Today and went to work and I was reminded of a few things. The idea of mother-blame is heavily rooted in the mindset of women/mothers and the professionals who work with them. Mother-blame takes the focus and responsibility off social solutions and places blame on women who are already a marginalized group. Many times, women are blamed for things beyond their control such as their childhood experiences, an abusive partner, lack of proper housing and a community with less than acceptable resources and services.
Our society simply has difficulty holding our social structures accountable for some of the social problems that exist for its people. We have lost sight that mothers are women with their own subjective realities and have alternate identities. The women in my community all live in one world, there may be some things in their world which are common, but the only thing that they can hold as real are their own experiences, opinions and perceptions.
It is important that those experiences, perceptions and opinions are understood and respected. I find it unrealistic to expect all women to be perfect in caring for their children. Furthermore, there are so many different types of mothering that should not be compared as being better or being worse.
There are so many competing factors that prevent women as mothers to care adequately for their children. Some mothers abuse drugs and/or alcohol, some neglect their children, some live with intellectual, physical and mental limitations, some live within the confines of their childhood experiences and many live in severe poverty.
Society has judgments of what are acceptable behaviours by women towards their children. Mother’s/women often bear the blame and burden for the behaviours and actions of their children.
When a child is abused, the mother is often blamed as the assumption is that she should have known what was happening to her child and should have protected her child in better ways. At every level a mother’s capacity is in question as she is investigated and sanctioned for her actions or inactions.
In my field I have heard other professionals say that, the system can not pity mothers and put the needs of their child second and children need to be believed at all cost. What is often forgotten is the reality that these women/mothers change significantly when they become mothers and as everyone knows, there is no guidebook that they can use. It is important that the women get a chance to tell their stories about their past, their present and their future. It becomes imperative that their experiences of their world is understood and they get completely lost in the process of raising their children.
I have come to realize that I lack the opportunity to really listen and respond to the experiences of the women I come in contact with. I have watched many women break down in front of me as they are reliving some traumatic experience that have brought us together.
It is important to me that the person sitting in front of me is given another chance to make better decisions for themselves and their children. I believe that our society must stop placing blame on a mother who leaves her child with a neighbor she hardly knows so she can go to work. Instead of judging that mother for her poor choice, we need to voice our concerns why affordable and universal child care is not already a reality in our country.
Some women have to mother their children in impoverished condition and have the economic costs of raising their children, sometimes not receiving child support from the fathers or enough financial assistance from the government. Having children can often put a halt to a woman’s education and/or career goals as they have to take time off to raise their child, struggle to secure proper child care or find a place that is affordable and appropriate.
The treatment of women in our society is the most primary form of social oppression and social injustice. It is quite possible that women have been the longest standing oppressed and marginalized group of people in our society. Women are often denied equality in the legal, political and economic arena and these become barriers to social justice in their lives. The reality is that some groups of people are rewarded with these same laws, policies and services that force women to the outskirts of society.
In order to make changes to the lives of oppressed individuals, privileged groups of people need to acknowledge the societal barriers that are present in their communities. In addition, they need to voice their concerns of oppression and challenge those in power to take notice of the conditions that trap individuals in a life of poverty and helplessness.
Some individuals make huge salaries and other individuals live paycheck to paycheck. People are working longer hours, being paid less money and part-time and contract work is ruling the labour market. For women, there is a reality of lower wages, limited employment opportunities and single parenthood. Also, their work in the home is not measured and not valued in financial gains.
In addition to this our government fails to take seriously the high rates of poverty, unemployment, unfair pay equity, lack of access to child care and many other important social issues. It is important that all people have a social responsibility to advocate for proper policies and programs that ensure equality and solidarity of all citizens.