Making Modern Mothers: Ethics and Family Planning in Urban Greece

By Heather Paxson | Go to book overview

1
Realizing Nature

Phoebe and I were sitting in the shade of a patio umbrella in the courtyard of the Athens school where she worked as an administrative assistant. Carefully sipping her iced coffee so as not to spill it on her immaculate linen blouse, Phoebe said to me:

I believe that with having a child comes as well the fulfillment of the woman. You are completed as a woman. Now, to tell the truth, beyond all these things—you know, with the feminist movements and all that—you can't change your nature. The nature of a woman is to have children. We can't change this at all. The woman is completed having a child. 1

With these words, Phoebe explained her passing comment to me that she “of course” would like to have children. She had never had a child during eight years of marriage because she and her former husband “couldn't communicate. I thought about what a problem it would be if we tried to raise a child together, she told me, “and so I decided not to have a child, consciously. Prior to working at the language school, Phoebe had held a variety of office jobs and for a short time owned a clothing boutique on Varnava Square in Pangrati. I had come to know Phoebe as an energetic forty-year-old woman who dressed fashionably, spoke fluent French and serviceable English, enjoyed her work, and had a wide circle of friends. Early on in my stay in Athens, I was intrigued that Phoebe, while asserting that women are incomplete if they do not become mothers, also believed she had acted responsibly in deciding not to bring a child into a troubled marriage.

Phoebe is not alone. Visitors to Greece—especially North Americans like myself—immediately impressed by the way Greek adults treat children

-1-

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