Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Playing the Mum Card

Events have moved so swiftly on the political scene recently that Andrea Leadsom's precise thinking when speaking about the advantage to herself of being a mother may never now be completely examined. The focus has entirely shifted away from her and onto what Theresa May will do first as the new Conservative Party leader. At least for now, it doesn't matter nearly so much what Andrea Leadsom really meant.

I imagine that - given she was being informally interviewed by a Times reporter - she may have seen an opportunity to portray herself as very much the relaxed family-orientated person, with not only a mother's direct understanding and knowledge of what makes younger people tick, but an appreciation of the sort of things they worry about at the beginning of their adult lives.

Not only this: a mother has an entirely natural concern to see that her chicks do well. She could convey to the younger generations - who might feel let down and discouraged by the outcome of the Referendum - that under her direction their future will be in safe hands. Despite being so right-wing and Brexity.

So if all that was in her own mind, then personally I think she had a good point to make in the interview. It was unfortunate that it didn't come out as well as intended, and that the Times reporter, alert for an angle that might bring her down, wrote it up as an attack on childless Theresa May.

A lesson, then, that all the words a politician might utter need to be very carefully considered before they pass his or her lips! (Although that leads directly to another perennial complaint, that no politician will commit themselves to a simple answer, nor a spontaneous one. They can't win)

Well, what about it. Are birth-parents the best-placed to study the ways of their children, and by extension all other children? And is a good parent the best person to watch over a particular child's steps into adult life, and make sure they have all possible opportunities to get on and be a success?

This question matters, because if a female person has never been a mother by choice or natural circumstances - as is the case with Theresa May, and indeed myself - some would say that it turns such a woman into a second-class citizen where children are concerned; the notion here being that if you have never given birth, if you have never personally raised children through their formative years, then you are disqualified from having an opinion on children, and especially disqualified from acting sensibly and caringly on their behalf, even if you are otherwise proven to be a sensible and caring person. Is there anything in that? Or is it just a female prejudice, mums versus the women who go through life not being mums?

It's worth pointing out at once that men do not give birth, and yet most of the top people who decide on the best medical care for mothers, including such things as the right to an abortion, are male. And most politicians who have the power to influence the ongoing lives of mothers and their children are male. Isn't that a bit odd? Isn't is stranger still that women allow all these male experts to pontificate on their special needs, when no natal man, not one of them, has yearned to become pregnant, experienced nine months of carrying a child in their womb, endured childbirth, gone through all the post-natal tribulations there might be, bonded as only a mother can with their child, and become - till death do them part - that child's maternal touchstone and rock?

And yet men are given, almost automatically, the right to have the main say, the 'expert' say - as if they really know - on all matters relating to motherhood. And they can usually back up that right by quoting the words of medical supremos (doctors and psychologists), and, in many cultures, religious supremos too (once again, mostly or exclusively male). It sticks in my throat. Maybe it sticks in yours too.

So if men generally are given this big say on what is good for mothers and the rising generation, why is there this idea that childless women are not so qualified to do the best thing for the young? There's an illogicality here, a double-standard.

Where did the idea that mothers are supreme among women, and prized above other women, arise?

I'm guessing religion. In the Christian arena, there is the special position of Mary, mother of Jesus, whose role was, and still is, promoted as the ideal for all women to aspire to.

In so-called primitive religions, there is the special position of the fertile and nubile woman, whose bodily capability will ensure the survival of the tribe into future generations.

Where any religion has an absolute hold on society, and maintaining the population is a vital consideration, and children are property to be married off to advantage, the mother has high status as a baby-producer and child-rearer (though, in the main, as nothing else) - far exceeding that of her unmarried or barren sisters. I'm thinking that the root of 'mother knows best' lurks deep in all of this.

Mind you, if I'm honest, I wouldn't want to be a mum if you paid me a fortune. It's an enormous responsibility, and a thing you need to dedicate yourself to lifelong. If you have the temperament for it, then it's fine. But if you haven't, then I'd argue that it's best not to create a baby at all, and look for another role. In the modern world a woman can be many, many other things than a mother. She can be Prime Minister, for instance. And it may be that a woman in high office, who must give the job her utmost time and attention, is better-placed to do that job well if she is without distractions at home.

1 comment:

  1. Prime ministers have extra problems if they have children and there is hell to pay when they leave them in pubs. Once out on their own at any age their children will cause international chaos by getting lost in a desert or just going out getting loutishly drunk underage.

    There is a lot to be said for someone who has had the courage to defies convention and peer pressure to have children. Just watch mothers fight to park as close as possible to a school gate to see that they are not to be trusted with priority concerns other than for their own brood.

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