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Title: Educated for Motherhood: natural instincts versus expert advice


1
Educated for Motherhood natural instincts versus
expert advice
  • Gayle Letherby
  • University of Plymouth

2
Introduction
  • Every Girl's Dream . . . Inevitable Destiny?
  • Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • Further Final Reflections on Good Mothers and Bad
    (M)Others

3
Every Girls Dream . . . Inevitable Destiny?
  • In Western society, all women live their lives
    against a background of personal and cultural
    assumptions that all women are or want to be
    mothers and that for women motherhood is proof of
    adulthood and a natural consequence of marriage
    or a permanent relationship with a man. A great
    deal of social and psychological research has
    focused on women and the role of children in
    their lives and is thus complicity in reproducing
    societal assumptions about women deriving their
    identity from relationships in domestic
    situations and particularly from motherhood
    within the family. Consequently, 'and how many
    children have you got?' is a 'natural'
  • question. (Letherby 1994 525)

4
Every Girls Dream . . . Inevitable Destiny?
  • Thus The 'right to choose' means very little
    when women are powerless. Women make their own
    reproductive choices but they do no make them
    just as they please they do not make them under
    conditions which they themselves create but under
    social conditions and constraints which they, as
    mere individuals, are powerless to change
    (Petchesky 1980 cited by National Bioethics
    Consultative Committee 199048)

5
Every Girls Dream . . . Inevitable Destiny?
  • However, although motherhood is something that
    all women are 'expected' to do it is only
    considered 'natural' and 'normal' when achieved
    within the so-called 'right' sexual, social and
    economic circumstances.
  • In 1989 Elaine DiLapi argued there was a
    hierarchy of motherhood and teenage mothers along
    with lesbian mothers, older mothers, disabled
    mothers, non-biological mothers and so on often
    defined as less appropriate
  • even inappropriate.

6
Every Girls Dream . . . Inevitable Destiny?
  • Similarly, Kath Woodward (2003 23) notes
  • Motherhood may be taken for granted and even
    assumed to be 'natural' but who is allowed to be
    a mother is strongly contested, whether in terms
    of having the right to adopt a child or to be
    permitted access to reproductive technologies. .
    . older women, lesbian women and women from
    minority ethnic groups have all had difficulty in
    obtaining access to assisted reproductive
    technologies. . . Motherhood is up for public
    debate in all manner of different places and the
    key issue is often to pinpoint the 'bad' mother
    and by implication the good mother, who
    nonetheless receives less attention than her
    negatively constructed counterpart. Who ought
  • to be a mother?

7
Every Girls Dream . . . Inevitable Destiny?
  • As Katherine Arnup (1994) notes that it is likely
    that women have always needed to learn how to be
    mothers
  • In earlier centuries much of this knowledge was
    passed along through female support networks,
    from mother to daughter, from elder to younger
    sister, from friend to friend.
  • By the late eighteenth century books aimed at new
    mothers were available. Books on infant feeding
    and care written specifically for mothers
    appeared in Britain and the United States as
    early as the 1760s mostly handing out common
    sense advice.
  • In contrast to those volumes, child-rearing
    manuals of the 20th century were presented as
    scientific tracts, written by officials in
    various levels of government and members of the
    medical, nursing, and psychological professions
    people whose knowledge of children was and is
    frequently based on a professional rather than a
    parental relationship - so just as birth became
  • scientific so did childcare. . .

8
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • So in addition to the natural instinct to
    reproduce and care for children it appears that
    women also need help when caring for their
    children for as Ann Kaplan (1992) notes there is
    a large body of experts busy engaging in
    motherhood discourses representing a tension
    between authorized and experiential knowledge.

9
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • So why the need for authorized knowledge?
  • Some like eugenicists C.W. Saleeby, writing about
    The Maternal Instinct in the early 20th century
    felt that womens maternal instincts had been
    blunted by the modern age (Arnup 1994).
  • Also The trouble is that the home today is the
    poorest run, most mismanaged and bungled of all
    human industries . . . . Many women running homes
    havent even the fundamentals of house management
    and dietetics. They raise children in the
    average, by a rule of thumb that hasnt altered
    since Abraham was a child (Canadian Home Journal
    1932) (Arnup 1994).

10
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • So education clearly needed e.g. in 19th
    century UK when mass education for girls was
    introduced the aim was to produce competent home
    makers. . . So began the teaching of
    mothercraft. . .similarly between the wars in
    the 20th century schools for mothers set up by
    voluntary agencies to give advice and training to
    working class mothers.
  • And now - NVQ childcare qualifications often
    childcare classes alongside sex education
    classes focus on childcare/refeminisation in
    prison. . .

11
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • Not necessarily a bad thing but aimed at
    particular groups and individuals e.g. working
    class, non-white, single, young . . .and
    continues today. . .

12
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • Indeed, we found that experts themselves often
    need training and education (see various
    publications list available from SURGE, Coventry
    University http//www.coventry.ac.uk/researchnet/d
    /181)

13
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • This education does not just exist at the level
    of the institution. It is supported by/continued
    in childcare manuals which are basically as
    Hannah Marshall (1991) notes cookbooks telling
    women how to mother properly - providing
    information and developmental guidelines from
    conception to adolescence.
  • Not surprisingly here the emphasis is on the
    good mother, the ideal mother who is
    responsible in her behaviour and who puts her
    children before anything else including her own
    sexual and intellectual identity her first
    responsibility is to her child(ren) and she is
    expected to be grateful and find motherhood
    completely fulfilling. Thus, there is no room
    for ambivalence.

14
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • During the interwar years of the 20th century the
    focus of advice was regularity and order e.g. in
    The Expectant Mother (Toronto) women were advised
    that the newborn baby
  • . . . should be fed regularly, should be made
    comfortable and left in his bed to sleep. He
    should not be handled any more than is absolutely
    necessary. . .
  • BUT in 1950s advice manuals told parents that
    their children needed love. In The Canadian
    Mother and Child 1953 edition
  • Let him know you love him and think hes the
    finest baby ever be easy-going accept the child
    as he is never waver in being kind to him try
    to provide him with the things he needs to grow
    physically, intellectually and emotionally and
    really enjoy your baby
  • and make him a welcome member of your family
    circle. . .
  • (cited by Arnup 1994 89).

15
Natural Instincts. . . Expert Advice?
  • Dr Benjamin Spock whose advice dominated
    womens magazines in the 1950s and 1960s and
    whose book, originally published in 1946 - The
    Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care - sold
    more than any other book in history with the
    exception of The Bible (50 million copies) -
    challenged much of interwar ideas about
    importance and value of schedules but was
    careful not to blame other experts.
  • The problem lay not in the schedules themselves,
    but in the application of advice for an average
    baby to all babies.

16
Natural Instincts Expert Advice?
  • Mothers have sometimes been so scared of the
    schedule that they did not dare feed baby one
    minute early. They have even accepted the idea
    that at baby would be spoiled if he were fed when
    he was hungry. a baby cries not to get the
    better of his mother but because he wants some
    milk. In turn, he sleeps for the next four
    hours not because he has learned that his mother
    is stern, but because the meal satisfies his
    system for that long. (cited at
    http//www.drspock.com/home/0,1454,,00.html)

17
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • Trust yourself. You know more than you think
    you do . . . Bringing up your child wont be a
    complicated job if you take it easy, trust your
    own instincts, and follow the directions that
    your doctor gives you (Spock 1946, cited at
    http//www.drspock.com/home/0,1454,,00.html)
  • His life covered most of the last century. His
    influence will reach far into the next. He was,
    and will always be, a man for all children.
    http//www.drspock.com/home/0,1454,,00.html

18
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • Not just Spock of course
  • At present there are so many gaps in the average
    womans knowledge of pregnancy that she is
    extremely vulnerable to many old wives tales,
    horror stories and unfounded advice which
    continues to surround motherhood, and there is
    not comprehensive work to which she can turn to
    relive her anxiety and answer her questions.
    This book is a genuine attempt to fulfill this
    need (Bourne, Pregnancy 1979 cited by Marshall
    1991 73).
  • The modern mother takes for granted that she
    will have the advice of experts and will not have
    to rely on the advice of her mother. The
    previous generation of mothers may not
    necessarily be the best advisers of the present
    generation (Jolly, Book of Childcare 1986 cited
    by Marshall 1991 73)

19
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • Some women are eager to meet the challenge of
    motherhood which for them brings immense
    fulfillment and is the ultimate process whereby
    they become complete human beings (Bourne,
    Pregnancy 1979 cited by Marshall 1991 68).

20
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • For some women, the books and pamphlets
    represented a friendly, welcome voice . . . the
    advice literature provided information about the
    tasks of childrearing that had become, for many
    women, frightening, alien chores.
  • Arguably though - in exchange women had to
    surrender power over themselves and their
    offspring even though much their faith in experts
    leads to increased fear, anxiety and even
    paranoia and is often misplaced
  • (Furedi 2001).

21
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • While different countries have had their
    particularly influential experts, mothers were
    increasingly spoken to by experts from an
    orthodoxy which stressed the mother's
    responsibility for the psychological well-being
    of the child. E.g. paediatricians such as Spock
    and social psychologists such as Leach, all argue
    that consistent nurture by a single primary
    care-giver is absolutely crucial. Day-care
    centres, pre-schools, spouses, and baby-sitters
    may help out but they are incidental to the bond
    the child really needs with an individual adult,
    usually the biological mother
  • The increasing entry of mothers into the labour
    force has not been accompanied by the public
    story which de-emphasizes the significance of
    'mother'. Rather the ideology of intensive
    mothering which holds the individual mother as
    primarily responsible for child-rearing heightens
    the tensions between work and mothering which
    women manage (Hays 1996).

22
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • Which of course leads to GUILT . . .During the
    later part of my pregnancy, partly as an antidote
    to all the serious and alarming books on the
    subject such as those by Penelope Leach and
    Sheila Kitzinger, to name but two, which I had
    previously devoured and which mainly left me
    feeling that Id already got parenthood wrong and
    she wasnt even born yet . . . I decided to keep
    a diary (Walters 2008 262).

23
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • Yet women themselves have not been completely
    passive in all of this and we have evidence of
    resistance. For example, Jocelyn Cornwells
    early 1980s research in the East End of London
    demonstrated that women do resist
    expert/authorized knowledge Cornwell talked to
    people about their understanding of their own
    health and illness and found that it was in the
    area of antenatal care that there was the most
    resistance to the medical model when women had
    kin close by they listened to them and not to the
    medics when pregnant and preparing for birth . .
    . Clearly then whatever doctors and others say
    there is value in old wives tales . . . . .

24
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • Elizabeth Murphys (1999) project on infant
    feeding (which of course has always been an area
    about which women should take expert advice)
    found that yet again that there is evidence to
    suggest that to be good citizens and good mothers
    women must be sensible and listen to experts
    yet again mothers are held responsible for their
    children yet are considered incapable of doing
    this without expert help. Thus, Murphy (1999)
    argues that infant feeding a moral issue as well
    as a nutritional one.
  • Yet, here too evidence of resistance . . .

25
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • Clearly the implication is that authorised and
    expert versions have higher status than the
    experiential knowledge of actual mothers. Indeed,
    as Arnup (1994) notes one early version The Care
    and Feeding of Children written by De L Emmett
    Holt in 1894 was billed as the Bible for Young
    Mothers. Further to this any woman-centred
    perspective was and is devalued.
  • Historically, women have been advised not to
    listen to old wives tales (Ussher 1991) and
    listen to expert advice. But we know also that
    the authorized version of correct mothering is
    subject to fashion. The best way to give birth,
    the best way to feed babies, the best way to care
    for childrens physical and emotional needs, have
    all been the subject of changing expert opinion
    and is historically and culturally variable and
    the dominant ideologies of the time are
    supported by dominant media constructions/represen
    tations of motherhood.

26
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • Talking of the media
  • As Woodward (2003) notes media reports often
    focus on mothers as good or bad, with examples of
    bad mothers including those who abandon their
    children, leaving them at home while they go on
    holiday, or who selfishly put the interest of
    their own careers before the care of their
    children. Woodward adds that fathers are rarely
    subjected to the same kind of scrutiny or
    classification as bad parents in similar cases.
    In 2002 one mother in the UK was send to prison
    for failing to ensure that her daughters attended
    school, although there was no mention of a father
    in the newspaper reports that led on this story.
  • Also good mothers today are recognised as
    responsible for the safety of their children, for
    managing theculture of fear both from
    external and internal threats in a way that
    they were not in the past.
  • In addition womens magazines, alongside other
    Western media, frequently feature celebrity
    mothers.

27
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • A variety of super models such as Kate Moss, pop
    singers such as Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice) and
    Jordan, actors, the merely famous, and several
    women whose pregnancies and births (predominantly
    by Caesarean section) are of interest because
    they are rich and occupy public media space are
    included.. . . Magazines often run mother and
    daughter fashion features at Christmas time. . .
  • The upmarket fashion magazines also feature
    famous women such as Jerry Hall who clearly
    demonstrate that it is possible to retain the
    body of a supermodel after having four
    (glamorous, attractive) children . . . What is
    new is that the women are not otherwise very
    different from their non-pregnant or non-maternal
    selves in what they wear and in looking sexually
    attractive. Successful motherhood is encoded as
    well-off and sexually attractive . . . .
    (Woodward 2003 23-30 see also Douglas and
    Michaels 2004 for similar
  • examples from North America).

28
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • And what of the current advice in addition to
    plethora of books. . .

29
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice? Mother
Baby (February 2009)
  • P12 YOUR WORK Earn extra money with a job that
    works around your baby.
  • P134 20 OF THE BEST Feeding gadgets and
    accessories to make mealtime easy.
  • P99 ASK OUR EXPERTS From newborn niggles to
    taming toddler trantrums
  • A paediatrician
  • A GP
  • A phychotherapist
  • A health visitor

30
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice? Mother
Baby (February 2009)
  • P33 THE BIG QUESTION Should the Government teach
    new mothers to breastfeed?
  • The State plans to spend an extra 2million on
    Breast Buddies middle-class women who go into
    deprived neighbourhoods and encourage mums-to-be
    to breastfeed. . .

31
Natural Instincts . . . Expert Advice?
  • Although there is some emphasis on experiential
    e.g.
  • P32 ASK A MUM Mothers give their tips on
    getting a toddler dry through the night.
  • P162 MUMMY IN TRAINING Erin weights up the
    options of where she should have her baby.
  • Plus Mother Baby and Pregnancy Birth have an
    associated website askamum.co.uk . . .

32
Natural Instincts . . .Expert Advice?
  • Use of internet as in other areas (e.g. Broom
    2005 reporting on the significance of the
    Internet to Dr/patient relationships) can be
    empowering e.g. see Friedman and Calixte (2009)
    Mothering and Blogging but as in Blooms study
    likely that some women will lack the confidence
    to judge between difference information
    available. . .

33
Further Final Reflections on Good Mothers . . .
Bad (M)Others
  • Evident then that mothering is not something that
    women do without external comment and censure and
    womens mothering is defined as good or bad.
    Good mothering as noted earlier is intensive
    mothering (Hays 1996) where the individual
    mother is primarily responsible for childrearing
    and which is child centred, expert-guided,
    emotionally absorbing, labour-intensive and
    financially expensive.

34
Further Final Reflections on Good Mothers . . .
Bad (M)Others
  • Link this to historical and other contemporary
    views of good/bad mothers/mothering . . .
    different applications of mother in the history
    of the word reveal an ambivalent attitude towards
    the primary love object. For just as the good
    mother is cherished and venerated as the one who
    creates, loves and nurtures, so also is she
    feared and hated as the bad mother, the one who
    thwarts the desires of the young infant, who
    rejects and abandons her child when she
    withdraws the breast. Ultimately she is
    associated with death she is the despised CRONE,
    for each child she gives birth to is destined to
    die (Mills 1991 169).

35
References
  • Broom, Alex (2005) Medical specialists' accounts
    of the impact of the Internet on the
    doctor/patient relationship Health 9(3) 319 -
    338
  • Cornwell, Jocelyn (1980) Hard Earned Lives
    Accounts of health and illness from East London.
    Published in the USA by Tavistock Publications in
    association with Methuen
  • Arnup, Katherine (1994) Education for Motherhood
    Advice for Mothers in Twentieth-Century Canada.
    Toronto Toronto University Pres
  • DiLapi, Elaine M. (1989) Lesbian Mothers and the
    Motherhood Hierarchy Journal of Homosexuality 18
    (1-2) 101-121
  • Douglas, Susan J. and Michaels, Meredith W.
    (2004) The Mommy Myth The Idealization of
    Motherhood and How It Has Undermined Women.
    Canada Simon Schuster
  • Friedman, May and Calixte, Shana L. (eds) (2009)
    Mothering and Blogging The Radical Act of the
    Mommy Blog. Toronto Demeter Press

36
References cont
  • Hays, Sharon (1996) The cultural contradictions
    of motherhood. New Haven Yale University Press
  • Furedi, Frank (2001) Paranoid Parenting. Allen
    Lane (Penguin)
  • Kaplan, Ann E. (1994) Motherhood and
    Representation London Routledge
  • Letherby, Gayle (1994) Mother or not, mother or
    what? Problems of definition and identity,
    Women's Studies International Forum 17(5) 525
    532
  • Marshall, Hannah (1991) Childcare and Parenting
    Manuals', pp. 66-85 in A. Phoenix, A. Woollett
    and E. Lloyd (eds) Motherhood Meanings,
    Practices and and Ideologies. London Sage
  • Mills, Jane (1991) Womanwords A Vocabulary of
    Culture and Patriarchal Society. London Virago
    Press Ltd
  • Murphy, Elizabeth (1999) 'Breast is best' Infant
    feeding decisions and maternal deviance
    Sociology of Health and Illness 21(2) 187 - 208
  • The National Bioethics Consultative Committee
    (1990)  Surrogacy report 1  April 1990

37
References cont.
  • Spock, Benjamin (1946) The Common Sense Book of
    Baby and Child Care. New York Duell, Sloan and
    Pearce
  • Ussher, Jane (1991) Women's Madness Misogyny or
    Mental Illness? Hemel Hempstead Harvester
    Wheatsheaf
  • Walters, Julie ( 2008) Thats Another Story The
    Autobiography. Orion (an Imprint of The Orion
    Publishing Group Ltd).
  • Woodward, Kath (2003) Representations of
    Motherhood in S. Earle and G. Letherby (eds)
    Gender, Identity and Reproduction social
    perspectives. Houndsmills Palgrave Macmillan
  • And
  • Dr Spock the website - http//www.drspock.com/home
    /0,1454,,00.html accessed Dec 2008
  • Mother Baby Magazine (February 2008) and see
    askamum? http//www.askamum.co.uk/News/Search-Resu
    lts/?N190555NsP_Publication_Date7C1
    accessed December 2008
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