New Way of Working for 90s Mothers; Margaret Kitchen Says Life Is Now Much Harder for Women with Families

By Kitchen, Margaret | The Birmingham Post (England), January 27, 1998 | Go to article overview

New Way of Working for 90s Mothers; Margaret Kitchen Says Life Is Now Much Harder for Women with Families


Kitchen, Margaret, The Birmingham Post (England)


Since the 1960s, each generation of women has produced its thinkers and writers on the subject of motherhood.

Before that decade, which began to change womens lives, motherhood was not up for debate and it had a well-respected high profile in society.

While 50 per cent of women did go out to work at that time, because they needed the money for their families, full-time motherhood was seen as a valued occupation and mothers were respected for the work they did.

Since equality legislation and maternity leave, introduced in the 1 970s, opened up the workforce to the 79 per cent of mothers who now go out to work full or part-time, mothering has increasingly become an invisible activity, talked about as little as possible.

Now, women writers of the 1990s, mostly in their late 30s and early 40s, are having a re-think on the changes that have taken place and the current status quo for mothers.

The latest to join their ranks is Melissa Benn (daughter of politician Tony Benn), with a fascinating book, published this week, entitled Madonna and Child, Towards a New Politics of Motherhood, which weighs the prevailing arguments and suggests a new agenda for parents and society.

Many women might question the "politicisation" of motherhood, but never was it so politicised as just after the Second World War, when the Family Allowance (now called Child Benefit) was introduced and paid directly to mothers.

It was a time when women who had worked during the war to keep the economy going, were being persuaded back into the home to vacate the jobs for the returning male breadwinners.

Like many women of her generation, Melissa Beun was in her late 30s when she gave birth to her first child, shortly followed by a second daughter.

Hers was the first generation to be able to put motherhood on hold.

It was probably the first to be so surprised by the overpowering emotions of motherhood and the first in such large number to have to deal with ejuggling" parenting and paid work with the resulting exhaustion.

Benn was surprised to find, however, that the only person she could really talk to in depth about her daughters, was her mother.

Baby talk with women friends came a long way behind work and other subjects

It was almost as if revelling in motherhood had become a taboo.

While working-class women of the past (and many of the present) could rely on relatives to care for their children, today a lot of families do not live iii close proximity and anyway, grannies and aunties are out working too. …

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New Way of Working for 90s Mothers; Margaret Kitchen Says Life Is Now Much Harder for Women with Families
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