Interview on motherhood: "marble cake is no longer enough"

Children’s birthday parties have to be invitations that you have made yourself, marble cake is no longer enough. Mothers should always do more, that causes frustration and some regret being a mother. Sociologist Christina Mundlos explains the reasons for this.

In a study, 23 women publicly state that they regret being a mother, and a discussion unfolds around the world. The debate is overheating?

Christina Mundlos: The fact that the debate has broken out with such force shows that it is an issue. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that it’s a mass phenomenon. Many women, however, are dissatisfied, they are angry about their partners, society, other mothers or politics – and now they vent this dissatisfaction. The study contributes to this, also because it takes up the extreme example of repentant mothers.

Isn’t it rather a defect or a mental illness when a woman regrets motherhood??

Mouthless: This idea that there is a disease or a defect behind it says something about our image of the mother. We apparently think it’s so natural that women simply experience happiness through children and that it makes sense for them that we don’t bring it together in our heads when it isn’t.

The sociologist Christina Mundlos worked in the equality office of the University of Hanover, where she most recently headed the family service office. Today the mother of two children works as a freelance writer. Her book "Mutterterror – Fear, Envy and Aggression Among Mothers" caused a stir.

According to several studies, children do not make most parents happy at first. In addition, unlike in the past, the offspring is more of an economic disadvantage than an advantage. Why do we still have children??

Mouthless: Closely related to the idea of ​​a complete life is to pass on something of yourself. The media also contribute to this: pictures of happy families like those from the Magarine advertisement are over-presented. But there are also people who don’t want that or want to live together in other ways of life. And mothers aren’t necessarily the happier people. That’s the misunderstanding, and that’s why the waves hit so high when mothers say they regret having children.

"Marble cake with smarties is no longer enough"

Today mothers are more dissatisfied than they used to be?

Mouthless: Mothers were already partly dissatisfied in the 50s, 60s and 70s. We know that at that time they got Valium under the counter in order to be able to cope with the 24-hour job and still appear as satisfied as possible. But the demands have increased over the past 20 to 30 years. Today women are often employed and yet want to master all the tasks that previously non-working mothers did in the same way.

In addition, tasks were added: School cones and invitations should now be tinkered with, the marble cake with Smarties is no longer enough for a children’s birthday party. Many are constantly chasing an ideal that they cannot achieve.

"Children used to play in front of themselves"

Women can now take paid parental leave, part-time models are widespread, and working hours have nominally shortened. Why do many still have the feeling that they are not spending enough time with their children??

Mouthless: This is also due to the fact that 20 years ago children were just playing around. Today children should be constantly entertained and encouraged, and politics has also contributed to this. There is a claim that the mother should focus her attention directly on the child without interruption and not even sit down and look at the newspaper or make a phone call.

Why do women expose themselves to these high demands?

Mouthless: Recognition is a basic human need. In our society there are few opportunities for women to achieve this, the guidelines for this are very narrow. If a mother evades the guidelines and brings frozen donuts to the kindergarten party or does not come to the parents’ evening because of a business trip, other parents do not talk to her and educators or teachers comment accordingly. "Mother XY hasn’t been to kindergarten for a long time," they say. A mother who eludes this list of tasks is sometimes seen as anti-social.

Mothers cannot afford work Wouldn’t it help many to work less in order to be happier as a mother??

Mouthless: Work can definitely make mothers happy. The problems are then different. The working women are dissatisfied because the compatibility with the family does not work. They are often on the verge of burnout, also because they feel abandoned by their partner. The women who decide against a job for this reason or because they cannot get a childcare place are just as dissatisfied because they would like to work. 96 percent of mothers want to work and many find it a tough compromise or restriction if they don’t. Both can lead to great dissatisfaction.

Can the state help??

Mouthless: Single women in particular have long since completely exhausted their scope of action. You feel let down – not only by your partner, but also by politics. There are several policy measures that could be taken here. One of the most important: more and cheaper childcare places. In Sweden, for example, a place for the first child costs three percent of gross income, capped at 137 euros. Women don’t have to stay home for financial reasons.

Fathers can flee

Women have to stay at home for financial reasons?

Mouthless: It is often said that women have to go to work because they cannot afford to stay at home. But it is often the other way around. Staying at home is subsidized by the care allowance and the splitting of the spouse. These state measures alone are missing several hundred euros per month when they are employed. In addition, the childcare place often costs 500 to 600 euros, plus expenses for fuel, for example. So you can well imagine how many women there are who cannot afford to go to work – even though they would like to.

Why is there no #regrettingfatherhood?

Mouthless: Fathers certainly notice that it is exhausting, but they have different strategies for action. We know from studies that after the birth of their first child they often spend significantly more hours at work and sometimes spend significantly more time on hobbies than before the birth of the child. This is often accepted by the fathers. They can shirk their responsibility a little and flee, so they never get to the point where they say: All of this is getting too much for me, I regret becoming a father. Imagine, on the other hand, a mother says: tonight I’m singing to the choir, tomorrow I’ll meet my friends for a cocktail and then I’ll be out on business for two days. That would not be socially acceptable

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