Class issues - The Mask of Motherhood

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Class issues - The Mask of Motherhood
17
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 8:14am
One of the brief arguments that this author makes is that working class women are more suited to motherhood without the angst than their middle class counterparts. She contends that this is becuase they have had more "hands on" experience in their youth - I am sure that there a many middle class women that were babysitters, came from big families - etc - but in general, I guess from a demographic POV. She also reports that working class mothers are more satisified with the experience of motherhood than their wealthier peers.

The other reason could be that they (working class) have less choice, especially when it comes to working vs staying at home.

Thoughts, comments, rotten fruit?

SUS

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 9:13am
What angst is the author referring to? Of being torn between the roles of worker and mother? Or the insecurity inherent in mothering? More info. please.

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 9:22am
I took a look at the reviews on amazon, but I haven't read the book. One of the reviews says that the author interviewed several women who had a surprised and negative reaction to motherhood, almost as though they had expected the experience to be far more positive than it turned out to be. The reviewer gave the impression that the women were portrayed as having worn rose-colored glasses when formulating their expectations, then were disappointed by reality. Does that sound like what you are reading?
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Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 9:25am
I have not read the book. In fact, that question alone made me realized that I haven't read ANY books from start to finish in months!

The idea that working class mothers are better suited for motherhood and gain more satisfaction... By definition - working class people are not really career-oriented (is this a correct assumption?) So perhaps their life satisfaction would come from home more than their job. Kind of difficult to define yourself by your job, when you may not have a lot of job satisfaction. "I am a mother of three and I work on the assembly line."

Middle class people, it would seem, have the pressure on them to find a good balance between the two. Some middle class people do define themselves by their work. It is very comfortable to say, "I am an executive at the assembly plant and also a mother of three."


I also invite rotten fruit :)

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 9:40am
It is the same book. That was her premise, but I think that she gets wrapped around her own bias, especially when it comes to working mothers.

It is interesting and she makes a lot of great arguments about the expectations vs the reality and how we as mothers are not allowed to talk about the reality. She also discusses how the expectations don't allow for differences in personality, not only mom's but the baby's personality as well. I do think that is constantly overlooked - how if we ere just "good" mother's our babies would have the textbook personalities and that we have control over that.

Perhaps it is because of the glasses I wear while I am reading it - those thick unstylish ones of the working class - I am pulling other fringes of the argument into this board. However, she does briefly discuss class and makes the argument in the OP very plainly.

SUS

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 9:42am
She touches on all of it, but her premise is the discussion of what we are told mothering is and what mothering actually is. The arguments are primarily framed from pregnancy through the beginning of toddler hood.

SUS

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 9:50am
I can totally relate to reality vs. expectation of motherhood.

My first child was very colicky. There were plenty of moments when I felt I had made the wrong choice in having a baby. I was totally frustrated. I had nightmares in the little bit of sleep I got about harming the baby. I felt like the worst mother in the world that my mind was even capable of such thoughts. It was not until a year or so later that I saw Marie Osmond on tv talking about her own battle with PPD that I realized that I was not the worst mother to have a child.. I simply went undiagnosed (Who in their right mind would walk into a docs office and tell them they dream about hurting their child?) I think that attitudes are skewed by experienced mothers unwilling to admit that the first year was not easy - makes them feel as though they did it wrong or that they were a bad mother for not feeling adequate enough. I think this is why our elders stop us on the street and stress to us, to *ENJOY* the baby times!

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Registered: 03-21-2001
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 11:19am
She may be right in a general sense...

just thinking about my own experiences.

I am from a working-class family in a working-class town. My mom is *very* suited to motherhood, as were my aunts, my grandmother, and many of my cousins. Why is that? Well, it's what they wanted to do, but it is also what they were *taught* to do. They expected to be mothers. There wasn't money for college, there wasn't a need to work (being poor was an acceptable way of life).

Change that a bit to look at me, and perhaps a couple of my cousins. Those of us who went to college, and got a taste of middle class life pretty early (vicariously through some HS and college friends), delayed having children or put them off altogether. In my experience - I've made it to nearly 33 and still child-free because I have a choice - because I have a career and a stable financial life. Adding a child to that adds uncertainty and doubt. I know I'm a good engineer - can I be a good mom AND a good engineer (I know some people can - can I?) Would I be content being "just" a mom? These are questions that never really crossed my mom's mind. My cousin has 1 child and one on the way. She quit working when her son was born, and still agonizes over whether she did the right thing by quitting her career. "Six years of college and I quit...what a waste". I told her it's not a waste if you are happy, and they don't just take your degrees away from you if you quit working!

So, she has a point. I think it's about choices, and whether or not you have them.

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 12:48pm
I'm not so sure women from the "working class" by default make better moms . . . there a pros and cons. I grew up in a working class neighborhood. Many of the girls I knew simply never thought about going off to college. Their main goal was to get married and have kids. However . . . there were many experiences they had in their working class homes (not that this doesn't happen elsewhere) that didn't automatically qualify you as superior mom material. Many of them learned from their moms how to put up with alcoholic/abusive sposes. These weren't the kind of families that were reading Dr. Seuss to the pre-school set, trying to get them ready for kindergarten.

On the flip side: we had a woman in our neighborhood who had come from a really wealthy family (she married down!). She stayed home, had a nanny, and a housekeeper, and still couldn't handle her 3 kids! She kept looking at the rest of us, asking "how do you do all that without help?"

I attended a PTA meeting once where the principal of the school (a man) stated that the single most important factor determining the educational advantages a child would have was: the mother's educational level. He didn't say whether these women were at home full-time or working.

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Registered: 03-27-2003
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 3:04pm
I just wrote a big fat juicy answer to this and it got dumped :( That is what I get for not using word and cutting and pasting first. I will just try to condense what I wrote. I have always had my own theory about all the things you were mentioning. And I have come to my own conclusions that it has more to do with the age at which you have children. Of course the longer you wait the more chance you have of being a middle class mother with education or work experience behind you. So that said I think it creates conflict with your work identity, where you are use to alloting your time, the expectations you have created for your self and what your boss expects from you of your past work behavior and accomplishments, and the fact that by your thirties you are set in your ways. You may not want to really have children yet, but it is either the next step, or your biological clock is ticking.

By contrast the working mother is usually younger, has no career or is very early in her career and doesn't have the expectations placed on her by her prior work, she builds her work around an exsisting family rather than fit the family into an exsisting career. In short there is less role conflict for her. She is free to enjoy her family and kids more because they haven't "taken" away anything from her life that she already had set up. I think it is hard for someone who is use to giving a certain amount of time and effort at work and getting back a certain amount of recognition and acheivement to have to place that on the backburner or feel so strongly that they don't want to compromise it that they end up trying to do everything at once. They can easily start thinking motherhood isn't that great.

I wonder what the author would find if she interviewed women who had children at a young age and then in their mid thirties went back to school to gain a degree that allowed them a middle class lifestyle? I haven't read the book, but I have met several women who lived working class lifestyles while younger but after their children were older went back to college to earn a degree. They don't seem disappointed in motherhood at all and seem to enjoy their jobs, school, and having time to do it all since their children are older and more independant. That would be interesting! Working class mothers turned middle class instead of middle class kids growing up to be middle class mothers. Do you suppose it is because one is use to taking joy in the simplier things in life and the other has always had so much handed to them that unless something is really mind blowing it is hard to find joy in the simplier things! Wow the more I write the more things I ponder! I better stop now. Interesting question though. I am a late twenties mom so I am not either of these things (that is why I am such an *expert* LOL). I am a middle class mom coming from a working class family.


Edited 3/27/2003 4:07:06 PM ET by mydoodlebugs

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Registered: 03-27-2003
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 11:17pm
Well, I was raised in a middle class household and I am raising my children in a middle class household. I can tell you that I am really enjoying my children's youth.

This theory doesn't make sense to me. The working class parents I know sah or woh feel more money pressures, which lead to more conflict in their family life. They feel guilty if they have to work and can't be home with their babies or they feel guilty because they could be out making money if they sah.

Jill

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