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Mothers Betrayed

Mothers Betrayed

by Susan Rosenthal

The week before Mothers’ Day, an exhausted young woman tells me that she must be a bad mother because she feels such despair. I assure her that she is not to blame. She has been betrayed. Capitalism celebrates mothers in theory and deprives them in practice.

Across the globe, malnutrition and lack of medical care cause more than three million babies to die at birth every year. Every year, more than half a million women die in pregnancy or childbirth, and millions more are crippled.

Poverty and inequality cause most maternal deaths. In 2000, the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 women was 2 in Sweden, 17 in the United States, 330 in Asia, and 920 in Sub-Saharan Africa. If any nation can lower the maternal death rate to 2 per 100,000 women, then that should be the standard everywhere.

In the United States, mothers get little or no support. The arrival of a child turns life upside down. Frequent night feedings exhaust parents who are expected to work the next day. Despite talk about “family values,” Americans are not entitled to paid parental leave.

Financial uncertainty adds to physical and emotional stress. Family expenses rise at the same time that the mother’s pay check is reduced or discontinued. How long can a new mom afford to stay off work? Will she lose her job? Will she find another one? Will there be affordable childcare? Americans are not entitled to childcare support.

Society demands that mothers manage without support. When they cannot cope, they are presumed to be inadequate. Postpartum depression and psychosis are under-recognized and under-treated because women feel too ashamed to seek help.

More women are hospitalized for psychiatric problems around the time of childbirth than at any other time in their lives.

About 85 percent of new mothers experience “baby blues,” the fatigue, sadness and irritability that commonly follow childbirth or adoption. From 10 to 17 percent of new moms suffer clinical depression due to changing hormones, sleep deprivation, social isolation, financial stress, a difficult or traumatic birth, difficulties breast feeding, low social support, financial problems, inadequate housing and relationship problems.

Approximately one in 800 new mothers develops full-blown psychosis. In Texas, Andrea Yates suffered from hallucinations that compelled her to murder her five children. In Toronto, a family doctor jumped in front of a train, killing herself and her infant son.

Every child is a gift to humanity. Yet, lack of support makes the child-raising years the most stressful for men and women. Parents of both sexes report more depression than non-parents. This is the heartless reality behind celebrations of Mother’s Day.

Talk is cheap. Parents and children have a right to real social support. Cards and flowers are not enough.

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16 Comments For This Post

  1. Janna Says:

    May 14/07

    I was speaking to someone about this last week. They were telling me about a mom who was in the news because she was addicted to crack and “renting out” her 12-year-old, mentally-disabled daughter to men to support her habit. The person I was speaking to asked me, “How could anyone do this?”

    I replied that I’d worked at an addiction centre and saw many people who used crack. Some would come in high and crash in front of me. It’s not a “fun” drug to use. I suggested that we as a society create these types of problems for ourselves.

    Someone has to be in a really bad state before they turn to crack. Instead of providing social supports before someone goes down that road, we wait until they actually do because it’s cheaper to deal with the few who go that far than it is to provide preventative services.

    I suggested that if that mom had had support in the form of financial aid, child care, help with caring for a mentally challenged child, and treatment for her addiction, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But because the world is ruled by the almighty buck, we provide the fewest, cheapest supports that fool us into thinking that we’re helping people.

    We went on to discuss how much money a person on welfare receives, the food and substandard housing available at that budget and the fact that only in the last 20 years have people started recognizing and addressing the link between trauma and drug addiction.

    It was an interesting conversation. My friend had never thought about these things. I really hope that someday soon we all start to get it!

  2. Edwin Pell Says:

    May 5/2008

    We are experiencing the return to normal. The past three hundred years have been the exception. We expect all born children to live to a ripe old age. But in order to have a stable population (number of people) one of the following must happen: we decide to limit reproduction to two children per couple or we return to the four horsemen (war, disease, starvation, and pollution inducted death). Yes there are cases of greed where a better distribution of resources would fix various problem for a while but the root issue is over population.

  3. Susan Says:

    May 5/2008

    Edwin: You are blaming people for the problems of a social system that they didn’t choose and which doesn’t serve their needs.

    If social resources were shared, instead of being hoarded by the elite, there would be more than enough to go around. There aren’t too many people in the world, there is too much INEQUALITY.

    A wealthy nation with a bottomless purse for war must be held accountable for its shameful neglect of women and children.

    Society benefits from the work that parents do to raise the next generation, and society should support their efforts in every way possible.

  4. Erik Rose Says:

    May 5/2008

    The world is a cruel place! I must agree with Mr. Pell. The decision to reproduce ought to be looked at more critically. Our species seems to have forgotten that it is only a small part of Nature. We seem to view reproduction as a “right” that is unconnected to Nature. If a woman choses to reproduce in an environment devoid of nutrition, clean water or medical care she has made a very poor moral choice, both for herself and her child.

    Other species have a remedy for over-reproduction . . . they eat their young in order to sustain the viable mother. There is nothing immoral about it, animals are amoral.

    Apparently, a Swedish woman is making a better moral choice when she chooses to reproduce than a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa is. Perhaps African mothers ought to slow down their reproduction to better fit their available resources.

    I am a 43 year old white male with ZERO PROGENY. I have decided that bringing even one more person into this world is immoral. More people ought to think before they procreate. We’d all be better for it.

  5. Susan Says:

    May 5/2008

    Erik: No other species displays the blatant self-hatred you express for humanity.

    Without reproduction, our species would cease to exist. Some people have no problem with that, but most of us do.

    An African mother has just as much right to bear children as a Swedish mother. And she would have the resources to do so if Africa had not been plundered of its wealth for centuries!

    The elite responsible for this travesty are rich beyond imagining, and no one is suggesting that they have fewer children. Only the poor are admonished, and their poverty treated as a personal defect. It’s not.

    Poor people are created when rich people hoard the social wealth.

    How easy it is to blame the victim! How totally WRONG.

  6. Raven Says:

    May 5/2008

    If parents are working long and hard hours, every single day, throughout their children’s lives to make ends meet, then they don’t have the time to monitor their children. Who does this happen to? Uh, poor people. When the children aren’t given adequate attention or educated in their teenage years, then they go looking for that attention somewhere else. Then what happens? They create a baby to fill that void of the love that wasn’t present by the parents that had to work long hours to keep a roof over their heads and food in their mouths. Now, those children have their own children to feed, and give up an education to work and take care of more children that will grow up to be unintentionally neglected- thus, the vicious cycle continues.

    This is the plight of the poverty-stricken society. “Rich” people can admonish the poor all they want and say, “well, the world is overpopulated” and all that nonsense, because they were educated on such choices, and didn’t have to think about having a baby. Live a day in these kids’ lives, take a look at how lonely they grow up without parents there to talk to, and consider how a baby will look to a 16-year-old girl that wants someone to love her unconditionally. Look at the “fast” girls in high school that sleep with a whole bunch of guys because Daddy wasn’t home enough to give her the love she needed. Think of all the17-year-old boy that sneaks girls into his house since no one is home, and doesn’t use protection because no one told him that he should.

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a family- it becomes wrong when you realize that the system has made it impossible for people that aren’t “rich” to do so.

    I suppose some of you are for forcing birth control on the poor then, right?

  7. Deadbeat Says:

    May 6/2008

    Ms. Rosenthal is correct. Notice that when the discussion is about the poor they tend to be brown and black. Thus this talk about “overpopulation” has a RACIST tinge to it.

    The richer nations are more wasteful of resources, thus the child in a rich nation will consume more of the world resources than a poor child. Which means that the rich nation’s procreation is more “irresponsible”.

    The real problem is capitalism and the mal-distribution of wealth and resources. However I don’t think that the rich nations are ready to share their ill-gotten gains.

  8. evie Says:

    May 6/2008

    Deadbeat: I also don’t believe the world is overpopulated, and I will agree there is a poor distribution of income worldwide.

    But the “real problem” is morality – not resources. No matter how trendy Brangelina or Kurt and Goldie make it appear, or how many social programs we create to excuse it and fund it.

    And btw I’m black and believe morality has no color. When 70% of black babies and 28% of white babies in the US are born out of wedlock – it’s not capitalism or racism – it is the content of our character, not the contents of our wallet.

  9. Deadbeat Says:

    May 6/2008

    evie: Whites tend to divorce. Is that “out of wedlock”? Many of those children face similar problems that those immoral “out of wedlock” children face. Yet divorce is not consider “immoral” yet you imply that African Americans behavior of “out of wedlock” mothers are.

    The big difference is that divorce is not considered immoral because more whites divorce and because whites have more money, thus they are judged differently than the poor and African-Americans. It’s unfortunate that you buy into the supremacist rhetoric of blaming the poor and subjugated.

  10. evie Says:

    May 6/2008

    Yea, divorce is high for the instant-gratification generation, and their children suffer.

    Nothing immoral about the son of an acquaintance of mine who has 25 children by almost as many women and involved in none of the lives of his children, although not totally his fault as he has spent half his adult life in prison; in prison now for murder.

    Nothing wrong with the single 18 y/o mother with 4 who spends most of her social program funds on fake nails and weaves while her children go hungry and unparented b/c momma is at the club.

    Another problem with the “liberal left” – they expect nothing of their followers, other than blind agreement on every social program that comes down the pike, anything goes b/c someone else can pay for it. And the children pay the highest price.

    I’m eager to see the illegitimacy rate of white America hit 70% since it’s no problem for black America. Get busy white girls and catch up to who’s yo daddy.

    But gee, we wouldn’t want to force morality or family values on anyone, someone might call us right wing. And besides, we have the man, the “rich white man” to blame it all on.

  11. Susan Says:

    May 6/2008

    Attacks on the “immorality” of individuals (poor or not) divert attention from the immorality of capitalism and those who profit from it.

    No poor person has ever invaded or bombed another nation, executed an innocent, abandoned people to die (Katrina), deprived sick people of health care, etc., etc.

    Moralistic, blame-the-victim arguments are PR for capitalism, plan and simple. They should be soundly rejected.

  12. mary Says:

    May 6/2008

    Susan Rosenthal, the author of this commendable article, has mentioned Hurricane Katrina and the dreadful way mostly poor black people were abandoned to their watery and preventable fate.

    The hypocrisy from Ma Bush http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/05/06/2236366.htm?section=world “takes the biscuit.’

    Has she no shame or is she an amnesiac? There are now at least 22,000 dead in Burma and the people’s misery is extreme. The U.S. offered Burma a paltry $250,000 in aid. Compare that to the $3 trillion war her husband has conducted, and consider how many Iraqi mothers and children have been killed or maimed and their lives ruined!

  13. Edwin Pell Says:

    May 6/2008

    First my thanks to Susan Rosenthal for having the courage to allow a debate that includes diverse viewpoints. I find most blog owners just delete out posts they disagree with.

    I certainly agree there is a great amount of greed and immoral distribution of resources and all that we can do to improve the situation is good and will benefit many.

    I disagree that a concern for population going above the carrying capacity of the land is racist. I would say the US is beyond the carrying capacity and we should aim to lower the population say to 150 million from 300 million. This applies to all Americans (across the whole spectrum of race, color, religion, national origin, etc). I have no wish to suffer the effects of pollution regardless of the race of the polluter.

    On the other hand I like humans. I certainly want a continuity of humankind. The 3 billion year ingrained will to reproduce will not go away even if we promote responsible 2 children per couple norms/guidelines/rules/laws/???. It will just mean we can skip the starving people (children, youth, young adults, middle aged, adults, old) part. This is not something any nation should put on another nation this should strictly be an internal issue. Let each nation decide for themselves. But having the responsible nations bankrupt themselves trying to fix the impossible choices made by irresponsible nations makes no sense to me. Yes I can understand there is a religious perspective that calls for feeding the poor regardless of the future. It certainly is the right of any America to send as much of their money to feed who ever they choose. Or to travel to any place they choose to do whatever good works they choose. But it is not a right to import the worlds problems into the US. In so doing you impact on my rights (and my children’s right and my grand children’s …) to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    Great discussion. Thanks.

  14. TS Draegeth Says:

    May 6/2008

    Edwin, many of the world’s problems are partly or wholly caused by the U.S.’ actions. Your “gated community” attitude is tantamount to stealing something, then declaring an immediate truce and freezing possessions “as they are.” It is not fair, and it will not be accepted by the swindled.

    Loathing people who reproduce without economic means is rancid behavior. Reproduction is a human right on par with survival. You do the capitalists’ dirty work for them if you discourage the poor and oppressed from breeding simply because of their condition.

    Incidentally, I am troubled by the desire of so many to see a population crash that they see as “deserved.” Such a wish is the death lust of the “progressive” community, similar to the Book of Revelations for the religiously sick.

    Offering the solution of death to the troubles of life is evil. Unadulterated.

    I dispute that our wonderful planet, with a blazing, healthy sun nearby, cannot support much more life, even luxurious human life, than it does now. Do you think we are drawing on the full power of the solar system? What an arrogant attitude that would be, if that is your claim. We have the potential to be much greater than this. Your grim predictions only apply if we fail to develop any further, and if we continue crippling ourselves for the benefit of parasitic elites with a dead-end evolutionary strategy of inbreeding and ignorance.

    Believe in us! Life finds a way.

  15. Annie Says:

    May 6/2008

    Still the point is how do we help overwhelmed parents in the world in May 2008? A point that seems to have been missed.

  16. Lloyd Rowsey Says:

    May 6/2008

    Annie. In my opinion, if we can’t end the occupation of Iraq we’ll just be able to do less and less, for the rest of our lives. So, work to end the war.

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