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:
Local Resources Weblinks:
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:
With pregnancy journeys changing in the modern world, offering a vast array of birth plans, classes, and medical options, one can get a bit overwhelmed. Support from Doulas and midwives can potentially help answer questions one may have as a mother, as well as provide additional support along with family and friends throughout this experience, whether it is your first pregnancy experience or not. During pregnancy, doulas and midwives provide companionship and a non-traditional approach to birth utilized in much of the world, however, they are not viewed as commonplace along with standard US medical practices regarding pregnancy and childbirth.
Though many have heard of midwives, most are unfamiliar with doulas until they begin research into their pregnancy experience or even hear from pregnancy companions. Doulas, or birth companions as they are commonly referred, are certified and experienced individuals who serve to provide encouragement and assistance to mothers throughout their pregnancy journey as well as after childbirth. Whether they provide emotional and physical assistance, educational information on child care and childbirth, or advising and comfort postpartum depression, their goal is to serve as a birthing companion, focused on the mother’s well-being to promote a healthy pregnancy experience with additional support.
A unique aspect of the mother doula relationship dynamic is that it begins before pregnancy, to support the birth plans of the mother, and is not focused on providing medical care, but experience knowledge on childcare, labor, and delivery. Doulas are can also be viewed as more involved in the pregnancy experience of an individual mother versus the traditional midwife, as they can assist with basic needs for families after pregnancy and directly assist in newborn care. Midwives, in contrast, are able to provide medical treatment and perform medical examinations on mothers, which requires advanced training in clinical nurse studies. However, they are also able to emotionally support mothers throughout the pregnancy experience in a similar fashion to a doula.
For the Tampa Bay area, the Tampa Bay Birth Network provides a vast array of information on local midwives and Doulas in the listing those available through their contact network and even has members themselves certified in the field of midwifery and doula studies. For example, Zulgeil Ruiz-Ginés recently relocated to Florida in 2018 and currently serves on the Board of Directors of The Tampa Bay Birth Network as their Diversity and Inclusion Officer. However, she has undergone training in midwifery and doula certification. In her current position, she is finalizing her licensure to practice midwifery in Florida and hopes to serve her new community to the best of my abilities in the coming future.
Should you like to get in touch with the Tampa Bay Birth Network and Zul please email:
About this blog: This blog has been created in partnership with a service-learning initiative at USF. Meet our interns!
Alexandra Valdes is a senior undergraduate student studying biomedical sciences at the University of South Florida. She is currently on the pre-med track and hopes future medical studies focus on women’s health and pediatrics after graduating in the fall of 2019. In partnership with the Honors College at USF, she is currently taking community service courses focused on women’s health and fertility studies that have given her this opportunity to be involved in this exciting community project with the Museum of Motherhood. Through this project, she hopes to help improve how information and communication between birth-support networks and mothers can occur within the Tampa Bay community to benefit families and mothers. She is the proud daughter and eldest sibling of an amazing single mother and a younger brother who have constantly shown her the support to pursue her dreams in higher education and personal life, and will always be grateful for their continual presence and impact on her life. She grateful for this opportunity and can’t wait to see where this project will go in the coming future
Hello, my name is Bhavana Madhu (I preferred to be called Vana) and I am a first-year undergraduate student at the University of South Florida, Tampa. I am pursuing a degree in biomedical sciences and am passionate about women’s health and women’s studies. In my free time, you can find me working out at the gym, reading a thriller novel, watching T.V. shows, or spending quality time with my family. I have a soft spot for spicy food, creepy YouTube documentaries, and science fiction novels. I found out about the Museum of Motherhood through a fellow classmate of mines, Alexandra Valdes (who is also an intern for the Museum of Motherhood), in our honors class ‘Fertility and the Future’. This class explores the social and behavioral sciences by examining family-making as a bio-cultural process and examining associated issues that arise across a variety of geographic contexts while incorporating local examples within national and global struggles to ‘reproduce’ the future. As part of the service-learning requirement for the class, Lexi and I have chosen to pursue an internship at MOM. I was interested in being an intern for the Museum of Motherhood because the goals and visions of MOM piqued my interest. I want to expand MOM’s reach and help network by connecting with potential partners and organizations in an effort to make this museum more well-known in the Tampa Bay area. I am excited to work with MOM and hope I can contribute something positive during my time as an intern here.
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