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    Motherhood and Roles in Society

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    While people navigate through their respective roles in society, the public sees vastly different pressure points for men and women. In the article provided by the Pew Research Center, ‘large majorities say men face a lot of pressure to support their family financially (76%) and to be successful in their job or career (68%); much smaller shares say women face similar pressure in these areas. At the same time, seven-in-ten or more say women face a lot of pressure to be an involved parent (77%)” (Parker, K., Horowitz, J. M., & Stepler, R. 2019). Additionally, recent reports on female job statistics indicate that most mothers of children under three years of age are working, with most full-time work hours (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2009). Nevertheless, full-time employment rates for single mothers with young children have gradually increased over the past few years to reach around 75 percent in 2007, whereas part-time employment levels have marginally decreased. Such patterns have been due to a variety of changing economic conditions including, but not limited to, the lack of part-time jobs that offer living wages and/or benefits, a general decrease in men’s earnings, and the need for double incomes to sustain many families. These job trends often indicate that full-time employed mothers are developing their mothering identity while their children are very young. Researchers have therefore stressed the importance of taking into account the perceptions of mothers about the role of mother in the context of full-time employment. However, mothering is a central part of ‘doing gender’ for women, society views too heavily on women being an involved parent, entirely disregarding females other responsibilities not involving their children, simultaneously creating a culture of intensive motherhood.

    Intensive motherhood has evolved over many centuries to emerge as the dominant parenting ideology of our culture. To define, intensive mothering “is a gendered model that advises mothers to expend a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money in raising their children” (Hays 1996.). Although mothering practices in the United States have varied over time, this kind of mothering is found most prevalent throughout. The intensive mothering philosophy is supported by the new theoretical foundation which insists that “no woman is complete unless she has children, that women remain the best primary caregivers of children, and that a woman has to devote her entire physical, psychological, emotional and intellectual well-being, 24/7, to her children” (Douglas and Michaels 2004). Moreover, this parenting model portrays children as innocent and precious and suggests that moms should be primarily responsible for using ‘child-rearing approaches that are child-centered, [expert-led], emotionally absorbent, labor-intensive, and financially costly’ (Hays 1996). As a result of these external factors contributing towards the intensive motherhood philosophy, researchers suggested that women spend too much time and energy on their position as mothers, resulting in a generation of privileged children, tired mothers, and a general decline in the status of women.

    Based on the full-time employment challenges acute mothering beliefs and failure to meet the interpersonal standards of extreme mothering beliefs, this can lead to feelings of shame for mothers who try to stick to traditional concepts of ‘good mother’ in full-time employment. Collectively, the empirical research on mothering shows that intense mothering values are prevalent in American culture, and on average it is believed, full-time employed mothers are less likely than nonemployed mothers to endorse an intensive mothering ideology (Hays, 1996).

    “Ideologies may be viewed as societally defined ideational structures that exist to permit latent dimensions of the psyche to become manifest in the external world.” (Koenigsberg R. n.d.) Moreover, ideologies execute psychic roles, allowing the transformation into the reality of basic wishes, delusions, anxieties, and conflicts. Once a currency is captured by an ideology, people act in the interests of the ideology. Thought and behavior tend to be created outside of the self by a system of beliefs. Furthermore, ideologies are influenced by cultural, social and political backgrounds, and values are nestled within them. On the cultural level, ideologies exist, similar to the idea of liberalism in the political context, and thus presume an abstract value. So, ideologies are rendered separate, measurable manifestations by their underlying beliefs. Therefore, an ideology can be established and characterized by the sequence of beliefs that come together to justify its existence. Throughout American society, the intensive motherhood ideology was formed and eventually executed based on earlier theoretical foundations surrounding family detailing the mother as the caretaker and the father as the breadwinner. The ideology of intensive motherhood is considered by several scholars to be the dominant ideology of mothering in contemporary Western culture. Much of what has been published about intensive mothering ideology is philosophical and presents intense mothering ideology as a set of beliefs and expectations about what it means to be a ‘good mother’ and the child-rearing behavioral and psychological elements that represent these beliefs.

    In the 1970s, ‘parent’ gained widespread use as a verb, which is also the case since book parenting erupted. During the development of book parenting, stemmed the later ideologies which later created the foundation for intensive motherhood in the 1990s and 2000s. During this period spanning over 40 years, the perception of mothering has had little change. The time parents spend in their children’s presence has not changed much, but today parents spend more time on hands-on childcare. Time spent on activities such as reading with kids; doing crafts; taking them to lessons; watching recitals and games, and helping with homework has greatly increased. “Today, mothers spend nearly five hours a week on that, compared with 1 hour 45 minutes hours in 1975” (Miller, C. C. 2018). Subsequently, “the new trappings of intensive parenting are largely fixtures of white, upper-middle-class American culture, but researchers say the expectations have permeated all corners of society, whether or not parents can achieve them” (Miller, C. C. 2018). No matter what, the entrapments of intensive mothering will follow every demographic and social class of mothers. Also, mothers will always be viewed as the primary caretakers for children. So, to answer the question, “will this gender ideology, attitude, or norm likely change in the next 10-20 years?” The answer is no because these intensive mothering beliefs of viewing children of sacred, the responsibility of individual mothers, and intensive methods of childrearing will never be changed or dispelled by society for mothers to take on another less stressful form of mothering that does not interfere with their lives every day.

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