Victor L. Cruz
Motherhood was extremely different in the mid-20th century. Women did not have as many rights, such as the ability to open a bank account and form credit without their husbands consent. Also, mothers were expected to marry young without really going to college, and those that did went only to get a husband. Since the expectation turned to a reality for many women, they began to suffer through an unknown problem. Although they had achieved their "ultimate" goal in becoming wife, homemaker, mother, they were still unsatisfied. Many middle class women suffered through feelings of wanting more and fatigue due to always being at home and not having a sense of self. Luckily, the times have changed and a solution to the problem has been found. Women should not be expected to give their lives to just doing care work, but should be allowed to follow their desires. Women should choose on their own accord (although all choices are constricted because of societal expectations that move our subconscious) whether they want to work or stay at home. Then they will be happy and contribute to their society and family effectively.
Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
The novel Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan expressed the impact that familial interactions such as storytelling and sharing of experiences have on families. The novel spans the stories of a group of mothers who were Chinese immigrants and their daughters who have to adjust to American culture while balancing their heritage. I have learned that being there to listen to the older generation’s past and retelling one’s own experiences with them can allow everyone to understand each other, especially when facing the younger generation’s struggle for identity in a fast changing world. While the older generation may seem to have antiquated ideas, they have experienced much of the same struggles the youth have and they shouldn’t shun them for their lack of knowledge of the present/different culture.
Mothers in the News
Mothers in Advertisements
Advertisements have shown mothers in a particular light. They have been shown to be do-it-alls in balancing work, personal health/image, and family. Usually, the advertisements put women solely in the house, not taking into consideration that most women do work, although they do most of the household work. When looking at newer advertisements, the image of motherhood is still somewhat the same. She is still in the house worrying about cleaning or housekeeping. She is put together even through hectic events like massive messes around the house. However, the women portrayed now are more likely to be working and men are doing some of the housework. There is more representation of different kinds of mothers such as working class and mothers of color. In other commercials, there are representations of queer families with two mothers. While commercials are still focusing more on upper-middle class women and they are usually white, they are straying away from the stereotypes.
Gone with the Wind
Motherhood in the Old South was quite different in the 19th century. Women had different yet somewhat similar expectations than the mothers of modern times. Women were expected to have a respectable appearance and have great etiquette. In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara’s mother, Ellen, was a mother that was a different than most mothers. She took on the role to present an immaculate picture of a family that would be presented to society. Although she did care for her children, she did little of the actual care work.
The woman who did more of the care work was Mammy, the black nursemaid they had. She dressed and served Scarlett food, all the while pushing the ideals of etiquette of the Old South. Here, that working part of motherhood was left to slaves while the birth-mothers took most of the educating upon themselves. Ellen’s motherhood would only be questioned based on the appearance, and Mammy’s mothering is only her occupation given to her by her master. This movie clearly shows how motherhood was affected by a different society.
Mothers in Disney Films
Disney films are central depictions of literature for children. If the parents of children weren’t too strict as to what they can see, most children have seen many of the films. Now what is interesting about the films is that they hardly have mothers in them. Some say that the mothers are absent because each film is only about 90 minutes long and they show an instant where the character learns to become responsible. Here, there is an idea that the child can only develop a personality when the mother is gone. There is also an idea that when the mother is killed off, the image of the perfect mother can live on and there won’t be any chance that it’ll change. To make these movies better, there has to be other ways to develop characters while depriving the world of good mother characters.
Television has shown the world different kinds of mother’s that either fall into stereotypes or are created to be genuine characters. Looking into iconic mothers of the 90s as well as the early 2000s, I saw great characters that were over the top but held some validity in their mother like image. Roseanne, the namesake of the show, was a loud and abrasive mother that was a little inept. However, she was able to care for her children and teach them lessons in the most unconventional ways. Peggy from Married with Children was so selfish and inept, it was a wonder that she kept the household together. She was one of the more over-the-top characters that one could hardly recognize in reality. Aunt Viv was a mother who had power and agency more so than most female characters on TV, especially for a black woman. She was a career woman and was direct. Although there wasn’t much diversity in television for mothers, the appearance of Aunt Viv without following a heavy stereotype paved the way for more mothers of color.
Mothers in Music
Slidely of Mother Rose by Patti Smith
Mothers in the News
Mothers have been portrayed in a variety of ways on the news. One manner is that of a good mother who did something for her kids. She either was able to save her kids or made a statement about how the way kids are seen. Other mothers were shown to be incompetent and did something horribly wrong to their children. Either they were negligent and some atrocious event occurred or they were doing something deliberately, like abusing their children. Then there were the mothers who stood in the middle. She tried to do something funny, like posing with a drink on her daughter’s first day of school, and got backlash. Here society still has a way of policing the way women do mothering and framing their experience. My news post focused on the way mothers globally face the same issues of framing and policing.
During the semester, we learned about different mothers based on surveys done by the class. We found the ages of when mothers began to have children and the different amount of children they had in their households. We were also able to hear about their desires on how they wish they could practice motherhood. Many women would have chosen to work, but probably only work part-time. Others would have gone to school while caring for their children and do parenting differently (like yelling less and being more patient with children.) We even found out the difficulties that women faced when having children, like balancing work and home, lack of sleep, and not being in control of all the situations. By learning about these mothers and their struggles, it makes the issues of motherhood real. No longer are they something we read about in studies and books. The issues are brought up by our own mothers and women from our lives.
Letter to My mother / Final Summary
My vision of motherhood was not so complete before starting this semester. Although you have shared most of your own stories about being pregnant and raising my sister and I, there was a lot left out about other aspects. While talking about The Feminine Mystique to you, I realized there was a lot of expectations placed upon you even when the movement had changed a lot of things for you. There was the expectations to be married and form a family with your own house, and it might seem like you “failed” when you didn’t meet all of those goals. Then there is the portrayal of women on TV and magazines that you and other women had to measure up to. Even when all those images were rampant, I want you to know that they aren’t the majority. Those depictions of motherhood weren’t inclusive to women of all ethnicities, races, religions, and classes. However, when they did portray different kinds of mothers, they brought relief because people were able to connect with them.
Then the surveys that you participated in. I was not only able to see the different answers from your friends that you invited to take my surveys, but also your own answers. The work in this class has shown me that motherhood happens in many different ways than what is portrayed in most media. But just because it doesn’t match those portrayals, doesn’t mean that those women’s experience is wrong. I hope that you feel that your experiences as a mother are valid, and we all make mistakes but in the end, that’s all part of the journey of being a mother.
Toto <3 (Victor L. Cruz)