The Realities and Challenges of Mexican Mothers Today

Mexican motherhood is changing. It's no longer one-size-fits-all. Women have more choices about becoming moms and how to raise their kids. While many women are mothers, a growing number head households alone.

The Realities and Challenges of Mexican Mothers Today
Balancing act: Juggling work, childcare, and home life.

Motherhood, a concept once rigidly defined by traditional norms, has evolved significantly in contemporary society. Norma Cruz Maldonado, an academic from the National School of Social Work at the UNAM, explores this transformation, highlighting the diverse and multifaceted nature of modern motherhood. Unlike the past, where there was a singular model of motherhood centered on the biological and caregiving roles of women, today’s motherhood encompasses various forms, often detached from traditional expectations.

Cruz Maldonado emphasizes that motherhood today is a sociocultural construct, shaped by the norms and values of specific social groups at particular times. This redefinition includes recognizing motherhood beyond the confines of heterosexual relationships. Lesbian and trans mothers are increasingly acknowledged, expanding the traditional understanding of what it means to be a mother. Moreover, women today have greater autonomy over their reproductive choices. They can decide whether to have children, when to have them, how many to have, and with whom to raise them.

Statistics from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography reveal that in Mexico, 35 million 221 thousand 314 women have chosen to have children. Among women over 15, 72% are mothers, indicating that seven out of ten in this age group have children. This data underscores the prevalent role of motherhood in women's lives while also reflecting the diversity within this demographic.

Further insights provided by Cruz Maldonado reveal that in 2022, 30.89 million people aged 15 and older lived with their children. Notably, 10.2 million of these parents were single, representing 33% of the total. Among single mothers, 79.1% were previously married and are now divorced, separated, or widowed, while 20.9% were never married.

The educational attainment of mothers varies, with 57% having basic education, 19% completing upper secondary education, and 17% attaining higher education. A small percentage (1%) reported no formal education. These statistics illustrate the diverse backgrounds of mothers, reflecting varying levels of access to education and its impact on their lives.

Fertility Rates and Socioeconomic Factors

Cruz Maldonado also discussed the declining fertility rate in Mexico, now averaging two children per woman. This decline is attributed to several factors: increased educational opportunities for women, access to contraceptive methods, greater autonomy in making decisions about their bodies, and legislative support for safe abortion. Additionally, women's growing participation in the labor market has played a crucial role in this trend.

Despite the overall decline, significant variations exist across different age groups and regions. The highest birth rates are among women aged 20 to 24, with substantial numbers also seen in teenagers and women over 35. Regions with lower educational levels, such as Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Guerrero, tend to have higher fertility rates.

The intersection of motherhood and economic participation presents a complex dynamic. The National Occupation and Employment Survey (2021) reports that out of 51.7 million women aged 15 and older, 44% are part of the economically active population (EAP), translating to 22.8 million women. Among these, 56% are engaged in informal employment, primarily in commercial, manufacturing, and service industries. This employment scenario significantly impacts women's quality of life, as informal jobs often lack social security benefits like insurance for work risks, illness, maternity, disability, and retirement.

Cruz Maldonado points out that the absence of these benefits exacerbates the challenges faced by mothers, particularly those working informal jobs. Without access to daycare and social benefits such as a Christmas bonus, many mothers and their children endure a lower quality of life and face difficult life circumstances.

Balancing Motherhood and Work

The dual roles of being a mother and an economically independent woman present unique challenges. Society often stigmatizes working mothers who rely on daycare or family members for childcare. This societal judgment overlooks the physiological, psychological, and emotional aspects of motherhood, punishing women for striving to balance professional and caregiving responsibilities.

Cruz Maldonado highlights the demanding nature of this balance, noting that working mothers effectively manage a triple workday: paid employment, childcare, and household responsibilities. This triple burden underscores the need for societal and structural changes to support mothers in fulfilling these roles without facing undue stress and criticism.

Motherhood today is a diverse and evolving concept, shaped by sociocultural constructs and influenced by educational, economic, and legislative factors. As highlighted by Norma Cruz Maldonado, the recognition of various forms of motherhood, increased autonomy in reproductive choices, and the challenges of balancing motherhood with economic participation reflect the dynamic nature of being a mother in contemporary society. Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive understanding of the sociocultural and economic factors at play and a commitment to creating supportive environments for all mothers.