What is Intensive Mothering?
Have you ever known of a mother who puts herself before her children? It's not that uncommon. How about spending so much time caring for her child that she starts to get a little sick? I guess it happens sometimes, especially in today's society. Well, what if she will not allow her husband or partner to get involved because she thinks the spouse will not do the right job? That's a little extreme, isn't it? What if the mother devoted an entire day to her child, naming the day after the child and allowing the child to dictate the whole day's activities as he or she liked? That's where I would say the line is overdue to be drawn.
And yet this is not an uncommon way of raising a child, especially in this country. It's called intensive mothering, and I'm sure you all know a mother who sounds like the one described above.
Sharon Hays, who wrote the 1996 essay The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood, described "intensive mothering" as being self-consciously committed to child rearing. It involves being dedicated to her child to the point that she takes much better care of her child than herself, even if it means cutting back hours, or even setting aside a whole day for the child to do whatever he or she wants. Children need consistent nurturing by a single caretaker who will expend an abundance of energy, time, and resources for the child; this may also require research on what the child needs at every stage of development. Intensive mothers see themselves as the primary caregiver for the child; men cannot be relied upon for that. Intensive mothering, overall, is "child centered, expert-guided, emotionally absorbing, labor-intensive, and financially expensive." Children come first, period.
Basically, the ideology conflicts with that of the workplace, and the "dominant ethos of modern society." In fact, intensive mothering cannot be compared with work. It is the dominant ideology of how to appropriately raise a child in the United States today. Many American mothers tend to believe in intensive mothering; the ideological revolution encouraged middle-class, White women to stay at home and care for children, especially.
This seems unfortunate to me because, though I believe women don't need to prove themselves by entering the workworld against their will, it seems like there must be something in society that causes women to feel so strongly about their methods of raising a child. It's like the ideological revolution needs to be reversed so that women don't feel pressured to raise their children in such a way. Certainly it's a good idea to care deeply about your kid and his or her well being, but that doesn't mean dedicating your life to it so that it's unhealthy.
Have any of you ever known a mother like this? Did she burn out? It seems to me like such mothering could even cause resentment by a mother if the child does not seem to appreciate all that the mother has done, and the consequences could be horrendous. When I see mothering like this, it never really lasts after the first couple of years or so, but the mother in the essay continues with this though the child has entered elementary school.
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