What is Maternal Feminism? These are the core beliefs of All Mothers Work:
- Our name was born from the frustration of hearing the regular lie and cliché that mothering is not ‘real work’. We seek to repudiate, expose and destroy the lazy, demeaning and untrue stereotypes about mothering, and stay at home mothers, such as: mothers just sit around all day doing nothing, mothering is easy, mothers do not use their brains, women use motherhood as an excuse to ‘opt out’ of real life and ‘real work’, and that being a SAHM is a ‘lifestyle choice’ for the well-off and privileged. We further challenge people to ask themselves what it means if these notions are untrue (and they are). What, indeed, does it mean, if large numbers of women, perhaps highly-educated, chose to stay at home with their children at the price of great financial sacrifice to their family. And why would that choice be any more authentic than, say. a teenage mother on an estate choosing to stay at home with her children? What is it that they are prizing more, and how, and why.
- We believe that the negative way mothers and mothering are treated in our society, and portrayed by our media and government, reflects deeper problems with equality, worth and value in society. The majority of the world’s women and girls will be mothers or carers at some or all stages of their lives, and if this is not respected, made a focus, or not valued in one’s feminism, and if our concepts of what constitute work remain limited and blinkered, then this is merely internalised patriarchy, not women-centred politics or activism. If the ‘original’ work of women is not respected by society, no work done by women has a chance for true equality. Thus, our cause supports all women, working for pay or not, mothers or not.
- We also believe that the current neoliberal, 3rd-wave feminism is not working for women, and is, indeed, highly damaging. By only being able to find expression in an androcentric and capitalist culture, it has come to value and often ape the attributes of those monoliths as female ’empowerment’, even though those are actively detrimental and offensive to women and female* realities. Identity politics, aversion to analysis, and a denial of the material reality of female oppression, are harming feminism, and are a direct erasure of the experiences, bodies, lives and rights of mothers in particular.
- Thus, we believe that we need to create a new school of Feminism with the power and vitality of female strength as exemplified by mothering, at its core. All Mothers Work is this new way forward. A great many families are already thriving through living this way, even if that is not a conscious ideological choice. We employ radical feminist analysis, although one does not have to identify as such to be a member or supporter.
- We believe in the importance of mothers being with their children as much as possible. We are pro-stay at home mother, although our reasons why, and interpretation of its vital worth, differ greatly from the conservative model of ‘traditional family values’ that people might more readily associate with the promotion of SAHMs.
- We believe in equality of all forms of parenting and family. Children need love, stability, attention, gentle caring, understanding, their needs met, and play. However one becomes a parent, whatever sort of family one builds and maintains, is immaterial. We reject the notion of a hierarchy of family model, and support, welcome and celebrate all parents. Whatever your age, relationship status, sexuality, socio-economic class or financial situation, we are on your side.
- We believe that in heterosexual relationships, men must be fully aware of their privilege and male socialisation and work constantly at thinking and behaving in ways that to reject these and continue the usual damaging and unacceptable familial patriarchal patterns. The attitude and contribution of male partners to their family must reflect that they acknowledge the value of mothering and all other work women might do, and support her in this. Male partners need to pull their weight around the home and with the children in their family unit, and not see their paid work as superior, or an excuse to contribute to the family and home less than females, once they are outside their workplace. The same goes for the parent in receipt of a wage within same-sex relationships with a stay-at-home parent. Truly egalitarian and respectful attitudes need to be modelled for children not just by mothers, or the stay at home parent. New concepts of contribution, work and worth need to be embraced by men as much as, if not more so, than women. We believe that a change in these values benefit men just as much as women (see next point).
- We reject patriarchal, androcentric and misogynist notions of what constitutes worth, value and status within our society. We reject capitalism, and the inequality and problems it causes. We reject the current work culture in the UK. People in the UK work for pay for too long, and are encouraged to view work as the most important factor in life (or at least appear to). Furthermore, it too often forces traditional gender roles onto couples (even same-sex partners), which creates resentment in the partner at home, or who ends up doing most of the housework and childcare (usually the woman), a distancing in the paid-working partner from the connection to, contribution to, and reality of, family life and the running of a home, and a general imbalance and sense of hierarchy. The family must not operate as a stand-in model of hegemony that upholds and perpetuates the inequality and hierarchy of society outside the home.
- We reject the growing normalisation of the institutionalisation of children in childcare and schooling at too tender an age (or institutionalisation at any age at all), the sacrificing of children’s emotional and psychological welfare at the altars of conformity, endless testing, and poorly-informed political whims, and the current political rhetoric that is aggressively pushing an agenda obsessed with the notion that children are better off being looked after by paid others rather than their own mothers or fathers.
- We reject the current model of what constitutes work, and of worthiness of that work. We call for not only a re-evaluation and overhaul of that model, but also of the concept that money is the only, or best, form of currency one can contribute to the family, the community, and society at large. In short, we need to create new dialogues about work, and currency, and form broader, more inclusive and egalitarian models of those. We campaign against the exploitation of women’s free labour as mothers and carers, and believe that women should receive financial recognition for their caring work within the family. To this end, we support a Universal Basic Income in order to not only recognise and support the vital importance of mothering and caring, but to create a more level economic playing field for society in general.
- We protest the disgraceful overhaul of benefits and the propaganda of hate about ‘scroungers’, which are proving particularly disastrous to families, especially those already struggling and/or vulnerable. We oppose a government that makes family life so difficult for many and then blames them for those difficulties. We believe in supporting, educating and empowering the more vulnerable families in our society, instead of spreading the message that their children need to be looked after by others as much as possible. We reject utterly the rhetoric of ‘hard-working families’ espoused by the major political parties in the UK. We are also against the iniquitous taxation system affecting families with a mother at home.
- We believe, and we know, that All Mothers Work. Paid or not, mothering is work. Without mothering, society would collapse. We know that child-rearing is the work of all mothers. We believe that once one becomes a mother, it is the most important work of your life.
What we’re not:
- We are not anti- mothers who work for pay**. Our focus is on stay at home mothers, and on the qualities of mothering, interplay between mother and child, etc., but this does not mean that we do not respect MWPs’ choices. How mothering is represented in this country affects all mothers, and has implications for not just mothers, but everyone.
- We are not anti-fathers. We acknowledge the work and worth of good fathers and that many men are also offended by how mothers are treated and portrayed. Our focus, however, is entirely on women.
- We do not believe that all women should have children, or need to have children. We do not believe that women need to be mothers in order to be fulfilled and lead a happy, meaningful life. We fully support women who choose not to have children, and we extend compassion for those women who wish to become mothers, but, for whatever reason, do not have that desire fulfilled.
- We don’t think that mothering is superior to other work a mother may do. We do, however, believe that it is never inferior, and is always important.
- We do not think that mothering is always some idyllic apex of achievement, always easy and fulfilling, never boring, etc., etc. We believe that reframing motherhood to unsentimentally reflect its truth, particularly that it has good and bad points the same as any paid employment, and bringing it into the public consciousness as something normal, valuable, and meaningful, (instead of its current position almost as something ‘other’ running parallel to ‘real life’), will benefit all society as a whole, and bring about significant social change for the good. A more realistic, inclusive, holistic worldview is positive for all.
- We do not believe that being a stay at home mum means living a traditional, conservative lifestyle; of being a stereotype of a 1950s housewife. Indeed, we do not believe that being a stay at home mother is synonymous with being a housewife, although we respect any woman’s choice to be a housewife and define herself thus.
*By female, we do not refer to cultural ideas about gender (which is femininity, not female, in any case). We reject the concept of gender as anything natural. We believe (and know) that there are things that only women can do, like give birth, and that there are female-specific abilities, etc., BUT we do not believe that these correlate with patriarchal gender myths and descriptions of femininity.
**Please note: the most familiar acronyms for mothers who work for pay are ‘WAHM’ (Working Away from Home Mother) or ‘WOHM’ (Working Outside the Home Mother). Apart from the fact that this overlooks the fact that many mothers work at home for pay, these titles contain the inference that mothering is not work. Therefore, we will use the acronym ‘MWPs’ (Mothers Working for Pay) to reflect that all mothers work, and some receive monetary recognition, whilst others do not.