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Women as Mothers (Online Discussion)
Overview

As we approach Mother's Day, a time typically associated with daffodils and breakfast-in-bed, Alison Perry, research midwife at Imperial College, has some questions about being a mother. Read on to join the discussion...

  • Discussion
  • Influence

About Alison

Alison has been a midwife in west London for 17 years and is currently being funded by the National Institute of Health Research to develop her PhD project.  Her area of interest is women as mothers.  

Alison's research

In Alison’s midwifery experience, she has found pregnancy care to be both bio-medical and birth-centric in its approach.  Little attention seems to have been given to the central fact of the woman becoming a mother.  Little in maternity services is built around this major life transition. Maybe we need to talk more about being mothers.

Over the next year, Alison is engaging with multiple groups of people to gather ideas about women as mothers to inform the direction of her project, with the wider goal of improving the way that society and maternity services support women.  This is one of those events. This discussion will inform the direction of her PhD project and potentially guide the way in which we direct and develop maternity services.

Join the conversation

  1. If ‘mother’ were listed as a job, what would the job advert look like?
  2. What do you think are the key skills needed to be a healthy and well mother? Essential attributes?  Training and education?
  3. Is it useful for society to consider the role of being a mother as a “job”?

Who should take part in the conversation?

Alison wants to hear from a wide range of people from across society, mothers or not! 

How can I take part in the conversation?

Leave a comment at the bottom of this page. There are no wrong or stupid answers! Alison wants to hear a wide range of views so please do share your thoughts and ideas on each of these questions. 

Alison will be online on Thursday 28th (12-1pm) and Friday 29th (3-4pm) to answer any questions directly.

 

 

 

 

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Women as Mothers (Online Discussion) Discussion

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  • Lois Neal
    7th April 2019

    Well, a lot has already been said, but I would like to add....

    Mother's Day refers to Mothering Sunday and folks attending their mother church, so for me it is anything but the commercial aspect we see around us. Also I'm a mother for all of the days of the year, not just on one. So Mother's Day celebrations in our house happen when they need to happen and not only on just one day a year!

    I believe that being a mother is taking on a role (not a job or having a specific set of skills). It is the role that fits the family ie the partnerships that one has with both adults and children as they grow up and live through their adulthood. It has to be a flexible role, adapting to the needs around the mother and offspring. I haven't stopped being a mother just because my child is now an adult, but the role I have has changed. I am less of a personal carer and more of a consultant/consultee for one thing and talking to ask for opinions and advice works both ways. I have a very special adult I can consult about all sorts of things.

    I have heard much about the anxieties of being a mother and being a good mother in particular via the radio and in magazines. I'm very sceptical about these pieces. Mothers and fathers for that mater too, if left to their own devices would make very sensible decisions about how to go about the task of looking after small humans as they grow up into adulthood. And they learn from their mistakes too. I feel that we have been persuaded by the media that parenting is difficult and that we are not equipped to do it. I believe that we are equipped and/or that we can adopt and adapt ways of working from others with experience.

    That said, we are well aware of the impact of poor parenting, but I suggest that the factors in such situations invariably include the lack of money in the home and the difficulties individuals experience in learning (being able to read and write) and getting access education. I have always believed that education (not training or learning!) for mothers is never wasted. And to be fair the same goes for fathers too nowadays.

    Managing the combination of a career alongside being a mother is something that I feel takes quite a bit of thought and a huge amount of planning and considerable organisation, plus appropriate funding, but is entirely possible and to be both recommended and encouraged.

    So, I hope that a happy day last Sunday were had by all.

    Alison  Perry
    11th April 2019

    Thanks for your feedback Lois!

  • Alison  Perry
    31st March 2019

    Thanks for all the comments. For what it's worth, Happy Mother's day! Daffodils and all....! Let's keep the discussion going...

    I guess a lot of what I'm wondering is how do we ensure that the health and well-being agenda meets the needs of the people acting as mothers within it? My sense is it isn't good enough and that in particular the voices of women are often missing. I want to know if breaking down the tasks and skills needed to do 'mothering' would help to direct the agenda. Otherwise, are we prone to making an assumption that women will just take it on and it all gets done under the radar of society without adequate support and importance....

  • Philippa Pristera
    28th March 2019

    On the topic of necessary skills, do people feel they're given enough information or support on how to be a healthy and well mother or carer? I feel I would have liked more information about how to look after my body in the first year. I don't feel I understood the changes that were happening to my body and therefore what I should do and importantly why

    Ian Fairclough
    28th March 2019

    mmm - there are 295 million entries on Google about "healthy and well mother."

    I would have thought that was enough information for anyone ?

    https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=healthy+and+well+mother&rlz=1C1PRFI_enGB830GB830&oq=healthy+and+well+mother&aqs=chrome..69i57&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    Philippa Pristera
    29th March 2019

    That's very true but I feel there's still need for more tailored advice from people who are trained to deliver it. Especially if you consider cases when there's a complication during childbirth, as in my case, where the post-natal care needs to be tailored to meet a specific need. Unfortunately, my GP told me female health specialists don't exist but wasn't able to provide helpful advice herself. And health visitors just say see your GP. So I was forced to go online. But it is not easy for a time- and sleep-deprived mother to navigate through the contents of the web to find information that she knows won't do more harm, is clinically-relevant to her and, most importantly, is reliable. Add to that a mother's priority tends to be for her baby, so she's probably already googling everything about the baby, not herself. I'm aware ante- and post-natal care varies hugely by area, but in North London, I was given nil about me and my body as a mother. But that's my opinion based on my experience.

    Helen Sandford
    29th March 2019

    I agree completely, what you need when dealing with a newborn is prompt personalised advice, Google is a minefield of conflicting opinion and ill informed 'advice'.

    Alison  Perry
    30th March 2019

    We definitely are living in an information-rich world with quick access to info. Part of my interest, therefore, is around exploring what an individual in the mother-role needs to navigate that reality....?

  • Ian Fairclough
    28th March 2019

    Mother's Day is an American celebration that is VERY commercialised.

    I believe that the lady who invented Mother's Day regrets this commercialisation.

    Like most things today these events get out of hand and people feel obliged to celebrate.

    I will NOT celebrate as I find the whole thing distasteful.

    Alison  Perry
    28th March 2019

    Absolutely, lots of cliches, so good time consider the concept of being a mother outside of the commercialised versions...

  • Philippa Pristera
    28th March 2019

    I think these are really interesting questions to discuss. As a recent new mum myself, I'm in two minds about how I feel about the term 'job'. I'm not sure why but for me that word has a slightly negative feel to it, as if its synonymous with chore or a process. On the other hand, it is a role with responsibilities that in many instances will replace or affect a current job one way or another. I mean, becoming a mother certainly isn't a holiday or annual leave, but I wouldn't think twice about doing it and every second of it I do with pleasure

  • Alison  Perry
    28th March 2019

    Tina, also adds that unfortunately, the 'mother' post is not salaried, however the emotional rewards are considerable...

  • Alison  Perry
    28th March 2019

    Tina, a midwife, suggested that it might be one job unaffected by Brexit!?! I wonder if that's true...

    Philippa Pristera
    28th March 2019

    Maybe it depends if they or their child are British citizens or have family or relatives in Europe or elsewhere. External factors influenced by Brexit may effect their ability to be mother they would like to be.

    Rebecca Blaylock
    28th March 2019

    You say it might be unaffected, but actually it could be really heavily impacted by Brexit. Increasing economic precarity is likely to put even more pressure on Mums- we know it is women who disproportionately feel the burden of austerity and poverty.

    Alison  Perry
    28th March 2019

    Good point, so do you think consideration of the role of mother in job role terms in this case might help to elevate the situation for the group that identifies as being mothers from an add on an assumed add-on to womanhood? In other words, does thinking of mother as a job role potentially helpful to gaining additional recognition that could be helpful?

  • Alison  Perry
    28th March 2019

    My colleague in the Women's Health Research Centre, Malko has just said that if 'mother' was a job it would definitely not fall under any EU working time directives... So, does that mean it's not a job?

    Rebecca Brione
    28th March 2019

    Do you mean it wouldn't fit the categories to be considered a job (I'm not that familiar with the Directive) or that it is impossible to fulfil whilst meeting the requirements of the legislation? Because I'd definitely agree with the second of those - but there are other roles which are definitely 'jobs' for which opt-out of the Directive is, in effect, mandatory. So under that definition I don't think it stops being a job.

    Ian Fairclough
    29th March 2019

    True - being a mother is NOT a job - If you could classify "being a mother" then it would be a profession.

    If you want to watch a politician wiggle ask them to define "motherhood."

    There is a good definition of "mother" here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother

    There is an American survey(2018) which states that "being a mother equates to 2.5 full-time jobs." This backs up a UK survey of 2013 on the same topic

  • Alison  Perry
    28th March 2019

    Hello, I'm going to get the ball rolling and start to consider if 'mother' were a job title, it would definitely be a full-time post and the skill set would be vast....

    I would welcome your thoughts on this!

    Rebecca Blaylock
    28th March 2019

    Hi Alison, my thoughts on this would be that everyone mother is different, as is every child. What might be in one mother's job description might not be in anothers! For example, some women have more caring responsibilities compared to others if their child has extra needs. Likewise, a working mother might not necessarily do all the "mother jobs", as it might be the child's father who does these. Some initial thoughts!

    Alison  Perry
    28th March 2019

    Absolutely, so that makes me think about how 'mother' is definitely not a fixed identity and in itself can look very different across different cultures and identities. But, whoever is in the role or 'mother', what does that entail? Some things that come to mind would be the ability to manage time, the ability to multi-task....

    Rebecca Brione
    28th March 2019

    The ability to (attempt to) stay calm under pressure... I also think that the mothering role changes quite substantially over fairly short periods of time. Even between the ages of 0 and 8, say, the fundamental requirements - the essentials if you like - of provision of love, support, shelter etc to the best of one's ability remain constant, but the stuff that takes the time and effort, and is most easily overlooked in its volume, changes a lot. I imagine it continues to change over the coming years too. I'm thinking particularly of the 'mental load' work - the school letters, the reading diaries, the party and playdate organising, the helping in class, the impossible (yet hugely privileged) timetabling of ballet and piano and whatever else. All of that might seem a long way from the ideas of what it is to become a mother and develop a relationship with a brand new person, but it is the stuff that takes up a lot of time and brainpower.

    I suppose that my question is, if one were to develop a job description, would it be all encompassing capturing the sorts of tasks that are involved? Or a competency based description which I think would include the things we both mention around time management, multi-tasking etc but would risk missing out a lot of the day-to-day reality of being a mother or primary carer in terms of the overall volume of small tasks.

    I also think that any job description worth its salt gives some indication of time off and annual leave - obviously that's not a given for motherhood, depending on the set up a woman is in. But there's a question about how flexibly you can do the job 'mother' and still be perceived as doing it well, or well enough.

    Alison  Perry
    29th March 2019

    Thanks, Rebecca for your really great input. Appreciated. I'm reflecting on the point about the role changing through ages and stages and the 'mental load'....

    Ian Fairclough
    30th March 2019

    I think that to answer this, if it can be answered, you have to start at the beginning and define "mother." I would like to say that a mother is a female who has given birth to offspring, or a female parent.

    Once you have the basics then you can expand this to - what does a mother do - what is a mother expected to do - what is her role in life - how do you identify this role - how do you value this role?

    Then you come the big bit - identity/nationality/race/religion/location/education these values all change the definition of "mother."

    Are you basing this on a UK scenario or a world scenario - the United Nations seems to concentrate on the definition of the rights of the child. Mothers don't seem to get much of a look in.

    Clare  Heath
    29th March 2019

    I am not sure that focusing on "mother" is always helpful. I loathe mothers day, and all the assumptions that being a mother is defining. I am a person, a parent, a worker, a partner, all kinds of things. So if you are interested in how maternity services can support women in the transition, I would say focus on them as parents and the knowledge, skills and attitudes that they would like support with developing for that role. And on key skill is how to retain your own identity and not be "lost" as you go from being an individual to only seen relationally - as mother, wife, whatever.

    Alison  Perry
    29th March 2019

    Hi Clare, Thanks for your comments. Really helpful and exactly the direction I'm looking to travel with idea development. And so can you imagine a service that does just that? Would the 'mother' define what skills and knowledge that they would like support with or does the maternity service. How do we build that service and what evidence or people's input could it be based on?

    Clare  Heath
    29th March 2019

    You would have to have conversations with parents to identify their expectations, needs and what kind of support they need. I think there are basics (bonding variation, sleep management, nutrition, sex, vaccination, health, emergencies) and then there are specifics - housing, benefits, work, rights, relationships etc

    Rebecca Brione
    30th March 2019

    This is all right, but I think the point I was trying to make above relates - if the focus is what can maternity services do then I think those things are all really important along with support for developing confidence to do the parenting bits your own way, however it is right for you. But I think the loss of oneself, and the transition to a relational view of myself ("and how's Mum?" at the health visitor) was something I felt really strongly when my first baby was first born and very young, but has abated as the children have grown and I've grown into the space where I can be a mother without feeling like I'm losing anything else of my identity. It's one of the things that has most surprised me, in some ways, that the things I felt really strongly about in quite a permanent way when my children were very small (the working pattern that works for me) has changed dramatically over only a short period. In my case that's not only as a result of the children being older, it also has to do with me moving into a work area that I feel much more passionate about, but I think of myself very very differently as a 'mother' and my support needs are very different to what I might have expected them. So, to finish the ramble, I think that something about supporting mothers (and fathers) with the idea that how you fit parenthood into your identity and what you DO as a result might ebb and flow a lot. I wasn't prepared for that - and it's been good but surprising.

    Julie hewitt
    30th March 2019

    This was , and is my experience. My identity has shifted, though I think that is also to do with aging and all other changes that life throws at you, mother or not.

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