Motherhood is at once both beautiful and terrifying. Indeed, the touch of the soft, fingers is a glimpse of divine innocence. But giving up the career, which structured her life till now isn’t a good bargain. The question, however, is not about the balance between motherhood and work, but about the structures that make this a ‘choice’. Why should motherhood be conceived at the expense of her career? If it is a choice to make, it is indeed a choice between right and right. Why is the concept of working mother pedestaled as outlandish and not an inevitable identity? Maternal Optimism addresses these.
A remarkable example of working-mother with optimism is embodied in Jamie Lodge. Besides being a mother to three teenage boys, she is a qualitative researcher at Northeastern University and has co-authored the book, Maternal Optimism: Forging a Positive Path through Work and Motherland. Ian Thomsen in her article ‘There isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy’ talks about this idea of maternal optimism, quoting Ladge, says that idea of working mother needs a more positive perspective, breaking through the stigmas that discourage mothers from enjoying working lives.
Motherhood since a long time has been couched under domesticity and child care. Nature/nurture binary is always already implied in womanhood. Once a mother, always a mother- with her identity centered on her child. The past endeavours, success and dreams suddenly are pushed at the verge of non-existence. Patriarchy, like a falconer, pulls down an empowered woman through the chains of motherhood. This pessimism around motherhood, not only restricts women to the ‘omnipresent patriarchy’ that defines a woman as a wife or mother but also undermines the efforts of women who, rather than giving in to the ‘choice’, become working mothers.
Ladge talks about the working mothers who never speak out loud because of the lack of support system. The stronghold of the stigma that a working woman lacks maternal instinct needs to fall apart. Women can be both mothers and excellent professionals. The most significant support for working woman comes from her family and her work environment. Her family should provide her freedom and encouragement to manage her work and childcare. They should also participate in the upbringing of the child. Besides, the work environment should be supportive and understanding towards working mothers. It should provide her flexibility and concessions in strict rules so that she can manage her work and child without ‘mother’s guilt’.
Therefore the narrative of motherhood needs a change to accommodate ‘New Woman’ who is both an ambitious woman and a loving mother. Motherhood is not the end game in a woman’s life. Like any other human, her dreams have sky as the limit.