Young mothers and middle-class morality

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You’re going to tell me how I’m a bad mother? Go ahead, I’m sure this will be riveting.

It is frustrating that in ‘Young Mothers and the Age-Old Problems of Sexism, Racism, Classism, Family Dysfunction and Violence’ Deborah Byrd provides proof that teen motherhood is not an epidemic in the western world. It is frustrating because even if teen pregnancy were on the rise, the supposed issue is one of middle-class morality. The state and its influence on society is not worried about the well being of these younger families, it is worried about the challenge against patriarchal mothering. Instead of admitting to this the image of young, single working-class and poor mothers are being painted by their oppressors, in order to destroy any social support and rallying around this challenge. These mothers are called welfare queens and drama queens, they are told that if they do not have enough money, they can not possibly properly care for, or even love, their children. Byrd makes an interesting point in how these young mothers are punished by state institutions as well as every day societies for being too young, yet they are being tried as adults.

These single mothers reject the idea that any father is better than no father. However, with so little guaranteed support for these women, it is common for them to share in class solidarity with their children’s fathers. Working-class and poor, young, single mothers may find more in common with these men they are no longer partnered with than with others they once considered their peers. In Miriam Toew’s Summer of My Amazing Luck Lucy watched the people she was grew up with go into careers and get married. Writer Ariel Gore asks a question to this change in, and exclusion from, social circles, “How could it be that the simple acts of getting knocked up and having a baby had alienated me from every single subculture I ever heard of?” Gore found that after she had her child she was different from everybody. She says she was different than people without kids, different from parents who were not considered to have had high risk pregnancies based on their age, different from people with husbands, and people who had financial security, “I understood all the culture messages I was getting,” she says. And then there are the people who fetishized single, young mothers, like what happens with Lucy when first meeting Hart. This fetishizing seems to happen with all roles given to women.

In addition to shunning these mothers from different social groups, society is constructed in a way to punish the need for strollers. Whether this means a ‘no stroller’ sticker on public transit, or social assistance offices having no area for mothers to park their strollers. I used this quote in my essay as well, because I think what the character of Lish says to a waiter is so true: “You know, you people remind me of those other people who put up signs in their store windows that say ‘No Strollers.’ Basically they’re saying No women and children. Especially no poor women who have to cart their kids and everything else around in strollers. I’d like to see a sign in a window that said ‘No suits’ or ‘No toupees’ or “No Body Odour’ for a change, you know?”  Lish is empowered in her way to reverse the “us versus them” dichotomy the state has created against young, low-income, single mothers.

Byrd found that white girls outnumber girls of colour in cases off teen pregnancies. White families statistically have more resources to keep the child. If the young woman and/or her family decides another family should adopt the baby, they can rest assured that a white baby has higher likelihood of being adopted. For young women of colour, their baby is more likely to end up in foster homes. Due to racist preconceptions it is widely assumed that girls of colour are more likely to be pregnant, because of racist stereotyping painting people of colour as hypersexualized and immoral.

The faults in young, single mothering are shared widely, while the skills honed in such life circumstances are not. Though higher incomes usually equate to better grades, since financial security alleviates a lot of labour and stress, student mothers have been found to be pretty successful in school. This success can be attributed to the organization needed in parenting being applied to schoolwork, as well as the drive to succeed when you are taking care of a family. Byrd does not use examples such as academic success to imply that young mothers have superhero powers, but this success is worth noting when the hegemonic message is saying young mothers are nothing good. These success stories are not shared because young mothers are rarely invited to share these stories and this can be frustrating. As Gore writes of her own experiences as a single, young mother, “Was I so naïve to imagine folks would just trust me on this one?”

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Reasons why my kid has called home from school

baby cats on baby cat phonesMy daughter seems to have a personal line from her school. A system was put in place to monitor her calls home, but that lasted a week. I get a call at least once a week. Here are some reasons why:

  • She ate soap, can she come home?
  • She feels she has done enough work today, can she come home?
  • She feels like going home. So, if I could call her she will be school until 3ish and I can reach her there. After that I will need to reach her at daycare.
  • To tell on pretty much anyone and everyone who has ever wronged her in any way.
  • Because she got in trouble for finding a salt bucket and throwing it on the snow. She wanted the snow to go away.
  • She ate seven grilled cheese sandwiches, can she go home?
  • Just to chat.
  • She knows I’m busy, but what about her step-dad, is he free?
  • She drank eight glasses of water, can she come home?
  • Her friend would like to talk to me.

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Empowerment through creation

Sweet crafting can be found at FloralManifesto!

Women have used making arts and crafts as a way to stimulate their minds through creativity as a way to maintain a sense of agency. In Miriam Toews’s Summer of My Amazing Luck the women at Half-A-Life Housing would make crafts like friendship bracelets, piñatas, and even sex toys. They would make things to sell, but also to prove their unique worth, whether it be to themselves or to a capitalist society that links a person’s worth to their bank account.

When writer Alice Walker writes about women’s creativity in ‘In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens’ she speaks of another layer to the working-class struggle that is affecting women of colour. Walker writes about black women living in a white supremacist world. Walker looks at her great-great grandmother’s generation. She says that in their lifetime it was a punishable crime for black people to read or write, making it so the creativity of her elders was pushed down by white supremacy and the demands of their white overseers. “They were Creators, who lived lives of spiritual waste,” Walker writes, “Because they were so rich in spirituality – which is the basis of Art – that the strain of enduring their unused and unwanted talent drove them insane.” She continues to write about poets, novelists, and essayists that were unable to share their talents or express themselves because they were black women. Black women like Philis Wheately, who Walker says that id she were white she, “Would have been easily considered the intellectual superior of all the women and most of the men in the society of her day.” Walker is saying that though the mothers she writes about are oppressed, they are using their skills, like the examples of making blankets and flower art, as a form of empowerment.

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The Western Militarization of Motherhood

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Western military understands the influence a mother has over her family. Like with any women’s power, the state wants to control this influence. This paper will look at the process the state goes through in order to gain control from mothers over the family home. This includes the perpetuation of limiting, socially constructed gender role scripting: that men protect the population and women reproduce it.  mother is told that in order to !e a good mother, she will prioritize national pride !efore all else and sacrificeher children for the so”called good of the nation. The state’s military also maintains racial and class hierarchies.  good mother means a white, middle class, heteronormative mother caring for the #tandard $orth merican %amily. nyone outside of this character is deviant, however they can lessen this deviant title !y aiding the military, and this idea is manipulated in the state’s favour. The safety and rights of women and children are often used to rationalize war it is women and families who are hurt !y it. Whether it is thesacrifice of children !y mothers, the high rates of domestic assault within military families, or the patriarchal moral regulation of all women in general, the military’s interest in the rights of women is shallow at !est. &n this paper & argue that western militarized motherhood is a part of patriarchal, institutionalized mothering. ‘ender roles and national interests re(uire mothers to !e martyrs !y sacrificing their sons for their country) a lot of work and money goes toward propagating this.

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Patriarchal, Empowering, and Feminist Mothering

different mothering types

In lecture on February 22, my Mothering and Motherhood professor Andrea O’Reilly said empowered mothering is better for children. She also says that empowered motherhood is mothering in disloyalty to patriarchal culture. On March 14, in tutorial, we discussed the differences between patriarchal, empowering, and feminist mothering.

Patriarchal motherhood is defined by men and is oppressive to women, inherent to patriarchal systems. This kind of motherhood not only defines what mothering is, but a woman’s identity. Throughout the year we have discussed how when talking about women and mothering, it seems completely acceptable to use “woman” and “mother” interchangeably. This is the language we know because we have learned under the patriarchy. A woman with children is not only a mother, and women without children are not “barren” or defined as “childless.” Yet, this labeling and setting expectations to meet these assigned labels is how patriarchal motherhood functions. Making “woman” and “mother” synonymous is also trans gender exclusionary.

Empowering motherhood works against patriarchal motherhood. It allows women to define mothering. Single mothers, low-income mothers, women of colour, queer mothering, communal mothering, any mothering that challenges the white, middle-class, heteronormative, Standard American Family structure is empowering motherhood. Empowered mothering, as discussed March 14, is not necessarily a purposefully feminist act. As well, activism is not required to be involved with empowered mothering. However, as O’Reilly says in the February lecture, empowered mothers tend to be political activists.

Feminist mothering is similar to empowered mothering, and is part of empowered mothering, but it is still a different category. Feminist mothering is especially different from patriarchal mothering. As discussed in the March tutorial feminist perspective theory is the understanding of what is not patriarchal. This type of mothering is activism by nature, recognizing that the personal is the political. Feminist mothering challenges gender inequality. In addition to re-defining gender roles, if not abolishing them completely, feminist mothering introduces thought that challenges intersectional forms of oppression like racism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, etc.

Empowered mothering puts the power in the hands of the mother, instead of the patriarchy. This empowerment is better for a mother’s health. This good health extends further to their children.

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