I hope that I have been able to show you that the future of our children is rooted in the relationship that a child has with its mother. Here is where the physiology and the world view of the infant is set. So she is the most leveraged place for support. If we are to find a better way of helping all children have the best chance of meeting their potential it will have to be when we put the mother and child in the centre of our world.
We have to start with the mother – she is the fulcrum – the child is a dependency. Our new strategy has to be mum centric to help the child.
The mother is central because the relationship begins with conception. Her emotional state during pregnancy affects her immune system and hence the baby’s. If mum is feeling stressed, this will affect her baby. It is the same after the birth. We know that babies before the age of 2, cannot separate themselves entirely from their mothers. If mum is stressed, withdrawn, angry, fearful, isolated then her emotional state affects the baby. We know that the mother’s emotional state is the most powerful vector in shaping baby’s development trajectory.
So to help the child – mum has to come first.
So if you can go along with me, you must be asking so what? What can we do to support mothers? How can we do a better job and helping them have the emotional fortitude to do this taxing job of bringing new life into the world?
We can’t turn back the clock and bring back traditional extended family life and the older form of economy. So what can we do? How can we look at the issue and have a real chance of being successful?
I think that if we can see the “essence” of the support mums used to get, then we might be able to deliver it in a new form.
I see the DNA or the Essence of what mothers got from the natural support system as this:
- Lots of strokes and grooming from the other more experienced women in the group – no isolation – no expert books to worry about – pragmatic and warm loving help with both carrying the child and having the child – the mum got the right kind of attention
- Lots of help with the enormous amount of emotional and physical work that is involved with having an infant in utero and in arms. This begins in pregnancy where the changes to a woman’s body, hormones, mind and emotion have to be acknowledged and follows on after birth with a lot of familiar, trusted help with the work of looking after the baby and with the mother’s own work. Ideally there should be little separation here between work and home and between those who help and the mother. Ideally we should remove isolation and there is should be no social barrier between those that help and those that are mums.
How does that feel? If you got this would your work as mum have been easier and would such help have helped you be your best? Now let’s look at what many women face today and see the gap between a natural approach and the institutional approach we endure today.
- The emotional state of the mother is rarely seen as a key element of the risks/opportunities in pregnancy. We worry about smoking and alcohol and weight but miss the important linkage of all these things to the mother’s emotional state. Our addictions are a product of our emotional state and not isolated actions. Most cannot see this linkage.
- In our pragmatic world, working mothers who are carrying a child are cut little or no slack by anyone – but everything is in transition for them. They are expected to be the same at work and at home as they were before they were pregnant – this causes huge stress as many just cannot meet these expectations – of which many are set by the mother herself
- Advice on pregnancy, on child birth and on infant care is often considered like carpentry – skill based that can and should be taught be an official “Expert” – high skill and often low touch. Just as sex is not really a mechanical act, so carrying and raising a child is not either. It is transforming to see beyond the mechanics but only someone who is herself open to a non mechanical world view can offer this perspective. So our accreditation model focuses on technical skills and not on character and emotional stability. We deliberately separate the mother from the “expert”.
- After care of new babies is often seen in the context of the medical model – weight hearing etc – this is important but what is really going on with mum and at home is more important and contributes to all the medical issues – again we tend to see the world in terms of mechanics and things rather than in terms of relationships that drive emotions that drives health and developement – we look downstream and not upstream to the root causes
- A lot of daycare is also set up along a mechanical/institutional model. The pragmatic care is there but the parents are often seen as clients on the outside. This kind of help with enabling the mother to work or study or even have a break from the relentless work of caring for an infant is also not available to all. Finally Daycare is set up as most institutions today to meet the needs of the provider. You think I exaggerate? Think about our current debate! The needs of the mum and her child for access, for personalization, for being emotionally close to the staff and to her baby are not given the same priorities as the needs of the owners and the staff
- Our research model and our measurement model does not look at the individual family or child – Nor does it look at what is most important – the emotional state of the mother – instead it looks at broad environmental issues and at groups – so we don’t even track what is the upstream pivot of the system – the mother and the individual child
So, as I see it, the gap is this.
For millions of years humans have raised their young in a setting that gives mothers the best shot at being fully present for their children both in utero and in arms. Over the last 100 years, this essential setting for all primate development, the tribe/troop/extended family has been overthrown. The result is that mothers have been cut off from the support that is central to their being consistently successful in raising the next generation.
What has overthrown our natural systems is a mechanical view of reality that sees us all like machines. The “Support” system that we have created instead for families is built on this machine model as well and cannot really help. It can do mechanical things well – but it puts the system in the centre and forces the mother and the child to fit into it.
What we need to do is to find ways of putting the mother and the child back into the centre of the human universe.
In my next post, I will offer a few examples and thoughts of how this might be done. The great hope that I have is that progress is being made and that there are now concrete examples of being able to do this. Even more hopefully, I also see in many other fields of human activity, the media, health, education etc, signs of progress where there too the needs of the person can and will become the priority and not the needs of ther institution.