The Women Studies group of the Iranian Sociological Association recently held a meeting to evaluate different aspects of motherhood. The meeting focused on two main subjects: professional advice and public services offered to mothers.
“The motherhood has been defined as a gift to the female community in the form of a sacred role: to feed and not to eat; to dress and not to wear!” said Rabe’eh Movahedi, a psychologist and family counsellor, according to a Farsi report by Vaghaye Ettefaghieh newspaper.
“Women are often so occupied with this role that they forget about their own desires altogether.”
“Motherhood isn’t a mere instinct: it requires skills, too,” she said, highlighting the social nature of motherhood.
“Motherhood has turned to such a powerful myth in modern society that it has minimised the paternal concern. As a result, other roles that should be played by a woman are forgotten,” she noted.
Motherhood Should Be a Choice
She then referred to the needs of mothers she have visited, and noted that a mother’s duty to bring up another human being is a respectful, valuable work. “Such a role, the responsibility to raise and take care of children, should be a conscious choice, so that the mother enjoys it.”
However, she added, “Women should pay attention to their other personal talents, too.”
Movahedi then criticised the way motherhood is perceived in Iran.
“In Iran, a mother isn’t a mother; she is a full-time nurse. In the past, mothers had less concerns because the previous generation was more independent. Now the mother and the child are prisoners of each other.”
“The excessively nurse-like motherhood, exaggerated by counsellors to some extent, gives women a sense of disability in their motherhood role.”
Public Services Aren’t So Helpful to Mothers
Later in the meeting, Fereshteh Zaker, a professor of philosophy and women researcher, discussed the role public services should play for mothers.
“Whenever the issue of motherhood is raised in our society, people often focus on what a mother can do to be a better mother for her children. But I focus on a mother as an individual with a distinct identity.”
“Motherhood has different aspects, and a good behaviour towards one’s children is one of them.”
She went on to say that this role has other aspects, too, which are less noticed in Iranian society: a mother is a woman.
She then mentioned a lack of childcare centres in Iran, and said, “Since most pre-school centres are private, the poor and average families cannot afford it and profit much from kindergarten facilities.”
“This is while children in families with economic and cultural problems need more attention and education,” she added.
“As a result, the majority of children under the age of six have several problems in their learning and personal growth.”
According to Zaker, as the majority of kindergartens are managed by the private sector, the government does not have a significant share in the establishment of pre-school centres. Its role is limited to making regulations and issuing permits. That said, no public kindergarten receives the children of unemployed women.
“The return of the investment on children is very high,” she pointed out.
“Iranian kindergartens have been divided to one, two and three star centres in order to create a competitive atmosphere among them, and improve the quality of services as a result,” she added.
“However, the higher quality kindergartens started to charge very large fees for their services, making many families unable to receive them.”
Lack of Educated Nannies
The lack of trained nannies is another problem, she added.
“The number of childcare graduates is much less than kindergartens’ demand,” Zaker announced.
“The Welfare Organization holds training courses kindergarten teachers have to take. However, considering the duration, educational material, and the number of enrolments, three courses cannot satisfy the existing demands of kindergartens.”
She noted that the baby sitters who are hired to look after children in homes often do not know much about the basics of child raising: this imposes high mental and financial pressures on parents, mothers in particular.
“The young parents feel anxious about the possible damages; not only to their children, but to their homes and assets.”