Mixed messages on Mothering Sunday
Today is Mothers’ Day in the UK , traditionally held on Mothering Sunday in Lent. The day is always on the fourth Sunday of Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and usually in the second half of March or early April. Despite being rooted in good intentions the day has become associated with commercialisation resulting in over priced lunches, cards, cuddly toys and flowers. In these changing times with so many mixed messages and challenges for women about their role as mothers, it’s hard to establish just how appreciated we really are. So although Mothering Sunday is celebrated once a year, for the rest of the time I believe motherhood in the UK and other geographies is viewed rather ambiguously.
According to the Economist (December 31, 1999) the oral contraceptive is ”the greatest science and technology advance in the twentieth century. So we are seeing a decline in population in advanced economies as men and women choose to take control of their fertility, with the accompanying significant impact on our economic futures as we experience an increase in aging populations as people live longer.
Despite there being such a strong economic imperative to encourage couples to reproduce, in terms of corporate culture children are perceived as something of an inconvenience. Although women are educated to higher levels than ever before, the result is that couples with families tend to split their roles between revenue generating and domestic responsibilities. This very often leads to families based on one career/one job models as they juggle a delicate balancing act to cope with professional (male) and domestic roles (female). But in today’s challenging economic times when according to economist Daniel Thorniley:
In the UK, real wages fell by 10% between 2008 and 2013. Real wage levels for 2013 were “the worst for 500 years”.
Families are increasingly reliant on a two income household. Economies need women to work and they need them to be mothers.
So although we claim to value motherhood and need women to become and be mothers, it is actually not that obvious. Increasing numbers of women are delaying having children or even not having families at all. Women who have children are viewed harshly in the recruitment process and their careers slotted onto the Mommy Track. Dads who are involved with their kids experience the Daddy Bonus – until they start to take family involvement seriously when they are also penalised.
In 1977 only 50% of married men were part of dual-career households, which has increased today to 75%. For most this is now an economic necessity not a luxury. In recent research in the 27 EU countries almost 50% of women who participated cited the provision of childcare as the “most effective measure for getting or keeping a job” as they struggle to deal with raising a family and meeting their professional obligations.
Today, despite making up 50% of the workforce, women also undertake as much as 80% of household chores. The solution would seem to be to re-negotiate our roles within our own relationships. In many cases this could be true, but sadly we are also seeing fathers being discouraged from taking parenting leave.
And elsewhere in the world where Mothers’ Day is celebrated on an array of alternative days, the rights of women are not failing to move forward but being dialled back. In the US Donald Trump met 30 men to discuss the future of maternity benefits. Some Republican politicians claimed that men should not have to contribute towards ante and post natal care. In Russia domestic violence has been decriminalised. That is how much mothers are appreciated.
So if we really value motherhood and the contribution we make, rather than celebrating just one day a year on Mothering Sunday with the obligatory box of chocs and bunch of flowers, wouldn’t it be better to take an all year round view that allows both men and women to be valued parents as well as fulfilled professionals?
So wishing all UK Mums a very Happy Mothers’ Day! Hoping you are equally appreciated the other 364 days of the year!
What do you think?
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