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From the hearth to the working mom About the change of the mother role

Managing life’s opportunities as a working mother | Stephanie Herseth Sandlin | TEDxBrookings (April 2019).


Only 100 years ago a mother lived exclusively for her children and her husband. Emancipation and medical progress helped the woman to self-determination. Child and career - this is the new family model.

By definition, a mother is:

  1. A woman who has given birth to one or more children.
  2. A woman raising or caring for children in the role of a mother .

How much more important motherhood actually is, knows every child - and especially every mother, grandmother, mother-in-law and adoptive mother, because they are all caregivers of small people who have yet to discover the world. A mother gives her child the feeling of security, boundless love and understanding. She is the person who caresses us in childhood and strengthens our self-confidence. The feeling has hardly changed in the last century. What has changed are the circumstances and expectations of a mother.

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The mother role earlier

In the 19th century, the mother was considered the heart of the family. She held everything together: the husband, the children and the household. Their main task was to bring healthy offspring into the world and educate the offspring. Marriage was much more important in the 19th century than it is today. Faith, church and marriage belonged together and a marriage promise usually lasted a lifetime. But there were also less rosy circumstances: medical malnutrition, wars and harsh winters led to high infant mortality rates - especially in rural areas and suburbs. It was a hard time for mothers who demanded a lot from women.

In the 20th century , the image of the mother changed.The Third Reich made a mother-to-be-with-many-children mother a heroic, respected person of society. Adolf Hitler also used the role of the mother for his political goals: honors such as the mother's cross honored the woman and praised her contribution to the functioning dictatorship. In the further course of the century and above all by the market introduction of the pill, the woman succeeded in leading a more self-determined life. Contraception became socially acceptable and even the church in most cases had no objection to self-determined reproduction. The emancipation broke like a giant wave over the women and towards the end of the 19th century, many of them no longer defined themselves solely and solely about their existence as a mother.

Motherhood today

At no other time in history were the tasks of a mother more complex than in the 21st century.Women can enjoy their liberties these days - with or without a partner. Some remain single throughout their lives and feel really good about this decision. Others sooner or later decide to become mothers and share responsibility and education with their partner. Equality is the keyword. The modern woman is a working mom who, like in the 19th century, wants to do justice to everything: the offspring, the man and the job. Self-realization finds it in all areas of life. And that is exactly what the mother of today passes on to her children. It remains exciting to see how our daughters and the daughters of our daughters shape the new role of the mother in the future.


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