MMO: A statement on the Motherhood Project Web
site emphasizes the need to spark a “mother’s renaissance”.
Using the term “renaissance” implies a sort of revival—
do you believe there has been a time in American history when mothers
were better off, or had more social and economic influence, than
they do today?
EA: Actually, the term “mothers’ renaissance”
was inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, which certainly did not
imply that there had ever been a time in American history when black
people were better off or had more influence. It was rather a time
of great flowering, of new thinking about the potential, possibilities,
and power of the black community. In a similar vein, the Motherhood
Project seeks to provide intellectual resources and create opportunities
for exchange to help spark a “mothers’ renaissance”--
fresh, creative thinking about the potential, possibilities, and
power of the community of mothers.
statements, appeals, and reports as well as symposia and other gatherings,
we are working to promote discussion and activism by mothers about
motherhood and mothering -- about who mothers are, what we do, what
we need and want, our importance to our children, families, and
society, and our potential as catalysts for cultural and social
change. Our goal is not to tell mothers what to think, but to create
opportunities for mothers to grapple for themselves with these fundamental
questions. We seek to help generate
new wisdom for mothering in the 21st century, an era that will be
driven by the values of commerce and technology, values that are
often very much at odds with the values necessary to support mothers
and the work of mothering.
MMO: What role does a ‘mother’s renaissance’
play in the contemporary movement to improve social and economic
conditions for mothers?
EA: The Motherhood Project wants to help bring an
end to our culture’s devaluing of mothers and mothers’
work and we are fully committed to helping build a movement aimed
at improving social and economic conditions for mothers. We believe
that a mothers’ renaissance will contribute to the movement
by helping to bring into the conversation a broad range of mothers’
voices to refine current thinking and generate new ideas for initiatives
and policies to value and support mothers.
MMO: How did you become involved in the formation of the Motherhood
Project at the Institute for American Values, and later the Mother’s Council?
EA: I am a lawyer by training. When I withdrew from the paid workforce
to take care of my children in the mid 1980’s, my life changed
dramatically. In my professional life, I had been valued. In my
life as a mother, I was not. I learned first-hand of the extent
to which mothers, mothering, and children are devalued in this society.
I was deeply troubled by the fact that our national conversation
about mothering was limited to divisive, media- driven “mommy
wars.” I wanted to find a way to help move the conversation
forward -- to consider a deeper, more important set of questions
that might have the potential of bringing mothers together to work
to change conditions for themselves and their children.
freedom and the gains of the women’s movement as givens, I
wanted to be part of constructing a national conversation that would
bring forth new visions and ideas for valuing and empowering mothers,
supporting the work of mothering, and mobilizing mothers for the
benefit of mothers, children, and families. And I wanted to bring
together, in a Mothers’ Council, a group of mothers of diverse
backgrounds and political and ideological points of view to take
on this challenge and build coalitions with mothers’ groups
across the country. The Institute, which
has a record of convening people of diverse viewpoints to address
issues affecting children, families, and civil society, offered
me a base of operations and the absolute freedom to set off in whatever
directions seemed to make sense in light of our mission and objectives.
MMO: Most of the activities and research initiated by the Motherhood
Project might be described as child centered— they’ve
focused on what we need to do, as parents and a society, to shield
the nation’s children from harmful influences and protect
the integrity of our families. In fact, the URL of your main Web
site is "watchoutforchildren.org”. How is this related
to your thinking around mothers’ issues?
EA: The Motherhood Project and the Mothers’
Council are concerned with both mothers’ rights and children’s
needs. In the Call
to a Motherhood Movement, a mothers’ statement issued
by the Council last October, we urged mothers to “move boldly
to change the conditions under which we mother and under which our
children are living.”
We recognize that some
mothers will want to focus on mothers’ rights, some will want
to devote their energies to addressing children’s needs, and
others will prefer an approach that combines the two concerns. There
is more than enough work for all of us. It will take a great
deal of energy, resources, and good thinking to build this movement
and we believe that it is best that we try, where possible, to help
and support each other, and look for ways to collaborate.
MMO: Do you believe there is any potential conflict between
promoting the needs of children for a safe and secure family life
and promoting mothers’ rights to full social and economic
EA: I hope there will not be any irreconcilable
conflicts. The challenge for all who are concerned with improving
conditions for mothers and for children is to build a movement that
goes beyond an individualistic, interest-group politics pitting
mothers’ interests against children’s needs.
The Motherhood Project
wants to point to something admittedly harder (but ultimately, bolder
and grander), that recognizes the interconnectedness of mothers
and children and members of families, and seeks to recalibrate the
values and priorities of our society so that mothers, children,
and families get all that they need in order to flourish.
MMO: What is the relationship between the Motherhood Project and the
Mothers’ Council? What is the mission of the Mothers’
Council, and how is it currently expressed?
EA: The Mothers’
Council advises the Motherhood Project, examines matters affecting
mothers, motherhood, and the work of mothering, and builds coalitions
with mothers’ groups across the country, and increasingly,
Among the key objectives
of the Council is the preparation and dissemination of mothers’
statements, appeals, and reports (such as Watch Out for Children:
A Mothers’ Statement to Advertisers and Call to a Motherhood
Movement) designed to add mothers’ voices to the public debate
and promote vigorous “mother-informed” national conversations.
MMO: How were the members of the Mothers’ Council recruited?
EA: Our goal in convening the Council was to bring together mothers
of diverse races, backgrounds, and points of view, all of whom shared
a willingness to listen to and reason with one another to find common
ground. We wanted to identify mothers willing to move beyond the
easy “with us or against us” attitude that prevails
today in discussions of ideas and policies to search for solutions
of broad appeal.
We sought mothers who
were committed to raising the voices and the visibility of mothers
and who believed that mothers’ interests and children’s
needs need not be seen as mutually exclusive.
MMO: In October 2002, the Mothers’ Council released a founding
document, “Call to A Motherhood Movement”. Do you feel
there is a difference between the Council’s concept of a “motherhood
movement” and the “mothers movement” that has
energized advocacy organizations such as the National Association
of Mother’s Centers (the Mothers Ought To Have equal Rights
initiative) and Mothers & More?
EA: The Call to a Motherhood Movement was explicit
in calling for a movement to value, support, and extend equal rights
to mothers. We very much want to be a part of the search for initiatives
and proposals that would dramatically improve social and economic
conditions for mothers. We would go further, however, to work to
put “mothers’ concerns about children and nurturing
at the top of the national agenda.”
want to create a movement that goes beyond the “work and family”
debate to a more far-reaching “culture and family” debate.
We want to see our culture transformed so that the values that currently
dominate our lives -- radical individualism, relentless competition,
and materialism -- yield enough room for the values necessary for
nurturing human beings and developing human relationships, values
such as caring, nurturing, and connectedness.We do not expect that
mothers’ groups will agree on everything, but we want to help
build a movement that is broad-based and collaborative, and we are
committed to working, when we can, with MOTHER, Mothers & More,
and other mothers’ organizations.
continues next page | 1 | 2 |