Mothering - It takes a village?

Mothering, and grand-mothering, have always been complex. Whether mothers, or not, women have also carried much of the responsibility for caring, within and beyond their families.

 

By Professor Alan Hayes AM, Distinguished Professor of Family Studies and Director of the Family Action Centre at the University of Newcastle.

Last century’s advances in managing fertility have led to dramatic reductions in family size. Across the next decades most of the world’s nations are likely to have total fertility rates below replacement level. In many cases these will be significantly below the current already low levels.

 

Parents, especially mothers, increasingly need supports beyond the immediate and extended family to assist in the care and nurture of their children. A range of professional early childhood care and educational services have evolved to meet these needs.

 

These population shifts intersect with major social changes. One of the last century’s most profound, positive impacts has been in advancing educational opportunity. Education has such a great capacity to increase opportunity and mobilise the talent pool available to contemporary societies.

 

Educational participation and career access, including for girls and women, underpins progress towards equitable life chances, opportunities and prospects. Increasing educational and employment participation have been major achievements and have made wide-reaching differences in development, health and well-being. They bring clear benefits that flow to families, communities and societies.

 

While economic security may be enhanced, work and family balance are major challenges for many families. The roles of fathers in families, their involvement in co-parenting and the importance of their attachment to their children have impacts on mothers and are all part of the changing face of modern families.

 

Smaller families also intersect with intergenerational impacts. Families may experience periods of life when they not only have responsibilities for their children but also may need to support and care for elderly parents and relatives. With smaller family size, there is less scope to share the care responsibilities, within the family.

 

While there has been some progress in men’s availability and willingness to share parenting roles and responsibilities, women still shoulder more of the load. For many mothers, it can be a complex juggle to balance family, work and life responsibilities.

 

Mother's Day is the first day of Families Week. This year’s theme—Stronger Families, Stronger Communities, reminds us of the key role that women, and especially those who are mothers, contribute to their families, neighbourhoods and communities. This should be celebrated on every day of the year. Supporting mothers, and families, in all their diversity, is especially important if as a nation we are to move beyond the rhetoric of “It takes a village to raise a child”

 

13 May 2018.