Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, soon to be mothers, mothers that have been and mother-supporters and friends! Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate our Mothers, to spoil them and thank them. But beyond the ‘Hallmark’ cards and chocolates (and hopefully cup of tea in bed), it is an opportunity for us more broadly to recognise the important role of Mothers, not only for their children but for families and societies as well.
So beyond Mother’s Day, how do we better value Mothers – every day?
Motherhood Unmasked has now worked with four groups of Mothers from diverse backgrounds and places. Through our work with mothers and from our own experiences, we believe the following are important for mothers to feel more valued in their complex, yet significant roles.
Enabling mothers to share their range of experiences honestly and without judgement is the first essential step. Whilst having children can bring immense joy and fulfilment, parenting – particularly becoming a parent for the first time – can be extremely stressful. The demands of caring for children (feeding, bathing, illness), juggling the multiple tasks of family life (housework, transporting to activities and appointments) and ensuring there is enough money to cover daily living costs, are just some of the ‘family issues’ faced by most parents. It is important the mothers are able to talk about these experiences as well as the happy ones we see in the glossy magazines, without feeling judged or guilty. At a broader level this means governments and media giving more attention to the voices of mothers too.
Secondly, motherhood can be an extremely isolating time for many Mums, with families increasingly living further apart and neighbourhoods rapidly changing many parents lack the support they need. Parents of children with a disability can feel particularly overwhelmed, and families new to Australia are likely to feel very isolated. Support networks are essential, allowing like-minded Mothers to come together in an inclusive and flexible way (because we know most children/babies are not predictable!).
Valuing the full range of what mothers do is also really important, as much of this work remains invisible and mundane, despite its importance. Some researchers have tried to measure the time Mum’s put into housework and the more repetitive tasks of child rearing such as cleaning, feeding and cleaning, calculating a 90 plus hour week. Other researchers have gone further to put an economic value on what mothers contribute, suggesting that based on the most time consuming tasks listed by mothers, it would cost over $100 000 a year to replace just one Mum!
Mothers and families deserve better economic recognition for their role, especially more disadvantaged Mum’s such as single parents or those living with a disability – so policies such as adequate family assistance and paid maternity leave are essential. Sharing family responsibilities like housework and childcare as much as possible are also important ways of valuing Mothers and children.
Finally, Motherhood Unmasked has shown us that we can draw on the experience of those around us. As Mothers we crave information to help us raise healthy, happy children, but the avalanche of advice quickly becomes ‘information overload’, undermining our confidence. Relying on ‘experts’ may mean we overlook the wisdom of others around us, whereas sharing our life experiences with each other and laughing together are important and often more empowering. After all, parenting is perhaps the toughest job of all, so not being too hard on ourselves or others and acknowledging that most Mums are doing the best they can with whatever resources they have available is probably just as important as that Mother’s Day card once a year!