Motherhood: How Should We Care for Our Children?

Motherhood: How Should We Care for Our Children?

Motherhood: How Should We Care for Our Children?

Motherhood: How Should We Care for Our Children?


Recent generations of women thought they could have it all: children and a full family life combined with a successful career. But who had time to wonder at what price and who pays? Working mothers, stay-at-home mothers, paid childcare, women without children: these are controversial topics that inspire passionate and divisive argument and constant media attention. Anne Manne is one of the most perceptive commentators in the debate, and in this timely new book, she tackles the issues. She looks at how we value motherhood and childhood, and asks at what point the rights of mothers might conflict with the needs of children. She explores the conflict between our society's glorification of the individual and the fundamental nature of parenthood which forces our focus and energy onto others. Sometimes confronting, always humane, Motherhood covers the debates over early institutional childcare, the problems of reconciling work and family life, the crisis of fertility, and the impact of the new capitalism on the changing landscape of childhood. Manne's is an impassioned and intelligent argument. By putting the questions differently, she comes to propose a fresh, new way to perceive feminism and motherhood.


'One's life is not a case
Except of course it is.'
Les Murray

My generation breathed in the assumptions of feminism as naturally as air. Our participation as equals in the traditional male worlds of work and achievement came more easily to us than perhaps to any previous generation of young women. It never occurred to me that Freud's aphorism characterising maturity as 'Lieben und arbeiten' (loving and working) ought to apply only to men, although by work I did not envisage necessarily paid work, but work in the sense of a central meaningful purpose in life. This would have been dependent upon the sense I felt of the importance—which I still hold to—of women being able to draw into their lives the capacity for economic independence, the possibility of making a contribution to the public realm, and the kind of human flourishing that may come with the use of one's talents.

Yet when I became a mother in the 1980s, I found it very difficult to integrate my deepest feelings with what feminism had taught me. The vocabulary of feminism and that of motherhood seemed not to join up. I came to a dead halt before the power of this new experience, as if those old signposts, for the moment, could illuminate no more. I found myself making the decision to go 'down among the children' for the early years of their life. That decision was for me quite unexpected, stepping 'out of the world', or the public realm, the world of work, and moving to what Hannah Arendt calls the world of labour in order to raise my children.

This book should not be regarded as a manifesto for what all women feel on the birth of their children. Quite the contrary. But I do know that some aspects of my experience are shared by many other women. During . . .

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