Has Technology Created Positive Social Change for Mothers ?
Motherhood as we know it began two million years ago with the emergence of homo erectus. Anthropologist Sarah Hrdy believes that one of the distinguishing features of human mothers in comparison to other primates was that of allowing others to care for their children, which is termed “alloparenting”. Child expert Pinky McKay believes that technological advances will never replace the emotional and educational benefits provided to children by the active involvement of extended family and a supportive community.
Advances in technology have resulted in the potential for an unprecedented amount of positive social change for mothers. However, societies have been slow to implement policies that fully realize that potential. A 2012 study funded by Proctor & Gamble and carried out by Galaxy Research sought to determine how much social change for mothers has resulted from technological advances. An online survey of 1,006 mothers with children aged 16 or younger throughout Australia revealed some surprising results.
Social Change for Mothers and Time
Surprisingly, regarding the question of whether modern technology has increased the amount of time that mothers have to themselves, the answer was a resounding “no”. In fact, the majority of respondents felt that they had the same amount or less time to themselves than their mothers had while raising them, even with the benefit of modern conveniences. The economic necessity of employment outside the home in addition to their parenting responsibilities was cited as the number one reason.
These findings reflect those of another study conducted by Eileen Trauth, a professor of Information Sciences at Penn State University. After interviewing 200 women, she concluded that mothers need as much social support today as they ever have. She also believes that such support should come in the form of improved parental leave policies for parents, retraining programs for those who temporarily leave the workforce to care for children, and more work- at- home options.
Multi-tasking- A Potential Negative Social Change for Mothers
Developments in technology have made it possible for women to attend online classes and professional conferences from their smart phones. However, while these developments have resulted in allowing women to spend more time with their children, it has also resulted in constant multi-tasking. Although they may be physically present with their children more, their attention is often divided. Additionally, the full benefits of technology, such as flexible schedules that allow women to work after their children are asleep, are still offset by women assuming the majority of housework in addition to their professional and childcare duties.
According to the P&G survey, mothers reported being able to spend an average of two hours and twenty minutes per day with their children, and most reported experiencing guilt as a result. The encouraging news is that 46% of them felt that it was more time than their own mothers had been able to spend with them as children. 78% of mothers also reported parenting differently than their own mothers, with 34% describing their style as more relaxed and 29% describing theirs as more nurturing.
Social Change for Mothers and Increasing Social Pressure
Another article points out that today’s mothers often face far more social pressure than mothers of previous generations. One reason is because according to the Pew Research Center the number of stay-at-home mothers in 1970 was still 40%, while by 1997, that number had shrunk to just 23%. In 2012, that number increased to 29%, but experts believe that this was the result of the difficulty in finding work due to the extended economic recession that continues to affect a number of countries.
While women still bear a greater responsibility for child care and household chores in addition to working outside the home, today’s mothers report that an increasing number of fathers are participating more in child care. 70% of respondents in the study reported that they received help from the children’s fathers and 21% received additional assistance from the children’s grandmothers. Sadly, 16% reported receiving no child care assistance from anyone.
Resources to Prevent Isolation
87% of modern mothers in the study reported experiencing feelings of isolation, with 36% reporting feeling that way every day. There is nothing as beneficial as talking with other mothers to help ease that sense of isolation. In fact, many mothers reported that their relationships with other mothers were among their primary sources of emotional support. Feeling a sense of isolation is so common that many mothers use social media to share tips for overcoming it with new mothers.
There are also a number of national and international support groups specifically designed for mothers to prevent social isolation. Other benefits include sharing resources, such as personal recommendations for safe dependable child care. Experts advise mothers-to-be to find and join a group even before the baby arrives. While online support groups can serve as a springboard for meeting other mothers, modern technology will never be able to replace the human hug as the most ideal form of understanding and encouragement.