impacted the vast social, economic, and cultural landscape. Thus, the expanded museum exhibit space and educational facility that we envision will be eminently worthwhile. Together we will be putting the subject of motherhood and family on the map.

Our long-term goals include the acquisition of a permanent physical space to house M.O.M. as we continue to develop our traveling exhibits and online initiatives, which include courses in Mother Studies, the MOM Directory, and the student run, Institute For Family Research and Development.

Reading Research on the Family, Part II

BirthControlReview1923In my previous post, “Reading Research on the Family,” I indicated that I am a fan of dismantling conventional wisdom held around motherhood and the family. Stephanie Coontz had me drinking that Kool-Aid after I read her books, The Way We Never Were and The Way We Really Are. So when I stumbled upon an article discussing trends around delaying motherhood that questioned the notion that modern advances like technology and the pill have helped women put off childbirth until later in life, I was hooked.

The article, “Long Before the Pill, American Women Put Off Motherhood Until Their Thirties”, which appeared in Quartz, looks back through history at the changing tides around planned motherhood. The author, Jenna Healey, proposes that cultural/economic factors are often overlooked in favor of biology/technology within childrearing discourse. The media is saturated with headlines about “career women” tricking Mother Nature by using new-fangled procedures to put off having children so as not to jeopardize advancement in their field. It’s no wonder we gravitate towards the belief that women are having children at later ages thanks to technology and the old biological ticker. But in comparing birth statistics, Healey found parallel times in history when women had children later in life: 1920, 1940, and 1980. Each of these time periods was marked by economic downturn. Families waited to have kids for financial reasons: both due to concern around affording them, and because women were expected to work outside the home to support their middle class lifestyles. It was during the post-war baby boom that women began having babies at younger ages. In fact, another so-called threat to the institution of the American family that Healey dismantles is the current teen pregnancy crisis. The birth rate for girls age 15-19 during the baby boom years was 96.3 per every 1000 births; the current statistic is 26.6 per 1000. Sure, the legacy of the new social movements in the 70s and the increasing availability of contraception contributed to the creeping rise in age of first-time mothers. But once again, Healey points to the lagging economy as a contributor to the increase.

Healey concludes her essay with a nod to the technology currently available to would-be mothers looking to delay pregnancy. However, given the less acknowledged economic/cultural factors that have contributed to the rise in age of mothers, Healey concludes her piece with a plea to support working mothers, in the hopes that culture will follow and once again change history.

Written by: Jenny Nigro, M.o.M online intern

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Reading Research on the Family

1024px-Stephanie_Coontz_(5105167078)A few years ago, my sister forwarded me a link to an op-ed in the New York Times written by a guest columnist who we both counted as one of our favorite academics to read when we were in college. Stephanie Coontz, a foremost expert on the contemporary American family as a professor of history and family studies at The Evergreen State College and Director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families, had written this particular column about taking popular research with a grain of salt. Though by no means her most important work to date, the message behind this piece has stayed with me for some time.  It reminded me that averages, as interpreted through published research, are useful. They help us in community planning, as well as giving us the peace of mind that we are within the realm of “normal.” But, sometimes, numbers are, in fact, misleading…especially when interpreted to push for reactionary reform and legislation. She gave this example following the horrific rape of a young girl in Steubenville, Ohio: in 2011, the average income for the residents of Steubenville was $46,341. But if Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett moved to town, that average household income would rise 62%. So we should always read more than one source and check out how other researchers may understand data.

As I mentioned, Coontz’ article has stayed with me for some time. I think back on it often when I read articles that demystify new research, especially those having to do with the family. There is a lot of chatter in our media about the American family – the family in transition, the family in decline, the demise of the American family. But, the fact remains that the institution of the American family is just that: an institution. Perhaps dependent on how you choose to define the American family, for the foreseeable future, it is not going anywhere.

I was reminded of Coontz’ warning about research when I stumbled upon an entry in a Washington Post blog that discusses the “unbelievable”/”breathtaking” rise of single motherhood in America. Quick to analyze this trend within the scope of the African American family, this article resurrects some ancient (and, judging by the name, most likely controversial) paper, which had predicted that the growing number of African American children being raised without fathers would have a difficult time emerging from poverty. There has been a chorus of research that demonstrates how families led by single mothers are more likely to live in poverty, both among divorced mothers and women who were never married to their children’s father. I don’t take issue with this fact. Rather, it is how the article uses the research to present a doom and gloom attitude about the inevitability of poverty for African American children born to single mothers that had me second-guessing.

In order to clear my head, I sought out more literature about single motherhood trend and found a piece called “The Changing Economics of Single Motherhood”. Right off the bat, I felt more at ease. I immediately feel anxious when I see the words “unbelievable” and “breathtaking” next to “rise”. “Change” is a more comfortable term I can get down with.  As I read on, I found that “The Changing Economics of Single Motherhood” was less black and white, literally and figuratively.

The nature of single motherhood is changing. Back in the 1980s, most single-mother families were produced by divorce. Nowadays, with over 40 percent of births occurring outside of marriage, there are many more single-mother families resulting from premarital fertility than failed marriages. But this distinction has been lost on most poverty researchers, who see all single mothers as similar. Scholarship on teenage childbirth also misses the mark—over three-fourths of women who give birth out of wedlock are older than 19, especially nowadays, and a few teenage parents are married.

By the time I got to the end, I saw that both articles discuss the economy of single motherhood, but take very different approaches to get to a similar conclusion: greater educational and career opportunities should be available to women (with/without children) to give them options when deciding to raise children/raising them. This is the key to ending the cycle of poverty for single mothers. My sojourn into family rhetoric took me a roundabout way to get to this same conclusion that I wholeheartedly agree with, and I see again how wise Stephanie Coontz is. There is so much noise that we hear about trends in the family, it is no wonder that we have anxiety about its vitality. Luckily, I have Stephanie Coontz to help me navigate discourse on single motherhood and keep my head on straight. It was, after all, Coontz, in her book The Way We Never Were, who alerted me to the fact that marriages dissolved at about the same rate at the turn of the century as they do now. We are quick to talk about the decline of the two-parent household, but we fail to realize that due to high mortality rates, children 115 years ago experienced the loss of a parent in the home about as much as kids do now. So, with that in mind, I will rest assured that the institution of the American family will forge on.

Written by: Jenny Nigro, M.o.M. Online Intern

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

On New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's photoIn a recent post, we shared with you all our vision for the New Year (see “North South” post here). It’s no secret that we have big dreams for the museum this year, which we hope to accomplish with your help! Strategizing our plans for 2015 got us thinking about what a New Year’s resolution looks like to the typical mom. Before we turn it over to our followers in the hopes of hearing from you, we figured we’d do a little digging on the Internet into what moms hope for in the coming year.

In our search, we stumbled upon a post from Parents magazine online, which featured real moms’ commitments for the new year. To access the full list, click here. In the meantime, we’ve summarized the list of “10 Real Mommy Resolutions” below (spoiler alert: they are selfless, kid-centric, and generous…as moms tend to be!). Here’s what they said:

So, now that we’ve shared ours and those of some moms across the World Wide Web, we’d love to hear from YOU, our followers!

What are your resolutions for the New Year?

Shared by: Jenny Nigro, MOM online intern