“Once women used to mother collectively. They gathered their food together, they talked as they worked and shared their inner worlds. Even as the human race began to live in villages their children of all ages washed through the community. Their needs were tended by whichever adult was closest to hand. If a biological mother was unwell, tired, busy, disinterested or disinclined to attend to her child’s demands the child simply moved on to the next mother figure in the community. When a child was ill or smitten by accident the pain felt by the parents was the pain of all and the work of caring for the child was shared. If the baby or child died a whole community experienced the loss and mourned together with the parents.
Today we expect our mothers to take their children into the four walls of their homes within a week of giving birth, there to undertake every single responsibility of raising that baby alone. A mother is expected to be nurturer, gatherer of food, cook, nutritional expert, educator, psychological expert, emotional support person, cleaner washer woman, expert problem solver, medical diagnostician and practitioner, eternal giver of unconditional love… Most women arrive on the threshold of motherhood with not a single day’s training in any of these skills and without a word of warning that she may find them difficult, tedious, boring or soul-destroying. And she is considered ‘lucky’ if her partner, family or friends help her. She is expected to perform these duties in isolation with little or no support from the community. Indeed, she will often feel as though she has been actively shut out of the community whether she resides in the remotest corners of the country or in the middle of the largest city.
However, if she feels depleted by the endless giving, if she weeps for the trapped and lonely and exhausted person she has become, she will be labelled ‘disordered’. It is she who will be judged to be in need of ‘treatment’ to help her ‘adjust’.
In terms of evolution this raising of our children in isolation from the flow of community has come upon us in the blink of an eye. Only since the Industrial Revolution have we begun to withdraw into our separate houses and to exclude our wider communities from collective parenting. In the space of 200 years we have devolved from communal life to the nuclear family to single parenthood. Genetically we could not have even begun to mutate to the degree necessary such that we could possibly find this style of mothering ‘natural’ or acceptable. Thus, women are being asked to raise their children in a manner diametrically opposed to their genetic programming. Is it any wonder 88% of us find it difficult to adjust!” (Pages 164-165)
“Once I accepted that I had stepped through the one-way door into motherland, I looked around and saw that I had entered a world where women of all kinds were routinely handling exhaustion, loneliness, confusion, guilt, enormous responsibility, great love, huge fear. They were largely lacking any meaningful support and generally were doing battle with low self-esteem and a yawning need for acknowledgement. Nobody was talking about not coping, not really. Whilst we will readily admit that mothering is difficult, few of us let on that we suspect we may not be cut out for this lifestyle; that maybe it was all a mistake. Few of us feel alright about asking for and accepting help. Our mothers did this. Other mothers are doing it all over the world. And so we feel that we should be able to do it, too.” (Page 286)
From Naked Motherhood: Shattering Illusions and Sharing Truths by Wendy LeBlanc.