The cross : How do today’s young mothers differ from their elders?
Myriam Szejer: There is, in my opinion, no generation effect. Because the way each woman approaches motherhood depends much more on her personal history than on the time. Also, today as yesterday, any woman who is expecting a child finds herself faced with the same feeling of no longer having control of everything and must accept to let motherhood go through her.
Some questions have always existed. There have always been women who hesitated to have children so as not to be bound, responsible, obliged. Ambivalence is even constitutive of motherhood: the mother wants the child and fears it. So, of course, today books, websites evoke this upheaval in a more raw way, because the times demand to be violent when talking about the intimate. But I don’t see anything very new in it.
That said, I observe that some women are now polluted by information. They arrive at maternity with certainties about what it is to be a good mother. This does not necessarily help them: the reality never corresponds to the instructions discovered online. These mothers find it more difficult to listen to themselves and to listen to their child. They are looking for what is good in an absolute that does not exist, when the real question should be: what is good for me, my child and his father?
Can the new presence of fathers help them?
MS: Of course, in some cases, but not always, because fathers are fumbling. I’m well aware that I’m not in tune with the times when I say this, but fathers have trouble finding their rightful place. It’s normal, by the way. Because we haven’t prepared them. Paternity leave has been extended but not accompanied. Some men therefore remain in front of the TV all day, while conversely others rule everything. Much more support should be given to young parents, who no longer have their family around them as they used to, when they return home after the birth.
So these women are right to challenge society?
MS: Yes. Because attention to the pregnant woman has dropped. In the 1970s, motherhood was no longer seen as an important and fragile moment. The woman had to be a man like the others. There are still consequences: some are reluctant to slow down or stop working soon enough. Faced with this, the medical profession has always said ” Take care of yourself “, but with its jargon, in order mode rather than advice: “Don’t eat this or that” etc It is therefore not always understood. As for midwives, they cannot do everything and their training has been heavily medicalized in recent years. There remains therefore a whole human accompaniment to reinvent today.