The Domestication of Motherhood

‘The Domestication of Motherhood’ is the title of a chapter in Adrienne Rich’s book, ‘Of Woman Born’. As the summer school holidays approach the relevance of the title becomes more apt for some mothers. There’s been a plethora of articles on how mothers are stressed and are dreading the prospect of having their children around for weeks on end.

Much of motherhood is about cooking and cleaning; making sure the children do their homework; ferrying the children to their classes; and ensuring that their quality of life is satisfactory overall. It is hard work. Somewhere in between all this mothers are also expected to experience the joy of motherhood while suffering from exhaustion.

Domestic life is still ruled by a patriarchal society. According to Adrienne Rich, man relates to a woman as a mother in a practical mode. I interpret this as meaning that man expects woman to look after the home because he sees domesticity as being part of the domain of motherhood. Domesticity isn’t seen as being serious work either eventhough it forms a part of motherhood. A mother is only doing what comes naturally to her so society doesn’t see domestic work as being important.

It really is a vicious cycle but I see women all around me who manage to combine the domestication of motherhood while still retaining their female independence and managing to look after their children well. It’s called multi-tasking; a phrase which men hate. Nevertheless, it is only when the ‘The Domestication of Motherhood’ becomes an outdated phrase that women can claim true autonomy in the domestic arena.


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