Friday, May 6, 2011

The Motherhood Study

“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only…and that is to support this ultimate career.”—C. S. Lewis

With Mother’s Day coming up Sunday, I thought I’d touch on this essential factor in getting any of us up into the Civilization Zone.

Several years ago there was a study called The Motherhood Study, collecting data and insights from some 2000 mothers, to learn about their satisfaction levels, their concerns, and other things we’ve often assumed we know but that hadn’t previously been laid out in academic research. If you want to read the whole thing, it’s available American Values Institute, with free download here. Here’s some of what mothers say about their lives.

Mothers agree that mothering is important. And there’s not any significant “mommy war” going on between stay-at-home moms and working moms. More than 93% say they love their children passionately, with a love that is unlike any other love they have experienced. And 93% agree that a mother’s care of her children is both unique and irreplaceable.

Despite descriptions of stress and strain, mothers express a high satisfaction with their lives: 81% report being very satisfied, and another 16% report being somewhat satisfied.

While mothers appreciate the importance of their role, only 48% report feeling appreciated most of the time, and 19% reported feeling less valued by society since becoming mothers. They would like society to support their efforts in family relationships better than they do. While most would like to have some employment, mothers would prefer more flexible arrangements that would allow more time spent with their children than they currently have.

Some of the quotes from the interviewed mothers are rather poetic:

  • “It’s almost as if your children are your heart beating outside of your body, and walking around.”—Mother whose 19-year-old son recently left for college.
  • “I want to say this without tearing up—my kids are my life. They are my angels. I wouldn’t change whatever I have to go through with them (oh, I can’t do it without crying) for nothing in this world.”—Married mother of three
  • “I don’t think there is any way to really anticipate how much joy you’re going to gain from the experience. I really entered it, to be honest, a little ambivalent…. But now I just wonder how I even managed before. It’s just such a wonderful experience.”—Mother who had first child at 38 after building a successful career.
The report shows mothers holding to a value system rather at odds with the larger culture. As one researcher, Hays, puts it, mothers recognize that what they do “holds a fragile but nonetheless powerful cultural position as the last best defense against what many people see as the impoverishment of social ties, communal obligations, and unremunerated commitments” (p. 42 of the report, footnoted as Hays, p. xiii).

If you were the grand designer, and you wanted to place certain people in charge of protecting, preserving, and passing along the ideas of civilization, for the happiness and well-being of all, you would design individuals with passion, who would pass along those ideas out of love to their young charges, believing that happiness in the present and future for those young charges was more important than any personal concerns. You couldn’t hire such caregivers. You couldn’t assign an institution to do it. You would have to create—mothers. Indeed, that is what the Grand Designer did.

1 comment:

  1. Love this, Linda! Thanks for sharing it. Happy Mother's Day!