Naked Motherhood: Shattering Illusions and Sharing Truths

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Random House Australia, 1999 - Mother and child - 385 pages
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This is not another book on how to have the perfect pregnancy, be the perfect mother or bring up the perfect child. This is real. Within the paid working world it is illegal to employ anyone in a job which demands they be on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No other job requires that an employee only ever sleep for two or three hours at any one time and a total of no more than five or six hours in any one day. When a woman is employed in the workforce she may enjoy morning and afternoon tea breaks, lunch breaks, four weeks per year holiday, sick leave, superannuation and - oh yes - a wage. Mothers get none of these benefits and bear all the costs and responsibilities. A mother herself and an academic, Wendy LeBlanc wondered how other women cope with the extraordinary transformation that takes place when a woman becomes a mother. In her pre-mother life, Wendy had been a highly successful money market commodities broker and one of the first women to break through the glass ceiling in her profession. Needless to say, when she became a mother, the changes to her body, her priorities and her emotions, as well as the sudden drop in her status and shift in her lifestyle, came as mind-blowing shock. And it was left pretty much to Wendy alone (except for her adorable, screaming, pooing, baby Daniel) to figure out how to recover from it. Initially out of curiosity, Wendy surveyed a diverse group of women and asked about the effect pregnancy and motherhood had on them and how it lived up to their expectations. The surveys, many accompanied with letters detailing their most personal experiences, led to forums in which women, sometimes women who'd known each other for years, poured out stories they'd never shared before. These are the words and the voices that have inspired this book. Above all, what Wendy has found in her investigation is a wealth of anecdotal and statistical evidence that motherhood has been so neglected and devalued by our economic, social and political constructs, that it has become a virtual wilderness. Hard evidence that we live in a world that values profit above people and balancing the budget above the health and welfare of our children. Put plainly, working conditions and social support for mothers suck. But it will be our kids who ultimately pay the price. We are still waiting for the revolution which will recognise and applaud the invaluable contribution made by mothers; in the meantime they desperately need useful strategies for coping in a society which ignores the fact that they are overworked, underacknowledged, scarcely supported and often isolated and confused. Naked Motherhood shines a torch forward, encouraging mothers to find strength, pride and unity in the sharing of their stories, their truths. Only then, will the power of their collective voice be heard. According to Wendy, these are the questions women today should be asking: * Why is motherhood a physical, emotional and mental shock for most women? * Why is postnatal depression termed a 'disorder' when it is estimated that 88% of new mothers suffer from it? Surely, it's becoming an alarming norm? * Why is mothering not a respected profession, seen to be contributing directly to the social health of a community? * Why are women only equal when they play by male rules; why is paid employment recognised by our economic and political constructs as the only relevant form of employment? * Why are our children's needs such a weak political issue? * Why are so many women rejecting traditional full-time mothering in favour of paid work? * Why does society not support and recognise the roles of mothers on the one hand but blame them if their children don't turn out to be model citizens on the other? * How has the feminist movement let mothers down? * What is our society in danger of losing by its persistent refusal to acknowledge the importance of human relationships? * What can women do to cope with the abo

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I read this a long time ago. It is brave and so very true. It is a must read for any contemporary woman trying to be both a mother and a human being. Caught up in the social collision that expects women to perfectly achieve all of their 'selves' then spits them out as 'depressed' or 'selfish' if they cannot live up to these contradictory ideals. This book is up there with 'The Mask of Motherhood'. It is intelligent and real and very readable. Healing and disturbing in equal measure. Society needs to be more kind to mothers and mothers need to be more kind to themselves by not expecting perfection.
Felicity Chapman
 

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