Do new mothers deserve our respect?
What happens when we start to respect the mother for birthing and nurturing her baby or babies?
Does the economy collapse?
Do men lose their place and their purpose?
Do women loll around luxuriously, pampered, growing useless and brain dead?
What are we afraid of? Whose fear are we carrying?
I have so many questions!
Above is a diagram of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs - maybe you have come across it before? When I was thinking about how we could improve a new mother’s experience (whether that is new to the 1st or the 11th child), I was thinking about where respect sits in this pyramid. My, fairly hotpotch and flung together, theory is that it straddles a few lines here. Firstly my eye was drawn to Esteem; if others respect us we have good self esteem? Hmm, no that doesn’t feel right - esteem should come from within no? OK, maybe Love/Belonging; our friends, family, community are the ones that respect us and help to belong - that sits a little better. And then I thought about Safety - if I don’t feel respected I feel uncertain, anxious and there is an unknown about how someone might treat me. I definitely do not feel safe. I think that respect is a base need and allows us to feel safe.
If I imagine… I am a new mother in the UK today with all of the feelings (oh so many feelings!) that it comes with, what is being asked of me? My imaginary person was working before she became pregnant (because her family need her income to pay for food and bills, her partner’s wage covers the rent and some extras like clothes and seaside trips). She has saved up to have a little bit of money to put towards nappies, clothes and a sling and support them while she is on statutory Maternity Pay. This is her first baby and second pregnancy. Her colleagues joked throughout her final trimester that she wouldn’t be coming back to manage the team once she had the baby - that her mind would go soft and she would like staying at home too much. She felt the need to show everyone she was pulling her weight near the final weeks, that she could still do her job just as well as the cover person, just as well as the men that managed the other teams. She loved her job and felt strange about leaving.
Once her baby arrived, after a long and emotionally exhausting labour with some parts she hadn’t felt in control of, she felt even more strange. She felt that her mind and body were unfamiliar and it was comforting to try to follow known paths of getting up, dressed, going to the shops, keeping up with friends and family. Actually, was it comforting? No, if she was really honest, she felt like she should be doing all these things - she must not let her self down. She felt exhausted by the fake smiles and her aching pelvis. When she was at work, weren’t they joking about exactly this? About how she would lose her strength and capability?
OK…enough imagining, hopefully I made my point - where is the love here?! Where is the group of women who have done this before, who are doing this now and who are happy to say THIS IS WHERE THE STRENGTH IS! It is strong to be a mother, it is strong to do what is best for you and your baby. If we are not respecting the role of a mother, how on earth can we expect mothers to feel safe, happy and to be the best that they can be in that role?
That’s probably enough ranting for a Thursday morning - but these thoughts were floating about my mind and I haven’t said hello in a while. So, hopefully you are suitably riled up to go and kick some butt this afternoon.
Oh and the video below gives an idea of what maybe we can be striving for alongside respecting the role of a mother…beautiful.