Friday, July 18, 2008

Our mothering life

"What, exactly, are the circumstances of our lives as mothers? Studies of both "normally" and "abnormally" depressed women indicate three broad areas of concern. The first is the fact that mothering young children is carried out in isolation from what most of us have come to consider "the real world." This isolation is physical--entailing a virtual entrapment in one's own home--as well as emotional and intellectual. Its result is to render motherhood a socially invisible enterprise. The second condition of contemporary mothering is closely related to the first. The majority of women who mother young children, regardless of their marital status, function primarily as sole parents, assuming full charge of the demanding, continuous physical tasks associated with childcare and domestic duties. Several decades of feminist rhetoric notwithstanding, in most families the "help" that fathers provide remains exactly that: occasional assistance provided on request and often under sufferance. This is particularly so in the early years of a child's life, when its physical demands are most insistent. Third, because few women in our society have the opportunity for practical, hands-on preparation for motherhood, our knowledge base tends to be hopelessly abstract and theoretical. As a consequence, new mothers face a steep learning curve as they struggle to reconcile expectations with practical realities. For many women, the result is a lethal cocktail of loneliness, chronic fatigue and panic. Under the circumstances, it would be amazing if we didn't freak out."

From "The Mask of Motherhood" by Susan Maushart

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