The institution of motherhood essay

The institution of motherhood has been always attracting the attention of the researches and numerous books and journal articles were devoted to such an interesting theme. Actually the institution of motherhood has been existing since the early times. It will be also essential to note that during the past centuries the institution of motherhood was developing, it was influenced by socio-political role of women. It is a well known fact that motherhood has always been considered to be the first and the main role of woman. But in today’s world activists of feminism try to change the stereotypes formed through the past centuries.

Through the centuries our society had the structure of patriarchal type and the place of woman as a wife and a mother was lower than the place of man. And the role of motherhood was used to put women on ”˜their place’. They were not able to express personals views, or play certain role in the social life of the state. Traditionally it was considered that female destiny is brining up children and never-ending motherhood.

In today’s world the struggle for female rights seriously touched the institution of motherhood itself. The role of mother and housewife in today’s heterosexual family is going back to the past. The equal rights in the family are promoted. It is some kind of revolution, probably.

The idea is interesting and gives women a chance for serious breakthrough and it will cause serious changes in the institution of motherhood.

In today’s world of dynamically developed technologies women from different countries could share their personal experience of motherhood and how they could overcome certain problems and involve their husbands in the process of brining up children. For many years ”˜father’ was an abstract figure as he played not a serious role in the brining up children. Probably the situation is rapidly changing.

When it comes to the description of motherhood I always remember my childhood and now being a mother I understand what felt my mom when she told me: “I am tired to death with my children”. My father did not take part in brining up children as he considered his role is in providing financial part for his family and nothing more. He had some free time and spent it according to his personal wishes. I do not blame him, the social attitude to motherhood and mothering at that time was strongly connected with women. My friends’ mothers were also mainly housewives and spend their time cleaning the house and brining up children. Numerous articles investigated the meaning and the attitude to motherhood in the previous centuries. They found out that it is essential that brining up children lies on the females as they are biological mothers and have certain instincts. But we are living in the time of dynamically developed technologies, where men and women should have equal rights, where every parent should pay attention to the brining up children.

In contemporary families it has become tradition to share deities about the house, to spend time with children, to take care for children together. There are also known some facts that fathers took maternity leave and were nursing their children when mothers were working and promoting their career success.

The institution of motherhood id undergoing serious changes and in contemporary world where men and women have equal rights it is very important to change such stereotypes. Traditionally associated with women motherhood institution is now opened for fathers.

Sexual revolution has also played here a certain role in the changing attitude to motherhood institution. Nowadays gay and lesbian families have become caring parents for homeless children and that is proved for many cases. Gay and lesbian parents seriously approach to the institution of motherhood and pay serious attention to their adopted children. Caring and understanding parents is the pledge for healthy family and society.

It goes without saying that serotypes connected with institution of motherhood are broken nowadays. It has been changed not only because the role of woman in the contemporary society has become equal to men, but because the development of the society become ready to react appropriately on the changes. Motherhood has been connected with females for quite a long period of time. But it has been changed nowadays with the help of feminists, and goy and lesbian communities who are struggling for their rights to be parents. In my personal opinion the institution of motherhood is mainly connected with love and care provided to the new generations and actually both parents should take an active part in upbringing children.


Adrienne C. Rich. Of woman born: motherhood as experience and institution. New York: Norton. 1995

Intensive Mothering

Intensive mothering as a social phenomenon could be observed in every society. According to the definition of Sharon Hayes “Intensive mothering is the expectation that mothers should give of themselves and their resources unconditionally, including but not limited to mothers’ time, money, emotional support and love” (Hayes, 112). It could be observed among those mothers who promoted their careers as well as stay at home moms. The idea of intensive mothering implies the wishes of the child above everything and mother’s needs as well.

Natural instincts of every woman sometimes are playing bad jokes with them. It is essential that every woman loves her children and cares about them; it is a part of brining up children. But sometimes this essential care could become obsessive and too intensive. The child could not be left without parental support and love. The child could not live without mom’s care and financial support. It won’t be a secret that such behavior of mothers do not teach their children independent life as they always know that they could call ”˜Mom!’ and everything would be done.

What are the reasons for such behavior of women who are successful in their family or careers? There are a number of reasons.

Traditionally working mothers feel guilty and oppressed about their role in the child’s upbringing. They could not devote as much time to their children as they want that’s why prefer to make all their wishes come true and surround them with care of nanny or au pair. They just can’t understand that children do not actually pay attention to the other people, they need parental attention. In fact inner thoughts of the working mothers are often formed under the influence of social attitude to the mothers who leave their children on nannies. It is natural that some people could not understand the all people need to live their own life, but not the life of their children.

Another noticeable class where intensive mothering is observed is single parent families. Traditionally women are tutors of the children after the divorce. Women who bring up children alone, even with the financial support of their former husband, usually feel that their children lack of something: care, love, attention, finances. They feel guilty for the fact the child was left without father as the result the child is surrounded by such care and attention as if he or she is seriously ill.

Another typical situation is connected with housewife mothers who devoted all their life to housekeeping and children upbringing. They had no other sense in their life but their children, whom they devoted all the attention and agave all their love. Especially if husband did not took an active part in house life and children’s upbringing. It is typical for such families that mothers live the life of their children. They take them to school and gather their bag even they are already in the high school and do need some kind of independence. Such mothers always want to keep their children as much closer as possible because the loose their sense of living without them. They feel guilty and offended if children could not understand their feelings in the right way.

Intensive mothering is a typical social phenomena but it doesn’t produce a good impact on the children and developing the future generation. As well as it is creating certain psychological problems and makes life of women suffering from intensive mothering more difficult. It is essential that children grow up and they want to become independent from their parents and it is a well known fact that living your life for children only makes it senseless in the end as children usually grow up and leave their homes. Intensive mothering creates a certain way of psychological dependence, dependence of taking care about someone or comforting the life of someone. In my personal opinion, one of the main ideas of parental care is to make children feel comfortable in the society and to learn how to live independently from their parents. They got to become full-fledged parts of society and do not feel dependent from their parents.

Intensive motherhood as a social phenomenon existed for many years and I think that it will not be an easy task to overcome the stereotypes that were kept for centuries. But I think that in the end with the help of such investigators as Sharon Hayes the results will be seen in nearest future. The first step is already done as intensive mothering is signified as a problem in the contemporary society. Then, it should be solved.


1. O’Reilly Andrea. Maternal Theory. Demeter Press: 2007

Sensitive Mothering

Sensitive mothering has been described as the maternal characteristic, promoting a child’s emotional, social and cognitive growth (Clarke-Stewart, 1978). The sensitive and emotional connections between mothers and their children on the early stages of their communication have interested the scientists for many years. How women learn about wishes of their babies and how they understand each other. The question goes far deeper on to physiological level. Numerous investigations were held to investigate the strong connections between mother and her child.

Many scientists were suggesting that sensitive mothering is typical for every woman, but its development is different for every person.

Mothers learn how to foresee the wishes of the baby and what influence it will have on their growth and development.

Traditionally first few years children spend with their mothers. Sensitive mothering is an appropriate reaction for the ”˜signals’ baby gives to his mother. The researches of child psychology think that only sensitive mothers could bring up full-fledged and socially active person.

From the first days of their lives children learn how to communicate. At first this communication is strongly connected with his mother and all the information a baby percepts from his mothers hands, attitude and attention. Interpersonal communication is represented on the high level as it goes about understanding each other without a word being said.

According to the investigations mothers noted that their children have different reaction on different musical compositions as well as on the voices. From the early months they signify the voice of mother from any others that surround him. Later children start to define appearance. A child uses his five senses to percept the surrounding world with the help of his sensitive mother.

What is important to note, only mother could help her child to understand and perceive the new world. And sensitive mothering will help to make first few steps in understanding society: “Only sensitive mothering will produce properly socialized, self-regulated children. What children need then is sensitive mothering. The figure of ”˜sensitive mother’ has become extremely important within developmental psychology” (Steph Lawler, 137).

And it is not surprising that scientists and psychologists pay such an attention to the children’s development in an early age. During the first month of the children’s life they learn how to communicate with the surrounding world and other people. That is why sensitive mother is very important. In contemporary world of feminism and career directivity it has become normal that first years of their life many children spend with nanny. It will be hard to define because there are not so many researches on this case but in my personal opinion nanny could hardly replace mother. The result is deplorable ”“ children are not paid as much attention as they need. Where are the guarantees that even qualified well and educated nanny would understand the child needs and would interpret his necessities in the rights way? There are none of them. If the mother is already working, it would be very hard for her to keep a controlling eye on the relations between the nanny and the baby. So the question is raised for a good reason. The cases of communication problems within the children at school has become typical for school psychologists and here exist a hypothesis that the reasons for such communicative problems lie deep in the first months of living and sensitive mothering is a very important thing for development of healthy future generations and society.

In the end I would like to note that investigating the role of mothering is very important and nowadays when society has undertaken serious changes and appeared such social movements as feminist movement, supporting the female rights for equal attitude, we should not forget about the role of mothering in today’s world. It is still very important. The good idea was creation of Institute investigating mothering problems and motherhood itself.


1. Clarke-Stewart, K.A. And daddy makes three: The father’s impact on mother and young child Child Development, 1978, 54, 185-193
2. Steph Lawler. Mothering the Self. Mothers, daughters, subjects. New York: 2001
3. Walkerdine Valerie, Lucey Helen & June Melody. Class, Attainment and Sexuality in Late twentieth-century Britain. UCL Press: 1999

The new momism

The syndrome of so called “new momism” is becoming very popular in the United States. What is actually new momism and how does it influence on Americans. “The new momism is highly romanticized and yet demanding view of motherhood in which the standards for success are impossible to meet. The term ”˜momism’ was initially coined by journalist Philip Wylie in his highly influential 1942 bestseller Generation of Vipers and it was very derogatory term. Drawing from Freud (who else?), Wylie attacked the mothers of America as being so smothering, overprotected and invested in their kids, especially their sons, that they turned them into dysfunctional sniveling weaklings, maternal slaves chained to the apron strings, unable to fight for their country or even stand on their two feet” (Douglas, Michaels; 162)

The influence of such a syndrome on the contemporary society may cause serious psychological problems for the future generations and now has a particular influence on the minds and ideas of contemporary mothers who want to be alike celebrities and their families (do not taking into account how many nannies and special assistants they involve into “so wonderfully pleasant and easy” process of upbringing children). It produces a serious impact not only on them but on their families too.

For the several past years it has become very popular to print in glossy magazines interviews and articles about celebrities’ children and their family life. There are even several TV shows made and translated on line telling the ”˜true’ stories of celebrities’ happy family life and wonderful and easy process of children up brining. The celebrities are undertaken as a ”˜perfect’ example of mothering and ”˜creating cozy and friendly atmosphere’ in their homes. The articles usually ”˜passionately’ describe their feelings to the husband, children and their attitude to their ”˜peaceful and lovely home’. The mass media as if putting them as examples to thousands of Americans who can not let themselves several nannies, a cook, different medical stuff and assistants who are helping to provide a perfect life for their children.

It won’t be tragedy in such articles if many people would not take the life of celebrities as a sample and do not try to create their personal lives as the celebrities do. Perfectionism is really a good thing for promoting yourself, but only when the aims and ideas set are real to achieve. Trying to keep up the unachievable dreams of creating ”˜perfect’ families, using the families of celebrities as an example, people are coming to certain psychological problems. They can’t imagine that the answer on their question is much closer that they even could expect.

The celebrities’ families could not be taken into consideration as an object of blind imitation, as if the whole world is concentrated around them. There are many other good examples which are more possible to bring to life than celebrities’ family examples.

Unfortunately the mass media provide huge impact on the minds and world perception of contemporary Americans. Mass media has become an essential part of our lives and the ”˜expert’s opinion’ from the glossy magazine has already become an oracle for today’s people.

We are loosing our identity trying to imitate everything that is shown on TV or trying to make alive all the advice from the glossy journal. It seems that people are loosing the sense of reality trying to create their own perfect world ”˜from the glossy magazine’. It is completely wring decision and cause serious psychological problems and has damaging influence on the family. I do not know any happy family who was build ”˜under the advice of glossy magazine’ or ”˜after the celebrities’ example’. What about you?

Contemporary investigators of new momism phenomena Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels set a number of parallels between the new momism and intensive mothering, supposing that intensive mothering is a ”˜fulcrum’ of the new momism.

They insist on the idea that children have their personal time from very early age. Both Douglas and Michaels consider themselves to be successful mothers and they are persuaded that every child should have its personal opinion and should be taught to be independent from his early years if we want to grow up adequate person, able to take his personal decisions independently from other people’s opinion and provide his life separately from parents.

It is still the typical image in American society that father who reading books his children and knows the name of their physician is considered to be the saint, mom that does not is considered to be the sinner. It goes without saying that stereotypes have influenced the family life in America as well as in other countries and the future of ”˜glossy magazine’ families and children is not among the pleasant one.

Their chance to become socially adequate is not very big, as they have not been taught to survive in the contemporary society.

In the end I would like to note that examples of such families are becoming more typical. The society should turn attention and think about the problem as it causes the whole American nation and the country as well. This problem touches everyone of us. The main idea is not to create an ideal family from ”˜glossy journal cover’ but firm and healthy family and children, who can take decisions by themselves and be socially adequate members of the American society.

1. Douglas Susan J. & Michaels Meredith W. The New Momism. Boston: 2005

The Mask of Motherhood

It won’t be a secret that mask of motherhood is a typical syndrome for contemporary women. With the help of such a mask they are trying to show that mothering and motherhood is an enjoyable part of their life easy and without any problems. In today’s world it has become quite a popular thing to break down stereotypes. The mask of happy family and mother does not always correspond to the real situation. It has become a serious question that troubled American scientists and the society itself.

“I use the term to describe the brave face that women put on in order to convince the world that the job of mothering is unproblematic, straightforward and “instinctive.” I believe it is, in reality, none of these things. No, I don’t think it’s a new phenomenon. But I do think our anxiety to protect this image of effortlessness has been heightened in recent decades. I think we feel increasingly impelled to pretend that “it’s all so easy, really” because we are so afraid of losing the precious ground we’ve gained in other areas (educationally, legally, professionally, etc.). The rhetoric has been that we’ve got to show we can do it all, and do it all as well as ever” (Maushart, 2001) says Susan Maushart presenting her book devoted to the problem of ”˜Mask of Motherhood’.

Actually the problem of social pretending is typical not only for the US but for the whole world. Being in the constant hurry for a perfect family women forget about themselves. They are struggling against the numerous problems wearing the mask of happiness and easy going being afraid to tell anybody because someone would not understand. The popular idea of ”˜easy mothering’ is proclaimed in all the media sources that causes serious psychological problems like depression, failure and betrayal. Many of them were not ready for such turn for worse. They imagined themselves on the cover of some glossy magazine as ”˜perfect mother’ and the reality turned to be awful. It is a typical situation family psychologists meet within their everyday work. The main reason lack of information (it was some kind of social taboo to tell that mothering is not an easy and joyful task) and promotion in mass media numerous interviews and pictures of celebrities and their ”˜ideal families’. Many young mothers feel ”˜inadequate personality’ being unable to enjoy and feel happy about mothering. They could hardly imagine that it would be such a difficult task to bring up a child.

The serious psychological problems are increased by the ”˜traditional’ attitude of the men to the family duties. As their fathers the majority of them position themselves as provider of financial part and everything connected with children lay on the shoulders of wife. The picture of ideal family where husband is a strong supporter of his wife, helping about the house and caring about children has ruined, leaving the feeling of dissatisfaction and offence.

The situation described is quite a typical for all the social layers. Psychologists say that such a disappointment in family life may even cause suicide committing as it is really great stress for a woman, when it turned out that everything she was dreaming about seemed pretty different in realization.

How could women avoid such a great disappointment in the realities of mothering and motherhood? The single answer is being close to realities of contemporary world: “Talking more, and more honestly. Interacting with other women and their children prior to becoming a mother oneself. Being more inquisitive about our own mothers and grandmothers, more respectful and less dismissive of their wisdom.

Adopting a mindset that accepts there is no “authoritative” experience of motherhood, any more than there is any one right way to toilet train or breastfeed. Finding and keeping male partners who see parenthood as the privilege that it is, and behave accordingly” (Maushart, 2001).

Mask of Motherhood is not the contemporary problem. It has been creating for many years and the result we could observe right now: looking at suicide committing and divorce rates. The problem seems to be not very serious for the first look, but it costs happy family life to number of people, who loved each other and dreamt about children and joint future. Fortunately in today’s world the barriers between the reality and social taboos are ruined and the problems impossible to talk about 10 years ago are among the most discussing. Numerous investigations are being held out in order to help people in solving their problems. Articles and books are written by the scientists and researches in order to show the real picture in today’s world.


Debra Levy. Mask of Motherhood. Forum. Vol. 14, March-April 2001

Susan Maushart. The Mask of Motherhood. Vintage: 1997

Maternal Thinking

The question of maternal thinking has been become the huge interest of researches not so long ago. The idea that women brining up, caring and giving all their love to their children could create certain unique way of thinking was introduced by Sara Ruddick ”“ noticeable figure in contemporary feminism and philosophy. She suggested s conception of maternal thinking which is strongly connected with antiwar thinking and certain criticism for military practices.

It has become a very interesting theory especially if we take into account different social movement uniting mothers whose children died during military conflicts. There are other more prosaic psychological reasons for the unities of these women. They are united by common grief as they lost their children. The military conflicts took numerous lives and the words “they were protecting our country, our ideals and democracy” do not make mothers of dead soldiers feel much better. That is why they are united into the movements who are against war and any military conflicts as they will take the lives of other children and other mothers will be painfully hurt.

The hypothesis about maternal thinking is very interesting as gives answers on many questions. The majority of women hate war on subconscious level as it brings pain and grief into their houses as traditionally every woman is regarded as keeper of family hearth. It also gives the direct answer their strong wish to protect their children above everything, even by the cost of their lives. There are also a number of qualities that characterize women as peaceful and loving, who want to care. Caring, by the way, is also often regarded as pristine instinct as in ancient times the main task of women was brining up children and caring about them.

In my personal opinion the roots of the hypothesis made by Sara Ruddick are not deprived of truth as many historical events and the development of human race perfectly illustrates her hypothesis. I think that certain instincts of female were developed under the influence of motherhood and mothering and it won’t be surprising that mothering has a serious impact on the way of women’s thinking. It is essential as being a mother is a certain responsibility over the small child who is under you protection ”“ is called maternal instincts.

It was noticed that many women changed their behavior after they became a mother. Something is changed not only in organism but in the whole manner of thinking as it is noted by everybody. Unfortunately this question and the influence of maternal instincts on the female manner of thinking are still studied faintly. But the idea is very interesting and supposed to have great perspectives for further investigation.

Personally I think that idea suggested by Sara Ruddick, her investigation and treatment to mothering and motherhood as a “function of a social practice rather than as a consequence of biological destiny” (Ruddick, 1989) have serious reasons to be investigated deeper. She suggested the new theory that is supported by strong social reasons and have historically based background. I suppose that the question will be investigated in nearest future as it has attracted social attention when it was first published in the whole world. Even now, when twenty years have passed and the investigation of mothering and motherhood is held on university level the work of Sara Ruddick attracts attention of feminist activists and the researches of motherhood themselves. The theme and idea of the work produced a serious impact on the feminist ideas and was appreciated by the leaders of the movement. She suggested the idea that was very close to her inner thoughts and personality ”“ aversion of military conflicts and wars. The majority supported the idea as it was very similar to their personal thinking and ideas. And further development will show whether hypothesis have reasonable support.

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