The chocolate and flower producers are a happy lot this weekend as many of us rush out and buy our Mother’s Day gifts.
After all mothers in Australia are revered – they have a special place in our society. They have status.
Well maybe if they are the “ideal” mother – the one who keeps her home perfectly clean (and of course germ free), who cooks wonderful meals, who is always available, loving and caring to her husband (she definitely needs to have one of them) and her children; who has a full-time fulfilling career and yet manages to get to all her children’s sports and recreation events.
We idealize these mothers.
But as Suzy Freeman-Greene has written in the Age – “A celebration of real mums” – there are not many mothers who live up to this ideal.
And if you are not this ideal mum, then our society levels a high degree of retribution.
If you are a single mother you are likely to face discrimination and condemnation – and lesbian mothers even more so.
Government policies push single mothers into poverty.
“Tens of thousands of single parents have had their already meagre income support slashed following a change in government policy that has single parents being shifted onto Newstart – the dole – once their youngest child turns eight. This decision has had devastating consequences for many families. Listen to the stories of single mothers as they explain what happens when you push the poor further into poverty. Pushing mums and their children further into poverty isn’t helping – it’s hindering” National Council of Single Mothers and their Children – check out their website for stories from these mothers.
And if you are a mother who is in or has been in a domestic violence relationship, let’s not blame the abusive partner and father, let’s blame …. the mother.
Our child protection services when dealing with domestic violence will regularly threaten women, women who are already living under threat of violence and abuse: “Leave the abuser or we will remove your children from your care”.
Some support that is.
Wouldn’t an alternative, more humane response be to remove the abuser from the home? To have a legal system that effectively deals with domestic violence by punishing the offender?
In Victoria, mothers will now be criminally responsible if they do not report child abuse. Legislation which aims to make institutions responsible for failing to report child abuse has the potential to punish mothers who may be also experiencing violence and abuse.
We all know of how difficult it is for women to make the decision to leave. One just has to read the numerous media reports of men who kill their (ex) partners and/or children, often because they have or are attempting to leave. Women read these reports too. So when he says “If you leave, I will kill you. I will kill the children” she takes this seriously.
Sometimes it is just safer to stay.
And if she does leave then she faces the Family Law system. A system which takes little note of the core responsibility that she has taken in raising and caring for her children. A system that says “good enough fathers” are better than no fathers even if he has physically and/or sexually abused the mother or her children.
A system that would rather label mothers as liars and manipulators when they raise allegations of abuse, than take a protective stance towards abused women and children.
So let’s stop idealizing these visions of the ideal mother and let’s start making our policies, our legal and welfare systems responsive and sympathetic to the real dilemmas and struggles that real mothers face every day.
Let’s celebrate the “strength, resourcefulness, resilience, and generosity” that real mothers show.