Friday, February 19, 2010

The beginning of something

There is something wrong with the way mothers in the western world are allowed to become isolated when they leave careers to raise a child. A mother in a westernised country, such as Australia, is expected to raise a child predominately on her own. Generally a mother will give up employment, while her partner continues to work, leaving her home alone with a young child for the majority of her day. It is little wonder women struggle, it is a wonder that nothing is being done about it.

I am at home alone as I type this, one-handed at my keyboard while I use my second hand to support my 12 week old baby on the breast. It is six o’clock at night and I am talking with my husband via Skype, he has been working out of town for about six weeks now. I am alone. I don’t have family living near me, my good friends either have grown up children or none at all, the new friends I have made as a mother are exactly that – new. It takes a village to raise a child, so why am I sitting alone?

On Thursday I have invited two new friends to come over to cook with me. We will meet at my house, each bringing along the ingredients for one meal. We have set an amount of $30 to each spend. We will work together to cook up the meals and to look after the children. At the end of the day we will divide up the meals for our freezers. It is a small start but I have grand plans for where this would end up.

I have been thinking this over for some time, considering what could be done to bring western mothers out of isolation. Books such as Leidloff’s ‘Continuum Concept’ push the idea that it takes a village to raise a child. However even amongst staunch Attachment Parenters the isolation of the mother has not been dealt with in a way that fits satisfactorily into a western society.

We settle for playgroups where a bunch of mothers sit around watching their children play for an hour. We ship our children off to child care centres and return to work just to restore our own sanity. These attempts do not actually bring a mother out of isolation. While at a playgroup the mother is still soley responsible for her child, and at child care centres she is not there at all. Where is the middle ground?

We can dream about an idyllic community in which young families share vegetable gardens and play on car-free streets, in communities dedicated to working together. The picture I paint looks increasingly like a commune, a system which, among other things, requires the families to relocate and fit in with a large community. This offer small scale change to a select few who can both afford cost (financial, geographically and social). In order to bring women out of isolation we need a simple system that mothers everwhere can participate in.

My idea requires groups of women to step across some social boundaries in order to create relationships that bring them out of isolation. Ideally groups of three to four women will come together in what I can only liken to the way men 'shout' rounds at the pub. The women will invest a great deal of time, but this isn't a problem, it is the solution. The amount of time women spend at home in isolation is the problem. So I propose that women come together for several days each fortnight, gathering together at each house in turn. The women will come together to cook, clean, garden, mind children, talk and relax. These women needed to be suited to each other, prepared to develop friendships with each other and willing to support each other.

Society allows mothers to be abandoned and these woman pay the consequences. Once brilliant career women spend day after day alone in their home with no one but a newborn for company. These strong women desire to be good mothers to their children, and give up major parts of themselves in order to do so, they than become confused when they struggle with all that is required. It takes more than one person to raise a child, it takes many people to raise a child. Women need to start coming together.


  1. I love the shared cooking idea!

  2. So well said, Cassie. I'm going to work out how to get this going in my corner of the world, too.

  3. My bestie and I have had this discussion and fantasy for a long while - but have never done anything about it. I appreciate you committing to the idea and for encouraging others to do it, too. Hope Thursday goes really well.

  4. Thanks for the encouragement. I also look forward to hearing how others go.

  5. Oh how I wish you lived near me!