The Myth Of Motherhood Analysis

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The concept of mothering has a specific connotation in contemporary Western culture. According to societal norms, ‘good’ mothers are supposed to be all-giving, self-sacrificing women who devote their lives to their children’s care and well-being. Within the dominant Occidental ideology, maternal devotion and love tend to be described as natural and instinctive. In this way, the expectations of maternal sacrifice are naturalised, so that childcare and domestic responsibilities are delegated. Moreover, from the nineteenth century, womanhood and motherhood started being treated as synonymous identities and categories of experience. Consequently, the ones who failed at adapting to the ideal gender role society assigned them were criticised not…show more content…
Her analysis puts into question the status of maternal love as an instinct, by underlining how maternal attention towards toddlers passed from an almost complete indifference to obsessive nurtures. In the eighteenth century, when ‘in absence of any outside pressure, the mother was left to act according to her own nature’, women tended to act in a self-centred way, and refused their maternal duties. A similar tendency is described by Judith Schneid Lewis in her study of changing childbirth practices among the British aristocracy from 1760 to…show more content…
The radical variation was due to the re-evaluation of the value of the child, who was not seen anymore as a short-term burden but as a long-term productive force by Western European government agencies. Children started being considered as necessary both for the production of wealth, and for the increase of military power of the nation. Accordingly, the duties of women towards their children changed. ‘The primary function of motherhood shifted from the biological function of childbearing to the nurturant function of child-rearing’. In this way, mothers became responsible not just for the generation of babies, but also for the raise of properly acculturated members of society and virtuous citizens. This tasks required women’s complete dedication to what Sharon Hays defines as ‘intensive mothering’, an exclusive, time-consuming wholly child-centred activity. The ideal mother was portrayed in this ideology as completely devoted to the care of others. Her supposed self-sacrificing nature turned her into the object of her child’s needs, completely abnegated by her role of keeper of home and morality. The maternal figure who dedicated herself to intensive mothering could not be considered ‘a subject with her own needs and interests’ anymore. Women’s fundamental role in the domestic sphere required their constant presence, and consequently caused female exclusion from the market economy. The new
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