Saturday, May 08, 2010

Natural Motherhood.

Part of my approach in dealing with post natal depression is to get the woman away from the kids for a while. The two suggestions that I usually offer the woman are:

a) Put the child in childcare for a while.
b) That she try to get some work, part-time or full time.

The purpose of these two suggestions is to give the woman some pscyhological "breathing space" from the children. A place where she doesn't have to think about them constantly; some time where she can have to herself.

Now, with regard to childcare, I'm not particular concerned as to how she arranges things. If she has family supports, I'm quite happy for her to use them. But it's quite surprising to note just how many grandmothers do not want to take that role on, even for a few days. Some grandmothers are quite happy initially but then become resentful after a while. It would appear that many grandmothers, i.e older women are not keen to look after children when given a second chance. Once again the natural maternal instinct seems to be somewhat deficient in these women, and once again it would seem to refute the traditionalist idea that women naturally want to care for children, even their own.

On the other hand, there are plenty of grandparents who can get enough of the children, but this again would seem to confirm the idea that some women are naturally maternal where others are not.

My biggest problem in getting women to put their children in child care is other women: Particularly, natural mothers. That is women to whom motherhood is a constant joy. The problem here is that these women continually drop snide remarks toward those who put their children in child care. Women, being social animals, are far more sensitive to these remarks than men and are constantly on the defensive with regard to their reputation amongst other women. The net result is that a woman with post natal depression wants to get some space from the kids but feels guilty for wanting to.

The is a lot of contradictory evidence with regards to the benefits of child care. Personally I regard it as neutral. However the question that needs to be asked is, Do women with PND look after their children as well as a child care center? Several studies suggest not. The assumption, that the best care available to a child is by their mother, would appear to be wrong in some instances. A woman having a hard time off coping with her children is probably better off putting her child in child care.

If a woman's natural place is in the home, looking after the children, then it would seem to imply that women should possess the natural temperament to look achieve this. The reality is that a lot of women find looking after children highly stressful, stressful to the point that PND ensures. Some women aren't meant to stay at home with the kids.

Of course the charge is levied that these women are somehow deficient: They are selfish, ignore their children, don't love them etc. Some of them are. But the majority stick at job of motherhood till they drive themselves into the ground and reluctantly into my office. Most of them are embarrassed and ashamed that they can't cope and have arrived as a last resort after a prolonged and valiant effort. I have to pry them away from the myth that it all should come naturally to them: A myth perpetrated by Traditionalists.

From the above it would seem to imply that women can be divided into two groups; those who are natural mothers and those who are not. When in reality it's a spectrum with the two poles being the extremes. Most women are somewhere in between. It's this heterogeneity of temperament which probably explains Catherine Hakim's Preference Theory.

3 comments:

Hestia said...

If a woman's natural place is in the home, looking after the children, then it would seem to imply that women should possess the natural temperament to look achieve this. The reality is that a lot of women find looking after children highly stressful, stressful to the point that PND ensures. Some women aren't meant to stay at home with the kids.
To this I'd also add some situations aren't good for the child to be home all of the time, no matter how good or natural their mother is. Sometimes it seems women forget the needs of their children to "follow the herd" or make themselves feel better.

Take my family for example. Our daughter is now 3.5 but we haven't been able to have a second child yet. Neither my husband nor myself believe it's good for Peapod to spend all of her time with adults or older children. She goes to storytime, dance class, playgrounds, sunday school, and had playdates at home, but we've also opted to put her in a church ran play based preschool program for two half days a week. The other contact she has with children is great, but the preschool requires her to spend frequent time with the same children and learn how to get along with those who might annoy her. We think this is something an only child desperately needs. Living amongst other people isn't always fun & game and sharing with friends; sometimes it's learning to get along with those you really do not like and to still treat them decently.

This has been one of those parenting choices we never pondered as surely an only child would never happen to us until it did. The rude remarks are much easier to brush off with this as all the people we know with large families have absolutely no clue what it's like to have an only child quickly approaching school age. This is much different from an only until the second child came along in nine months to two years, so easy to smile, nod, and not take to heart. Much like the advice civilian wives who've never lived it like to give me about deployments and military life! ;)

SusieQ said...

Most new mothers do not get enough sleep after a baby is born. In fact mothers often are in a sleep deficit for years while raising their children. Lack of sleep compounds any hormonal problems mothers may be experiencing as their bodies adjust after a pregnancy.

I experienced the baby blues after each of our children were born. But I did not want to be away from my children at all. So putting them in a child care situation so that I could go out and work part time was out of the question. What I would have welcomed back then was a mother's helper, someone to come into the home to relieve me of some of the light housework and child care.

Speaking as a grandmother to 15 today, I can tell you that chasing after a toddler is a physical challenge for the older woman. This must be why Nature limits our childbearing years. My neighbor and her husband help take care of their grandchildren from time to time. She complains to me that she is exhausted afterwards even though she has help from her husband, the grandfather.

The Social Pathologist said...

Hestia.

Sometimes it seems women forget the needs of their children to "follow the herd" or make themselves feel better

So, so true. A lot of trendy child rearing practices are more about the mother feeling good about herself rather than what's good for the kids.

This is a huge topic since it brings up issues such as spanking, general discipline, food choices etc. I don't really want to go into this except to say the in my wife's mothers group it was pretty obvious that the alpha female dictated and expected other women to follow suite.

What's really interesting is how many rude remarks are actually directed towards the woman who doesn't toe the line. I mean, why should it matter to other women how another woman raises her child? Even more importantly, why do other women care so much about what other woman think? The phenomena is not nearly as pronounced in men. Further proof that our cognitive apparatii are different.

Susie Q:
What I would have welcomed back then was a mother's helper, someone to come into the home to relieve me of some of the light housework and child care.

You're absolutely correct, raising a child is hard and unremitting work and perhaps the assumption that it's a job naturally designed for one person is wrong. One of the contributing factors to PND is simple exhaustion, something that is compounded by the social atomisation in our modern, particularly Anglo based societies. The extended family/close knit community tends to help in these circumstances.

Speaking as a grandmother to 15 today, I can tell you that chasing after a toddler is a physical challenge for the older woman.

The problem is that some of these grandmothers want next to nothing to do with the kids except for very short periods of contact.