Care and upbringing of children should be a joint work

Grandmothers, aunts, and friends are maternal; it is not only their obligation. In the past, it was thought that being a mother was the only way to succeed.

Care and upbringing of children should be a joint work
Care and nurturing of children is a shared responsibility. Photo by Nienke Burgers / Unsplash

Approximately 70 percent of women in Mexico aged 15 and over are mothers, but they are deciding to have fewer and fewer children. In 1999, the fertility rate was 2.8 children per woman and by 2019 it had dropped to 1.8.

It used to be thought that only from being a mom could she be fulfilled and successful, an idea that has changed along with what it means to "mother" (the raising and care of children by their mother).

According to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), there is an early peak of motherhood from 20 to 24 years of age among those who speak an indigenous language; while for those who do not, fertility is distributed in a wider range, from 20 to 29 years of age.

The care and protection of children should be a collective task and the idea that it is only their obligation should be left behind.

There is a prevailing discourse that even states that there is a "maternal instinct". In education, women continue to be given tasks related to caring for and listening to others. The above is instilled through messages and representations in the media and cultural products.

Mothering is inherent neither to women nor to biological mothers. Mothering is done by grandmothers, aunts, friends, and women who take care of these children and has to do with changes in the way women have become professionalized. Women have had to adapt to work schedules, in public and institutional spaces, and require support for the care of children.

Leaving stereotypes behind

In the past, it was frowned upon for a mother not to take care of everything. Today it is common for them to ask for help and rely on the community, on networks of other women who also "do motherhood".

According to INEGI, the economic participation of women with children born alive who do not speak an indigenous language is 42 percent compared to 28 percent of those who do. Their low involvement has various social determinants, although child-rearing is combined with self-consumption economic activities.

The stereotype that it is women who are in charge of raising children must be set aside. Certainly, as mothers women have greater participation in education, but if it is a heterosexual couple, the father should also participate.

The State must promote actions such as paternity leave so that couples can share the responsibilities of a newborn child. Also, they should have work permits to attend to issues related to the children's education and health.

If a child gets sick, the first person they call at school is the mother. It is still a structure that is very ingrained. It is the State's job, from the media, to change these representations that generate signifiers and become practices. Parenting is a job that has to be truly collective.

Another aspect that must be modified is that in schools and universities women are no longer in the majority in professions related to the upbringing of children, such as pedagogy.

A generational change in those who want to be mothers is that they no longer necessarily form a nuclear family. Now some decide to 'mother' alone; that is, they do not have to get married or have a husband to become pregnant.

INEGI statistics indicate that 47 percent of mothers over 15 years of age, whether or not they speak an indigenous language, are married; three percent of those who speak an indigenous language are single mothers, and among those who do not speak an indigenous language, this rises to six percent.

Indigenous mothers in union represent 28 percent; while those who do not speak an indigenous language and are in union represent 22 percent.