Life Style

Feminist discourse, eco-anxiety, well-being… When times shake up motherhood



Year after year, childcare books remain numerous on the shelves of bookstores. However, in recent times, their titles have changed a lot. The Parent’s Survival Handbook alongside You will be a feminist mother or Being a mother is only happiness… or not. Your militant, sometimes raw descriptions of childbirth and the body… These new works have enough to make you forget the smooth pages of Laurence Pernoud who, a few years ago, reigned supreme in homes. “Maternity is more often discussed in terms of complaints and demands”, summarizes Armelle Nollet, general manager of Cler Amour et famille. Because the young couples of today are not those of yesterday and, above all, because the world has changed.

What happened ? Have the younger generations become more timid in the face of this ancestral event that is birth? Should we be worried about it? Basically, it would be partly a swing of the pendulum, after years of idealization of motherhood, believes child psychiatrist Sylvain Missonnier. “During the Glorious Thirties, a woman had to be happy when she became a mother, he begins. The fact of having a child was seen by society as the perfect situation for a woman and she did not have the possibility of expressing discomfort. The liberal economy also benefited from it, by creating a very profitable market around the child and his mother. »

Today, on the other hand, some women affirm loud and clear that they are not so happy after giving birth. “They allow themselves to break the atmosphere”, sums up the doctor, according to whom this is good news, the result of all the alert work carried out by the health authorities around the postpartum syndrome. “Suddenly, motherhood came out of its cocoon of magical thought”, further notes Sylvain Missonnier.

Emotional support

In her workshops, Laura Le Sourd – known as “Les petits toes” on social networks – also notices it. From prenatal workshops to breastfeeding support or reflexology sessions for infants, she listens sympathetically to the young mothers she receives, when they tell a little about their lives, their aspirations and their doubts. This former nurse has indeed become a “perinatal companion” at Châtelet-en-Brie (Seine-et-Marne), a booming profession, although not recognized by the health authorities. “I offer emotional support to expectant mothers and young people who have given birth, she explains. Often, my patients admit that they are surprised by motherhood. They find that having children is more tiring than they thought. »

Material conditions have in fact deteriorated around maternity: mothers leave the hospital very quickly, in full flow of milk, and receive little help where, a generation ago, extended families, or even caregivers housewives, were still common. Also, some find themselves submerged.

Especially since this generation is also “more invested than ever in her pregnancy”, says Laura Le Sourd. Very active on social networks, these young women are determined to be “more active in their motherhood”. “They know everything, have read everything, bought everything for their child. They want to be able to decide how they will be mothers. »

Result: on the one hand, they exhaust themselves trying to be perfect mothers; on the other, they assume the fact of no longer meeting expectations that are not theirs: “They admit more easily that they have given up cleaning or managing everything at home, to think a little about their well-being. » Annabelle, 35, who has just given birth near Paris, confirms this. “It’s true that we can easily say that we need time for ourselves. For example, after the All Saints holidays, I was able to admit that I was happy to put the children back in school and in the crèche. It didn’t shock anyone. » The women in her family, starting with her own mother and her mother-in-law, push her in this direction and not to forget herself.

An apparent paradox

Apparent paradox: young parents would therefore grant themselves more of the right to let go at the very moment when they impose the highest demands on themselves, confirms Armelle Nollet. “Couples seek marriage counseling earlier and earlier, perhaps because they have very high expectations of their couple and their family and this generates more anxiety and more questions than ‘in the old days, she raises. For years, society has multiplied very strong injunctions to success. It affected the family. You had to make a success of your couple and your children. Now, a new requirement has been added: well-being. Everyone should feel good. »

To the point that having a child is sometimes experienced as a painful, even culpable choice, continues Armelle Nollet. “Young women today feel like they’re giving up something. They have often invested a lot in their studies where they have succeeded better than the boys, accepted lots of efforts to reach the highest professional level. Also, when they have a child, it is much more difficult for them to accept that all the energy they devote to it is not valued. »

There might be more. The era, and in particular the existential anguish linked to the climate crisis, would plunge future parents into unprecedented anguish. Where the child was seen as good news, today it is anxiety-provoking to give life in a world hit by the climate crisis. Some young couples give up, moreover, believing that it is not reasonable to give life in a world with such an uncertain future. Others feel guilty, forbidding themselves in a certain way to be happy, feeling guilty for leaving such a degraded world to their children.

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The birth in a few figures

– In 2021, 738,000 babies were born in France.

– The average age of mothers when they give birth is 30.8 in 2020, compared to 29.3 ten years earlier. The age at the birth of the first child is 28.9 years.

– The stay in the maternity ward lasts from 72 to 96 hours on average for a vaginal delivery and from 72 to 120 hours in the event of a caesarean section.

– Two out of three newborns are breastfed.

– Seven out of ten fathers used paternity leave before it was extended to 28 days, voted in 2021.

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Testimonials – What they say about motherhood

► “Even with the Internet, becoming a mother can isolate”

Paulinamother of César, 3 years old, and Agathe, 8 months old

“My youngest is 8 months old and I recently returned to work. It did me good because I had felt a little isolated during my maternity leave. My friends live mainly in the provinces and their children are already a bit old. Me, I live in Paris, where you start life later. So I didn’t have many people to share this experience with. However, it is important to be able to meet other parents and discuss. So I signed up for parent groups on social media. During my first pregnancy, I made a real good friend on Facebook, as well as many supportive relationships. We discussed various topics such as nurseries, nannies, gift ideas, etc.

It allowed me to expand my circle and helped me a lot. Especially since, since confinement, my company has adopted remote work. I rarely go back to the office. Between diapers and working from home, I might never leave my house again! My generation is experiencing this unprecedented change in the organization of work without anyone really noticing it. Many young parents appreciate being able to work from home, which allows them to pick up the children earlier from the crèche. However, there is also a real risk of cutting yourself off from everything when you go on maternity leave and never really come back to face-to-face afterwards. »

► “I created a meeting place”

Elodiemother of Léonie, 8, and Octave, 4, creator of the Rosechou moms café, in Issy-les-Moulineaux (Hauts-de-Seine)

“When I had my children, I discovered how much I loved mothering, being with my children, taking care of them. But, at the same time, I needed to meet other adults, not lock myself into a one-on-one with them. I thought that I was probably not the only one and that’s how I created this moms’ café, which is a meeting place, made for getting out of the house. The idea is to really tell mothers: “Come as you are, no need to be perfect, make up, do your hair, to have the most irreproachable children. »

There are so many fake images of motherhood circulating on social media. It seems very important to me to remember that it’s not worth it to be “instagramable” at this time of life which is already so demanding. On the other hand, nothing is worse than isolation. Social networks will never replace direct contact because, too often, they convey one-way messages. Here, there are women who are breastfeeding, others who are not, and none are judged. Moreover, in the workshops that we organize, I always invite qualified speakers who only deliver information, without ever telling the women what to do. The solutions that suit them best, the mothers who come here find them on their own, simply by chatting among themselves. »

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