Happy (belated) Mother’s Day! Parents are our first, and most significant, teachers. They shape who we are, what we value, and how we see ourselves in the world more than any single elementary, middle, or high school instructor. Which means, moms, we cannot transform education without you!
In honor of Mother’s Day, check out “Time to rethink our social construct of motherhood” by Kathleen McCartney, President of Smith College and an early childhood researcher (and a mom).
This may not be an article about schools, but it has some important implications for the state of education in the U.S.
McCartney urges us to re-think our cultural conceptions of motherhood and, in light of this, re-think our approach to maternity leave and other benefits that help moms fulfill their role of child’s first teacher that much better (among all the other roles they play). Consider a few words below:
Earlier in my career, I believed solid research findings, like my own, would lead to policy change. I was wrong. Culture trumps data every time. Our romanticized views about motherhood continue to sow division and guilt, undermining our energies to organize for the policies that employed mothers and fathers deserve.
Our cultural construction of motherhood is rooted in a particularly strong American bias toward personal responsibility, reflected across our social policies. This is why, in the United States, my daughter’s three-month paid leave is considered generous. In Sweden, where new mothers are guaranteed 16 months paid leave, it would be laughable. The United States ranks last among 38 developed nations in paid parental leave benefits: we guarantee none.
Mother’s Day is a good day to double down on the work required to reconstruct our conception of motherhood. An essential step is to make the invisible visible, helping young mothers and their partners realize that social constructions of motherhood are just that — constructions. By doing that, we can build the political will necessary for change.