Tag Archives: anxiety

200,000 Years of Mommy Madness

11 May

Motherhood!  You’d think we humans would have it figured out after 200,000 years as a species.  Apparently not.  While my mother certainly raised a perfect human specimen, thank you very much, TIME magazine’s latest cover (and the bemused, baffled, bewildered responses to it) indicates that questions about what it means to be a “good mom” are still feeding our cultural anxieties.

(Or should I say, they’re still breastfeeding our cultural anxieties?  But maybe that’s a bit much.)

The point is that TIME’s lead story on “attachment parenting,” Dr. Bill Sears, and his devotees liked the pictured mother and son in “Are You Mom Enough?” has already stirred up  controversy and brought moms and motherhood back into public discourse–if, indeed, these topics ever really left us.

In the United States today, the majority of women work.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

In 2010, there were 123 million women in the civilian noninstitutional population, and of this number 72 million, or 58.6 percent, were in the labor force—that is, classified as either employed or unemployed.

Women’s labor force participation is significantly higher today than it was in the 1970s. Women’s labor force participation rate peaked at 60.0 percent in 1999, following several decades in which women increasingly participated in the labor market.

An even greater percentage of American mothers is working also.  Again from the BLS:

The labor force participation rate–the percent of the population working or looking for work–for all mothers with children under 18  was 70.6 percent in 2011.

Cool?  I tend to think so.  My mom worked full-time from the time I was seven or thereabouts (who can remember anything before the millennium anyway?  Didn’t Y2K wipe out all those records?), and I don’t think my sisters and I can complain about much from our childhoods.  Except maybe that our mother did indeed dress a bit like the working women in this old video that we still own on VHS out among the garage spiders somewhere (though I will add that you would never see her wearing loafers with a suit.  It was heels or bust).

And surprisingly for one of my rambling posts, this video is more than a trip down memory lane–watching it now, I wonder why it is that there isn’t a corresponding video called “My Daddy Comes Back” or something.  Is it really so much scarier for children when mommy goes to work than when dad does?  Or is it us, the grown-up video-makers and video-buyers and song-writers and blog-ramblers, that continue to perpetuate that baby’s going to cry only or especially when mom heads off to the office for the day?

Whatever came first, the chicken or the ovum, it certainly seems that working mothers are taking on the burden of this cultural anxiety.  As I understand it, “attachment parenting,” the subject of TIME’s lead story, is a method of child-rearing with the aim of creating a secure bond (or attachment) between parent and child.  Because of the emphasis breastfeeding as one method of fostering that bond, AP proponents especially stress the relationship between mother and child.  And “stress” may be exactly the right word.

Reading about AP theory, I followed a hyperlink trail to Judith Warner’s book, Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety.  In the book, Warner discusses the toll and burden that cultural expectations of mothers place on working and non-working moms alike:

Many women of the post-Baby Boom generation simply weren’t prepared to contemplate these kinds of choices.  They didn’t realize just how bad the incompatibility would be between the total freedom of their youth and the culture of total motherhood they’d encounter once they had children.

So while more women are working and more mothers are working women, the pressures that puts on modern women go largely unexplored.  As Warner says, parenthetically:

Happiness has never ranked high as a feminist political goal.

I’m hardly qualified to expound on my own theories of parenting (even if I had some, which I don’t), but as a woman who wants a career and may want children some day, I just want to ask: Shouldn’t it be?

The seeming impossibility of a woman “having it all” is a running joke on tv shows like 30 Rock (with Tina Fey’s career-oriented yet kind of baby-obsessed Liz Lemon).  Just last month the April 19 episode was titled “Murphy Brown Lied to Us.”

I guess I can’t be too surprised.  If the Venus of Willendorf is any indication, even people of the Upper Paleolithic had their own ideas about the feminine ideal.  And I can’t imagine it was any easier for women then.

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Los Fieles: Faith, Anxiety, and Prejudice in the Press during Mexico’s Cristero Rebellion

8 May

While doing preliminary research on the general topic of the Mexican Cristero War, skimming Jean Meyers’s The Cristero Rebellion, I found this observation: “There remained one unknown factor of which nobody spoke, and which nobody appeared to remember, which everybody underestimated at least—the attitude of the Christian people.  In the course of the summer of 1926 it was the people who, little by little, came to the forefront of events, while behind the scenes the government and the bishops continued their negotiations” (47).

With this in mind, I analyze dpublic discourse surrounding the conflict between Church and State in Mexico during the summer of 1926 (prelude to the Cristero War).  My goal was to examine how popular anxiety crystallized into spontaneous, bottom-up mobilization at the time of, in particular, the Mexican Episcopacy’s closure and the federal government’s takeover of churches on the traumatic “nightmare of 31 July”—the significance being to gain a better understanding of the attitude and agency of the Christian/Catholic laypeople in what was seen in early 1926 as a primarily institutional conflict.

I took an undergraduate research seminar on Modern Latin American History.  The final product: a paper on the 1926-1929 Cristero Rebellion in Mexico.  I’ve included the paper as a PDF file here, since it’s length and abundance of footnotes makes a series of blog posts prohibitive.

The finished paper can be found at the link below, or at the Research paper (see links bar above the Scattering header)

And– this is original primary source research, and my beloved child, so please do be careful with citations:

Los Fieles: Faith, Anxiety, and Prejudice in the Press During Mexico’s “Religious Crisis,” February-July 1926

PDF document

Primary Sources:

Mexico City newspapers El Universal and El Excélsior; Guadalajara newspaper El Informador; New York Commonweal and Literary Digest; academic journalCurrent History.  In most cases, February, July, and August 1926 issues were used.