Affordable Mothering and Respectability- by Agata Lisiak

The low total fertility rate in Poland (1.3) has repeatedly been juxtaposed, in Polish and British media alike (often in an alarmed tone), with the apparently much higher (2.13) total fertility rate of Polish women living in Britain (ONS 2014). As analysts from Polityka Insight have cautioned, these numbers tend to be taken out of context: if we consider the overrepresentation of young women (20-39) among Polish migrants, Polish women in the UK give birth to only 15% children more children than their counterparts in the same age group in Poland. And yet, it remains a fact that the birth rate in Poland sank considerably from 2.0 in 1990 (GUS 2014), and the new government is set on reversing this trend.

The campaign program of Poland’s conservative party Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość), who won last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, included a proposal to introduce Read more...

Defining Social Mothering- by Sarah Sahagian

The great maternal theorist Sara Ruddick argues that the practice of mothering “is to take upon oneself the responsibility of child care, making its work a regular and substantial part of one’s working life” (1995: 17).  The work to which Ruddick refers revolves around what she sees as three major demands, which involve preserving a child’s life by looking after his/her/zer health, nurturing a child’s emotional and intellectual growth, and raising a child in a manner that is acceptable to the “social groups of which the mother is a member” (19-21). When we think critically about these duties, however, it soon becomes obvious that there is no need for this mother work to be carried out by a biological or legally adoptive mother. Indeed, as Ruddick points out, there is no “reason why mothering work should be distinctly female” either, as “Anyone who commits her or himself to responding to Read more...

Beyond the clinical: Maternal health and wellbeing

joangavanBy Joan Garvan

Our era is characterised by a ‘work-family clash’ and there is evidence that trends towards gender equity have stalled. In 2006, a multi-nation study by the European Commission identified the Transition to Parenthood (TtoP) as a ‘critical tipping point on the road to gender equity’ (Lewis and Smithson 2006:13). It is in the early years after the birth of an infant that gendered roles can become entrenched, while at the same time the vast majority of couples are attempting to achieve a gender equal or egalitarian family form (Garvan 2010). The Commission’s report, which drew from quantitative and qualitative findings from eight countries on work–family boundaries, concluded that ‘gender shapes parenthood and makes motherhood different from fatherhood both in everyday family life and in workplaces’ (Lewis and Smithson 2006:13).

Particularly in this context, becoming a mother is often a profound and life-changing experience of important social, cultural Read more...

Soapy, gendered glory: performing ‘papahood’ through routines and spaces


by Emily Chapman

Pigeon, a Japanese family brand, advertises its baby soap with a father and his baby in the bath together, covered in soapy suds. The text reads: “Every time papa bathes you, you look more and more like him” (o-furo ni irete ageru tabi, dan dan papa no kao ni naru). The advert is not alone in singling out the father-child bond, but adverts featuring just papa remain rare. Of interest here is the use of bathtime as a space for the development of the father-child relationship exclusive of the rest of the family unit.

EmilyChapman-PigeonBabySoapI asked Japanese friends whether the triumvirate of father, bath, and baby was familiar to them. With rapid assurance over coffee, one replied “it’s communication time” (komyūnikeishon-taimu), the implication of which is that there is no other time set aside for father-child bonding. It is perhaps too clean a jump to suggest that Read more...