MaMa-Feminista

Discourse on the intersections of politics, feminism, and motherhood.

Thursday, May 25

Oh Capitalism!


Installing new bedroom furniture and painting the walls presented some interesting obstacles this past weekend. Let's just say the Baby Einsteine was in full throttle. Placing your child in front of the T.V is considered by some horrendous. Some child development 'experts' denounce any television until the child is two years old while companies like Sesame Street and Baby Einstein produce videos and toys that also cater to young children and babies ages zero to three months. While I think it is entirely unrealistic to expect the television and multimedia world to not assist in some capacity I also see the other side which concludes that any audio visual activities should most likely not act as the primary activity that your child is partaking in and is not as benefical as good ole fashion parent child interaction.
Currently, information is transferred via a multitude of venues. The old school parenting publications are becoming obsolete as many mothers are creating a world wide parenting forum on the internet (see mommy blogs). This allows for mother-to-mother communication in contradiction to consumer/mother-to-publication communication. The topics up for investigation vary widely and include diverse opinions and alternative dialogue in regards to parenting. In a society where the how-to advice is overwhelming and entrenched in the idealization of motherhood and consumer culture, it isn't surprising that one would get a bit overcome with confusion, guilt, anger, and or indecisivness. Passages such as the one below are reminescent of the abstract warnings of terror that pervade our nightly news.

"Do You have a child from newborn to aged six? If yes, this web site is probably one of the most important web sites that you have reached. Do you know that early childhood experiences are critical to the emotional and intellectual development of a child? During these early years, 75% of brain growth is completed. Did you seize this opportunity to nurture your most precious one? Most importantly, do you know how?"

Did you buy your gas masks and/or stock your pantry with canned goods and bottled water?

All of this contemplation stemmed from the encumbering Christmas holiday season. Of course it's only the end of May, but in our family some like to shop all year around compiling rooms full of gifts for the marathon family Christmas that takes hours on end, is dicated by the family patriarch in a somewhat organized fashion, but then always ends up a free for all with the patriarch escaping to the front porch for a smoke. As a precaution I have learned to search websites for the things I would like my child to have, and this proves a daunting task. The endless amounts of educational toys and learning apparatuses has become insane, partially because each item claims to enhance or increase your child's cognitive/intellectual/emotional development. I don't think I've ever come into contact with what I would label a stupid, unintelligent child but nevertheless we believe that these toys, which my six month old is enchanted by for a total of thirty minutes max, will somehow make them smarter, well adjusted, responsible adults later in life.
Whatever happened to the old fashioned big wheel, or the walker that did just that assist a child who was not quite mobil yet to get around at lightening speed? Now, every walker I find has an array of crazy dangling objects that play music, vibrate, blink, and rattle all at the same time. They are virtually surrounded by battery operated stimuli. Whatever happened to those cardboard blocks I remember so well from kindergarden. I'll tell you what happened to them; they became demoted to the on-line order only catagory at Toys-R-Us, perhaps due to the fact that people rarely buy them. On the flip side I was happy to find toys that spoke in Spanish and/or French. Even those toys were deemed on-line order only as well, but nevertheless they exist. I certainly don't expect my child to be fluent in three languages before he enters highschool, but I think children that are exposed to different languages and cultures early on will "hopefully" develop a more tolerant disposition toward difference.
Clearly not all parenting situations are the same and different ideals will facilitate different parenting tactics. Personally, I'm speaking from an area of the United States that is predominently white, conservative, middle class, religous, and heterosexual; so for me having those choices becomes important when compiling a Christmas list for my child. Capitalism is therefore a blessing and a burden. It constructs a money-centric culture but on the flip side makes and resources available if one has the money. I can afford to purchase my child all those crazy toys that will magically turn him into the CEO of a Fortune 500 company (if he's left handed of course) and I choose not too for in the long term I would rather him develop his own sense of desire, imagination, and consequence. It might be an unrealistic utopian fantasy but perhaps in the future we can all support diverse parenting choices eradicating the judgemental and critical messages that only place pressure and stress on all parents and children. I can have my fantasies can't I?

Tuesday, May 9

Mommy's Status=Baby's Status



An interesting finding emerged today showing a direct link between the status of mothers and that of their children. How is it possible that the United States is located at the bottom of the list for infant mortality rates? Well, considering that the infant mortality rate is on the rise in the US, it is telling that the majority of deaths disporportionately affect minority women. For example, of all US births 17% are to African American women and 33% of all low-birthwieght babies are born to African American women. Now ignorance would drive an individual to conclude that it is somehow the mother's fault, but clearly there is a deeper issue; institutionalized racism. The study noted that "Japan was among a number of nations highly ranked mainly because they offer free health services for pregnant women and babies, while the United States suffers from disparities in access to health care." The agendas of some are morally driven with a focus on family and the progress of our nation's children, but I guess it's easier to place blame on the mother for the death of her child than to look closely at public policy, the corporate world of health care, and racism.

Monday, May 8

Moms Rise Up!




In American culture today a large amount of ink and lip service is paid to the issue of motherhood; this blog not excluded. The Today Show just this morning reported on yet another book "This Is How We Do It: The Working Mother's Manifesto," by Carol Evans, all while running conflicting perspectives from stay-at-home and working mothers which interestingly enough has no relevance to the book's premise that helps working mothers organize by providing tips; alas the media driven mythological divide continues. Even though text and visual representations through interviews and opinionated journalism pieces get seen and heard they rarely ever facilitate actual policy change.
MomsRising.org is working to bring attention to the issues mothers and fathers face in general and when entering the workforce. Individuals can go to their website and sign a petition promoting family-friendly policies and get information on maternity and paternity leave, open flexible work, t.v. and after school programs, health care for all kids, excellent childcare, and realistic and fair living wages.
It is estimated that over 70% of mothers work in some capacity either part-time or full-time outside the home with the estimate excluding those mothers who work from home. These statistics are relevant but also reflect the notion that mothering is not work. Mothers work 100% of the time whether they are working outside of the home or in the home as a stay-at-home mom. The media, with this never ending idealization of specific kinds of mothers and maternal behavior, including the ceaseless advice, suggest that there exists agreed upon norms. Even if we as individual mothers believe these iconic representations to be proposterous, we assume we will be judged and criticized harshly by not abiding by them. Currently the dialogue remains situated around mothers. Family-friendly policies insinuates that parenting is a partnership and brings much needed attention to the benefits of eradicating stigmas attached to both stay-at-home and working mothers by approaching parenting in a new dimension.
Please go to MomsRising.org and give your support for the implimentation of family-friendly policies.