Posted by: ginalazenby | May 11, 2014

Mothering children and a new world, at the same time!

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A group of amazing leaders: A Rockwood Leadership programme for social change makers gathered this last week in Northern California including a few extra souls who will soon be birthed into a world we are all hoping to change

 

“What will you do when the baby is born?  …. You’ll go back to work? !” The woman can hear the judgment in the voice of the questioner. Why do we make it so hard for women who are forced to make choices ……. It is so difficult anyway without adding this layer of social judgement and implied criticism … they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t!

This last week I have been in the company of some very courageous and inspiring women leaders in the social justice movement. Out of a small group of 23 participants in a week-long program, 18 were women and three of those were pregnant.  As we all shared our personal stories the role of family in our lives showed up as a huge theme, and with the presence of the expectant women, it made me think more and more about the role of a mother in society and her own need for self-expression in a vision beyond the home.

For many women, working after childbirth is an economic imperative and in the USA (where Mother’s Day is being celebrated today) there really isn’t the (relatively) more generous infrastructure of support for maternity leave that women in different European countries can get. American women do not receive any paid leave, as standard in their employment.  (See the parental leave global map).

But beyond maternity leave, as the baby/toddler grows up…… women are faced with the choice of how much of their life, energy and time they devote to child care. What I was hearing from many of the women involved in social justice work is that the pull of work can actually get even stronger. As much as they might want more time as a hands-on mother, they also feel a deep calling to make the world a better place for the very child they are now watching grow up every day.

That call to right the wrongs of the world can get more insistent as they care for their own family and also continue to witness the degradation of the world and are present to the suffering of people in disenfranchised communities where they want to make a difference. It is a hard balancing act indeed. Criticism from others about choices made are not helpful. So I salute those women who serve not only their family but also the world family through their passion, vision and courage. It’s one of life’s craziest and most rewarding juggling acts for sure !

To bring a healthy next generation into the world, society has got to honour the role of motherhood every day of the year and support and honour the following:

  1. the choices women make to continue in paid work or not, as they see fit, without any personal judgement or penalty to future career advancement.
  2. the flexible working environment and routines so that it is a much easier choice for mothers to make. And fathers too.
  3. make it the norm for women to be both home-makers/mothers AND world-changers
  4. elevate childcare and somehow make it both a well-paid career that attracts quality people and resources, while still being economically viable and affordable for all, not just the wealthy and privileged.
  5. the men who support their partner’s careers by taking on primary carer roles.

So Happy Mother’s Day to all the many women who birth and bring up children as well as being part of birthing a new world.

More about Rockwood Leadership and their programmes for Social Change Makers which is the one I attended.

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