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#184 - A Manifesto For New Motherhood with Eliane Glaser
Episode 1842nd March 2022 • Happy Mama Movement with Amy Taylor-Kabbaz • Amy Taylor-Kabbaz
00:00:00 00:34:52

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Why, after decades of social progress, is motherhood still so much harder than it needs to be? It seems that while Mothers are trying hard to fit into all sorts of identities, while also losing their own. Eliane Glasser is a writer, mother and joins Amy for this honest and upfront conversation, including discussion about:

  • How feminism has almost left Motherhood behind.
  • Guilt, resentment, anger and the feelings of injustice and isolation, particularly after years within the COVID pandemic culture.
  • Being more separated than ever, with judgement, types of parenting, sleeping, food and the social patterns that have emerged from that.
  • Gap and gatekeeper syndrome and media portrayals.

The discussion between Eliane and Amy is rich, exciting, progressive and heart-warming at the same time. There needs to be a change in the way mothers are valued and seen in our society. We are here to spread the whispers of Matrescence together.

To find out more about Eliane please visit https://elianeglaser.org/

Find out more and receive your Matrescence map here https://www.amytaylorkabbaz.com/matrescence/

Transcripts

[:

[00:00:33] They're knowing and my own elders and teachers.

[:

[00:00:58] In her book, Motherhood, a Manifesto, Eliane bravely and beautifully asks questions of why, after all this time, we are still experiencing such isolation, struggle and depletion as mothers.

[:

[00:01:52] Why do we still have a belief around motherhood? That it is only up to us. Eliane is a writer, radio producer, and research fellow at the school of advanced study at the University of London. And she brings her insight into motherhood and her own experience in her book. And in this conversation challenges me,

[:

[00:02:32] Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining me. We have been trying to talk about your book, your amazing book, and your work in motherhood for many months, but I think today's the day we're meant to have this conversation. So thank you for being here.

[:

[00:02:52] Before we talk about motherhood in 2022. Can you just share with the audience with this amazing community of parents, how you came to write that book, your experience on becoming a mother and the questions that you wanted to ask and the answers you wanted to find?

[:

[00:03:37] I think I was really terrified that that would all go out the window. And I think for reasons that perhaps we'll discuss, I don't think it was surprising that I was terrified. Because, I think we're told by society. Everything's going to change, you know, give up your old life. And, you know, in so many ways, things do change and it is really hard.

[:

[00:04:26] I think, I like to be in control, which I think is not, you know, not a control freak. I just, um, the idea of giving up control in this moment of childbirth, you know, pain. And the incredible transformation that childbirth is. I think I was really particularly scared of that moment. And I think.

[:

[00:05:45] And as it turned out my life and my son's life were in danger. So I just felt like this really confirmed my worst fears of not being listened to, in childbirth. And that's an experience that so many women share that they asked for pain relief. They asked to stay in the hospital because they're scared it's their first baby, but they're kind of fobbed off.

[:

[00:06:34] And when I pressed the button to call for help, the implication was that I really was being demanding and, uh, that I should just get on with myself. And I just thought, I can barely move. Um, and, and yet, you know, instead of feeling. Um, indignant or aggrieved or angry about this. I remember just thinking.

[:

[00:07:43] And, and then of course the guilt sets in that you're being selfish. Um, and I just, the reason I wanted to write this book, As a fairly self-aware kind of feminist women, all of these feelings of guilt and self criticism. Um, I was feeling all of them and I, and I just felt that there was a great injustice being done.

[:

[00:08:55] And how come you know, even now we're suffering so much, even though we love being mothers and we love our children, that's never in question. Why is it so much harder than it, needs to be.

[:

[00:09:32] Not in an academic sense, but as a Mum, like what was. Things that you discovered that changed the way you felt?

[:

[00:10:07] You're isolated from your peers. You can't compare notes. It's not really the done thing to complain. This is a great, kind of a stiff, stiff upper lip and, kind of a sense of gratitude. And, um, uh, you know, let's not complain you, others have it so much worse than me. At least, my baby's fine, after this traumatic birth, oh, I can't complain. I've only got two kids. Other people have three or four, um, And, and there's just this sense of you're complaining it's somehow, I don't know, is it, I remember going to, meet my other mothers, my antenatal class after the birth. And it was like, we had a brief window where we could say actually, things didn't go to plan, but then quite soon, this sense of, oh, well, you know, buck up.

[:

[00:11:16] And then I think just the baby, you know, I think there's this really pervasive sense that the mother and baby you're you're in a zero sum game. You know, what you, uh, lose the baby gains, what the baby gains you lose. And that very much in pregnancy, you know, if you have a drink, I was a baby looses. You might get some rest and relaxation, but the baby will lose out.

[:

[00:12:02] It's almost as if the baby is incredibly vulnerable, um, being the baby's needs are kind of set against feminism. So to any feminist gains where those will be a loss to the baby.

[:

[00:12:16] that?

[:

[00:12:18] Why, why, why has feminism forgotten motherhood so much? Like, I don't expect you to have a complete answer here, but it blows my mind, like it does for you in the book as I was reading it. And I was like, oh God, I'm so with you, Why? Why? Are we so unable to make a change in this area when we've made such changes in everything else?

[:

[00:12:58] maternal ambivalence. You know, Donald Winnicott's, he's one of the leading lights of child psychology.

[:

[00:13:28] Uh, at certain times and, another great book, by, the, psychoanalyst was Zika Parker torn into all about maternal ambivalence. Why it's natural to feel ambivalent about being a mother, about all the sacrifices you've made about all the things you can't, you can no longer do your freedoms, your relationship with your partner, your job.

[:

[00:14:39] um, it's late in the evening. I lose my temper. I feel terribly guilty and beat myself up. But you know, the, the advice on anger now, which is issued by like parenting TV programs or experts in the media. Is it absolute kind of zero tolerance approach. It's all about, mothers should never express anger, you know, count to 10, go, go into another room, understand the children's feelings.

[:

[00:15:58] But I think the pendulum has really swung so far the other way, this kind of paternal attitudes in pregnancy. What you're allowed to eat and the food you should avoid. Advice sort of avoiding this and that and the terrible consequences of ignoring that advice or putting our child in nursery in childcare, you know, the terrible consequences of that.

[:

[00:16:46] And when you feel so protective and worried and anxious about our, our children are our babies and then our children, how they they're growing up, that in a way, you know, we become our own worst enemies. We undermine that fight for equality by that little questioning voice. Oh, maybe we're not doing enough for them?

[:

[00:17:41] And the, society would be up in arms.

[:

[00:18:12] And I feel like at the moment in motherhood, we're actually more separated than ever. We judge each other. We put labels on each other. There's different types of parenting. There's different types of sleeping. There's different types of food. There's different types of labels. I feel like we're separating from each other more than ever.

[:

[00:18:33] Yeah, I totally agree. And I think if you see those sort of social patterns that have emerged over the past few decades, and it was so individualised, privatised, isolated in our own homes, that those kind of networks, supporting mothers and brought mothers together in the past have really fallen in a way, both kind of extended family networks, but also institutions, you know, clubs and societies and all of those kinds of socials.

[:

[00:20:14] All of those wars have really divided mothers in the least helpful way possible.

[:

[00:20:48] One of the questions that the journalists were contemplating and putting to you was why is it that after all this time, father's participation seems to have flatlined. Is it not only are we in a situation where it's not changing for mothers, but we're also in a situation where, as you beautifully said, father's participation has flatlined that we don't seem to be making many breakthroughs in that area.

[:

[00:21:25] No. And you know, it's not that there haven't been, haven't been any shifts too. There's been slight shifts, but. But Yeah.

[:

[00:21:53] the headlines, I think it's because the media, they get so understandably tired, the same saying the same things over and over again. Um, you know, it's so unfair, so unequal that it's almost like it's more interesting to have a story about hands on Dads, I understand really skews the picture and, you know, although you might see a few more Dads pushing prams around the park, you know, at my kid's school, you go to a parents evening or a curriculum meeting.

[:

[00:23:06] And I think that it really has been shocking because then you realize it's not just at work. Um, it's that they just, they're just not doing it even when they have the chance and I'm not blaming that. And, you know, I think there's this, you know, set of really deep seated, structural and attitudinal, um, divide that set in.

[:

[00:23:34] I remember my friends even on the first night when she was in hospital and it was the same with me. And I had partner came in the next day and already she knew so much more than him about how to change a nappy. How do you know how to hold a baby?

[:

[00:24:08] And so, you know, it's, it's not appropriate to blame men, but I think there's a huge imbalance, a glaring of imbalance, even within supposedly very liberal and progressive, couples, that I see around me, you know, progressive and feminist men. But when it comes to the home front, just, they don't step up and it's kind of, embarrassing in a way it's shameful, but it's imbalanced if it's kept behind closed doors. And I dunno, is it perpetuated by? I mean, I think I've, protected my own sense of dominion over the kids, you know, because. If that's what you spend your time doing, you want to be good to sit and you want to have some sort of sense of agency.

[:

[00:25:17] at having to do it all the time. And so I think there's a real, really common spiral there.

[:

[00:25:47] Um, but also at other times, it's the only thing that they feel seen for. For the last day, 10 days, two years. So it's so complex, isn't it? It, it makes me sit here and think so. Is it any wonder we're not making any progress because how did we get ourselves out of this? Especially after two years of a pandemic, like, what is, what is our way out of this, of having mothers experience this differently?

[:

[00:26:38] in the past, you know, mothers who in a way, had a lot more latitude, um, even in areas that we consider much more repressive like the 19th century or the 1950s.

[:

[00:27:11] Um, if you look at the science also, the evidence really doesn't support, the kind of paternalistic and, anxiety-inducing and kind of punishing attitudes that you see in the media that evidence just isn't there to support it. And, and so once you see those things, It's possible to then start to feel, um, indignant and justified and entitled to, to a sense of, if not anger then,

[:

[00:28:13] too often we don't, we just would beat ourselves up. Rather than think that we are entitled to having anything for, for ourselves. So having any time to ourselves or to have any kind of attempt at equality with our partners or ability to, you know, to really have a fulfilling job that doesn't make us, run all the time between home and work and feel terrible about being late for everything all the time.

[:

[00:29:40] And that was really the thing that helped most of all. So, and then I think, you know, Finally it's about lobbying for structural solutions. So, you know, lobbying politically for,

[:

[00:30:10] That'd be so much more time in, in the week for childcare. Um, and you know what so many parents want any way men as well as women. So, you know, maybe that's one good thing to come out of the pandemic. Is these ideas about changing work practices, I think are much more talked about now than they were before.

[:

[00:30:39] I hope so. I said just before we started recording that, I have this beautiful community of parents around the world. And, you know, at the start of this year, they're really telling me how depleted they are. That way we're here again another year and it's on my shoulders and trying to balance this. And so I wanted to see if we could obviously talk about the amazing research and insights that you've been able to bring better, hopefully, and on a little hope that, and I love your solutions.

[:

[00:31:35] I really do.

[:

[00:31:54] Homeschool. It's been like an extension of all the worst aspects of motherhood. You don't being stuck in the, oh, well here, you know, business as usual in many ways. I mean, I only way worse because we're having to homeschool as well, but, um, you know, it's, I think there's, that's one trajectory. Yeah, the clock goes back, but I really hope that we go the other way and that it opens up a conversation about different, um, ways of working and equality between partners and that we will see, start to see some change.

[:

[00:32:41] Oh, it's been a real pleasure.

[:

[00:33:07] That there are ways we can change the conversation around motherhood in the workplace, in our families and in our community. You can grab a copy of Motherhood, a Manifesto by Eliane online or at your local bookstore or library, and also go online to read more about her research and insights. At elianeglaser.org.

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[00:33:45]

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[00:34:12] Let's bring it to light together. To find out more about my matresence.

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