Op-ed, Martha Joy Rose May 13, 2019
Despite headlines and discourse, the most unchanging thing about motherhood is how much it doesn’t change. While parenting narratives in the public arena are more visible than ever, while books on mothers and mothering are written and published at a dizzying pace (see Demeter Press among others), and while activists and bloggers do their best to articulate the realities and difficulties of mothering, the truth will make you mad. Policies ranging from healthcare to human rights in the United States have not changed much at all in the last 50 years, and if anything, they appear to be moving backward at times.
This year’s Mothers’ Day came and went with the usual fanfare of compliments, cards, and lovely acknowledgments. But, the truth of being a woman, or a woman of color in America, can be very scary. Aside from the well-known, repetitive conversation around everything from our as-of-yet still unratified ERA to maternal morbidity rates, we observed a rollback of certain state’s abortion rights, and the constant pressure mothers and caregivers experience as they try to balance unrealistic expectations with work pressures. All of this occurs in the midst of corporate greed and governmental callousness which is reflected in our lack of family-friendly policies.
NPR: Weekend Edition, May 12, 2019
On why domestic demands on mothers actually increased in the mid-’90s
The expectations for motherhood suddenly … went through the roof. … One of the reasons that academics will cite for why this happened at the same time that [mothers’] labor force participation peaked was because there was a lot of anxiety about what was going to happen to the kids. All these moms are now in the workforce in greater numbers than ever: What’s going to happen to the children? So the standards for mothering kind of ratcheted up. [Link to ARTICLE].
As a woman, I am angry. But as a mother, I’m seething. There’s a robust conversation right now about the historical and present power of female rage as a tool for social change. A number of books, articles, and social media hashtags are pointing out that women are fed up. Instead of being silenced by patriarchal ideas of women’s emotions as “hysteria,” women are embracing their anger as a social and political force to be reckoned with. That is great news for women. But what about mothers as a key subset of women? ~Kimberly Seals Allers for The Washington Post 2019: [LINK to article]
There is a lot to be angry about. Women of color in the USA, who are pregnant, have the most to be worried about. Their prenatal care, birth care, and post-birth care are all persistently worse than their white counterparts. This problematic scenario can be linked to many ongoing issues related to systemic racism, socio-economic status, and the apparent lack of willingness for medical professionals to listen to the voices of these women. [Read more here in the news at this link].
This year’s Museum of Motherhood annual conference focused on “Rewriting Trauma and Birth.” We welcomed keynote speaker Khiara M. Bridges, who is the author of Reproducing Race. Her book smartly explores the social construction of race in medical settings and helps to examine the forces that coerce women into dangerous birth scenarios.
So, whether over-burdened by maternal workloads, subject to a medical crisis of deadly proportions or managing the anger associated with outdated policies that do not support women and families, something has got to shift.
Before we can identify solutions we must notice the problems and call them out. By naming and labeling the issues we have engaged in the first line of offense. Some people will voice objections. They will list the ways in which gender mirrors biology. They will do their best to keep enduring structures of power and privilege intact. However, we just keep raising our voices and turning up the volume.
Kimberly Seals Allers proposes several steps for improving the state of families in America. Some of those include obvious changes to healthcare. Others must focus on policy shifts that recognize unpaid maternal labor, as well as the development of affordable childcare options for working mothers.
So what has been going on for the last 15 years? Below is an article that was written by Jill Brooke for the Chicago Tribune during a burst of notoriety for the Mom Rockers who had set their minds on creating change within the home as well as the world at large. While the emphasis on using art and music for social change has amped up the volume on women’s issues, many of the problems these founding artists sought to address have remained stubbornly ingrained in our institutions, including the “institution of the family.” You can read more on this subject in the book, the Music of Motherhood (Demeter Press 2018).
Course development and educational programming that break the barrier on women’s (and gender) studies in the university and beyond are an important step in disrupting repetitive patterns that keep individuals trapped in hegemonic discourses and force the idealization of parenting roles. Here at MOM, we are striking back by pushing back. Giving a nod to the work of Guerrilla Girl Donna Kaz, we encourage those of you who are seeking some strategies for change to utilize her work to create activist platforms. LINK
” I have heard many people express their own powerlessness as they face threats to their rights and the rights of those they support on a daily basis. Perhaps you agree there is a need to understand how to organize and see results, on a local level. Maybe you search for activist knowledge and are hungry for something to guide you through the steps of creatively supporting a cause. PUSH/PUSHBACK will fill that need.”
The band Housewives On Prozac was championing pushback through music in the late nineties through 2008. Their song “Eat Your Damn Spaghetti” was a rallying cry for overwhelmed and frustrated mothers. You can watch the video below. Meanwhile, the MaMaPaLooZa Festival, which is ongoing in New York City and Sydney, Australia aims to create dynamic change through empowerment, education, and large-scale community events. Other super-important and amazing organizations (to name a very few), include MomsRising, SisterSong, and The Center for Reproductive Rights.
December 21, 2004,|By Jill Brooke, Special to the Tribune
“I tried to be the perfect mom but then buckled. It’s time for a little liberation, and I want to give moms permission to nourish a piece of themselves and then go back to wiping the kids’ noses, cooking dinner and carpooling.”
And what better way to launch a rebellion than rock ‘n’ roll? Link to ARTICLE.
Finally, let us ask the question: Why does America have the least-friendly family policies? The U.S. is the only country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) not to offer paid leave on a national basis.
“People think motherhood is inherently overwhelming because we’ve made that idea seem natural,” said Virginia Rutter, a professor of sociology at Framingham State University in Massachusetts and author of “Families as They Really Are.” “We normalize the hardships of motherhood. … This is now what’s familiar.”
We must continue to work together for the kinds of change that will benefit all American families and not just a few. The best way to do this is to advocate for intersectional, interdisciplinary education and activism that affects attitudes, policy, and the private/public sector in ways that support women and men and make the world an easier place for caregivers to navigate.
*Mamava is a company that hopes to normalize breastfeeding and support nursing mothers. One of their lactation spaces in JFK airport is the featured photo on this post. #Mamava #Mothers #MOM #JoinMama
Researching children’s early education options is an important process new parents face. Decisions about schooling include paying attention to a particular family’s needs, individual learning styles and preferences, and access to available resources. Many parents feel pressure to find the “perfect” preschool or daycare program to nurture their young child’s mind. Children are capable of learning at a rapid rate during the early years of life. Educational experiences are maximized when parents, communities, and educators work together for the optimum development of young people.
Choices about schooling revolve around personal preferences as well as access to available resources. As a parent, it is important to follow your intuition about what might be best for your child. Also, consider factors such as the location of the school, zoning, special operating hours, and after-school care services that comply with family work schedules, as well as any additional community programs or locally subsidized childhood education programs in your area that you may be eligible for. Some examples of programs include Head start and The Child Welfare League of America.
If you have special requirements for your child, don’t’ be afraid to research by asking around your community for reviews. You can even contact local parent forums. The best way to advocate for education is to educate your self about what is available! Examples of federal organizations that provide resources to parents for children with disabilities or special health care requirements include Family Voices, The National Council on Disability (NCD) or the U.S. Department of Education (ED) website.
After you have identified programs available in your area, create an outline of what you are looking for. If you have a sense of what kind of education style would best benefit your child, reach out to your most valuable asset: your community. Some resources might include your pediatrician, community center, or other parents in the area. You can also use the internet to find out about potential problems within specific facilities. Many parents have social networking platforms where they are willing to share ideas and recommendations. Additionally, The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) website provides insight into preschools based on zip codes and information about accreditation. Once you have narrowed your options, you should visit the institution and schedule meetings to glean the first impression as well as to meet the staff in person. Come with a list of questions! Priorities should always include cleanliness, safety, and children’s health and wellbeing.
In the Tampa Bay Area, there are multiple local programs and schools to choose from. The R’Club Child Care organization is a non-profit dedicated to providing early childhood learning programs. Their focus is on quality early learning and development for youth in and around Pinellas County. They believe in strengthening children and families, as well as a growing community. Their four foundational values include: Respect, Responsibility, Resourcefulness, and Responsiveness. They also host many local community events to boost family involvement and promote fun family activities!
The Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County is another nonprofit organization dedicated to providing high-quality early childhood development programming along with educational opportunities. Their vision is to have every child enter kindergarten equipped with the skills and the learning tools for success. Their mission is to transform early learning opportunities and to inspire children, prompting family involvement. They also aim to support educators in order to accomplish their goals. They provide an abundance of local resources, including childcare scholarships, access to VPK-Florida’s free voluntary Prekindergarten program for 4-year old’s, training and background screening for child care providers and developmental screenings for children (including visions and hearing). Additionally, through partnerships with local organizations and community partnerships, they serve as an excellent resource for families looking for referrals on childcare.
Lastly, PARC is a local institution which provides over 40 services to children and adults with developmental disabilities, via a “person-centered” approach that promotes an individual’s independence and encourages them to live and experience life to the fullest. They are dedicated to promoting new experiences, seeing to the accomplishment of individually strategized goals, and encouraging everyone to live a healthy quality of life. At PARC, children and their families receive early intervention services from an interdisciplinary team including teachers, social workers, nurses, behavior analysts, and therapists. Service availability range includes provisions on the PARC campus, at a child’s home or even in the desired environment chosen by the family. PARC also runs Discovery Learning Center, which serves as is a local hub for learning opportunities, therapy, music, art, school readiness and a multitude of other programs. Children’s services are led by instructors with verified credentials, and host instruction in classrooms designed to offer infants through pre-kindergarten age a unique, state of the art experiences promoting the necessary skills to successfully enter school. Each child works within their individual plan and goals established by family and staff. Early Intervention, VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten), Head Start, Family Respite, Family Focus, and Behavioral Support services are provided for over 140 children annually.
Additional Resources of Early Learning Tips for Parents:
Article Info Sources:
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This article was researched and made possible by Alexandra Valdes as part of a service-learning internship with USF. Read more below or click the image to find out more about our student authors:
Csilla Klenyanszki was born in 1986 in Budapest, Hungary. She completed her BA Photography at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in 2012. In 2014 she participated at SeMa Nanji Artist in Residency by the Seoul Museum of Art at Seoul, South Korea.
After becoming a mother in 2015, Csilla has founded Mothers in Arts Residency in 2016. Mothers in Arts Residency (www.mothersinarts.com).
Csilla’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. She has recently won the Still life prize at the 33rd Festival International de Mode & de Photographie in Hyères, France and her first (dummy) book “Pillars of home” is shortlisted for Unseen Dummy Award 2018.
“A search for balance with a problem-solving attitude characterizes my work. Within my current practice, I carefully examine and deconstruct personal – but universally known – challenges such as parenthood, gender, and the malleability of self-identity through the passage of time. Works, such as “Pillars of home”, “to make time”, “House/hold” or the “Mothers in Arts Residency” aim to give solutions that range from the practical to the absurd.
Although my approach is analytic, the nature of the work is highly playful and experimental. To give a new perspective I often play with the borders of nonsense with a constant attraction to physical and mental tension.”
“House/hold” is part of a research project on women’s position in western society. It examines the evolution of gender equality in various subjects.“House/ hold” investigates the housework gap and its consequences while it provides an ironical solution for women: a 30-minute yoga session combined with domestic chores.
The session transforms the house into a space for meditation using domestic objects as its basic elements. Housework is being transformed into illumination: the repetitive act of house making becomes not just a physical but also a mental and spiritual act where women and their household objects become entangled. “House/hold” is a guide for domestic meditation.
Since the 1960s there have been lots of achievements in the path to gender equality in western society: The gender wage gap narrowed: In 1979, women working full time earned 62 percent of what men earned; in 2014, women’s earnings were 83 percent of men’s1. The number of women in the labor force with a college degree tripled: from 11.2 percent to 40.0 percent2. Woman don’t have to choose between a career and having children: while in the 1950s only 17 percent of mothers were in the labor force, in 2005 more then 60 percent of mothers with preschoolers had a paid job and 75 percent of mothers with school-aged children were working3. And yet, certain things didn’t change that much.
Due to industrialization and the proliferation of domestic appliances the amount of household chores done by women has dropped. On the other hand, the gap in housework distribution between men and women didn’t shrink that much and even worse since the 1990s it has been shrinking at a slower pace.
In the Netherlands, according to the Dutch Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau (SCP)4 women spend on an average 9 hours more on housework than men.
In households with children this gap is even bigger: According to SCP, Dutch mothers spend1 an average of 20,6 hours a week fulfilling domestic chores and 4,4 hours on childcare and mothers with children under the age of 3 years spend 18 hours a week on childcare and 20,6 hours on domestic chores: 15 hours more than men. According to The Second Shift written by Arlie Hochschild, mothers do at least a month unpaid work more in a year than fathers.
One of the consequences of this housework gap is that women have access to less leisure-time than men simply because they spend more time in unpaid work such as domestic chores and childcare. According to the ONS5 women spend 5 hours less on leisure than a man on a weekly basis. The survey has also found that time spent on leisure has risen for men and dropped for women since 2000.
1 https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/womens-databook/archive/women-in-the-labor-force-a-databook-2015.pdf 2 https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/womens-databook/archive/women-in-the-labor-force-a-databook-2015.pdf 3 https://stats.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2007/02/art2full.pdf
The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives. #JoinMAMA @ProcreateProj @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg
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