Google+ Authentic Parenting: The Best - And Worst - Places To Be A Mother

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Best - And Worst - Places To Be A Mother

Motherhood denied posted an article on Faceboob entitled "The Best - And Worst - Places To Be A Mother", based on a study from Save The Children. To my great surprise, Belgium was listed in their top ten (number nine to be exact). A little less to my surprise, the top ten worst countries were all African.

You must understand that my family fled Belgium for me to fully enjoy motherhood.
So I wondered what were the criteria to decide where it is good to be a mother, since they would determine  the results.

In the report, the good and bad places for mothering are clearly indicated as to developed - less developed - poorly developed countries... So that kind of explains it all, even before I read the full report.

This study is another very beautiful example of how we impose our hegemonic world view on the rest of the world. It is a pretty picture of how we westerners think we are superior and we should bring enlightenment to those poor little Africans. And it makes me so very very angry.
Without knowing the criteria, without even knowing anything about this study, I could have predicted the results.

Those poor little Africans... they know way better than we do how to mother their children. They have far greater respect for it. They have a more natural approach to child rearing. They do not judge each other, rather help each other out. They live in tight communities. They have their mothers and sisters and friends help out. They know where to turn to for advice. Everybody loves babies and children and you can have your children roam free without a worry in your mind. (Little side note: I know I am generalizing, in african cities, they are already going way West, so all this doesn't apply)
Yes, they are more likely to die in childbirth, their child is more likely to die in the first years of their lives and they are often undereducated (again, compared to our wonderful Western model, that seems to do the job oh so very well).

So what are the criteria handled here? Reading page 32 of the report states: education, economic opportunity and mother and infant's health care.
When we go read the report, however, it turns out it is a report about health care. I ask myself, is healthcare all there is to being a mother? I hope not.
What about education, or even economic opportunity? Does one have to be employed officialy to enjoy motherhood? Does one need a university degree?
I completely and utterly agree that there are giant leaps to be taken in the field of healthcare in Africa. I myself have experienced care in several different countries and I could write very long winded posts about that. I also agree that poverty can put a serious strain on the joys of motherhood. But don't sell a study about health care as one resulting in defining where it is better to be a mother. Don't say 'formal' education is a determining factor for happy mothering. Don't pretend jobs or careers are what a happy mommy make.

I prefer being a mother in an African country every day. And I seriously dislike being a mother in Belgium. Here, being a mother is a compliment, while over there, it's an insult.

And yes, I know that I am privileged, that I am a white in a black country, that I live to a standard few Africans can aspire to. I know that there is hardship and suffering and loss and grief. But I also know that they simply deal with it differently, and in a way no Westerner can grasp, certainly not if you have never lived here. So why won't we just quit meddling and telling them they have it so bad and they should be pitied, because they're just such sad little creatures, will we!

So what do you think? Is being a mother all about healthcare? Or education? Or economy?

PS Let's have it for the rock, egg and tomato throwing again, will we :)
PPS I have lived in country no 3, no 9 of the 'more developed' countries, no 71 and no 76 of the 'less developed' countries



  1. I so agree with you even if I am not lucky enough to have gained my opinion first hand. I aspire to move my family somewhere that will help me be a better mother. I am jealous AGAIN that you wake up to Africa right out your window!!! (sigh) :) Any jobs there for early childhood developmental specialists? That is such a developed country job!! :)

  2. I definitely don't think that education or economic should be standards of good parenting. My husband is in the military and does not have a college degree. I only have an AS. Our family of four only makes about 37,000 a year, so by economic standards we are poor. I am a SAHM, by choice and also because of my husbands ever changing schedule,(because I want to be the one raising my children, not someone else) and yet people are always asking what our secret is to having such happy and smart little boys and having such a happy family on a meager income. I attachment parent, my children are something I enjoy...not a chore, and I practice a lot of other things that are considered "crunchy". We don't put stress on material things, but rather on experiences and memories made, the importance of family and most importantly, love.

  3. I just saw the movie, Babies, over the weekend and if that doesn't show that this rating system is bollocks I don't what will. Despite all the differences in technology, baby gear, etc...all the babies seemed to do all the same things (Wow, right?!) and all crawled, walked, the same time.

    Great post! I'm so glad to have found your blog. I'm sending it to my wife as well. I think you both have a lot in common. :)

  4. Thanks Chris, does your wife blog too?

  5. I am a white South African, but I now live in the UK and I can't tell you how much this kind of post means to me. With all my heart, I wish that I lived among my African sisters, sharing childcare and lessons on bringing up my child in a safe environment.

    No. We might have 'advancements' and we might be 'smarter' and we might be 'better off' but in so many ways that count we are poor, we have been duped and we are so incredibly lacking.


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