Intensive Mothering: the ultimate in self-smothering – page 2

Realistic ideas about motherhood

L013webWhile some mothers feel pressured to measure up to idealised standards it appears that others are using their free will and resourcefulness to redefine motherhood for themselves in an act of resistance. A new legitimisation of the diversity of motherhood is emerging. Women are questioning the logic of Intensive Mothering.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, parental time involvement is less important for children’s wellbeing than a mother’s education, family structure or family income. In other words more time spent parenting doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes for kids. The study looked at both “available time,” when parents were in the same place with children, and “engaged time,” when parents were directly interacting with children. Increasing either kind of parenting time had no effect on a child’s wellbeing as measured by assessments of behavioural and emotional problems and academic performance.

We know that by constantly comparing ourselves to others, our self esteem takes a battering. For example, someone in your mother’s group says she reads three books to her child every night before bed and you beat yourself up because you only read one. You tell yourself you’re not as attentive a mother as your friend, but of course, your child is going to be just fine.

When we find ourselves in these situations, we need to ask some probing questions to determine whose expectations we are actually trying to meet.

Some questions that can help you develop critical awareness are:Mother Comforts Crying Baby Girl

  • Who benefits from these expectations?
  • How realistic are these expectations?
  • Can I be all of these things all of the time?
  • Do my expectations conflict with each other?
  • Am I describing who I want to be as a mother or who others want me to be?
  • If someone sees me differently to how I see myself what will happen?
  • Can I control what others think of me as a parent and the decisions I make?

Critical awareness provides us with the tools to really examine who benefits from our expectations (hint: it’s not us) and gain the confidence to stand proud in our parenting decisions.

Reading about motherhood can also be useful, as long as the literature is sound. Relying on blogs written by wonder mums or magazines that perpetuate the ideals of Intensive Mothering just fuel the mummy wars and parental guilt. Everyone presents themselves as an expert you should listen to, but at the end of the day, a happy and healthy child doesn’t require hours of developmental activities or the latest brain-boosting, skill-building 5-star rated toy. Cuddles and kisses come free.

Reading list

The Conflict: Woman and Mother – Elisabeth Badinter

The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and how it has Undermined Women – Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels

The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan

The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood – Sharon Hays

Motherhood and Feminism – Amber Kinser

Maternal Theory: Essential Readings – Andrea O’Reilly

Of Woman Born – Adrienne Rich





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